Frequently Asked Questions
- When was ISMC formed and where is it located?
- Why was ISMC formed?
- What is the academic approach of ISMC?
- How is ISMC different from the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS)?
- What is the relationship between the AKU and ISMC?
- Who funds ISMC?
- Who can attend ISMC's academic programmes?
- Do you offer research grants?
- Can anyone use your library?
- Why have an MA in Muslim Cultures and not an MA in Islamic Studies?
- What are ISMC's main activities?
- Why was London chosen as the location for ISMC?
- Is ISMC going to offer any other programmes such as a PhD?
- Does ISMC offer any distance learning courses?
- How can I donate to ISMC and who can I contact to find out about supporting the University?
1. When was 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 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
3. What is the academic approach of 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. 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 ISMC different from the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS)?
Both 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 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, 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 ISMC?
ISMC is a 'not-for-profit' entity financed by a grant from the Aga Khan Development Network.
7. Who can attend 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
For more information about entry to the MA in Muslim Cultures, please click here.
8. Do you offer research grants?
ISMC is not a grant funding agency. There is
however provision for its faculty to apply to internal grants through
the University Research Council.
ISMC does offer annual fellowships and visiting faculty research positions.
9. Can anyone use your library?
The ISMC library
is open to non-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?
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, 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 histories.
11. What are 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:
- MA in Muslim Cultures
as well as a number of short courses. ISMC has held certificate courses
for teachers in Pakistan and a number of short courses for diplomats in
Canada and Germany.
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,
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.
The publications programme at 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
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. Why was London chosen as the location for ISMC?
The Chancellor's Commission felt that an
institute such as 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
13. Is 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.
14. Does ISMC offer any distance learning courses?
At present 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.
15. How can I donate to 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 firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.