The 28th of February marked a significant institutional milestone for AKU-ISMC as it held its inaugural graduation ceremony. Eleven students were awarded their Master of Arts in Muslim Cultures at the ceremony, attended by members of the University’s Board of Trustees, AKU faculty and staff, students' families, donors, dignitaries and members of the diplomatic corp.
The ceremony was opened by the Chairman of the AKU Board of Trustees, Ambassador Saidullah Khan Dehlavi, and was followed by a welcome address by the President of AKU, Mr Firoz Rasul. In his address, the President stressed the role of the Institute as a key figure in the development of the tools of the humanities and social sciences as applied to the study of Muslim civilisations.
The President also provided an overview of the vision of the Institute, as outlined by the report produced by the Chancellor’s Commission, a distinguished group of international academics who reviewed several major higher education institutions in countries with Muslim populations and examined the state of education about Muslim cultures within varied contexts.
The Commission concluded that AKU should establish an institute devoted to the study of Muslim civilisations. Such an institution, it suggested, would produce research and writings and bring an enlightened understanding of the heritage of Muslims and its contemporary relevance to contribute to the development of societies in which Muslims live.
After the opening address, the chief guest, Professor Nouzha Guessous-Idrissi, presented a keynote speech. Professor Guessous-Idrissi is an expert for the WHO/UNDP Tropical Disease Research Programme since 1999, a consultant for Womens' Rights NGOs, a member of the International Bioethics Committee of UNESCO, a founding member of the Moroccan Organisation of Human Rights, and a former Professor at the Medical Faculty and head of the Diagnosis and Research Laboratory at the University Hospital of Casablanca.
The chief guest of the graduation ceremony was Professor Nouzha Guessous-Idrissi, who presented the keynote speech.
Dr Guessous-Idrissi noted that throughout the history of humanity, Muslims have contributed a staggering amount to the development of culture, education, medicine and science. This period of learning and development continued until the 10th century when “Muslims stopped all kind of research and innovation,” what Professor Guessous-Idrissi qualified as a divorce between Muslims and reason.
Focusing on the notion of the “divorce between Muslims and reason”, Dr Guessous-Idrissi explained that this schism had many ramifications, including the promotion of “non-thinking” and obscurantism within contemporary Muslim contexts.
Professor Guessous-Idrissi also noted that one of the reasons for this position has been the use of ‘politics of education’ in Muslim contexts. She stressed the role that education should play in the development of Muslim societies.
“As a human right, it enables access to knowledge which is a determinant condition for the respect of human dignity and right to welfare. Second, by enabling free thinking, it is a fundamental tool for empowerment. This is why the politics of education are the most dangerous and efficient weapons in the hands of the politicians; not only in terms of access to education but also in terms of its quality and the underlying messages,” Professor Guessous-Idrissi explained.
Through her work with UNESCO and the International Bioethics Committee, Professor Guessous-Idrissi has been given the unique opportunity to investigate and begin a process of “re-appropriating” her Muslim heritage, with the rationality related to her scientific training, and the combination of her knowledge of universal human rights.
Professor Guessous-Idrissi concluded that, “it is by introducing rationality and modern research methods that Muslim thought can become alive and continue to evolve; and thereby recover its place in human thought.”
Following the keynote speech, students were awarded their Master of Arts in Muslim Cultures degrees by the President of the University and Chairman of its Board of Trustees. The valedictory speech was presented by Noorali Bharwani.
The ceremony concluded with a vote of thanks by the Director of the Institute, Dr Abdou Filali-Ansari. In his vote of thanks, Dr Filali-Ansary expressed his gratitude to the faculty and staff of the Institute, its donors, senior management and students who, over the last two-years, had worked hard to produce a successful and well-regarded Masters Programme.
In addition, Dr Filali-Ansary expressed the Institute’s deepest gratitude to its Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan whose vision and leadership have provided the impetus and drive for the Institute to develop itself as a centre of quality education and academic dialogue within a short period of time.
Coordinator, Planning & Academic Development
Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations