Message from the Director​


Leif Stenberg
Director, Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations

"​Our alumni are a crucial part of the AKU-ISMC community and we want you to know that your continuing input and support is vital to the future of everything we do. We have launched a dedicated AKU-ISMC Alumni Newsletter and we hope to forge strong, mutually supportive relationships between alumni, current academic faculty and current students. I think we all understand how important it is to work together to tackle the complex problems facing our communities and I believe that AKU-ISMC has a critical role to play in helping to create and foster an effective network of individuals who share a vision for a better world.   There has never been a time when organisations like AKU-ISMC were more urgently necessary than today. AKU-ISMC’s unique multi-disciplinary academic faculty carry out research on contemporary and historical Muslim Societies that combines the best of blue skies exploratory research and practical applied scholarship. When AKU-ISMC opened its doors in London, it’s fair to say that the world was a different place in many ways. We are very proud of the MA in Muslim Cultures that we created and delivered from our different ‘homes’ over the years, but as our faculty have moved on to different universities or retired and as the world has changed, so our degree has had to change. Beginning in September 2019, we launch our revised MA in Muslim Cultures that prepares students for the today’s challenges, either in academia or non-academic professional contexts. We didn’t implement these revisions lightly but underwent a comprehensive consultation process with scholars and potential employers from around the world. In addition to shifting to a semester system, to better align with most global universities, we have ring-fenced the flagship exercise of any MA programme, the thesis, into its own semester. By freeing students to focus exclusively on their thesis research and writing up, we better prepare them both for the demands of applied research careers as well as the rigours of doctoral research. The revised MA is built on a solid foundation of regional and disciplinary expertise from the Middle East, East Africa, South Asia and South East Asia. This diverse multi-disciplinary degree introduces a substantially revised research methods core that not only provides world class preparation for MA thesis research, but also introduces students to invaluable transferrable skills that significantly expands potential employment opportunities."

ISMC Alumni ​

Munira Shah, Pakistan

I completed my MA in Muslim Cultures at Aga Khan University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC) in 2016. After graduation, I moved to Pakistan and joined The National Institute of Folk & Traditional Heritage, popularly known as Lok Virsa, as the Museums and Archives coordinator. I was fortunate enough to lead the audio-tour project for the Heritage Museum at Lok Visa. Not only have I narrated the tour for the museum, but I have also supervised the post production of the audio-tour in six different languages (three international languages ; English, Chinese, and Arabic; and 3 national languages; Urdu, Pashto, and Sindhi).

I am currently working as the Memberships and Information Management Specialist at the Aga Khan University in Karachi . and I also set up Shuleyal, a organisation that aims to create centres of cultural confluence across Gilgit Baltistan to engage youth and remote communities of the region to document, preserve and promote its cultural heritage.

Recently, the British Council UK awarded me an UK Alumni Scholarship for 2019. I spent a lot of my summer in London which allowed me to interact with cultural organisation and research  heritage institutes using this scholarship as part-funding.​

Hinna Hussain, Pakistan

"The intellectual and social exchanges at ISMC really changed my perspective on academic learning into lifelong learning.  Besides focusing on continual professional development and reading, I am now contributing to a few causes in the community that I care for. I belong to youth development programs and camps catering to young people from all over Pakistan. Following my deep passion in arts, I became a part of national management at Jubilee Arts International Festival held in Lisbon, Portugal. At  present, making full use of my education and passion, I am serving as Joint-Secretary for the Aga Khan Local Education Board for Kharadar Jurisdiction, Karachi where we promote a range of educational programs ranging from ECD to higher and continuing education. In addition, I am strongly associated with AKU-ISMC alumni network. This provides me an opportunity to cherish my memories and helps me to stay connected with the vision of the university as a permanent part of the community. For all the current ISMC students and alumni to-be out there, I believe your circumstances might remain unchanged after the graduation, however, the way you look at them will definitely be transformed. So use this personal and/or intellectual transformation for the refinement of your personality, profession, family, and society as ‘It is your light that lights the world’-Rumi."​​

Walid Abdelaziz Akef, Egypt​

“I was always interested in the history of Islamic art and architecture and did my undergraduate degree in this field in Egypt followed by a master’s degree in art history in Granada, Spain. However, I felt the need for an interdisciplinary curriculum that would broaden my horizons by taking me out of the confines of my field which is why I took a second Masters in Muslim Cultures at ISMC. My experience at ISMC was rather extraordinary; the variety of the course offerings, in addition to the perspicacity of the institute’s faculty are among many advantages I’d like to share. This transformative experience has given me the confidence to apply for a PhD at some of the world’s most prestigious universities. Being accepted by Harvard really is a dream come true.”

Yaser Mirdamadi, Iran

"I think the most important lesson I have learnt from my study in ISMC was to recognize, in a much more deeper and nuanced way, cultural and religious diversity among Muslims in the past and present. There is no such thing as Islam but there are only Islams or better to say Muslim cultures. Taking religious and cultural diversity seriously has far-reaching consequences for epistemology of religion, religious studies and for our worldview as a whole. Immanuel Kant once said Hume woke him from his ‘dogmatic slumber’. ISMC did the same for me. For this, if not anything else, I will always be grateful to ISMC."

Shirin Khidr, Syria

"As an architect, ISMC was an adventure that exposed me to an ocean of academic knowledge. This adventure prepared me to dive into further adventures knowing that I have the right tools to succeed. My current work at AKF-Syria is one of these adventure that was not even possible without the knowledge and skills I have acquired while studying at ISMC. As living in the Syrian multifaceted crisis, ISMC enabled me to invest the multi-disciplinary study provided at ISMC to explore new paths and possibilities in a time of change, challenge and opportunity."​

Muhammad Waqasmirza, Pakistan

"The MA programme is one of its own kind curriculum that carved a niche for me to glean insights on fundamental complexities that Muslims faced then and now.”

Lindsey Stephenson, USA

"The MA in Muslim Cultures is unlike any other Masters programme I have found. It appreciates the transnational and trans-regional cultures of Muslims and encourages us to explore the junctures at which sociology, anthropology, history and art converge.”  

Aliya Mamodaly, France

“The MA in Muslim Cultures is unique as its approach is both theoretical and practical. It enables students to gain a greater understanding of the intricacies and dynamics at play and allows one to take a holistic approach. Not only is this programme academically fulfilling, it is personally enriching.”​

Megan Wang, USA

“I liked the diversity of AKU-ISMC. Having the opportunity to live and study alongside students from all over the world was an amazing learning experience. Even though we may have come from vastly different intellectual and cultural backgrounds we all seemed to possess a similar spirit; a spirit that not only genuinely respected our 'differences' but celebrated them." ​

Fatemeh Shams Esmaeili, Iran​

“ISMC has been one of the most unforgettable phases of my life. I made life-long friends here, and read some of the best books. Encountering scholars from many parts of the world and taking part in various events “greatly changed my life, my direction, my vision, my future.”​


​​​For more information about the Aga Khan University alumni community, please click here.​