The Construction of Knowledge About Muslim Cultures and Societies

A great deal of what is accepted as ​knowledge about Muslim cultures and societies has not been examined for the ways in which that knowledge has been produced, disseminated and received.  This is of concern because the implications of such knowledge are profound: not only for scholarly or academic reasons, but also for the basis that such knowledge provides for public and private imagination, interactions, responses and policies in the culturally plural world that we inhabit.

In every period of their history, however, knowledge about fundamental aspects of Muslim cultures and societies has been negotiated in numerous realms.  AKU-ISMC aims to reveal such negotiations at work.

Contemporary work in the sociology of knowledge, literary theory, historiography, education theory and other fields has sought to both de-mystify and reveal the importance of processes of knowledge construction, and to underscore the diverse effects of these processes, especially in social, religious, economic, political, and educational realms. AKU-ISMC takes up such work, aware that Muslim cultures and societies are not sui generis but rather must be seen alongside other world cultures and societies.  It does so also with the awareness of its own situatedness and thus will continuously discuss its own approaches and assumptions.

The Institute undertakes specifically to examine the ways that knowledge about Muslim cultures and societies gains authority, the nature of the assumptions and claims that underlie it, and the contexts of the production of knowledge. The Institute understands that this knowledge is instantiated in texts and practices, in traditions, and in other forms that are promoted through numerous mechanisms, including pedagogical practice, artistic and literary production, and social and legal norms.

Research Questions and Faculty Research

How is historical knowledge about Muslim cultures and societies created, and what roles does this knowledge play within the societies themselves?

  • War, Culture and Society in the Medieval Middle East (969-1517) - Stephane Pradines

  • Muslim Port Facilities in the Mediterranean, Red Sea and Indian Ocean - Stephane Pradines

  • Arabic Pasts – Time and Change in a World Culture - Sarah Bowen Savant with Konrad Hirschler (SOAS) and James McDougall (Oxford)

  • The First Muslims of Post-Conquest Iran: Tradition, Memory, and Conversion - Sarah Bowen Savant

  • Genealogy and Knowledge in Muslim Societies: Understanding the Past - Sarah Bowen Savant Encyclopaedias about Muslim Civilisations - MCA Project,  Aptin Khanbaghi

How has a concept of law been understood, produced and developed within Muslim contexts over time?​

  • Interpretations of Law and Ethics in Muslim Contexts - MCA Project,  Aptin Khanbaghi

Construction of Knowledge: MA Dissertations

  • The Perception of Medieval Egyptian Homeland and Inhabitants: a Study of the Mamluk Historians - Mustafa Abul-Himal

  • Appropriation of the Idea of ‘Self’ in Muslim Reformist Thought: An Analysis of the Idea of Self in Allama Muhammad Iqbal (1876-1938) - Nazim Aman

  • From News Agency to Newspaper:  an Investigation into the Photographic Representation of Muslims in the UK Print Media - Nina Hirji Kheraj

  • Revelation as Poetics: Abdolkarim Soroush and the Nonrealistic Theory of Islamic Revelation - Yaser Mirdamadi