As a participant in the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) Summer Student Program (SSP) for 2014, I was granted an opportunity to enhance my training in Islamic Studies in a friendly atmosphere with a cohort of international students and senior scholars in the fields of history, religious studies, and the social sciences. The professional connections as well as personal friendships I made during those five weeks have benefitted me immensely and will certainly continue to do so in the future.
The intensive classes in Islamic jurisprudence, history, Quranic exegesis, research methods, and the Prophetic Sunnah were very thorough and the instructors, all of whom were leading figures in their respective fields, were able to cover a great deal of ground in the amount of time allotted, offering plenty of time for fruitful discussion. These courses were complemented by seminars given by experts in Islamic finance, political science, and Islam in America. Some of the highlights of the program include talks by representatives and dignitaries from Brunei, Pakistan, and Tunisia as well as the trips to important Islamic institutions such as the All Dulles Area Muslims Society (ADAMS) and the Foundation for Appropriate and Immediate Temporary Help (FAITH) social services organization. The picnics and dinner parties hosted by the founders of the IIIT provided teachers and students along with friends and family to get better acquainted with good conversation and plenty of delicious food to enjoy.
At the end of the program, I was one of four recipients of the IIIT Student Research Fellowship and was elected class valedictorian by my peers. The fellowship provided me with mentorship for my research project, a study of modern Islamic intellectual movements and their impact on law, ethics, and education, as well as assistance with relevant literature from the numerous scholarly works published by IIIT Press along with a financial reward upon completion. Through the fellowship, I was also able to attend the annual meeting of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) in Washington, DC and have gone on to publish in the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences (AJISS). In addition to this, I was awarded a travel grant with which I was able to perform research and present at conferences in Morocco, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. While in Riyadh, I had the opportunity to meet with some of the founders of the IIIT and its current leadership such as Dr. AbdulHamid AbuSulayman, Dr. Ahmad Totonji, and Dr. Omar Kasule. I have since been honored to receive a Fulbright student grant for research in Turkey and finally, I was awarded the prestigious Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship in Religion and Ethics from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. It was so great to see my hard work and persistence recognized and rewarded. I would like to thank all of those at IIIT who have taught and mentored me during my time there as a student. My achievements afterward have been accomplishments not only for me but for the SSP as well.