On 1 April, the IIS held a graduation ceremony for students of GPISH (Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities) and STEP (Secondary Teacher Education Programme) at the Ismaili Centre, London. The event was a celebration of our graduating students from STEP Class of 2022 (C13) and GPISH Class of 2023 and there was a livestream available for those who could not attend in person.
The keynote address was given by Professor Aaron Hughes, who is the Dean’s Professor of the Humanities and the Philip S. Bernstein Professor of Religion at the University of Rochester, USA, and currently visiting guest professor at the Aga Khan University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations.
Professor Hughes said: “You are, after all, each engaging, in your own individual rihla, whether you know it or not. It has taken me a while to figure that out in my own life. But a lot now falls into place when I understood that. Within this context, […] all I can say is that Islam demands of us that we question, that we pursue knowledge, and that we follow the data to appropriate conclusions.”
“Islam is not so delicate or fragile that we cannot question it or think about it in new and creative ways. Far from it. Books may not fall from heaven, but they certainly change the lives of those who read them and, in so doing, change the course of our individual lives, just as much as they change the course of world history.”
Professor Aaron Hughes
Our partners, UCL and SOAS were represented by Sophie Kerslake, Programme Leader for the Secondary Teacher Education Programme (STEP) from UCL and Shabnum Tejani, Department of History Senior Lecturer from the SOAS South Asia Institute. Both warmly congratulated the students on their achievements and commented on the valuable partnership with the IIS.
Graduating students this year came from seven different countries: Afghanistan, Canada, Iran, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan and the USA.
Farhan Feroz Ali and Hafeeza Murji, the valedictorians for their GPISH and STEP respectively, represented the sentiments of their cohorts in their touching reflections which included their gratitude to the IIS for this life-changing opportunity.
One of the third year GPISH students was also celebrating his admission into a doctoral programme at Oxford with a full scholarship. Murid Shah Nadiri will join the Faculty of History in October 2023 as the Oxford-Nizami Ganjavi Centre Scholar.
His doctoral research will be about the Ismailis of present-day Afghanistan and their cross-regional daʿwa activities across Central and South Asia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Murid Shah Nadiri says: “I am indebted to the IIS, its faculty and my peers who have contributed to my academic growth and development. I am very excited to play my part in expanding the scope of modern Ismaili studies. This achievement, if it can be called as such, is dedicated also to my parents as well as my teachers and well-wishers at the Sultanabad Religious Education Centre in Karachi, Pakistan, where I spent two decades as an Afghan refugee. Without their commitment to the advancement of religious education in the community, I would not have made it this far.”
Murid Shah Nadiri and IIS Director Professor Zayn Kassam
Secondary Teacher Education Programme class of 22