The eleventh annual Summer Programme on Islam was held at Clare College, University of Cambridge, from 11th – 18th August 2013. Thirty-seven participants from 16 countries, including Australia, Burundi, Canada, Denmark, France, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Pakistan, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Tajikistan, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, participated in the eight-day programme.
The faculty included scholars from the IIS as well as leading professors from prestigious universities in North America. The topics of study included Encountering Islam, the Built Environment of Muslim Civilisations, Expression through Art and Architecture, the Qur’an, Muslim Values and Ethics, Depicting the Prophet, Post-Prophetic Authority, Law in Muslim Contexts, Diversity within Ismaili Traditions, Contemporary Muslim Landscape and Islamophobia/Westphobia.
Sessions for each topic of study comprised two components: interactive lectures and workshops where time for contemplation and discourse was provided for participants to fully engage with the issues, whilst hearing different viewpoints. The curriculum and teaching methodology created an environment for participants to navigate outside their comfort zones and critically think through contemporary discourses in the light of history.
One participant, from France, commented:
“The Summer Programme was a new and exciting experience. It enabled me to explore new perspectives on Islam. Particularly, how we can view central facets of Islam including the Qur’an, hadith literature, and certain rites and ceremonies. The scholars were impressive. The programme also allowed me to meet people from other countries and learn more about their traditions.”
Another participant from Pakistan shared this perspective:
“The IIS Summer Programme on Islam 2013 was a great experience. The setting was very conducive for the intense nature of discussions. The content and especially the workshops were thought-provoking and interacting with people from 16 different countries was very insightful.”
The programme included a formal dinner in the Scholars’ Garden and Great Hall for participants, faculty and leadership from the local Ismaili community as well as IIS governors and staff. The keynote address was delivered by Mr. Henry Kim, Director of the Aga Khan Museum, in which he discussed the work of the Museum. Jamila Jaffer from Denmark, who was elected student representative, shared the group’s reflections on the programme. Ms Jaffer noted the diversity within the Ismaili community that was represented by participants at the programme and how the themes covered over the course of the week emphasised this reality. The evening concluded with Dr Alnoor Dhanani being presented with a token of appreciation from the IIS for his role as Academic Director of the Summer Programme.
The Summer Programme ended on a cultural note in London where participants visited the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Jameel Gallery. Closing remarks were delivered at The Ismaili Centre London by Shiraz Kabani, Head of Community Relations at the IIS, who encouraged participants to continue their learning through reading and to seek out opportunities to transmit their learning to others.