Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC) was established in 2002 to study and analyse challenges facing Muslim societies in history and the contemporary. Today, AKU-ISMC as a research-driven and non-denominational liberal arts academic institution produces internationally recognised research, education and outreach founded on a scholarly and plural understanding of Islam and Muslim cultures.

Research Office:​​​

Strategic Direction 

Our research, teaching and outreach priorities are built on our strengths, developed through our links with the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and other academic partnerships. In our interdisciplinary and empirically driven research we are guided by scholarly bravery as well as academic rigour. Our ambition is to foster a positive work environment for scholars and staff that is founded on collegiality and teamwork and to create opportunities for all staff to develop in their respective roles. 

This is the foundation for AKU-ISMC’s aspiration to produce high quality research projects, publications attractive to academia and the public, a world-class MA-programme, public lectures, workshops and conferences.

Staff and faculty at AKU-ISMC are passionate and dedicated and they represent diverse interests which include but are not limited to contemporary Islamic creativity, literatures, international development, history, law, religion and archeology. We believe in promoting cultural pluralism within Muslim societies through our research, teaching and outreach and aim to generate an effective footprint both in the UK and globally by working in partnership with academic and non-academic institutions. Keys to this development include the introduction of a PhD-programme which will add value and increase the critical mass within our research community and qualitative improvements of our outreach programme including short and online courses.​

Research Projects ​

Scaling up and transferring community-managed rural water systems to urban settings​

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).​