Professor Azim Nanji, Director of The Institute of Ismaili Studies, has been invited by Stanford University’s Department of Religious Studies to be a Visiting Professor of Islamic Studies for its Winter and Spring terms. Professor Nanji, who has a long-standing relationship with the university, gave its Baccalaureate Address in 1995.
As part of his sabbatical, Professor Nanji will be involved in the teaching of two foundation courses, ‘Introduction to Islam’ and ‘Islam in Asia’, at Stanford, as well as assisting in the development of the university’s new Program in Islamic Studies, endowed earlier this year by Sara and Sohaib Abbasi with matching funds from the William and Flora Hewitt Foundation.
By significantly expanding the university’s existing curriculum, the university plans to create a centre of excellence in Islamic studies that will provide both a core understanding of Islam — its tenets, culture and history — and an appreciation of Islam’s relationship to contemporary politics and society. The university’s goal of increasing the understanding of Islam appears to be shared by students on campus, where interest in the field has increased in recent years, and courses on Islam are consistently overenrolled.
‘Strengthening the study of Islam is one of the highest priorities for the school,’ said Sharon Long, Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences. ‘[O]ur goals are to advance scholarship in this field beyond a regional context and further the understanding of Islam among some of the most outstanding students in the country, many of whom will become leaders in their professions and communities.’
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With the endowment of this program, Stanford is able to build on existing interdisciplinary efforts. Courses on Islam and Muslim history have been offered at the university for many years, as has instruction in languages of the Muslim world. Several Stanford faculties in history and anthropology include parts of the Muslim world in their courses and the university has significant library holdings on the modern Middle East and the Muslim world in general. Last year, Stanford also introduced a speaker series that brought leading scholars to campus for lectures and consultations.
In addition to having been Chair of the University of Florida’s Department of Religion, Professor Nanji has taught at various institutions in Canada and the United States. He has also served as Co-Chair of the Islam section at the American Academy of Religion, and as a member of the Steering Committee for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.
At present, Professor Nanji serves on several academic and educational committees including Vice-Chair of the Madrasa-based Early Childhood Education Programme in East Africa and the Editorial Board for the new revised edition of The Encyclopaedia of Religion.
He is the author and editor of several volumes including The Nizari Ismaili Tradition (1976), The Muslim Almanac (1996), and Mapping Islamic Studies (1997). He is currently preparing the Historical Dictionary of Islam to be published by Penguin and a work on ethical issues in Muslim societies.