IIS Alumni Newsletter 2007

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<strong>IIS</strong> <strong>Alumni</strong><br />

N E W S L E T T E R 2 0 0 7<br />

I N T H I S I S S U E<br />

Message from the<br />

Editors<br />

<strong>Alumni</strong> in the Field<br />

Your Chapter Group<br />

in <strong>2007</strong><br />

The <strong>IIS</strong> <strong>Alumni</strong><br />

Reunion<br />

The Adventures of<br />

Fieldwork<br />

Creative Writing<br />

In Print<br />

Selected Events<br />


We are delighted to bring you the third <strong>IIS</strong> <strong>Alumni</strong> <strong>Newsletter</strong> showcasing the<br />

talents and activities of our diverse alumni body. <strong>2007</strong> has proven to be an<br />

eventful and productive year for the <strong>Alumni</strong> Relations Unit at the <strong>IIS</strong> and the<br />

individual Chapter Groups in which we have reached out to increasing numbers of<br />

alumni across the globe.<br />

Message<br />

from the<br />

Editors<br />

This year, the <strong>Alumni</strong> Relations Unit saw the departure of the <strong>Alumni</strong> Relations<br />

Co-ordinator, Selina Kassam Ramji, who has worked in alumni relations at the <strong>IIS</strong><br />

since its inception. Selina has moved to the <strong>IIS</strong> Department of Community<br />

Relations where she has taken up the post of Education Co-ordinator. We would<br />

like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank Selina for all the work she<br />

has undertaken in years past and express our hope that she remains an active<br />

member of the <strong>IIS</strong> <strong>Alumni</strong> Association. In November, Nazneen Sachedina joined<br />

the unit as our new <strong>Alumni</strong> Relations Officer. Nazneen is looking forward to all the<br />

opportunities and challenges this position will afford her, and the chance to build a<br />

strong relationship with the alumni body globally.<br />

The Chapter Groups have had a busy year with the elections, annual meetings<br />

and other local and regional programmes as well as making their plans for 2008.<br />

Earlier in the year, the Asian and European Chapters held their first annual<br />

meetings in Mombasa and London, respectively, and the North American Chapter<br />

held its second annual meeting in Toronto. We were delighted that so many alumni<br />

were able to participate in these events, and hope that in future years these<br />

numbers will continue to rise. We would like to thank the individual Presidents and<br />

Secretaries for all their hard work in <strong>2007</strong> and trust that they have found their<br />

experiences, though challenging, to be both rewarding and worthwhile.<br />

In September, the <strong>IIS</strong> hosted its second alumni reunion in London. Nearly 100<br />

alumni travelled from across the globe to participate in this three day event and to<br />

take advantage of the opportunity to not only renew friendships but also tap into<br />

the diverse resource base which their fellow alumni represent. The reunion<br />

culminated in the graduation ceremony for the GPISH Class of <strong>2007</strong> at which<br />

Prince Rahim delivered the keynote speech. Prince Hussain and Princess Khaliya<br />

also attended and we were very fortunate to have an alumni reception with the<br />

special guests following the ceremony.<br />

We would like to give special thanks to Rafiq Rahim Ajani (Class of 2006),<br />

Fayaz Alibhai (Class of 2002) and Sameer Huda (Class of 2000) for their<br />

support in the production of this year’s newsletter, and to convey our gratitude to<br />

Shayesteh Ghofrani (Class of 2006), the <strong>Alumni</strong> Relations Unit intern, for all her<br />

hard work over the past five months. We wish Shayesteh all the best in her<br />

future endeavours.<br />

Rafiq Rahim<br />

Ajani (Class<br />

of 2006) is<br />

engaged in doctoral<br />

research at the<br />

University of Exeter,<br />

U.K. His<br />

interdisciplinary<br />

research focuses<br />

on works of a philosophical, literary and<br />

religious nature in order to study the<br />

relationship between time and ethics.<br />

Rafiq’s focus is on how the understanding<br />

of time manifests itself within a religious<br />

context and how that understanding<br />

relates to the disposition of a human<br />

being. The framework for such a<br />

relationship has been created within the<br />

works of Martin Heidegger and Emmanuel<br />

Levinas, which Rafiq will be using to<br />

interpret time and ethics within the wider<br />

Muslim community and Ismaili Muslims in<br />

particular.<br />

Sehreen<br />

Noor Ali<br />

(Class of<br />

2006) has just<br />

completed the first<br />

year of her two-year<br />

fellowship at the<br />

U.S. State<br />

Department. In the<br />

summer, she worked at the U.S. Embassy<br />

in Nepal as the Assistant Public Affairs<br />

Officer. In this role, she represented the<br />

U.S. administration at various public<br />

events, drafted speeches for the U.S.<br />

ambassador, and conducted outreach<br />

activities with local youth groups. She<br />

also met with leaders of the small<br />

Nepalese Muslim community. Currently,<br />

Sehreen is on her first rotational<br />

assignment – a requirement of the<br />

Alum<br />

On behalf of the <strong>Alumni</strong> Relations Unit, we would like to thank all the alumni for<br />

their ongoing support and participation. Thank you and see you in 2008!<br />

Sara Cerfontyne and Nazneen Sachedina<br />

(<strong>Alumni</strong> Relations Unit)

fellowship – at the U.S. Mission to<br />

UNESCO. There, she works on the<br />

education portfolio and is a member of the<br />

U.S. delegation at the 34th General<br />

Conference of UNESCO.<br />

Zuhal<br />

Avzalshoeva<br />

(Class of<br />

2005) has started<br />

her PhD at the<br />

University of<br />

Sussex, U.K. Her<br />

work will focus on<br />

the treatment of<br />

violence against women in the justice<br />

system of post-Soviet Tajikistan. The<br />

criminal justice system has undergone<br />

changes in Tajikistan and Zuhal’s project<br />

will explore whether and how genderbased<br />

crimes are incorporated in the<br />

system. The study will also investigate a<br />

broader question regarding gender<br />

equality in Tajikistan through an analysis<br />

of the process of the ‘humanisation’ of the<br />

justice system which has taken place in<br />

this area and how state reforms, if at all,<br />

relate to women’s equality.<br />

Farida Juma<br />

(Class of<br />

1986) has<br />

worked for the Aga<br />

Khan Foundation,<br />

Canada (AKFC)<br />

since 2002. Until<br />

early <strong>2007</strong>, she was<br />

AKFC’s Donor<br />

Relations Coordinator, working with<br />

significant donors and multi-year<br />

campaigns. She also acted as liaison with<br />

institutional partners such as AKU, <strong>IIS</strong> and<br />

AKF. Farida is now with the Programmes<br />

Management department where she is in<br />

charge of compiling and cataloguing<br />

resource materials accumulated over the<br />

last 20 years. One recent highlight has<br />

been researching, evaluating and<br />

implementing the software platform for<br />

catalogue development.<br />

Dr. Jan-e-<br />

Alam Khaki<br />

(Class of<br />

1983) is a faculty<br />

member at the Aga<br />

Khan University’s<br />

Institute for<br />

Educational<br />

Development (AKU-<br />

IED), and was recently awarded the<br />

prestigious “Outstanding Teacher Award<br />

for Sustained Excellence in Scholarship of<br />

Teaching” on the eve of AKU’s 20th<br />

Convocation at Karachi on 16th<br />

November <strong>2007</strong>.<br />

Dr. Khaki joined the Aga Khan University<br />

in 1998 as a faculty member. He<br />

completed his PhD in Education from the<br />

Ontario Institute of Studies in Education of<br />

the University of Toronto. With three<br />

Masters Degrees in addition to a PhD,<br />

Dr. Khaki is currently engaged at AKU-IED<br />

in teaching at various levels, including PhD<br />

and MEd. He also serves as a national<br />

Board member for ITREB Pakistan.<br />

Farhad<br />

Mortezaee<br />

(Class of<br />

2005) has<br />

developed a pilot<br />

DVD project for the<br />

<strong>IIS</strong>, entitled Virtual<br />

Fatimid Cairo. The<br />

DVD supplements<br />

the Ta‘lim publication, Everyday life in the<br />

Fatimid Times, for Primary Five, with<br />

reconstructions of Cairo and Fustat.<br />

It features 14 houses and 4 mosques and,<br />

through animation and virtual ‘walkthroughs’<br />

allows the viewer to explore<br />

these spaces.<br />

Farhad lives in Calgary and works as an<br />

architectural designer. He plans to<br />

commence his PhD studies soon, looking<br />

at virtual reconstructions of historic<br />

environments and the ways literal<br />

descriptions of space can be<br />

reconstructed, with reference to Nasir<br />

Khusraw's travelogue.<br />

Farhad teaches Ta‘lim Primary Five to<br />

Ismaili children in Canada. He is pleased<br />

to have had the opportunity to integrate<br />

his <strong>IIS</strong> education with his architectural<br />

background to respond to, what he feels,<br />

is a real need for such tools in teaching<br />

about the built environments in the<br />

Muslim world.<br />

Sharaf<br />

Oshurbekov<br />

(Class of<br />

2005) is pursuing<br />

his PhD at the<br />

School of Oriental<br />

and African Studies<br />

(SOAS) in London,<br />

U.K. He intends to<br />

analyse and explain the shrine culture of<br />

Badakhshan against a background of<br />

social, cultural and political transformations<br />

since the mid 19th century. Some of the<br />

issues Sharaf’s work will be dealing with<br />

are the changes and continuities in the<br />

shrine culture; understanding what has<br />

happened to the belief system of the<br />

Badakhshan people; and why this culture<br />

and its social status has been transformed<br />

among the people of Badakhshan.<br />

ni in the<br />


ASIA: Over the last year, the Asian<br />

Chapter Group has focused on building a<br />

strong foundation for interaction amongst<br />

the alumni and for strengthening their<br />

relationship with their alma mater. Our<br />

objectives have been to establish strong<br />

knowledge and research networks, to<br />

enhance the involvement of alumni in<br />

Ismaili institutions, and to work together<br />

as a group to discuss issues affecting<br />

Ismailis and the larger Muslim Ummah in<br />

the developing world with a view to<br />

develop innovative ways in which to<br />

address them. This has involved ongoing<br />

virtual discussions, sharing of research,<br />

knowledge and best practices with reference<br />

to the ITREBs and other relevant institutions.<br />

The value of such a group has been<br />

tremendous in terms of experience and<br />

cross-cutting knowledge in various areas.<br />

Chapter Group Annual Meeting: With<br />

representation from alumni from over 15<br />

countries, the Asian Chapter Group held<br />

its second annual meeting in Mombasa,<br />

Kenya in May <strong>2007</strong>. The three day<br />

meeting was not only a time to meet and<br />

network with other alumni and local<br />

Ismaili leadership, but also an opportunity<br />

for alumni to present their current and<br />

ongoing work and to hold discussions on<br />

a variety of contemporary themes. The<br />

keynote speaker was Dr. Moncef<br />

Benabdeljelil, Assistant Professor at AKU-<br />

ISMC. In addition to the formal business<br />

of the meeting, the gathering included a<br />

tour of Mombasa’s old town, including a<br />

visit to the Aga Khan Academy,<br />

presentations to the Ismaili community<br />

and ITREB, and time for alumni to relax<br />

and enjoy the wonderful environment of<br />

Mombasa. The next annual meeting is<br />

planned for Dubai in 2008.<br />

Future Plans: Looking to the future, the<br />

Asian Chapter has three key goals. The<br />

first is to build the country-specific local<br />

groups in India, Pakistan, Syria and<br />

Asian Chapter Group, Mombasa, May <strong>2007</strong><br />

Tajikistan through a series of local events,<br />

including social functions, lecture series,<br />

and presentations to the local Ismaili<br />

communities. The second is to share and<br />

build on the corpus of knowledge and<br />

research that exists among the alumni.<br />

The third is to facilitate the involvement of<br />

alumni with the community and its<br />

institutions by working with local leadership<br />

to identify opportunities and projects.<br />

President: Rahmat Ghassmi<br />

(Class of 1983)<br />

Secretary: Farzana Karim-Haji<br />

(Class of 1997)<br />


<strong>2007</strong> has witnessed higher levels of<br />

participation and infrastructure<br />

strengthening for the North American<br />

Chapter Group. We maintained our focus<br />

on the following three key objectives:<br />

(a) Strengthening bonds between alumni<br />

by providing opportunities for contact and<br />

networking; (b) Continuing Education for<br />

alumni; and (c) Increasing involvement of<br />

alumni in Aga Khan Development Network<br />

and other Ismaili community institutions.<br />

Chapter Group Annual Meeting: The<br />

North American Chapter group held their<br />

annual meeting in Toronto in March. The<br />

day was devoted to presentations from<br />

alumni showcasing both their research as<br />

well as their professional achievements.<br />

<strong>Alumni</strong> were fascinated by the creative<br />

efforts of their peers and suggested that<br />

an even larger amount of time be devoted<br />

to such matters in future meetings.<br />

Institutional leadership from the National<br />

Council and ITREB was invited to witness<br />

the resource base represented by the alumni<br />

body. Candid dialogue took place between<br />

the alumni and the leadership with a view to<br />

better understand both the opportunities and<br />

the impediments to greater involvement of<br />

alumni in various community institutions.<br />

Local branches: Local branches of the<br />

<strong>IIS</strong> <strong>Alumni</strong> Association have now been<br />

established for Eastern Canada, Western<br />

Canada, and Texas. The branches meet<br />

locally, once every eight weeks. The<br />

branches have provided a sound<br />

framework for ongoing alumni networking,<br />

lively debates based on research by<br />

individual members, and follow up<br />

discussions on <strong>IIS</strong> seminars. Local<br />

branches are also beginning to connect<br />

with and contribute to local, national and<br />

international institutions. <strong>Alumni</strong> in<br />

Calgary are currently involved in creating<br />

a joint skills resumé in preparation for a<br />

meeting with local institutions in<br />

December. Texas and Vancouver have<br />

already made contact with local ITREBs<br />

and are contributing regularly to their<br />

activities. Recently instituted monthly<br />

YOUR<br />

Chapter<br />

conference calls, between the Regional<br />

Chapter and Local Branch leadership have<br />

galvanized the level of activity, accountability<br />

and co-ordination between branches.<br />

Contact Database: Much effort has gone<br />

into compiling comprehensive contact<br />

details of the 90 alumni that constitute the<br />

North America Chapter as well as<br />

individual branch membership. More<br />

significantly, renewed effort has been made<br />

to get to know many of the alumni through<br />

meetings and personal phone calls.<br />

Earlier this year, ITREB USA, in coordination<br />

with the Chapter leadership,<br />

contacted each American alumnus

North American Chapter Group, Toronto, March <strong>2007</strong><br />

individually to find out how they wished to<br />

get involved in ITREB USA’s activities.<br />

Significant effort was also put into working<br />

with the <strong>IIS</strong> alumni and newly formed<br />

Human Resource departments to<br />

encourage each alumnus to fill out an on<br />

line profile to allow the matching of their<br />

skill sets with those needed by various<br />

AKDN and other Ismaili community<br />

institutions.<br />

Group<br />

in <strong>2007</strong><br />

Voluntary Service to Institutions:<br />

<strong>Alumni</strong> in North America have actively<br />

served as faculty, speakers and<br />

facilitators for various programmes such<br />

as the College Program on Islam (which<br />

provides a detailed overview of Islam to<br />

university students and young adults), Al-<br />

Ummah Camps, Talim al-Islam, QUEST<br />

(Adult Religious Education), Teacher<br />

Education, and other initiatives of ITREBs.<br />

<strong>Alumni</strong> also continue to serve on ITREBs’<br />

boards as members and institutional staff.<br />

In addition, many alumni have also<br />

served in outreach capacities, speaking<br />

at various churches, schools and<br />

professional seminars. Some alumni have<br />

undertaken an internship or travelled<br />

internationally to serve the institutions in a<br />

voluntary capacity. Examples include a<br />

Texan alumnus who ran capacitydevelopment<br />

seminars for the staff of<br />

ITREC in Khorog, Tajikistan, and a<br />

Vancouver alumnus who served as<br />

Education Manager for the International<br />

Professional Teacher Educators<br />

Programme (PTEP) training episodes in<br />

Toronto and Karachi.<br />

<strong>Alumni</strong> are also beginning to get involved<br />

in programmes to commemorate the<br />

Golden Jubilee of His Highness the Aga<br />

Khan’s accession to the Imamat. For<br />

example, Texas alumni were involved in<br />

training guides for the International<br />

Historic Cities Exhibition held in Houston<br />

in October <strong>2007</strong>. Calgary alumni are<br />

involved in putting together the curriculum<br />

for the Ismaili Heritage Visits programme<br />

for Ismaili youth and young adults.<br />

President: Hanif Virani<br />

(Class of 1984)<br />

Secretary: Ruksanah Pirani<br />

(Class of 1991)<br />

EUROPE: After the elections in<br />

June <strong>2007</strong>, Nacim Pak and Shah Hussain<br />

were appointed as the new President and<br />

Secretary, respectively, of the European<br />

Chapter Group (ECG). In July, they invited<br />

the alumni to a focus group meeting to<br />

share their views and expectations. It was<br />

an exciting session attended by 14 alumni<br />

who brought up various ideas,<br />

suggestions and concerns for discussion.<br />

These could be divided roughly into three<br />

areas: general issues about the <strong>Alumni</strong><br />

Association, identified needs, and<br />

proposed projects and activities. This was<br />

a useful exercise in trying to identify the<br />

needs and aspirations of the members so<br />

that they could be addressed in planning<br />

activities for the year.<br />

Chapter Group Annual Meeting: The<br />

Annual General Meeting of the Chapter<br />

Group was held on 19th May this year<br />

European Chapter Group, London, September <strong>2007</strong><br />

and attended by 35 alumni. One of our<br />

alumni, Mr Alnoor Merchant, Keeper of<br />

the Ismaili Collection at the <strong>IIS</strong> Library,<br />

gave the alumni a sneak preview of its<br />

magnificent artefacts collection, with an<br />

in-depth analysis and exposition of some<br />

of the materials that made up the Spirit<br />

and Life Exhibition prior to its launch in<br />

London on 12th July.<br />

Other Programmes and Projects: This<br />

year’s Meet and Greet was held in<br />

October at the Holiday Inn Camden Lock.<br />

Over 80 GPISH and STEP students from<br />

the <strong>IIS</strong> as well as ISMC students and<br />

alumni attended this event. The<br />

participants had an opportunity to interact<br />

with each other during various activities,<br />

drinks and dinner, and the evening was<br />

rounded off with dancing.<br />

In November, a number of the ECG<br />

members attended the London premiere<br />

of Rumi: Unveil the Sun. This play, about<br />

the encounter between Rumi and Shams<br />

Tabriz, is part of the various international<br />

events commemorating the 800th birthday<br />

of Rumi, which is why <strong>2007</strong> has been<br />

designated by UNESCO as the<br />

International Year of Rumi.<br />

One of the activities that the alumni had<br />

proposed during the focus groups was the<br />

cataloguing of alumni and student<br />

research. The ECG is now looking into<br />

collecting and archiving this material. This<br />

may include creating an archive of various<br />

published and unpublished research<br />

reports, fieldwork documentation and<br />

photographs. Mr Rafiq Rahim Ajani, an<br />

alumnus currently pursuing his PhD<br />

studies at Exeter University will lead this<br />

project.<br />

President: Nacim Pak<br />

(Class of 2002)<br />

Secretary: Shah Hussain<br />

(Class of 2004)

Breaking<br />

Stereotypes<br />

and Refitting<br />

Moulds<br />

Fragments and Reflections on<br />

the Adventures of Fieldwork<br />

Rizwan Mawani (Class of 2000)<br />

View of Golunabad Jamatkhana, Iran<br />

Sometimes I wondered how I had<br />

got here. I wasn’t following<br />

anyone’s footsteps and yet I somehow<br />

felt that I was on a predetermined path –<br />

one that had been journeyed on<br />

previously. Since 2005, I had been<br />

fortunate to travel to ten countries for<br />

research I had undertaken for the <strong>IIS</strong>’<br />

Department of Community Relations.<br />

The project, which explored spaces of<br />

worship in the Muslim world, had<br />

allowed me to work with more than forty<br />

Muslim communities in Syria, Lebanon,<br />

Turkey, Egypt, Iran, India, Pakistan,<br />

Tajikistan, China and Indonesia.<br />

The sign on the guesthouse in Chitral’s<br />

main city read “Take nothing but pictures<br />

and leave nothing but footprints.” I<br />

thought it was a good mantra and one<br />

that I had tried to follow thus far, even<br />

though I wasn’t aware of this particular<br />

bumper-sticker worthy slogan.<br />

The challenges were numerous; in<br />

addition to being in the field on my own<br />

for long stretches of time, issues of<br />

language, food, security, comfort and a<br />

heightened sense of the ‘eternal new’<br />

became amplified. And yet, I found that<br />

most of these could be handled without<br />

strenuous effort. The one thing that was<br />

central to all of these mini-adventures was<br />

the innocent hospitality that inhabitants of<br />

many of these countries and members of<br />

these communities extended to guests.<br />

After only a few minutes, not only was a<br />

hand of generosity extended, it was done<br />

with the purest of hearts. Sometimes<br />

commonalities helped; that I was a<br />

Muslim or a male; sometimes it was by<br />

identifying where I had come from;<br />

Canada or the UK; a guest having<br />

travelled such a long way blessed a<br />

village and a community more often than<br />

it burdened it. Sometimes, the<br />

commonalities were less obvious.<br />

One sunny afternoon, after an intense<br />

search for the türbe of Pir Sayyid Hasan<br />

Hüsameddin in Istanbul’s Kasimpaþa<br />

district, I stumbled upon a non-descript<br />

building on a side-street. This was the<br />

asitane – the headquarters – of the<br />

Halveti Uþþaki tariqa of Sufis. The<br />

guardian of the shrine, the türbedar was<br />

an elderly man with a coral tasbih and a<br />

white hat, along with a bushy beard<br />

whose hue fell somewhere in between the<br />

two. I paid my respects to the interred<br />

grand shaykh, his family, and others who<br />

had been fortunate enough to be buried<br />

so close to him. My less than rudimentary<br />

Turkish failed me in trying to address the<br />

türbedar, a man I later learned was<br />

named Mustafa. Despite this, two hours<br />

passed in which frustrations were set<br />

aside, and through both our innate<br />

creativity and the larger symbols we<br />

shared as human beings, we managed to<br />

have a conversation that sat outside<br />

formal language in which secrets were<br />

shared and information exchanged.<br />

Language was always a challenge.<br />

Communication required much more<br />

imaginative means in the field. In some

of marga luyu kebatinan, an esoteric<br />

martial arts accompanied by breathing<br />

and the recitation of zikr, I saw a wallhanging<br />

on which a rotund figure of Simar<br />

was inscribed in Arabic with the shahada,<br />

meant to act as a talisman and protector<br />

against ill-wishes and the evil eye.<br />

Young students study the Qur'an after morning prayers at Shahi Masjid, Chitral<br />

countries, the language used on the<br />

streets changed every few hours you<br />

journeyed. In Pakistan, for example, it<br />

was not only Urdu whose sounds and<br />

inflections dominated conversations, but<br />

also Baluchi, Sindhi, Punjabi, Saraiki and<br />

Pashtu the further up your finger glided on<br />

the map. In its northern reaches, entirely<br />

different linguistic families emerged:<br />

Khoar, Shina, Burushaski, Balti and<br />

Wakhi. While sometimes an interpreter<br />

was useful, other times, the language of<br />

language had designs of its own.<br />

After several days in Lanzhou, the capital<br />

of China’s northcentral Gansu province, I<br />

became more acquainted with the city’s<br />

Hui Muslim population. On one of those<br />

early days in the city, I had made plans to<br />

visit the khanqah and mosque of the<br />

Jahriyya Sufis late one evening, hours<br />

after ‘isha prayers had already ended.<br />

The imam of the mosque kindly offered<br />

me and my interpreter, Mr Chen, some<br />

green tea. Mr Chen, an educated<br />

university lecturer in engineering and the<br />

sciences, was also introduced to Islam<br />

and its Chinese articulations through our<br />

interviews and visits to various mosques<br />

and tombs in the region. While I asked<br />

questions through Mr Chen to the imam,<br />

in English, they conversed in Chinese. I<br />

found that there was as much to explain<br />

to Mr Chen as there was that the imam<br />

had to explain to me. I also discovered<br />

that Mr Zhang, the imam, had studied in<br />

Qom and to my delight, spoke both<br />

Persian and Arabic. Due to his thick<br />

accent, however, I wasn’t able to penetrate<br />

the words behind his sounds in either of<br />

those languages. What ensued was a<br />

comical but practical solution: I addressed<br />

him in Arabic and he wrote his responses,<br />

also in Arabic, on paper for me to read.<br />

Sometimes, however, understanding<br />

cultural nuances proved to be much more<br />

difficult and had difficult consequences.<br />

One could not ignore the headscarves<br />

that women in Iran wear in public. This<br />

was despite the fact that their coverage<br />

waxed and waned depending on<br />

prevailing trend in the society.<br />

Complementing this was the manteau, the<br />

fitted urban cloak and equally necessary<br />

fashion accessory which although<br />

covered the body, changed in style and<br />

proclivity as often as the Paris catwalk.<br />

In the late afternoon, our taxi driver,<br />

Mehdi, pulled into one of the smaller<br />

Iranian villages in South Khurasan at<br />

about the same time as several men were<br />

returning from the barley fields astride<br />

their donkeys. Several curious villagers<br />

were whiling their time away and sharing<br />

with each other stories of their day on the<br />

raised cement patio of the village’s first<br />

house that seemed to be strategically<br />

positioned to greet us when we arrived.<br />

As I had done in earlier villages, I<br />

introduced myself and extended my hand<br />

in friendship and respect to all who were<br />

present. All was well until I came to a<br />

middle-aged woman, who caught between<br />

two models of decorum – honour and<br />

graciousness of the east and familiarity<br />

and politesse of the west – extended her<br />

right pinky which I shook hesitantly, not<br />

wanting to further offend her.<br />

The respect that people have for that<br />

which precedes is equally fascinating. In<br />

the heart of Indonesia, on the island of<br />

Java, the most populous Muslim<br />

landmass in the world, I was reminded of<br />

this the first time I encountered Simar, ‘the<br />

advisor’ in the Indonesian version of the<br />

Ramayana epic. At the house of a master<br />

This was later reinforced by the wayang<br />

kulit (buffalo hyde puppet) versions of<br />

Rama and Sinta (Indonesia’s Sita). The<br />

two most beloved characters of the epic<br />

associated with Hinduism were influential<br />

in the introduction of Islam to Java and<br />

puppet-masters’ eight-hour performances<br />

continue to draw millions of Indonesians<br />

to watch this traditional play. In centuries<br />

gone by – and still on some parts of the<br />

island today, especially in the royal courts<br />

– Muslims are required to recite the<br />

sekaten (shahada) before witnessing it’s<br />

marathon performance.<br />

Fieldwork never ceases to surprise; its<br />

beauty and pain lies in its ability to<br />

unceasingly force us to revisit our<br />

assumptions. It allows us to<br />

interrogate the lenses through which<br />

we see our world and the ways in<br />

which the world sees us.<br />

Rama and Sinta puppet show, Indonesia

The <strong>IIS</strong><br />

<strong>Alumni</strong> Reunion<br />

Renewing Old Friendships and<br />

Creating New Memories<br />

Jasmin Mamani (Class of 2000)<br />

Three engaging days amongst friends, colleagues, and scholars,<br />

the <strong>IIS</strong> <strong>Alumni</strong> reunion last September was more than an<br />

opportunity to reminisce and catch up; it was a feast for the mind, the<br />

heart and the soul. We were welcomed with a keynote address by<br />

Dr. Aziz Esmail and had the opportunity to dialogue and investigate<br />

the challenges of modernity in contemporary Muslim societies.<br />

In addition, we had the privilege of meeting with Prince Rahim,<br />

Prince Hussain and Princess Khaliya at an informal reception<br />

following the graduation ceremony for the Class of <strong>2007</strong> of the<br />

Institute’s Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities.<br />

<strong>Alumni</strong> Reception, London, September <strong>2007</strong>

The full-day session on ‘Muslim<br />

Modernities’ was inspiring and<br />

intellectually stimulating. Like a master<br />

mariner, Dr. Amyn Sajoo directed us<br />

through the seas of contemporary<br />

literature written by the foremost<br />

intellectuals and scholars, debating the<br />

idea of modernity and discussing multiple<br />

and plural modernities in societies around<br />

the world. Dr. Sajoo facilitated the critical<br />

examination of the works of Richard<br />

Dawkins, Amartya Sen, Charles Taylor,<br />

Samuel Huntington, Ali Abdul Raziq,<br />

Sayyid Qutub and Karen Armstrong.<br />

The concept of modernity was explored<br />

within the context of intellectual thought,<br />

art and the global condition. In contrast to<br />

the notion of a single modernity that<br />

denies the richness of human identity,<br />

Dr. Sajoo stated that plural modernities<br />

create ethical space for identity and social<br />

change - but resist the “anything goes”<br />

attitude of relativism.<br />

The workshop that followed, consolidated<br />

the concepts by applying them in practical<br />

situations. Dr. Sajoo examined various<br />

development efforts of the Aga Khan<br />

Development Network, as a means of<br />

situating the work of these institutions<br />

within the ethical vision of His Highness<br />

the Aga Khan. He illustrated the<br />

commitment of these institutions to<br />

harness the inherent pluralism of<br />

humanity to engage communities in<br />

creating their own spaces for civil society<br />

and to have a place for their own<br />

aspirations to flourish; creating an ethos<br />

that was reminiscent of our earlier<br />

discussion on multiple modernities.<br />

<strong>Alumni</strong> Reception, London, September <strong>2007</strong><br />

<strong>Alumni</strong> Reunion, London,<br />

September <strong>2007</strong><br />

<strong>Alumni</strong> Reception, London,<br />

September <strong>2007</strong><br />

Graduation of GPISH Class of <strong>2007</strong>, London, September <strong>2007</strong><br />

It is events such as these that make it so<br />

special to be an <strong>IIS</strong> Alumnus: to be invited<br />

to a reunion which not only brings us back<br />

to the place where it all started, but also<br />

ensures that we continue to move forward<br />

in the intellectual study of our faith; we<br />

continue to search and learn. There is a<br />

tie that binds all of us that is much greater<br />

than simply being graduates of the same<br />

institution. It is this tie that brings us back<br />

time and time again.

The <strong>IIS</strong> <strong>Alumni</strong> Reunion<br />

Reflections from <strong>Alumni</strong><br />

<strong>Alumni</strong> reception, London, September <strong>2007</strong><br />

Aziza Hayat<br />

(Class of 1987)<br />

As expected, the reunion of <strong>IIS</strong> <strong>Alumni</strong> in<br />

September <strong>2007</strong> was an interesting<br />

educational exercise, enveloped with<br />

structured social activities. The highlight<br />

of the reunion was the graduation<br />

ceremony for the GPISH Class of <strong>2007</strong><br />

where we had the opportunity to meet<br />

with Prince Rahim, Prince Hussain and<br />

Princess Khaliya – it was a once-in-alifetime<br />

experience. While on the one<br />

hand Dr. Aziz Esmail and Dr. Amyn Sajoo<br />

took care of our mental nourishment with<br />

their intellectual discourses on 8th and 9th<br />

September, on the other the <strong>Alumni</strong><br />

Relations Co-ordinator and her team<br />

made sure that our stay in London was<br />

comfortable. These reunions are not only<br />

memorable and inspiring, they also<br />

empower participants with the knowledge<br />

of contemporary areas of learning.<br />

Noorullah Iman (Class of 2005)<br />

Knowledge can only be utilised effectively when it is updated. It is like a tree which needs<br />

to be watered on a regular basis. No water, no fruit. Without updating knowledge, there is<br />

no difference between knowledge or the lack thereof. It is in such a context that I found the<br />

<strong>Alumni</strong> Reunion meaningful and fruitful. The <strong>Alumni</strong> Reunion <strong>2007</strong> was remarkable<br />

because it was not only a process of updating knowledge but it reflected a cultural diversity<br />

within Ismaili traditions where we shared our knowledge and experience. It appeared to me<br />

as a collection of fruits from different trees from different parts of the world in a global garden.<br />

Nadia Rehmani (Class of 1983)<br />

The <strong>Alumni</strong> reunion is a unique opportunity for all the alumni to meet and to share<br />

knowledge and expertise in our respective areas of study and professions. Not only did<br />

100 or so alumni travel far and wide to attend, but this reunion was marked by the<br />

presence of Prince Rahim, Prince Hussain and Princess Khaliya. I believe that all the<br />

alumni were deeply touched by their presence. Each one of them met us in an informal<br />

environment, showed interest in what we were doing and, at times, shared their thoughts<br />

and laughter with us. In 2003, we were honoured with the presence of His Highness the<br />

Aga Khan himself. We are indeed grateful to him and his family for honouring us. Their<br />

presence shows the importance they give to the alumni as well as their aspirations and<br />

expectations of us.<br />

This reunion opened with an illuminating talk by Dr. Aziz Esmail and an intellectually<br />

stimulating session on multiple modernities by Dr. Amin Sajoo. Both sessions were<br />

captivating, enlightening, and relevant. This was indeed a special event in the lives of all the<br />

alumni who were present. We are extremely grateful to the <strong>IIS</strong> for honouring us in this way.<br />

Farid Panjwani (Class of 1997)<br />

Communities are fragile. Now and again they need the injection of Communitas. Over<br />

time, the <strong>IIS</strong>, through its <strong>Alumni</strong> reunions, particularly those that integrate the social and<br />

the intellectual, has been successful in creating and sustaining the community of its<br />

graduates. The September reunion, the latest in the line of such endeavours, both<br />

renewed long standing friendships and provided new academic discourse for the group. Its<br />

high point was the generation of momentum for achieving something big - like being the<br />

vanguard for enhancing cultural life in the Ismaili communities. Over lunch and coffee, I<br />

observed many alumni conversing about transforming this enthusiasm into practice within<br />

their local contexts. This may be the beginning of responding to the perennial challenge of<br />

connecting global thinking with local actions.

creative<br />

writing<br />

Al-Azhar Park:<br />

A tribute to Family...<br />

Recently we were formally introduced to the full<br />

scale of the al-Azhar Park endeavour, from<br />

intellectual concept to concrete realisation.<br />

People marvelled at the end product, but were<br />

still looking for a religious cloister. Here I share<br />

what resonates the ‘Alid (exalted) tradition...<br />

You desire minarets?<br />

Look to the horizon: there are enough all around<br />

Instead, won’t you sense for a moment<br />

The inspired peace<br />

In this newfound oasis<br />

Of ancient Cairo<br />

Here, in sharp contrast to desert brown,<br />

Carpet is set solid, in grass-green<br />

Dome comes suspended, in sky-blue<br />

Walls float to dazzle, without frontier<br />

Windows are made of opportunity<br />

Here, in cool distinction from the trodden trek,<br />

Corridors are fluid<br />

Qibla? Why, that was already in place<br />

When your heart took<br />

Its awe-inspiring first-beat<br />

In mother’s womb<br />

Here, if you feel the present peace,<br />

Bow toward her in thanks<br />

While bearing in mind<br />

Whatsoever is good in you<br />

Has its root in your father<br />

By proof of your existence<br />

They have already earned eternal rest<br />

Albeit they never do...<br />

Fall Blessings<br />

Walking the grounds at Wash U campus,<br />

every tree aflame in hues of orange,<br />

gold and red<br />

Stately thrones on carpets of gold leaf<br />

Each a version of the glorious divine<br />

throne (arsh)<br />

Each inviting Your presence<br />

A sudden gust of wind,<br />

A shower of gold leaves overhead,<br />

I submit gratitude for the<br />

blessings that fell on me,<br />

the blessings of the Fall season<br />

I stoop to fold one leaf into my breast pocket<br />

a prayer that I may behold you one day with mine<br />

own eyes,<br />

laughing, resplendent,<br />

a royal presence on the arsh*.<br />

*arsh - divine throne mentioned in the Quran<br />

Hanif Virani<br />

(Class of 1983)<br />

Alnoor B. Kassam<br />

(Class of 1991)

In Print<br />

Dr. Miriam Ali-de-Unzaga<br />

“Qur’anic inscriptions on the so-called ‘Pennon<br />

of Las Navas do Tolosa’ and three Marinid<br />

banners” in Word of God, Art of Man: The<br />

Qur'an and its Creative Expressions, Ed.<br />

Suleman, F. (Oxford University Press in<br />

association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies,<br />

December <strong>2007</strong>).<br />

Faranaz Keshavjee<br />

“Ismaili Muslims in the international scenario”,<br />

p.120-121; “Aga Khan IV: The Shiite Prince”,<br />

p.180-181 in Janus - Religiões e Política<br />

Mundial. As Mudanças de uma década.<br />

Conjuntura internacional, Politicas sociais<br />

comparadas (Publico in collaboration with UAL,<br />

January <strong>2007</strong>)<br />

(Published columns in PUBLICO)<br />

“And what about after the 11th?”,<br />

6th February <strong>2007</strong><br />

“Citizen without a name but with a number”,<br />

22nd February <strong>2007</strong><br />

“Difference as a right and as a destiny”,<br />

3rd April <strong>2007</strong><br />

“Critical dialogues about knowledge”,<br />

30th April <strong>2007</strong><br />

“For a ‘dialogue of civilisations’ at the UN”,<br />

17th May <strong>2007</strong><br />

“A Shiite Prince in my life”, 11th July <strong>2007</strong><br />

“Female leadership, or its absence”,<br />

19th July <strong>2007</strong><br />

“Ramadan”, 4th October <strong>2007</strong><br />

Dr. Anil Khamis<br />

“Investigating Educational Change: The Aga Khan University Institute<br />

for Educational Development Teacher Education For School<br />

Improvement Model” in the International Journal of Educational<br />

Development, Vol. 27: 572-580, Khamis, A. and Sammons, P. (<strong>2007</strong>)<br />

Alnoor Jehangir Merchant<br />

“And the Word of your Lord has been fulfilled in truthfulness and<br />

righteousness” in Word of God, Art of Man: The Qur'an and its Creative<br />

Expressions, Ed. Suleman, F. (Oxford University Press in association<br />

with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, December <strong>2007</strong>).<br />

Dr. Fahmida Suleman<br />

Word of God, Art of Man: The Qur'an and its Creative Expressions, Ed.<br />

Suleman, F. (Oxford University Press in association with The Institute of<br />

Ismaili Studies, December <strong>2007</strong>).<br />

Anis Waljee<br />

“Researching Transitions and Transmissions: Gender and Education in<br />

Tajikistan” in Gender, Education and Equality in a Global Context:<br />

Conceptual Frameworks and Policy Perspectives by Fennell, S. and<br />

Arnot, M. (London, Routledge <strong>2007</strong>).<br />

Cover photos: Gary Otte<br />

Other photos: Rafiq Rahim Ajani, Rizwan Mawani, Alnur Sunderji<br />

The Institute of Ismaili Studies<br />

42-44 Grosvenor Gardens<br />

London SW1W 0EB<br />

Tel: +44 (0)20 7881 6000<br />

Fax: +44 (0)20 7881 6040<br />

Email: alumni@iis.ac.uk<br />

Website: www.iisalumni.org<br />

Selected<br />

Events 2008<br />

Conferences<br />

Durham University Shi'ite Studies<br />

Programme<br />

Institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies<br />

Conference in Medical, Ethical and<br />

Technological Challenges of the 21st Century:<br />

the response of Shi'ite jurisprudence<br />

28th and 29th April 2008<br />

1st Annual Durham International Affairs<br />

Conference<br />

The Politics of Virtual States<br />

The School of Government and International<br />

Affairs<br />

20th March 2008<br />

University of Essex Islamic Conference<br />

A Journey into Islamic Values<br />

23rd February 2008<br />

Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA)<br />

Washington, DC (Wardman Park Marriott)<br />

22nd – 25th November 2008<br />

American Academy of Religion (AAR)<br />

Chicago, Illinois, USA<br />

International Focus: South Asia<br />

1st – 3rd November 2008<br />

5th Annual Duke-UNC Graduate Islamic Studies Conference<br />

Departments of Religion, Duke University and the University of North<br />

Carolina, Chapel Hill<br />

Conference: Embodying Islam: Religious Practice and Muslim<br />

Constructions of Self<br />

5th – 6th April 2008<br />

Workshops<br />

International Institute for the Study of Islam in thr Modern World (ISIM)<br />

Translational Circuits: Muslim Women in Asia<br />

21st – 24th February 2008<br />

Venue: International Conference on Inter-Asian Connections, Dubai<br />

Organizer: Social Science Research Council<br />

International Institute for the Study of Islam in the<br />

Modern World (ISIM)<br />

Everyday Cosmopolitanism: Living Together through Communal Divide<br />

12th March 2008<br />

Convenor: Asef Bayat<br />

Venue: 9th Mediterranean Research Meeting, Florence &<br />

Montecatini Terme<br />

Exhibitions<br />

Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art<br />

Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK<br />

(Permanent)<br />

Medieval and Renaissance Treasures from the Victoria and<br />

Albert Museum<br />

Wrightsman Exhibition Gallery, European Sculpture and Decorative<br />

Arts, 1st floor<br />

20th May - 17th August 2008<br />

Hidden Afghanistan<br />

International Exhibition Centre, Netherlands<br />

22nd December <strong>2007</strong> - 20th April 2008<br />

The Arts of Islam: Treasures from the Khalili Collection<br />

Emirates Palace Hotel, Abu Dhabi<br />

23rd January - 30th April 2008

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