Academics, students, diplomats and legal experts gathered at the Ismaili Centre, London, at the end of May, to celebrate the launch of Interpretations of Law & Ethics in Muslim Contexts, volume two of AKU-ISMC’s Muslim Civilisations Abstracts publications. MCA Series Editor, Dr. Aptin Khanbaghi, welcomed guests alongside Dr. Farouk Topan, AKU-ISMC Interim Director, and Professor Abdou Filali-Ansary, Professor at AKU-ISMC and Founding Director.
In his opening address Dr. Khanbaghi said, “The volume we are launching today is like a passport. From a distance it might look like an ordinary booklet, but it is a gateway to a world of perspectives not easily accessible.”
Law within Muslim societies, he observed, is far from uniform. Partly because Muslim societies extend over three continents, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. However, even within Muslim majority regions, law can be interpreted differently according to the respective denominations and legal traditions.
Interpretations of Law & Ethics in Muslim Contexts, he said, brings together many unheard voices of scholars studying law and ethics in languages other than English. The volume features 200 abstracts with bibliographical details in three languages (English, Arabic and Turkish), giving access to information about scholarly publications from Muslim contexts in the fields of law and ethics.
Noting that the Muslim Civilisations Abstracts project was launched with the aim of promoting scholarship from regions under-represented in the present debates on the Muslim world, Khanbaghi stressed that ‘objectivity in research’ can only be achieved if knowledge is shared equitably with different views taken into consideration.
Scholars from the developing countries, “have been hampered from sharing their knowledge with us, simply due to financial restrictions and linguistic barriers”, he said.
Currently, observed Khanbaghi, markets and libraries around the world are dominated by books printed in Europe and North America, despite the fact that the rate of publications in Asia and Africa is on the increase. “Even within the Muslim world,” he said, “scholars are hardly aware of each other’s work.” So, Algerian publications, for example, rarely reach Indonesia or vice-versa, while academics from neighbouring countries such as Iran and Turkmenistan have limited access to each other’s work.
He added that it is also the intention of the University to reach out to scholars in Russia and India to present their views of Muslim contexts.
“As a university which is part of a development network, our mandate is different from most academic institutions. It is incumbent on us to support those who otherwise will not have a voice,” he said.
Khanbaghi underlined the fact that AKU-ISMC has no political affiliations or religious convictions. “We have a worldwide team of contributors and translators from a diverse background, and we rely on the collaboration of American, Asian, European and African scholars,” he explained. He called for wide participation and support in undertaking ‘this monumental task’ and invited all those present to act as “ambassadors and help the world rediscover itself in a new light”.
The evening proceeded with a keynote address on ‘The Relationship between Ethics and Sharia’, by Professor Abdou Filali-Ansary, followed by a reception, book signing and tour of the Ismaili Centre.
Honoured guests attending the event included Mr. Syed Zulfiqar Gardezi, Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan, who he had just returned from a visit to Iran and expressed his keen interest in the MCA project and its ability to promote scholarly activities of the region.
Mr Kuat Karbuzov, Educational Attache at the Embassy of Kazakhstan, Mr. Mourad Adjabi, Minister Counsellor at the Algerian Embassy, and Dr. Ayman Nada, Cultural Attache of the Egyptian Embassy in London also expressed their support for the Project.
Four more books in the series are due to be published this year.
- Cosmopolitanisms in Muslim Contexts: Perspectives from the Past, edited by Derryl Maclean and Sikeena Karmali Ahmed, published in partnership with Edinburgh University Press
- Ethnographies of Islam, edited by Kathryn Spellman-Poots, Paulo Pinto, Thomas Pierret and Baudouin Dupret, published in partnership with Edinburgh University Press
- Islam and the Foundations of Political Power, edited by Abdou Filali Ansary, published in partnership with Edinburgh University Press
- The Construction of Belief: Reflections on the Thought of Mohammed, edited by Abdou Filali-Ansary and Aziz Esmail, published in partnership with Saqi books
Ms Sikeena Karmali Ahmed
Manager, Publications & Editing