Thirteen students marked the completion of their studies at The Institute of Ismaili Studies at a graduation ceremony for the Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities (GPISH) Class of 2013. Approximately 150 guests, including the Institute’s Board of Governors, Ismaili community leadership and donors to the IIS, joined the students and their families in celebrating their achievement at the Ismaili Centre in London on 19th October 2013.
The Institute attracts Ismaili students from around the globe. The graduates included students from Australia, Canada, France, Iran, Pakistan, Syria and the USA. The Institute has offered this particular graduate programme since 1994 in which students with various academic backgrounds can pursue a two-year course of study in Islamic Studies and Humanities at the IIS, before going on to obtain a Masters degrees in a field of relevance to the Institute’s mandate, from a university of their choice, including Oxford and Cambridge.
In her welcome address Dr Laila Halani, Acting Head of the Department of Graduate Studies at the Institute, discussed the significance of the education the graduates received at the IIS and hoped that their respective backgrounds would enable them to go on to inform wider academic discourse as well as public debate at various levels.
While addressing how Islamic Studies is understood, designed and taught in the majority of UK Universities Dr Halani asserted that “most courses in Islamic Studies in UK continue to adopt a conventional approach”. She concluded by stating that “when GPISH was established 19 years ago, it was innovative and continues to seek ways of remaining a cutting edge programme”.
In her keynote address, leading Qur’an scholar Professor Angelika Neuwirth expressed her delight at being part of the graduation ceremony. She went on to discuss the current state of Qur’anic Studies, emphasising how the examination of the Qur’an from a scholarly perspective was important for the “sake of reclaiming the Qur’an’s universal significance... for preserving its integrity and correcting present misconceptions.”
Professor Neuwirth called the scholarly reading of the Qur’an today a politically relevant task, “The shared heritages of Judaism, Christianity and Islam ... clearly attest to the common ground on which we stand, the fact that the three traditions of understanding... ultimately stem from one and the same epistemic space."
The Class of 2013 were presented with their certificates by Dr Farhad Daftary, the Co-Director of the Institute and Professor Angelika Neuwirth.
The valedictorian of the Class of 2013, Amira Nazarali from Canada, reflecting on how the programme encouraged her and her fellow students to re-examine their notions and beliefs, shared: “GPISH was, on the whole, a lesson in intellectual humility. The programme was a progressive recognition that a range of different and possibly conflicting perspectives exist and that each one is worthy of due consideration. It was also a confrontation of the limits of our own understandings of the world. In this way, GPISH was not only an academically and intellectually rigorous program (and it was very much so), but a personally challenging and transformative one as well.”
The closing remarks were given by Farhana Mayer, the GPISH Coordinator and lecturer in both GPISH and STEP who talked about not just the academic value of GPISH but also of the growth opportunity it provided through human engagement stating that “Whenever a person engages with another, to any substantial degree, there is an expansion of consciousness...”