Muslim Cultures in the Indian Ocean

Diversity and Pluralism, Past and Present

September 12-14, 2018

Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations

This conference aims to explore the diversity of Muslim cultures prevalent in the Indian Ocean region where, historically, Muslims have interacted for centuries with each other and with other peoples and cultures. Islam not only provided the scaffolding that facilitated cultural exchanges but was also the pivot for transforming local societies. The conference seeks to bring together experts from different disciplines and backgrounds including archaeologists, historians, sociologists, anthropologists, geographers, and scholars of related disciplines to explore various facets of this diversity. This conference marks a reconnaissance of the Indian Ocean not as a periphery but as a centre for the study of Muslim cultures.

Indeed, over the past couple of decades, significant new research has been undertaken across East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian subcontinent leading to fresh insights on a number of facets of Indian Ocean cultures. Some of these studies were written about the Indian Ocean on the longue durée and other studies were focused on local and regional histories. Cultural encounters across the Indian Ocean down the centuries have given rise to cities, towns, ports and other constructions and artefacts which, while remaining distinctive in themselves, also exhibit layers of shared features. They manifest the craftsmanship and values of their creators, peoples whose diversity is almost proverbial. Similar endeavours are present in almost all aspects of human creativity through contact, including religious beliefs and practices, literature, architecture, trade, cuisine, textiles and fashion, etc. Cultural contacts, exchanges and networks were facilitated by the sea as a link between these diverse worlds. Like the Mediterranean - so well studied by Fernand Braudel - the Indian Ocean is a rich contact zone that is central to the understanding of cultural diversity in this vast region.

Opening Remarks


Firoz Rasul

President of the Aga Khan University


Professor Leif Stenberg

Director of the Aga Khan University-Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations




Professor Stéphane Pradines

Dr. Farouk Topan


Keynote speakers


Some Notes about Indian Ocean Heritage


Dr. Mechtild Rössler

Director of the Division for Heritage and UNESCO World Heritage Centre


Stephen Battle
Program Director of the World Monuments Fund


The first day of the conference will be followed by the opening of the  Indian Ocean Architecture exhibition


By Pierre Blanchard, Miki Desai, Mauroof Jameel and Stéphane Pradines



Day 1: Manuscripts and Literature



Aḥmad Ibn Mājid and the Indian Ocean before European Hegemony

Alexis Wick: Associate Professor of History, the American University of Beirut.


A Persian View on the Maritime Muslim Frontier in Southeast Asia:  The Jāmʿa al-Bar waʾl-Baḥr

Roghayeh Ebrahimi: Ph.D candidate, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris.


Exploring the Geographies and Locales in Siyar al-ʿArifin

Gulfishan Khan: Associate Professor in Medieval Indian History, the Centre of Advanced Study, Department of History, Aligarh Muslim University.


The Qur’ans of Harar: Indian Ocean Resonances in an Ethiopian Manuscript Tradition

Sana Mirza: Ph.D candidate, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.


The Indic Chronicle of Light from Zanzibar

Iqbal Akhtar: Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and International Relations, Florida International University, Miami.


One Book, Multiple Cultures: In the Making of Quranic Manuscript in East Africa  

Walid Ghali: Assistant Professor at the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations and the Head Librarian of the Aga Khan Library, London.


Al-Buṣīrī on the Shores of the Indian Ocean: Swahili and Malay Qaṣīda Manuscripts in Comparative Perspective

Mulaika Hijjas: L​ecturer in South East Asian Studies, School of  Languages, Cultures and Linguistics, SOAS University of London.

Angelica Baschiera: Manager of the Centre of African Studies, SOAS University of London.


Transmission of Islam to Southeast Asia: Islamic Identity in the Malay Hikayat Genre

Katia Chaterji: Ph.D candidate, Department of History, University of Washington-Seattle.


Printed Texts, Translated Ideas and Islamic Network in Indian Ocean Littoral: Shaping Muslim and Arabic Cosmopolis in South-West India, 1800-1921

Muhammed Niyas Ashraf: Doctoral Fellow, the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies, Freie University Berlin.


The Distribution of Qur’ans Printed in India and Singapore throughout Southeast Asia

Ali Akbar: Researcher, Bayt Al-Qur'an and Museum Istiqlal, Ministry of Religious Affairs, Jakarta.


A Refuge of Ideas? Muslim Scholars in Transit and Sri Lanka in Transition

Arun Rasiah: Associate Professor and Director of Liberal Studies, Holy Names University, Oakland, California.



Day 2: Objects and Spaces



 Shāsha/ Shāshk or Varji Boat Type: An Ethnological Study on Its Construction Technic, Function and Its Influence on the Northern Persian Gulf`s Societies

Abdolreza Dashtizadeh: Head of Cultural Heritage Organization of Qeshm Free Area (Q F.A), Qeshm Island and Shadi Kalantar, Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Literature and Humanities, Tehran University.


The Dhow in Early Modern History: Continuity and Change

Dionisius A. Agius: Fellow of the British Academy and Emeritus Al-Qasimi Professor of Arabic Studies and Islamic Material Culture, the University of Exeter. 


Manifestation of Cultural Tolerance on Earliest Islamic Buildings in Java, Indonesia

Hee Sook Lee-Niinioja: Ph.D, ICOMOS-ICICH, Helsinki.


The Origins of the Mosque Plan in the Malay-Indonesian Archipelago

Bernard O'Kane: Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture, the American University in Cairo.


Architectural and Archaeological Investigations on the Coral Stone Mosques of the Maldives

Stephane Pradines: Archaeologist, Professor of Muslim Art and Architecture, the Aga Khan University-Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations, London.

Mohamed Mauroof Jameel: MSc Arch, RIBA, ICOMOS, Architect.

Fabien Balestra: Archaeologist, Department of Val-de-Marne.

Traditional Bohra Dwellings of Gujarat, India: Architectural Response to Cultural Ethos

Madhavi Desai: Adjunct Faculty of Architecture, CEPT University, Ahmedabad.


Omani Mosques, Indian Ocean Trade and Arab Society

Soumyen Bandyopadhyay: Professor Sir James Stirling Chair in Architecture and Head of School of Architecture, University of Liverpool.


The Islamic Port of al-Balid (Oman), between Land and Sea: Place of Trade, Exchange, Diversity, and Coexistence

Agnese Fusaro: Ph.D, archaeologist, pottery specialist and research member of the ERAAUB team, Department of History and Archaeology, University of Barcelona.

Alexia Pavan: Ph.D, archaeologist and the Director of the excavation of Husn Al Baleed, Salalah.


Tex-Tiles: Islamic Architecture and Material Culture along the Swahili Coast and the Indian Ocean World, 1250-1450 AD.

Vera-Simone Schulz: Research collaborator in the Department of Gerhard Wolf at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut and Ph.D candidate at the University of Berlin and Columbia University, New York City.


 Historical Roles of the Female Face Mask in the West Indian Ocean

Manami Goto: Ph.D candidate in Arab and Islamic Studies, the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, Exeter.


Muslim Cultures through the Aperture: An East African Photo Story

Nasira Sheikh-Miller: Senior museum professional with a background in learning, interpretation and community engagement.



 Day 3: Identities and Diasporas



 Monsoon Islam: Muslim Traders and Islamic Networks

Sebastian R. Prange: Assistant Professor of South Asian History, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

Africans in the Palace: The Testimony of Taj al-Sultana Qajar from the Royal Harem in Iran

Anthony A. Lee: Ph.D lecturer, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Transcending Boundaries: Emily Said-Reute, nee Princess Salme of Zanzibar and Oman (1844 - 1924)

Farouk Topan: Associate Professor, the Aga Khan University-Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations, London.


Religion, Ethnicity, and Identity in the Zanzibar Sultanate

Valerie J. Hoffman: Professor of Islamic Studies and Head of the Department of Religion, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.


Muslim Identities in the Indian Ocean: The Ibadi Al Bu Sa’id of Oman during XVIII-XIX Centuries

Beatrice Nicolini: Associate Professor of History and Institutions of Africa, Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan.


Trading Spirits and Slaves – Spirit Possession in Zanzibar and Iran

Sara Zavaree: Ph.D candidate, Institute of African Studies and Egyptology, University of Cologne.


The Jinni and the Divorcee in the Maldives – Notes from a Small Muslim Island Nation

Eva-Maria Knoll: Researcher, group leader and financial coordinator, the Institute for Social Anthropology, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna.


Interactive Dynamics of the Hadrami Women in Malabar, Southwest India

Muhammed Faris Kallayi: Research Scholar, Department of Islamic Theology, Philosophy and Mysticism, Darul Huda Islamic University, Kerala.

Mirfathbeevi Puthiyamaliyakkal: M.Phil candidate, Department of History, Annamalai University, Tamilnadu.


Cultural Resilience of Tiny Minorities: A Case Study of the Sri Lankan Malays

Melathi Saldin: Ph.D candidate, Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.


‘Sword of the Two Sanctuaries’: The Hijaz as a Discursive Hub of the Modern Indian Ocean

Reza Pirbhai: Associate Professor of South Asian and World History, Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

Iranian Migrants in the Early 20th century Gulf and the Transformation of the Port Towns of Kuwait and Bahrain

Lindsey Stephenson Javadi: Post-Graduate Research Associate, Department of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University, New Jersey.


 Struggling with History and Arab Tribalization: The Reconfiguration of the Khoja in Post-Nationalist Muscat, Oman

Amal Sachedina: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Institute for Middle East Studies, George Washington University.



The Aga Khan University-Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations
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King's Cross