A new lecture series – ‘Talking Ethics’ – was launched by The Institute of Ismaili Studies on 27 November 2008. Issues ranging from biomedical and environmental to political ethics in Muslim settings will be explored by leading scholars in the coming year. The inaugural speaker in the series was Professor Armando Salvatore of the University of Naples, whose perspective on the Muslim public sphere has received much acclaim.
The Director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS), Professor Azim Nanji, spoke on ‘Pluralism and its contents’ at a seminar on 23 November 2007 at Aga Khan University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC). The seminar was the last in the series ‘Possibility of Pluralism’, which discussed pluralism and its specific relevance to Muslim societies.
Raficq Abdulla, MBE, a writer, public speaker and broadcaster, spoke on the power of poetry to create an imagery of social critique as well as touch mystical chords in his talk at The Institute of Ismaili Studies on 15th November 2007. 'Rumi to Adonis: The Conference of the Bards' was the second in the IIS’ lecture series on 'Contemporary Islams and Muslims', which highlights key aspects of the Muslim encounter with modernity.
Dr Reza Shah-Kazemi, Research Associate at the IIS, participated in a discussion on ‘Islam, Christianity and other Faiths’. Hosted by the Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies (IAIS), University of Exeter, the talk dealt with Muslim and Christian perspectives on the concept of salvation in other religions. Professor Gavin D’Costa, who teaches Religious Studies at Bristol and is a leading Catholic theologian and author, was the other speaker.
Dr Nader El-Bizri presented a paper on ‘Phenomenological Perspectives on Vision and Space: Alhazen’s Perspectiva Tradition’, as part of the ‘Speakers Series’ held at the Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism, University of Western Ontario, on 23 October 2008. Past speakers in the series have included Jean Baudrillard, David Carroll, Martin Jay, Agnes Heller, David Farrell Krell and Richard Rorty.
The 2008 annual academic seminar for IIS alumni was held on 9-12 October in Cairo. The seminar, entitled Engaging with a City: Memory, Modernity and Culture in the City Victorious, was attended by 30 alumni from different graduate programmes over the past 25 years.
An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia, Volume 2: Ismaili Thought in the Classical Age, is the second in this multi-volume work presenting an overview of the tradition of philosophical thought in Persia that has continued for over two and a half millennia. Compiled, edited and introduced by S. H. Nasr and M. Aminrazavi, this volume deals with what may be considered the ‘Golden Age’ of Ismaili philosophy.
IIS scholar Dr S. J. Badakhchani and IIS PhD student, Maryam Rezaee, presented papers at the Seventh Biennial Conference on Iranian Studies held in Toronto, Canada. The conference, chaired by Professor Tavakoli-Taghi of the University of Toronto, brought together 250 scholars and artists to share their research on Iranian culture.
Three IIS publications were amongst the 19 books declared as winners at the ‘15th Iran International Book of the Year Awards’ (Kitab-i Sal Jayizih-i Jahani). These were Sufi Hermeneutics: The Qur’an Commentary of Rashid al-Din Maybudi, Justice and Remembrance; Introducing the Spirituality of Imam ‘Ali and ‘Attar and the Persian Sufi Tradition: The Art of Spiritual Flight.
The 2008 graduates of the Institute’s Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities (GPISH) celebrated their achievements with their families, friends, teachers and guests at the Graduation Ceremony held at the Ismaili Centre on 4 October 2008.
Since 1997, the Institute of Ismaili Studies has awarded doctoral scholarships to suitable candidates whose work contributes to the academic mandate of the IIS. The three recipients of this year’s scholarships are Sultonbek Axsakolov, Shaftolu Gulamadov and Amier Saidulla.
The Institute of Ismaili Studies participated in the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) conference held in Palais des Congrés de Montréal (Canada) from 17-20 November. In addition to over 200 panels on a variety of topics related to history, politics, art and society, the conference featured book and art exhibitions as well as a film festival.
After a successful first year, the Institute’s Department of Graduate Studies welcomed its second cohort of students to the Secondary Teacher Education Programme (STEP) in September 2008. The STEP is a joint initiative between the IIS and the Institute of Education, University of London, to train teachers for the delivery of the Secondary Curriculum materials being developed at IIS.
The IIS welcomed 15 new students this year onto its Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities (GPISH) in September 2008. The students of the class of 2011 originate from Canada, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, USA and the United Kingdom and have diverse academic backgrounds, ranging from psychology, philosophy, and religious education to marketing, languages and political sciences.
Since 1997, The Institute of Ismaili Studies has made available PhD Scholarships for suitable candidates whose work complements the research perspectives and mandate of the IIS. This year’s recipients are Shiraz Hajiani and Wafi Momin.
On July 3, 2008, the IIS launched The Ismailis: An Illustrated History at the Excel Centre in London. The book launch was held during the recent visit of His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Imam of the Ismailis, to the United Kingdom on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of his accession to the Imamat.
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Professor Eric Ormsby, who has been reading, teaching and writing about the works of Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058-1111 CE) for almost thirty years, has written a book for the general reader on this influential theologian and mystic. The new book attempts to disentangle the many Ghazalis of legend and polemic to present him anew, in clear and readable fashion.
Dr Ali Qutbuddin presented a paper entitled, ‘Abu Hatim al-Razi: The Concept of the Universality of Religions in Fatimid Thought and Practice’ at the Annual Meeting of the American Oriental Society in March 2008 in Chicago, USA. The paper explored possible theological reasons for the attitude of the Fatimid rulers towards their Muslim and non-Muslim subjects.