On Monday, July 11, 2016, The Fairfax Institute and the International Institute of Islamic Thought initiated Opening Day of the annual Summer Student in the Al-Faruqi Library. Students prepared for an intense 5-week program in Islamic Studies, with world-class faculty at their fingertips! The opening session included words by Dr. Hisham Altalib, Dr. Ermin Sinanovic, and Dr. John Voll. Dr. Younus Mirza participated in welcoming events, along with IIIT and TFI staffmembers, Obay Altalib (Director of Marketing). Saber AlKilany (Library Director), and Shazia Farook (TFI Program Manager).
The signature Summer Student Program invites graduate students annually from all over the United States and Canada to take part in this residential learning program. With courses like Approaching the Quran, Contemporary Islamic Thought, Approaching the Sunnah, Islam in America, and Muslim History and Civilizations, students are able to deeply explore research areas in the various aspects of theology, and engage with professors regularly on these issues.
Today's inaugural session was taught by Dr. Abdulaziz Sachedina, on Methods in the Study of Islam. He stated, "Throughout your research experiences, there are always ways to combine interdisciplinary approaches. What matters is how you apply your approach as a scholar."
This program will be in session until August 13, 2016.
Monday July 11th, 2016 will mark the first day of the Summer Student Program (SSP) for 2016 at the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT). The Summer Student Program is a 5-week residential program in which students delve into Islamic studies in an environment that contributes to both their personal and professional development. This will serve as an opportunity for deeper engagement with Islamic text, discourse and the broader conversations in the upcoming field of Islamic studies.
The program will offer instruction in the Qur’an, Sunnah, Islamic Jurisprudence, Muslim History and Civilization, and other relevant courses. Distinguished faculty for the upcoming session includes Dr. Jonathan Brown (Georgetown University) Dr. Abdulaziz Sachedina (George Mason University) and Dr. Dr. Jamillah Karim (Spellman College). Students will be conducting research in their areas of interest and study and will be guided through mentorship by SSP faculty members.
Students attending come from various universities across the United States and Canada. Students have been chosen based on their stellar academic records, deep interest in the area of Islamic studies, and a passion to enhance and contribute to the Islamic social sciences. Students will be encouraged to create a scholarly community by engaging in conversations outside of the academic environment with their colleagues.
IIIT hopes that SSP will serve as a launching pad for further research to be conducted by the students and is eager to support the students with their further endeavors after the August 14th end date.
By: Ammara Khursheed
With a sponsorship from IIIT, Cordoba House, in partnership with Hartford Seminary, has successfully launched the Muslim Leadership Training Program in New York City in spring 2016. The vision for the program is to train moderate, forward-thinking and spiritually well-versed leaders. The program provides a foundation of practical skills and the knowledge required for individuals to confidently guide and lead within their communities. Through five Saturday workshops the attendees learned to conduct religious services, address challenges and provide relevant solutions for Muslims living in contemporary America. In addition, attendees gained the skills to serve as bridge-builders with other faith traditions.
Cordoba House president Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, with an experienced team of instructors, trained a select group of 20 participants, 12 of whom will be receiving academic credit from Hartford Seminary. The workshops were divided into two parts: I. Leading Congregational Prayers and Delivering Effective Sermons, and II. Skills for Muslim Ritual Life.
Joshua Salaam, Youth Director of the Adams Center in Virginia, and moderator Timur Yuskaev of Hartford Seminary, engaged attendees on the best practices and strategies for effectively writing and delivering khutbahs. Imam Zakir Ahmed, a current Hartford Seminary graduate student and New York City imam, along with Imam Feisal, instructed attendees on how to preside over Muslim life events such as Nikah (marriages), Janazah (funerals) and Aqeeqah (child naming). In addition, Cordoba House invited two guest instructors, Dr. Khalid Rehman, a senior medical Oncologist, and Erhan Yildirim, a Muslim funeral home director and official NYPD liaison officer, to engage attendees on lessons and experiences of end of life medical care and funeral and burial procedures.
The workshops seek to enhance the capability of aspiring and emerging Muslim leaders to take ownership and responsibility to positively guide their communities. The program will continue over the course of one year until spring 2017. Future workshops include: A Practical Introduction For American Muslims To Understanding Shariah Law (Fall 2016), Leading With Islamic Spirituality (Spring 2017), and Engaging the Interfaith Community & the Media (Spring 2017).
By Ammara Khursheed
Vibrant energy and smiles filled a meeting room on Saturday May 21st as The Fairfax Institute, in partnership with the Indonesian Muslim Society of America, co-hosted the first ever leadership training program for Indonesian Muslim leaders from around the United States. Topics at the seminar included:
Overall the program created an inclusive learning environment that facilitated crucial dialogue and allowed plenty of opportunity for participants to fully engage in seminar materials and have questions answered. The Fairfax Institute aspires to continue to facilitate such crucial partnerships as we continue our work in the future.
By Shazia Kamal Farook
In early May 2016, The Fairfax Institute, in partnership with ICNAB (Islamic Community of North American Bosniaks) co-hosted the first ever leadership training program for Bosnian Imams from around the United States. The seminar took place from May 3 to May 4 at IIIT headquarters. Topics included, amongst others:
Participants were involved in workshops, discussions, and activities that allowed for idea sharing and points of collaboration amongst different mosques and centers. Moderated by Dr. Ermin Sinanovic, participants were provided a template for leadership training, starting first with leadership qualities from and Islamic perspective. Panelists included members of diverse community organizations.
Panelists represented diverse community organizations like ICNA, MPAC, ISPU, The Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University, ADAMS and various Bosnian Islamic and cultural centers, such as the Islamic Center of North Phoenix. Dr. Ermin Sinanovic served as moderator of the panels, ending with a workshop titled, “What it means to be a leader? Lessons from Sayyidina Abu Bakr’s inaugural khutbah.”
Winter Student Program Graduation Ceremony
January 12, 2016
By Saulat Pervez
The graduation ceremony for the Winter Student Program was held on Monday, Jan. 11, at IIIT in Herndon, VA.
Dr. Ermin officiated the event and invited each student to share their reflection on the program. Each of the 18 students spoke about how much the program benefited them intellectually and the social bonds they developed as a group.
Ghizlane Moustaid, a senior at George Mason University, said that the program helped her understand how to integrate Islamic Studies into public policy, in which she is pursuing an accelerated masters degree.
Likewise, Asha Athman, a Junior at George Mason University, is excited to explore “new ways of introducing the maqasid al-Shariah approach in public health.” She said that she had been unaware of the maqasid discourse before coming to IIIT.
Many students spoke about the shallow experiences they have had at college when it comes to Islamic Studies, and felt that the Winter Student Program not only broadened their vision but also added much-needed depth.
“This was the first time I was able to sincerely engage with the Muslim community on any level,” Sean Richards, senior at Gonzaga University, admitted. “The program gave me insight, deeper understanding.”
“This program gave me the opportunity to learn from within the tradition,” Anwar Omeish, freshman at Harvard University, stated.
Iman Masmoudi, a sophomore at Harvard University, remarked that colleges sometimes focus on such obscure topics that you are not able to gain knowledge in a “systematic way,” which this program gave her.
The students also unanimously acknowledged that they greatly valued their interactions outside the classroom. “I have never, ever been part of a more inclusive, intelligent and kind-hearted group,” Elizabeth DiVito, senior at the University of Florida, expressed.
“This was a very powerful experience – sharing your passion and zeal for changing the world with those who feel the same way. Very inspiring,” Obaid Rehman, senior at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, said.
Maryam Sinanović, a freshman at George Mason University, stated that she learned the most from her interaction with her peers. “It felt like family,” she gushed.
After the students spoke, Dr. Abubaker al-Shingieti, Executive Director at IIIT, welcomed the students to the community of scholars and students at IIIT. Dr. Yaqub Mirza, President and CEO of Sterling Management Group (SMG), encouraged them to “speak less and say more” and “to write less and convey more.” Dr. Hisham Altalib, one of the founders of IIIT, advised them to never accept any term on face value but to always question even the most basic terminology.
Certificates for the completion of the course were distributed to all the students before they warmly took their leave.
MACCPAC-TFI YLR: A Week of Bonding and Personal Growth
By Maryam Sinanovic
This year’s MACCPAC-TFI Youth Leadership Retreat held on August 2nd 2015 - August 7th 2015 was a huge success! The vibrant and lively dynamic of the participants from the US and Canada enjoyed workshops and speakers from different organizations throughout the week.
From speakers like Robert McCaw, Government Affairs Manager from CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) to Sarah Cochran, Director for the State of Virginia at Emerge USA, students learned ways and acquired skills to politically empower themselves as well as their communities to protect and enforce their constitutional rights. Hoda Hawa and Riham Osman from MPAC (Muslim Public Affairs Council) also came to illustrate the importance of active citizenship and civic engagement in the local community.
Besides discussing government affairs and policies, students were also exposed to different NGOs, such as the Muslim Justice League, UNRWA USA, Islamic Relief, and the Green Muslims. Here, students learned how they can actively engage in the Muslim community and remain cognizant, while still contributing positively to the American society as a whole.
Students were not only exposed on how to engage within their community, but also on how to engage between other communities as well. Farhanahz Ellis from ADAMS center came to express the importance of interfaith and civic engagement. She focused on how to open dialogue with other communities and find common good to unify all. Corey Saylor, Director of the Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia at CAIR, came to discuss on how to engage and be an effective communicator with the media.
Apart from the workshops and lectures from speakers, students were able to see the applicability of the skills and concepts they learned during the day through the site visits that were held in the afternoon. From speaking with Wael Alkhairo, the Executive Director of the ADAMS Center, to Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, the Director of Community Outreach for the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center, students were able to have an exclusive experience on how they can formulate their own initiatives within their community.
The last two days were spent at Washington DC, where students were able to have one on one experience, meeting with Rumana Ahmed, Zaid Hassan, and other Congress members offices at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
The retreat concluded with graduation on the Hill, and site visit of the Capitol.
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.