Dr. Laila Halani speaking to an IIS representative during the welcome lunch event 2023

Dr. Laila Halani, Head of Graduate Studies addressing an IIS representative during a welcome event

This year, during the months of August and September 2023, The Institute of Ismaili Studies welcomed the new cohort of Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities (GPISH) with a series of sessions that included:

  • Understanding the vision and mission of IIS.
  • Examining the philosophy and a detailed structure of GPISH.
  • Introduction to well-being as one settles down in a new learning environment.
  • City Challenge: A fun based activity to explore the city.
  • An intellectually engaging and socialising trip to Rochester

As students embarked upon their learning voyages, some have shared their expectations and have written a note to their future self which they can reflect upon towards the end of the programme.

Given below are two responses from our new cohort GPISH-2026:

Moiz Rajwani (Canada)

Since I was a kid, I often pondered on epistemological questions such as what knowledge is, how do we know what we know is true, and if I have a veil of perception. I often questioned who I am, what is the meaning of life and is there really a God? Hence, I was always in search for a place where I can introspect, reflect, and ultimately gain knowledge about my identity so that I can further use this level of clarity to help others. As Rumi said, "Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you love," my love for serving others and asking questions to understand the world better led me to apply for the GPISH program.

Through GPISH, I aim to reflect on my community's past by examining key moments in Islamic and Ismaili history, critically examining the present by exploring Ismailis in modern times, and imagining our future as a community. I expect GPISH to serve as an intersection between the exoteric (zahir) and esoteric (batin) aspects of my identity by providing a chance for contemplation and increasing my understanding of Allah's creation.

At the end of three years, I envision myself to be well equipped to become a thought leader, directing international development, humanitarian, and peace efforts in marginalized regions by drawing upon the ethics of the Ismaili faith. I hope to influence international assistance priorities and help rebuild societies in fragile and conflict-affected areas. Through my professional work, I aim to foster peace, strengthen global partnerships, and build strong and inclusive institutions within civil society. I also question myself: what role can I play in preserving the intellectual, spiritual and cultural heritage of the Ismaili community? Thus, I aim to contribute to the preservation of Ismaili heritage and knowledge, particularly regarding identity and culture for youth facing dual identities due to migration.

A note to future self: “You are about to embark on a journey to understand who you are, where did you come from, why are you here, and what can you do while you’re on this earth to help others. Always remember that your life is a blessing, it is truly a blessing.This journey is not just about you but about every single human who has made a sacrifice for you in some shape or form, all those humans that love you and support you and want you to become the best version of yourself. 

A student with navy blue sweater standing in an AKC balcony and posing for a photo


When in doubt, remember that one of our main goals is to learn about your faith in such depth that you can defend it to those who misinterpret or question it and educate about it to those who are ignorant or curious towards it.

With all that being said, don’t forget to enjoy life while you are intellectually stimulating yourself — go for that football game in person, explore all the stadiums there are in London, go to those cricket matches, find a Bollywood karaoke or club and just sing out your lungs until there is no breath left, explore Europe to the fullest, start your startup, find your crew, meet the King, get knighted, live your life to the fullest. Give it 150% until you don’t have any more left to give.

Noor Mansour (Syria)

Having been born and brought up in Syria, I have witnessed the breakdown of a pluralistic Syrian society and how the turbulence has impacted all aspects of Syrians' lives. The political socio-economic crisis has devastated the health system, which has both short and long-term impacts on population health. This sparked my interest in public health in the Muslim community.

Through my readings, curiosity, career growth and volunteering experience, I have learnt how important it is to bring together knowledge from different fields and disciplines to solve the problems faced by Muslim societies around the world.

A student in black jacket posing for a photo


I believe that I can best help my society and its public health institutions by having a strong understanding of Islam, Muslim history, cultures, and societies, and I think GPISH can give me this through its intellectually linked modules and engagement with outstanding thinkers and classmates.

In my third year of study, I plan to take a master's degree in health policy, which will pave my way to pursue a leading role in the field of health in international or governmental organizations, preferably within Aga Khan Development Network institutions.

I am also an artist; I like to express myself through drawing. I love to draw portraits of public figures who left an impact on my community to remind people of them. With more than 1700 followers on Facebook, I like to inspire others. As a pharmacist, artist and a reader with and an interest in humanities and Islam, I have come to know how a person can embrace multiple identities and that one shouldn’t be moulded into one label or title. 

One final thing I can tell my future self: As you know more, your responsibilities become larger. I trust that I will be able to use my knowledge to help the community and make a positive difference in other’s lives.

The GPISH induction ended with a staff and student lunch around the last week of September with awarding the students for the best city challenge performances.