Frequently Asked Questions
 


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. When was AKU-ISMC formed and where is it located?
  2. Why was AKU-ISMC formed?
  3. What is the academic approach of AKU-ISMC?
  4. How is AKU-ISMC different from the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS)?
  5. What is the relationship between the AKU and AKU-ISMC?
  6. Who funds AKU-ISMC?
  7. Who can attend AKU-ISMC's academic programmes?
  8. Do you offer research grants?
  9. Can anyone use your library?
  10. Why have an MA in Muslim Cultures and not an MA in Islamic Studies?
  11. What are AKU-ISMC's main activities?
  12. What are the aims of the Muslim Civilisations Abstract (MCA) Project?
  13. Why was London chosen as the location for AKU-ISMC?
  14. Is AKU-ISMC going to offer any other programmes such as a PhD?
  15. Does AKU-ISMC offer any distance learning courses?
  16. How can I donate to AKU-ISMC and who can I contact to find out about supporting the University?
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1. When was AKU-ISMC formed and where is it located?​

ISMC was formed in 2002 as part of the Aga Khan University. It is based in London, UK.

2. Why was AKU-ISMC formed?

In 1994, the AKU Chancellor's Commission, a distinguished group of international academics, reviewed several major studies of higher education made in countries with Muslim populations, including those undertaken over the preceding decade by the Harvard Committee, the Institute for International Education and UNESCO. The subsequent analysis led the Commission to assert that there was an urgent need to strengthen institutions that were able to adopt the norms and techniques of modern scholarship without loosing sight of the experiences of Muslims seeking to resolve contemporary challenges.

The Commission concluded that AKU, as an institution of higher learning, was uniquely placed to address the challenges faced by Muslims today. This report provided a vision of the University for the next several decades and suggested setting up various bodies to realise that vision. Among these bodies, it was felt that AKU could achieve this objective through the establishment of an institute devoted to the study of Muslim civilisations, aiming to produce research and writing that would serve to bring a more enlightened understanding of the heritage of Muslims and its contemporary relevance. This is especially relevant in this day of growing interconnectedness of cultures.

3. What is the academic approach of AKU-ISMC?

In their focus on Muslim societies, the Institute's programmes take account of the diversity of cultures where Muslims were, and are, a significant constituency. The approach to the study of Muslim civilisations is within a framework of world cultures, allowing for a wider analytical and comparative perspective. This approach entails studying the context of cultural and intellectual history within which religious ideas and practices have meaning. It requires that cultural manifestations such as art, poetry and architecture be examined alongside doctrine, law and religious practice. The Institute endeavours to understand the character of Muslim civilisations as they have evolved over time, and also to focus on the complex social, cultural and historical processes that they are undergoing in the contemporary world. AKU-ISMC will seek to study fundamental challenges to the human condition today, including, among others, the issues of poverty and governance.

This seamless integration of the study of history and current concerns is an enterprise with philosophical and educational significance and one that may help individuals and societies find meaning and purpose in the traditions that surround them and in the many different worlds they inhabit.

4. How is AKU-ISMC different from the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS)?

Both AKU-ISMC and the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS) seek to study the full breadth of Muslim cultures and societies. Both do so using the tools of the humanities and social sciences. The IIS, however, has a specific mandate to promote research on intellectual and literary expressions of Shi'ism in general, and Ismailism in particular, areas which have had relatively little attention devoted to them in scholarship to date. On the other hand, AKU-ISMC does not focus on any specific Muslim community or tradition. It is non-denominational, its programmes are open to all and its MA in Muslim Cultures seeks to cover the full diversity of Muslim contexts.

5. What is the relationship between the AKU and AKU-ISMC?

AKU-ISMC is one of six AKU entities - the School of Nursing, the Medical College, Aga Khan University Hospitals, the Institute for Educational Development, the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations and the Examination Board. While the AKU main campus is based in Karachi, Pakistan, AKU-ISMC is based in London, UK.

Chartered in 1983 as a private international university, Aga Khan University (AKU) is a self-governing institution with 11 teaching sites spread over eight countries. The University is non-denominational and admission to its academic programmes is based strictly on merit.

6. Who funds AKU-ISMC?

AKU-ISMC is a 'not-for-profit' entity financed by a grant from the Aga Khan Development Network.

7. Who can attend AKU-ISMC's academic programmes?

The Institute recruits students from all over the world, and like other AKDN institutions, is non-denominational. Admission to its academic programmes is based strictly on merit. Diversity in this respect is central to achieving the Institute's goals. 

For more information about entry to the MA in Muslim Cultures, please click here.

8. Do you offer research grants?

AKU-ISMC is not a grant funding agency. There is however provision for its faculty to apply to internal grants through the University Research Council.

AKU-ISMC does offer annual fellowships and visiting faculty research positions.

9. Can anyone use your library?

The AKU-ISMC library is open to non-AKU-ISMC scholars and students upon prior written request (with detailed information on the type of research and reasons for need to access the library's collection). As a reference library to scholars and researchers in the field of Muslim cultures and civilisations, the library aims to be a complimentary resource to those that are already available in the UK.

10. Why have an MA in Muslim Cultures and not an MA in Islamic Studies?

AKU-ISMC aims to foster quality academic activity which allows for comparison and complexity in the study of Muslim societies and cultures in the vast range of geographical locations that they inhabit, including but not limited to Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Central, South and South East Asia. By focusing attention on Muslim societies and cultures, and not Islam, AKU-ISMC encourages a shift in the focus of academic discourse from the notion of a single religious cultural landscape defined by Islam, to a complex, heterogeneous view of Muslims as actors who are deeply involved in the construction of, and creation of perspectives on their own histories.

11. What are AKU-ISMC's main activities?

In line with the goals of the Institute and its approach to the study of Muslim civilisations, the Institute has initiated activities in three interrelated areas:

  • Academic Programmes: These include the Institute's flagship programme, the MA in Muslim Cultures as well as a number of short courses. AKU-ISMC has held certificate courses for teachers in Pakistan and a number of short courses for diplomats in Canada and Germany. 
  • Research: Research at the Institute concentrates on issues that are critical to all contemporary societies, particularly those that remain relatively unexplored within Muslim environments. The Institute hopes to mobilise Muslim and non-Muslim scholars around a wide range of themes and issues. These will require extensive inquiry, innovative thinking and the application of a range of research methodologies available across numerous disciplines. As in all activities undertaken by the University, AKU-ISMC will conduct quality research that is relevant; its research activities will seek to be meaningful and provide insight into the challenges that face contemporary Muslim societies.
  • Publications: The publications programme at AKU-ISMC responds to an urgent need for representative scholarship about Muslim societies and cultures. Our publications hope to function as effective vehicles for disseminating alternative perspectives about Muslim societies from those prevailing in the larger academic community and mainstream media. The books generate new ways of thinking about Muslim civilisations by bringing to the fore, representative points of view from various Muslim contexts. The Institute's publications consist of three series of academic publications that illustrate the dynamism of scholarship taking place in Muslim contexts, much of which testifies to the rethinking about the heritage.
  • Muslim Civilisations Abstracts Project: The Muslim Civilisations Abstracts (MCA) Project seeks to record and abstract a large body of published writing relating to various aspects of Muslim civilisations. These publications are in a range of languages: European, Asian, African and languages spoken by majority Muslim populations (Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Bengali, Malay/Indonesian). Some of these languages are under-represented in existing bibliographies and surveys of the literature and remain little known outside their immediate contexts. 

12. What are the aims of the Muslim Civilisations Abstract (MCA) Project?

The purpose of the MCA is to widen knowledge among scholars worldwide of what has been written on Muslim civilisations globally. The MCA database will provide information on selected works of scholarship containing one or more of the following:

  • original research and analysis;
  • advances in relevant methodology;
  • creative contributions to the solution of intellectual and social problems affecting Muslims.

The abstracts, written by impartial expert scholars in the relevant subjects will be made available in multiple languages, including: Arabic, Bengali, English, Malay/Indonesian, Persian, Russian, Turkish and Urdu. These are only some of the languages used by Muslims today and the Institute will expand the MCA to include other languages in due course.

The principal medium for this exchange of scholarship will be the Internet. The MCA will be made available as a free, open-access online database, which can be consulted by anyone using the Internet, in any of the languages mentioned above.

13. Why was London chosen as the location for AKU-ISMC?

The Chancellor's Commission felt that an institute such as AKU-ISMC should be established in Europe due to the fact that Europe is home to an increasingly diverse range of cultures, including Muslims, and is in many cases seeking to reconcile the position of minority groups in a number of spheres. London is also one of the most culturally diverse capitals of the world and provides easy access to institutions of academic excellence.

In addition to this, the Institute needed to be located in a place where it could bring together scholars from around the world to explore difficult questions of relevance to the study of Muslim civilisations.

14. Is AKU-ISMC going to offer any other programmes such as a PhD?

The Institute does hope to offer a PhD programme in the years to come.

15. Does AKU-ISMC offer any distance learning courses?

At present AKU-ISMC does not offer any distance learning courses. In the future however, it will explore this option and look to utilise distance learning tools in its course offerings.

16. How can I donate to AKU-ISMC and who can I contact to find out about supporting the University?​

As a not for profit entity, the Institute relies on the generosity of its donors to further its work. If you are interested in supporting or donating to the University, please contact ismc@aku.edu​ for further information.​