The second graduation ceremony of Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations took place on April 12, 2010. Held at the Brunei Gallery in London, the ceremony was attended by members of the university's board of trustees, faculty and staff of the ISMC, students' families, as well as guests from the academic community in London. Eight students received their Master of Arts in Muslim Cultures at the ceremony and a ninth student, away in Pakistan, also graduated.
Compered by Nina Hirji Kheraj, from the class of 2010, the ceremony was formally declared open by the Chairman, AKU board of trustees, Ambassador Saidullah Khan Dehlavi, and was followed by an invocation, beautifully recited by Najmus Sabah, also from the class of 2010. AKU President, Mr Firoz Rasul then delivered the welcome address.
In his address, President Rasul began by reflecting on the role of a University in light of modern challenges. Focusing on the vision for AKU, the President spoke of creating, "ethically literate leaders." These leaders, he explained, would "value pluralism, can reason morally when challenged and who rely on an ethical framework within which to use their knowledge to develop human capacities, improve the quality of life and help society address the challenges presented by the emerging knowledge society."
He went on to discuss how AKU is working towards this vision in three ways: by providing the means to understand our changing world; recognising that knowledge can bridge differences, and, by using knowledge to improve the quality of life. He discussed how the work and research at ISMC in particular, aims to broaden perspectives on the past and present in order to examine contemporary challenges faced by Muslim societies such as issues of "bioethics, ethical finance, acceptable technology and the teaching of evolution".
Provost William Doe then introduced the Chief Guest, Professor Joshua Silver, an atomic physicist and professor of physics at the University of Oxford, where he is also the Director of the Centre for Vision in the Developing World.
Professor Silver's work suggested that self-refraction with suitable adaptive lens eyeglasses could be a useful procedure for improving myopic vision. His research was supported by the UK's Department for Interior Development. Silver developed low cost eyeglasses that can be individually tuned by the wearer, thereby creating access to low-cost, vision correction for half the world's population which needs, but does not have, corrective eyewear.
During his key note address, Professor Silver described his interest and journey in the emerging area of adaptive optics during the mid-1980s and his invention of the adaptive eyeglasses. He spoke about applying technology to deliver low-cost eyewear to the poorest parts of the developing world and the importance of innovation within the field of development. Professor Silver also referred to the contributions of Muslim scholars to the field of optics and science more generally. His speech not only highlighted the importance of building bridges and sharing knowledge in order to create a positive impact, but also the importance of having self-belief and pursuing valuable ideas.
Eight graduands were then awarded their Master of Arts in Muslim Cultures degrees by the President of the University and Chairman of its Board of Trustees.
Following the awarding of degrees, graduate Fayaz Noormohammmed delivered an eloquent valedictory address describing the students' two year journey. He spoke of their learning and development; the empowerment the journey had brought them and their trepidation and eagerness at their newfound responsibilities. Fayaz concluded by expressing gratitude and appreciation on behalf of his class to parents and families, his fellow classmates, the Institute and University as a whole.
A lively reception dinner was held at the Holborn Grange Hotel after the ceremony compèred by graduate Sameer Noorani. Ambassador Dehlavi addressed the guests and Interim Director, Dr Farouk Topan declared graduate Omar Farooq Kasmani as the recipient of the annual dissertation award. Graduate Larisa Gvasaliya then offered a gracious vote of thanks and the evening was concluded with a few closing remarks and a poem recited by Dr Farid Panjwani. Well attended by the graduates, their families, the faculty and staff of the ISMC, the evening proved a fitting end to a propitious day.