Summer Student Program, Graduation 2015
By Amina Derbi
The graduation ceremony at IIIT’s al-Faruqi librarywas bittersweet as the Summer Student Program drew to a close on June 16, 2015. While students and instructors were thrilled with the academic progress they had achieved together, a twinge of sadness filled the halls of IIIT as it was time to say good bye. What makes the Summer Student Program so special, apart from the excellent professors and amazing students, is the exhilarating bond which forms among the students. In the words of the SSP Student Speaker and IIIT Student Research Fellowship recipient, Nancy A. Khalil (Ph.D. student, Harvard University), the group truly became a family. As the SSP Student Speaker, Khalil highlighted that there was so much hidden talent in the room and so many amazing voices who deserved to be heard in future scholarship. Khalil then passed on the floor to Fatima Siwaju (MA student, Syracuse University), also a IIIT Student Research Fellowship recipient, so they could thank IIIT on behalf of all students for their positive experiences during the program.
Just yesterday, students gave their final presentations to select IIIT staff including Dr. Ermin Sinanovic (Director of TFI), Mr. Saber Al-Kilany (Library Director of IIIT), and Dr. Mahmoud Ayoub (Chair of IIIT Summer Institute for Scholars). Participants presented on a mélange of topics ranging from Sufism, Salafism, and everything in between. After rigorous diligence and dedication, they earned their Certificates of Completion for this year’s IIIT Summer Student Program which were presented by the Executive Director of IIIT, Dr. Abubaker Al-Shingieti, and the Director of TFI, Dr. Ermin Sinanovic.
The following students were recognized for their achievements:
Hina Anwar Ali
Nancy A. Khalil
Abdul Rahman Latif
Muhammad Ahmad Munir
Mohammad Waqas Sajjad
Thomas Wright Sullivan
The third IIIT Student Research Fellowship recipient was Muhammad Ahmad Munir (Ph.D. student, McGill University). The IIIT Student Research Fellowship is reserved for the top performers in all core courses within the program. Students had to excel in Methods in the Study of Islam, Qu’ran, Sunnah, Islamic Constitutionalism, Islamic Finance, Islamic Jurisprudence, Contemporary Islamic Thought, Muslim History and Civilization, Reform Movements in South Asia, and within their area of independent study. Two students, Farah Zahra (MA student, Harvard Divinity School) and Najah Nadi (D.Phil. student, Oxford University), received honorable mention for their exceptional academic contributions. All students successfully fulfilled the requirements of this challenging and intellectually stimulating program while making friendships and connections which will last a lifetime. It was clear to see that the graduation ceremony may have been the closing chapter of this year’s Summer Student Program, but it was only the beginning of a lifelong bond which students could experience as brothers and sisters in intellectual and spiritual rejuvenation.
Diverse Thoughts and Conclusions on Common Ground
By Amina Derbi
After two weeks of rigorous course work, reading, and discussion at IIIT’s Summer Student Program, all 18 participants were ready to present their proposals for their research paper proposals. The students presented to a panel of five professors: Dr. Ermin Sinanovic (Director of Research and Academic Programs), Dr. Jonathan Brown (Georgetown University), Dr. Feryal Salem (Hartford Seminary), Dr. Mahmoud Ayoub (Chair of IIIT Summer Institute for Scholars), and Dr. SherAli Tareen (IIIT Resident Scholar). Each instructor offered constructive feedback after each presentation.
The topics were as diverse as the students themselves. Some chose to focus on the relationship between Islam and democracy as well as that between religious identity and foreign policy. Others focused on the environmental history of Islam, Ibn Qayyim, Sufism, Jihad as a means for peaceful resistance, the Arabization of Islamic cultures, Neo-Ottomanism, and the Black Experience of Islam. Some chose to present on Muslim aesthetics and education, canonization, the Salafi representation of Muslim women, popular versus official Islam, and the controversy over the Mawlid. There were also students who presented on the hot topics of ISIS’s distorted view when approaching scripture and religious pluralism.
The literature students used came from a vast amount of resources and disciplines within the humanities such as anthropology, philosophy, Islamic studies, and history. A consistent question brought up during the presentations was “who speaks for Islam?”. It is a question which scholars will continue to pose as history progresses and society faces new challenges. No matter the circumstances, IIIT will be at the forefront of addressing these issues from an academic perspective in order to work towards a better world for all.
Animated chatter about university experiences, research interests, and future aspirations descended on the IIIT offices on the morning of May 18th, 2015. The excitement in the air was palpable as students began arriving and familiarizing themselves with one another.
IIIT is currently hosting 18 students from various universities in the United States, Canada, and United Kingdom for its ninth annual Summer Students Program (SSP). It will run from May 18th, 2015, through June 16th, 2015.
The Opening Ceremony was held on May 18th and was attended by various instructors as well as IIIT staff along with the students. Dr. Ermin Sinanović, Director of Research and Academic Programs, opened the session by welcoming the students. Dr. Abubaker al-Shingieti, Executive Director, addressed the students and explained the conceptual origins of SSP, a residential program which enables students to intensively delve into Islamic studies while at the same time creating a network among their peers and IIIT.
The students, then, began their introductions, shining light on their backgrounds and factors that attracted them to SSP. Not only do these students come from myriad universities such as University of Michigan, Indiana University, Harvard University, Duke University, Columbia University, McGill University, among others, they also hail from diverse countries, including Iran, Bangladesh, Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey, Trinidad and Tobago, and, of course, the United States.
Dr. Yaqub Mirza, President and CEO of Sterling Management Group, Prof. John Voll, Professor Emeritus at Georgetown University, and Dr. Jonathan Brown, of Georgetown University, were also present and spoke to the students about their expectations as teachers. The students will also be taught by Dr. Abdulaziz Sachedina, IIIT Chair at George Mason University, and Dr. Jasser Auda, Associate Professor and Deputy Director of the Center of Islamic Legislation and Ethics, Qatar Foundation.
At the end of the Opening Ceremony, Dr. Ermin announced that outstanding performers will be awarded fellowship grants for the upcoming academic year. The students then took a tour of the IIIT office, classrooms, and libraries, and had lunch together with their instructors and IIIT staff.
After Dhuhr prayers, the students eagerly filed into their very first class, Muslim History and Civilization, with Prof. John Voll, and officially began their rigorous academic regimen.
You can read more about the Summer Student Program by clicking here.