​Research​

AKU-ISMC is a research-driven and non-denominational liberal arts academic institution which produces internationally recognised research, education and outreach founded on a scholarly and plural understanding of Islam and Muslim cultures.  

By employing and contributing to the development of new methods and theories in the study of Islam and Muslim cultures, our aim is to present a non-dogmatic, research based perspective. To realise our goals, we adopt an interdisciplinary, comparative, collaborative and analytical approach within a framework of the study of cultures and civilisations. Our ambition is to further promote global scholarship, create scholarly networks of learning within and outside the United Kingdom, foster academic spaces for scholars and encourage open discussions and increase academic and public engagement with the Aga Khan Centre in London as the focal point.  

Staff and faculty at AKU-ISMC are passionate and dedicated and they represent diverse interests which include but are not limited to contemporary history, law, Islamic creativity, politics, gender, literatures, international development, migration and archaeology. The Institute believes in promoting cultural pluralism within Muslim societies through research, teaching and outreach activities. We aim to generate an effective footprint both in the UK and globally in partnerships with academic and non-academic institutions.  


Research Office: ismc.research@aku.edu​​​

Research Projects ​

Peshwar, Feeling the City.  Dr Sanaa Alimia​​​​

FilmProfile Pic_Alimia, Sanaa 2.JPG

Sanaa Alimia is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Aga Khan University, Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations. One of her new research projects looks at cities, war and development. ​  ​​“I’ve been working in and on Peshawar since 2010. Much of this was for my work on migration. But I’ve become fascinated with the changes to the city because of the conflict, new road projects (successful and failed ones), new housing areas, and from labour migration. In this short clip I ask, what can this tell us about a bigger debate on the cities in the so-called Global South – as well as something new on Peshawar and Pakistan? What can this tell us about regional power? And how is the city experienced differently for its residents?”  Dr Alimia has created a film​ which outlines the thinking behind the research and sets out the the direction and process she plans to develop​

The materials for this  visual and audio piece were taken from research completed at the AKU-ISMC, London, UK, the Leibniz Zentrum Moderner Orient​ (L-ZMO), Berlin, Germany, and the Department of Political Science at the University of Peshawar, Peshawar, Pakistan.​​


Scaling up and transferring community-managed rural water systems to urban settings​.  Dr Jeff Tan.

Access to clean water and sanitation (SDG6​) is central to health and wellbeing (SDG3)​, particularly for the poor. However, capital investment in water in the Global South has been undermined by the failure to finance operations and maintenance (O&M) because (poor) households often cannot, or are unwilling to, pay. The successful operation of over 400 community-managed rural water projects covering over 100,000 households in northern Pakistan by the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) has led to the introduction of community-managed urban water schemes. This research examines two AKAH urban water schemes in Gilgit, Pakistan, to assess the viability of this community-managed model and if it can be scaled up and transferred to other urban settings. It brings together researchers in economics, anthropology and engineering, together with development practitioners and other experts, to identify how economic, social, cultural and technical factors affect the sustainability and impact of community-managed water systems.

This project has been made possible by generous funding from  the British Academy’s “Urban Infrastructures of Well-Being” programme. The £280,000 research grant funds work, focussing on the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat’s Water and Sanitation Extension Programme (WASEP) in Gilgit-Baltistan. The project is interdisciplinary and collaborative, bringing together researchers and development practitioners from the social sciences (economics and anthropology) and engineering sciences in the UK (AKU-ISMC) and Pakistan (Karakoram International University, AKAH, AKU-IED). We are delighted to be working in  partnership with AKU entities (ISMC and IED) and AKDN entities (AKU and AKAH).​

​​​​Governance for the Public Good in Muslim Contexts​: This programme​ aims to critically assess current thinking on governance in relation to M​uslim contexts. It seeks to explore the deeply rooted religious and cultural sensitivities prevalent in matters of governance. By generating outputs accessible to wider audiences, the project is committed to encouraging healthy and informed debate among scholars and the public alike.​​​

​​KITAB​: ​The KITAB project is a pioneering digital initiative that is providing new cultural insights from over 6,000 Arabic texts from the pre-modern Islamic world, from 750AD to 1500AD).   Led by AKU-ISMC’s Dr Sarah Bowen Savant, the project recently received substantial funding from the European Research Council. 

The grant will support the hiring of a technical lead, who will develop data visualisations and analytics spanning the entire corpus of work under the project, as well as seven research staff who will expand on the existing team’s work to explore how Islamic heritage was shaped and filtered during the period. 

Muslim Civilisations Abstracts: This project aims to widen knowledge among scholars worldwide on researches conducted on Muslim civilisations globally. The information on these publications is provided in the form of short reviews (abstracts).​