Muhammed Haron (left) and Gil Merkx
Muhammed Haron (left) and Gil Merkx

Many Muslim institutions of higher learning have emerged on the African continent over the past few decades. These institutions have in one way or another made their contributions towards the societies and environments where they are situated. Despite the noble objectives of some that were set up, the objectives often have been unrealized as a result of a lack of financial and other resources. There have, however, been other institutions that have flourished and made invaluable inputs to their respective communities.

It is hard to find a text that adequately covers these institutions, even in places where one might expect it, including in Paul Scrijver’s authoritative Bibliography of Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa (Leiden: E.J. Brill 2009),

So when Duke University’s Duke Islamic Studies Center (DISC) announced a workshop to discuss and engage scholars on “Islamic Institutions of Higher Learning in Africa: Their History, Mission and Role in Regional Development,” there were eager responses to participate in what may be regarded as an oft-neglected area of Islamic studies research. The Duke Islamic Studies Center and its Carnegie Corporation of New York-supported Transcultural Islam Project (to be explained in-depth later in this paper) offered an interesting platform for this exploratory workshop.

AfricaIslamGraphicThe workshop organizers, under the co-directorship of Duke professors Mbaye Lo and Bruce Hall, hosted a group of scholars who came from different parts of the continent (and elsewhere from the US and Europe) — scholars who have been evaluating these types of institutions’ status in the transnational Muslim arena.

The organizers were interested to know, inter alia, to what extent these institutions were involved in pursuing research, perpetuating traditional Muslim scholarship, and creatively contributing towards the society’s economic development.

With these noble aims and objectives in mind, let us offer an overview in this report of our two-day workshop at Duke University. (Other sponsors included the International Institute of Islamic Thought  (headquartered in Virginia); The Africa Initiative (Duke); Asian & Middle Eastern Studies (Duke); African & Afro-American Studies (Duke); Duke History Department; Duke Religion Department; Center for Muslim Life (Duke); Franklin Humanities Institute (Duke), Duke Center for International Development; The Kenan Institute for Ethics; Duke Divinity School; and Duke University Center for International Studies.)

Rudolph Ware’s “The Walking Qur’an”

On October 17, 2013, University of Michigan historian Rudolph “Butch” Ware III., who conducts research on the Qur’an in West African Muslim communities, gave the keynote address entitled The Walking Qur’an: Islamic Education, Embodied Knowledge and History in West Africa that is, incidentally, also the title of his forthcoming book due to be published June 6, 2014 by University of North Carolina Press.

Ware animatedly discussed the contents of his manuscript and shared with the audience its absorbing aspects. For example, he reflected upon how Muslim education in the Senegambia region still remains devoted to the traditional method of learning and how the students in a plethora of Quranic schools there have continued to ‘embody’ the sacred knowledge over a specific time period. Since the students not only listen, repeat, write and memorize God’s words, God’s words accompany them wherever they go and hence the title of the text: The Walking Qur’an. In the process of embodying the sacred word of God, they have to be mindful of their daily actions and social duties since they are literally ‘filled’ with God’s instructions/commands.

At the end of Ware’s enlightening presentation, he fielded a variety of questions that gave him an opportunity to further explore aspects that he was unable to expand upon during his presentation. Watch Dr. Ware’s The Walking Quran lecture on iTunes here.

Watch an excerpt from talk below regarding African Muslims in Sub-Saharan Africa :

Challenges and Opportunities of ‘Muslim’ Institutions of Higher Learning

Mbayle Lo (left); Adam Adebayo Sirajudeen (right)
Mbayle Lo (left); Adam Adebayo Sirajudeen (right) — photo by Julie Poucher Harbin

On the second day of the workshop, professor Lo’s special presentation critically assessed the notion of ‘Islam and the Idea of the African University: An Analytical Framework.’ Lo (Assistant Professor of the Practice, Asian & Middle Eastern Studies at Duke), in dissecting the different dimensions, first addressed the notion of the African university, and then offered his reflections upon some of Africa’s institutions of higher learning.  Lo seriously questioned whether Muslim institutions of higher learning — note we emphasize ‘Muslim’ and not ‘Islamic’ which we shall address in our concluding remarks — are undergoing reform.

He went on to highlight the challenges that these institutions encounter and the opportunities that exist for them to change and contribute to the field of African higher education in general and to Muslim higher education in particular. Some of these challenges include reliance on external funding; the absence of coordination or cooperation between these universities; lack of vigorous training in languages other than Arabic or in subjects beyond Islamic studies; the absence of local languages in their curriculum; and a clear vision for the role of Islam in a multi-cultural African society.

Arabic Instructor at Duke Azeddine Chergui (left); Ann Wainscott (middle); Associate Director of DISC Kelly Jarrett (right) (Mia Grohdahl's images of Egyptian street art in the background)
Arabic Instructor at Duke Azeddine Chergui (left); Ann Wainscott (middle); Associate Director of DISC Kelly Jarrett (right) (Mia Grohdahl’s images of Egyptian street art in the background) — photo by Julie Poucher Harbin

In another panel, Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science at St. Louis University Ann Wainscott addressed ‘Religion, Globalization and Civility: The Case of ISESCO.’ Although Wainscott argued how ‘religion’ as a key stimulus facilitated the development of global religious civil societies such as Islamic Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO est. 1979), she did not explore the idea whether – to use her term – this global civic organization has been involved with Muslim higher education. Apart from illustrating ‘religion’ as a significant factor in connecting ISESCO to Muslim communities in and beyond Africa, we would have liked to have learned where and how ISESCO connects with one of its subsidiaries, namely the Federation of the Universities of the Islamic World; a body that perpetuates the study of ‘religion’ and to what extent ISESCO supports Muslim higher education in Africa.

After Wainscott’s paper, Ahmed Chanfi (Lecturer, Zentrum Moderner Orient, Germany) investigated ‘Muslim Universities in East Africa: Between Claims of Cultural Identity and Political Challenges.’ Much of Chanfi’s paper, which was based on field work in East Africa and in Sudan and Uganda in particular, directed itself to what he termed ‘faith-based universities;’ a term that has not been fully embraced by some in the scholarly circles. Nonetheless, he made special reference to the Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU, est. 1988) and the International University of Africa (IAU, est. 1977) in Sudan as examples of faith-based institutions and gave his thoughts on a proposal that argued for the establishment of an Islamic University of East Africa to be based in Tanzania. He explained how this proposal subsequently bore fruit and saw the foundations laid for the Muslim University of Morogoro (MUM est. 2004). Chanfi’s paper, which gave more attention to the first two institutions, laid the necessary groundwork for related papers that were subsequently presented at the workshop.

As expected Chanfi was challenged by some of the participants for his interperetation of the data that he collected and on the general developments of these institutions. Adnan Ali Adikata, Director of the Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU), Kampala Campus, discussed ‘The Role of IUIU in influencing Public Discourse on Islam and its Values and Customs.’ The thrust of Adikata’s paper was to demonstrate how IUIU contributed towards the public perception of Islam via its various stakeholders (administrators, academic staff and students).

While his paper sought to prove that the IUIU had developed a good reputation and impact within Uganda’s public arena, we would like to have learned whether IUIU has received similar responses from other East African or for that matter other African communities. That said, Adikata’s papers should be read in tandem with papers by Ahmed Sengendo (IUIU), and Ismail Gyagenda (Associate Professor of Education at Tift College of Education, Mercer University, Atlanta, GA, USA), and Wardah Rajab-Gyagenda (director for Research, Publications, and Innovation at the Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU)) since they looked at the same institution.

Rudolph (Butch) Ware (left) and Alex Thurston (right), and members of the local community (middle)
Rudolph (Butch) Ware (left) and Alex Thurston (right), and members of the local community (middle) — photo by Julie Poucher Harbin

Alex Thurston (a Ph.D. candidate in the Religion Department at Northwestern University in the Islam in Africa track and 2013-14 Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow) examined ‘The Aminu Kano College of Islamic and Legal Studies (AKCILS) as a Site for Renegotiation of Islamic Law and Authority in Kano, Nigeria.’ Thurston, whose work focuses on Muslim scholars in postcolonial Northern Nigeria, argued that AKCILS (est.1976), as an educational institution, serves as an academic platform from which its (Arab educated) faculty members “can continue to build profiles as scholars, professionals, and religious leaders.” He went on to profile three such individuals to illustrate his points. While his paper covered the institution’s history, its administrative structures, and its status within Northern Nigeria’s religio-legal and political context, we would like Thurston to have commented upon the academic status of the institution within the Nigerian academic setting, and to have enlightened us as to whether its graduates gained direct entry into post-graduate studies in foreign academic institutions within and outside the Middle East where some of its faculty received their training.

Abdulmajeed A. Ahmed (Registrar for the Center for Research and African Studies, International University of Africa) stood in for IUA’s Vice-Chancellor Hassan Mekki Mohammed Ahmed. The latter’s paper may be considered an insider’s assessment of the ‘Khartoum (based) International University of Africa: (and) A Response to Africa’s Post-Colonial Challenges.’ The paper showed how IUA has made a significant contribution towards scholarship, of which Mbaye Lo, incidently, was a beneficiary.

After this informative but descriptive text, Ahmad K. Sengendo (Rector of Islamic University in Uganda, IUIU) discoursed about ‘The Role of IUIU in the Socio-Economic Development of the Muslim Communities in East Africa.’ Being one of the pioneering Vice-Chancellors (or administrators) that spearheaded Muslim higher education during the contemporary period, Sengendo shared his rich experience over the past two decades. He spiritedly narrated IUIU’s unique and fascinating story despite the odds having been stacked against it over the years. We would like IUIU’s Vice Chancellor to have spoken about IUIU’s status within the (East) African ranking system so that we could have a better understanding as to its academic status in the eyes of the academic fraternity in that region and on the continent.

Hamza Njozi (Vice Chancellor of the Muslim University of Morogoro, Tanzania), who was part of the fourth panel, adopted a similar approach to that of Hassan Mekki Ahmed and Ahmad Sengendo. Njozi evaluated ‘The Mission of MUM: Tensions, Promises and Challenges,’ illustrated the issues that he as its Vice-Chancellor has had to deal with, and explained how he envisaged the future for this institution unfolding. Despite being a late-comer in the Muslim higher education sector, it seems from Njozi’s wonderful presentation that MUM is gradually making its mark within Tanzanian society; something similar to what Ismail Gyagenda (Associate Professor of Education at Tift College of Education, Mercer University, Atlanta, GA, USA) and Wardah Rajab-Gyagenda ((director for Research, Publications, and Innovation at the Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU)) found when they re-focused on IUIU.

These latter two scholars sensitively retraced their steps by outlining IUIU’s educational history and zoning in on ‘The Pioneers of IUIU;’ an issue that Sengendo touched upon in his presentation. Their paper adopted a phenomenological approach to prove that IUIU started out as an unrealizable project; one that, according to the skeptics and cynics, was thought unsustainable in the future. Their interviews with the pioneering figures and others — while describing a history of set-backs, challenges, and tough decision making — on the whole brought to the fore an insightful and inspirational profile of a successful Muslim higher education institution in East Africa.

Mbaye Lo, Assistant Professor of the Practice, Asian & Middle Eastern Studies at Duke (left); Adam Adebayo Sirajudeen, Senior Lecturer Department of Arabic & Islamic Studies, Kogi State University, Anyigba (Nigeria); Mashud Mahmud Jimba, Department of Arabic, Kwara State University, Nigeria; Dafina Blacksher Diabate, Assistant Director - AIEA, Association of International Education Administrators.
Mbaye Lo; Adam Adebayo Sirajudeen; Moshood Mahmud Jimba; Dafina Blacksher Diabate, Assistant Director - AIEA, Association of International Education Administrators. — photo by Julie Poucher Harbin

On the third day Moshood Mahmud Jimba (Director of Center for Ilorin Manuscripts and Culture, and Lecturer, Department of Arabic, Kwara State University, Nigeria) opened the first panel with his revealing reflections upon ‘The Role of Al-Azhar University in Education of West African Youth: Its role in the case of the Azhari Religious Institute in Ilorin.’ Jimba’s paper dealt with an important aspect of Al-Azhar University; he underscored this institution’s transnational character and world-wide influence by specifically talking about Azhar’s connections with Nigeria in general and Ilorin in particular. This idea was reinforced by Mamadou Youry-Sall (Universite Gaston Berger de St. Louis, Senegal). Unlike Jimba who particularly concentrated on education and youth, Sall assessed the ‘Scientific Profile of Azhar Graduates between 1960 and 2005.’ These two complementary papers underscored Al-Azhar’s pivotal role in Muslim higher education in spite of shortcomings that have been raised in other papers covering Al-Azhar’s legacy as a premier Muslim higher education institution in the Muslim world.

Researchers should, in future, consider evaluating the ‘profile’ of Muslim institutions such as the International Islamic University of Medina or the International Islamic University of Malaysia. Thereafter they should assess the impact of the graduates of these institutions in their home countries. These exploratory academic exercises would not only be telling but they would also offer new insights as to the significance and relevance of these Muslim higher education institutions during the current period.

I (Muhammed Haron; Lecturer, University of Botswana) spoke about ‘Muslim Higher Education in Southern Africa: From Secular Tertiary Institutions to Darul-‘Ulums’. I gave a broad socio-educational overview of Muslim educational developments over the past two decades and also explained the role that ‘Islamic studies’ programs play in secular institutions; comparing this to significant inroads made by Darul-Ulums into the Muslim communities of Southern Africa.

Bruce Hall (left) ; Hienin Ali Diakite, Ecole Normale Superieure de Lyon (right)
Bruce Hall (left) ; Hienin Ali Diakite, Ecole Normale Superieure de Lyon (right) — photo by Julie Poucher Harbin

I was joined by Associate Professor of History Bruce Hall (Duke University) who illuminatingly spoke about the ‘Digital Resources for the Study of Arabic Literature in Africa’ that he is intimately familiar with. Our view is that Hall’s project should be extended to other parts of the African continent since it opens up a myriad of opportunities for those who wish to undertake and pursue textual studies at Darul ‘Ulums and in Departments of Arabic/Islamic Studies that do not have the financial resources to secure copies for their staff and students.

On the final panel Adam Sirajudeen (Senior Lecturer Department of Arabic & Islamic Studies, Kogi State University, Anyigba, Nigeria) informed the workshop about ‘Islamic Oriented Universities in Nigeria: (their) Triumphs and Travails.’ Sirajudeen made reference to, for example, Hikmah University (est. 2005) as part of three case studies to demonstrate the obstacles (e.g. social adaptability and economic realities) and successes (i.e. intellectual opportunities) that it and the others have so far experienced. Though an interesting paper, the presenter should perhaps have concentrated on one of the three in order to have adequately explored the extent of its challenges, and he should have amended his title by labeling it as ‘Muslim managed institutions of higher learning’ because the phrase ‘Islamic oriented university’ is rather cumbersome and problematic.

Abdul Majid Ahmed (French Language Lecturer, Registrar for the Center for Research and African Studies, International University of Africa, IUA) explored IUA’s scholarly outputs and thus titled his paper ‘Doctoral and Masters Dissertation Topics at the IUA: Their Regional and Domestic Scopes between 1995 and 2012.’ In the paper’s preface, Ahmed outlined Muslim education’s objectives, and described IUA’s origins and its development prior to making references to selected IUA post-graduate theses and dissertations. Ahmed’s paper should rather have focused on IUA’s research mission and should have located IUA’s research outputs within that context. Alternately perhaps he should have pursued a ‘bibliometrics study’ of IUA’s MA and doctoral dissertations..

Workshop Conclusions

While we have pointed out a few shortfalls in some of the papers, the workshop was a refreshing and edifying forum that focused on an under-researched area that needed serious attention.

Many scholars who are interested in this sector of higher education would have gained good insights into the obstacles and challenges that have been encountered by those who have set up these institutions. And though some papers were not evenly balanced in their presentations, they provided a platform for further research and exploration.

At the end of the two and a half day gathering, many suggestions were made to foster an intra and inter-Muslim higher education network and to create opportunities for others to pursue areas of interest.

As three Vice-Chancellors were present, the workshop could have benefited from a special panel in which these administrators could field questions pertaining to their respective institutions. We hope that someone like Dr. Chanfi might undertake a comparative study of these institutions. Be that as it may, this can be considered — along with other appropriate themes and sub-themes — for a follow-up workshop potentially to be held at IUIU during 2014 or 2015.

Overall this was a highly stimulating gathering that opened up new opportunities not only for the participants, but also for their home institutions. We would like, once again, to thank the organizers for extending the invitation to me and everyone else who were there and to express our gratitude to our institutions for giving us time off to be part of this workshop. We all look forward to pursuing future projects.

(Per Mbaye Lo, the group is now seeking to create an online-database that tracks the establishment, location, resources, programs and development of Islamic institutions and colleges in Africa and make that information available to researchers. The project would also facilitate the exchange of ideas, expertise, people and best-practices among these institutions as well as between these institutions and scholars and institutions outside Africa.)

… I do not want to conclude this paper without briefly touching upon an issue that was raised in the beginning and that is the problematic use of the term ‘Islamic.’ Here we should acknowledge we draw upon Farid Panjwani’s argument presented a few years ago in his paper ‘The ‘Islamic’ in Islamic Education, Assessing the Discourse’ (Contemporary Issues in Comparative Education 7(1), 2004). We are of the view that using the term ‘Islamic’ in the conference proceeding’s title gives it a particular understanding and meaning as opposed to employing the qualifying word ‘Muslim.’ When we insert the word ‘Muslim’ we imply that the institution that is being administered or managed is done so by a group of Muslim scholars who have a particular vision and mission; though they ideally desire to implement and follow the Shar’ia norms and values, they realize that they generally fall short of this ideal. Now when using the word ‘Islamic’ this gives the impression that the institutions despite all their internal faults adhere strictly to Shar’ia principles and this might not be the case in practice. If this is indeed the case, then perhaps the suggested qualifying term is more appropriate.


The Pre-Workshop Museum Tour

Before concluding this report, it makes sense to share a few words about our pre- and post workshop gatherings. Before the delegation attended and participated in the key-note address presentation, the delegation was escorted to the Nasher Museum at Duke University where we attended a welcome lunch and viewed Doris Duke’s Shangri La: Architecture, Landscape, and Islamic Art.

Art collector and philanthropist Doris Duke  (d.1993) was the only daughter of Duke University’s founding father, who left her a sizable inheritance upon his death. Throughout her sojourns to the Middle East she was an avid collector of various types of artifacts and objects. When Ms. Duke died at the age of 80 in 1993, she had accumulated an extraordinary amount of art pieces at her home in Hawaii – Shangri La.

The delegation also had the opportunity to browse through the glossy illustrated publication that was titled Doris Duke’s Shangri-La: A House in Paradise: Architecture, Landscape, and Islamic Art (Durham: Skira Rizzoli 2012). It showed much of the Middle Eastern art that Ms. Duke gathered over the years and some of it was, of course, on display. The mentioned publication was co-authored by Donald Abrecht (curator of the Museum of the City of New York) and Thomas Mellins (a well-known organizer of exhibitions) with contributions from Linda Komaroff (curator of Los Angeles Museum of [Islamic] Art) and an array of photographs that were taken by Tim-Street-Porter (a well-respected photographer).

According to critical art observers, this special volume is an inspiring text that contains an influential synthesis of modernist architecture and Islamic art and design. The exhibition at the museum forms part of her larger collection that is located at her Shangri La estate in Hawaii; all of which disclose Ms. Duke’s ‘personal passion’ for the Muslim world’s art and architecture. Despite our short stay at this museum, it was indeed inspiring. In fact, in tandem with the exhibition, DISC and The Nasher had invited (Middle Eastern) artists to join the university for a few months as artists-in-residence. During the delegation’s tour they saw the works of at least three artists who had been artists-in-residence at the Nasher Museum.

DISC Projects

After this very rich display of artifacts that was overwhelming to say the least, the participants had lunch on the premises where they were briefly addressed by DISC’s Director, Professor Gill Merkx — a sociologist by training who has a keen interest in Sociology of Religion. Merkx and his colleagues at the center provided us with interesting insights into the operations of the Duke Islamic Studies Center. For the record, DISC, which is the home of a diverse body of scholars including miriam cooke, Bruce Lawrence, and Ebrahim Moosa, is known to be one of the leading Islamic studies centers on the North American academic scene. At DISC its team of scholars adopts a comparative and cross-cultural approach to its ‘Islamic Studies’ program so that its graduates as well as its partners may benefit richly from the amassed knowledge about Islam’s dynamic tradition and its multi-cultural/lingual adherents that reside in and beyond the Muslim heartlands.

DISC along with its partners, namely the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (a Recognized Independent Centre of at University of Oxford) and the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations at UNC-Chapel Hill, in 2011 embarked upon a ‘Transcultural Islam Project’ (TIP).

It is not only a project that involves the advancement of ‘Islamic Studies’ scholarship and research among the three partner institutions, but it also brings on board individuals and partners from a variety of other faculties that are connected to academic institutions around the world, through its Transcultural Islam Research Network.

DISC has also set up an online public scholarship forum known as ISLAMiCommentary; a scholarly platform whose purpose it is to contribute towards the public discourse and policy issues pertaining to the experience of Muslim communities and the status of and response to Islam in the global arena.

The Africa Initiative (Duke University)

Another initiative at Duke is ‘The Africa Initiative’ (AI); a scholarly enterprise that desires, inter alia, to build African connections on different levels, foster intense collaboration between Duke University’s teaching and research staff and those scholars based at African universities, and explore joint funding opportunities that would deepen the proposed relationship. For more about this initiative see here.

Our group therefore looks forward to future engagement with these new partners.

Meeting with Duke University President Richard Brodhead

Our group also had the honor of a meeting with President of Duke University Richard Brodhead, following a tour of the campus by Duke Muslim Student Association members; this tour included the campus’ Muslim prayer room.

“Universities are the places that pull the whole world together,” Brodhead told us, after greeting us all individually. He noted that he has visited Duke projects across the globe, including in Tanzania and Uganda. Apart from having stressed that, “our strength in Islamic studies has enabled us to pull all of you together,” he readily acknowledged the crucial role of Islamic centers of study in the establishment of the oldest Western educational institutions.

Brodhead went on to state that, “No doubt you know that the learned traditions of the West were only made possible by the transmission of classical materials through Islamic centers of study. The people around this table come out of a centuries old tradition of serving the world in expected and unexpected ways through your centers of learning;” and he added: “So now when I see you, in Africa, studying culture, history, medicine, all the things I heard about at this table, I think to myself, well, this is the newest chapter of a long story of the contribution that Islamic education has made all around the world.”

Conference participants and Duke MSA students, with Duke University President Richard Brodhead (center) — photo by Geoffrey Mock

Conference Participants 

Dr. Bruce Hall

Bruce Hall is Assistant Professor of History at Duke University in the African & African American Studies department. His current research centers on a nineteenth-century commercial network that connected Timbuktu with Ghadames (Libya), and which involved a number of literate slaves as commercial agents. Hall’s first book, “A History of Race in Muslim West Africa, 1600-1960″ (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), is about the development of ideas about racial difference along the West African Sahel. The research for this project was focused in and around the Malian town of Timbuktu. This academic year he is a visiting scholar at Stanford University.

Dr. Mbaye Lo 

Mbaye Lo is Assistant Professor of the Practice, Asian & Middle Eastern Studies and Professor of Arabic at Duke University, and a Duke Islamic Studies Center affiliated (DISC) faculty member. Lo’s research interests include the sociology of Islam, and theories of civil society. He has served for six years as faculty director for the DukeEngage Egypt student civic engagement program in Cairo. His current manuscript in-progress titled is “The Geography of 9/11″ and he has recently published an article in the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, “Challenging Authority in Cyberspace: Evaluating al Jazeera Arabic Writers.”

Dr. Adnan A. Adikata

Dr. Adnan A. Adikata is the Director for Islamic University in Uganda’s (IUIU) Kampala Campus, where he also teaches. Dr. Adikata’s experience spans Sudan, Malaysia and Eastern African countries. Dr. Adikata is an ardent promoter of positive journalism. He utilizes the journalism and media platform to advance Islamic values, norms and the need for Islamization of knowledge. As the Head of department of mass communication and chief editor for the IUIU’s News Bulletin, he developed communication strategies and public relations campaigns targeting the academia, disadvantaged and marginalized rural populations. In Uganda, Dr. Adikata’s media campaigns included awareness about the importance of preserving indigenous languages and Islamic culture. The campaigns also target the Nubian youth in addressing issues of identity crisis and having a sense of belonging. Dr. Adikata initiated the HIV/AIDS and awareness programs for the Nubian community supported by the Global Funds. He has helped to secure several scholarships to support education among the marginalized communities. Dr. Adikata used his experience of facilitating the Muslim personality development (USRAH) programs while in Malaysia to initiate a new program on Family Values at the IUIU’s Female’s Campus.

Dr. Adikata received his PhD from International Islamic University Malaysia; his MSc and MLIS from Universti Putra Malaysia and International Islamic University Malaysia, respectively; and his BAHSc from International Islamic University Malaysia.

Dr. Abdulmageed Abdulraheem Ahmed

Dr. Abdulmageed Ahmed received his Ph.D. in Education and Educational Planning from the International University of Africa, where he is currently a French Language Lecturer and serves as the Registrar for the Center for Research and African Studies. He has published books on a variety of subjects, including integrative medicine, electronic education, and the politicization of Islam.

Dr. Ahmed Chanfi

Trained in Islamic Studies and Social history, Dr. Chanfi AHMED has written on a variety of topics related to Islam in sub-Saharan Africa and East Africa in particular, including Sufi revival, Muslim preachers, Islamic education and Islamic faith-based NGOs. His books includes - Islam et Politique aux Comores, L’Harmattan, Paris, 2000 ; - Ngoma et Mission Islamique (daʿwa) aux Comores et en Afrique Orientale. Une Approche anthropologique, L’Harmattan, Paris 2002; - Les Conversions à l’Islam fondamentaliste en Afrique au sud du Sahara. Le cas de la Tanzanie et du Kenya, L’Harmattan, Paris, 2008; -Jawābu-l-Ifrq/ The Response of the African. West African ʿulamāʾ in Mecca and Medina (19th-20th centuries), Brill, Leiden (Forthcoming). He has published many articles in various peer reviewed journals such as Africa Today, Journal of Eastern African Studies, Journal for Islamic Studies, etc.

His two current research are: 1-The transformation of Islamic teaching in the two main mosques of al-Ḥaramain (Mecca and Medina) introduced by the Wahhābῑ regime of Ibn Saʿūd, immediately after his conquest of the Ḥijāz in 1926. 2-The present life and the history of the black communities of Mecca (and of the Ḥijāz) since the 19th century. Generally, he is interested in Islam in Saudi Arabia, in sub Saharan Africa and in the relations between Arab and African. He is currently Research Fellow at Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO) Berlin, Germany.

Dr. Hassan Mekki Mohammed Ahmed

Hassan Mekki Mohammed Ahmed is the Vice-Chancellor of the International University of Africa. He received his doctorate in African Studies from Khartoum University. His doctoral dissertation was on Somalia. He has published extensively on a variety of topics ranging from Islamism, Arab politics and African development issues. Dr. Hassan Mekki Mohammed Ahmed is unable to attend the conference but will have Dr. Abdulmageed Abdulraheem Ahmed present his paper.

Dr. Ismail S. Gyagenda

Dr. Ismail S. Gyagenda is Associate Professor of Education at Tift College of Education, Mercer University, Atlanta, GA. He obtained a B.A. (1st Class Honors) from Makerere University in 1979; M.Ed. in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from Yarmouk University, Jordan in 1987; M.A. in Educational Administration form University of the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C in 1989; and Ph.D. in Educational Studies from Emory University, Atlanta, GA in 1999. He has been teaching in the Graduate Teacher Program at Mercer University since 2000. He teaches Educational Research, Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, and Advocacy and Social Justice Through Curriculum & Instruction. He is a Fulbright scholar, 2013. His research interests include measurement/assessment issues in education; culture and schooling; and Islamic Institutes of higher education in Africa.

Dr. Muhammed Haron

Muhammed Haron was educated at the Universities of Durban-Westville, Cape Town, South Africa, King Saud, Vrije Universiteit te Amsterdam, and Rhodes. Haron taught at the University of the Western Cape, the University of Cape Town, National University of Malaysia, Stellenbosch University and Rhodes University. He authored The Dynamics of Christian-Muslim Relations in South Africa (ca 1960-2000) [Stockholm: Alqmvist, 2006) and he edited Going Forward: South Africa-Malaysia Relations Cementing South-South Connections (Kuala Lumpur: Lim Kok Wing University of Technology Press, 2008). He compiled South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (circa 1993-2008): An Annotated Bibliography. New York: Nova Science: New York 2009 as well as Muslims in South Africa: An Annotated Bibliography (Cape Town: South African Library & Centre for Contemporary Islam, 1997). He also co-authored First Steps in Arabic Grammar and Second Steps in Arabic Grammar (Chicago: Iqra International Publishers 1997 & 2009). He edited two issues of UCT’s Journal for Islamic Studies (1997 & 1998/9): guest edited Tydskrif vir Letterkunde (University of Pretoria) that published a special issue on Arabo-Islamic Literature (March 2008) as well as BOLESWA: Journal of Theology, Religion and Philosophy (Universities of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland) that published a special issue on Muslims in Southern Africa (December 2012).

Dr. Moshood Jimba

Moshood Jimba was born in Ilorin, north-central Nigeria in 1963. He had his early Qur’anic education under the tutelage of his father. He later attended Ma’had Ilorin Al-Azhary between 1975-1981 before he proceeded to Al-Azhar Institute for foreign students in Cairo and later to Al-Azhar University where he bagged B.A. in Arabic language in 1988. He later bagged his M.A. and PhD at the University of Ilorin in 1995 and 2006 respectively. He worked at Kwara State College of Arabic and Islamic Legal Studies, Ilorin where he rose to the rank of Chief lecturer, Head of Department of Arabic, Dean of School of Languages, Director of Sports and Director of Students’ Affairs at different times. He later joined the services of Kogi State University where he was the Head of Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies until he joined Kwara State University in March, 2012 where he presently works as a lecturer and Director of Center for Ilorin Manuscripts and Culture. He has worked as Adjunct lecturer in a number of universities in Nigeria including Universities of Ilorin, Ado-Ekiti and Nasarawa State. In addition, he is the editor of some academic journals including Ilorin Journal of the Humanities, Anyigba Journal of  Arabic & Islamic Studies of Kogi State University, Al-Lisan Journal of the Nigeria Association of Teachers of Arabic language & literature etc. He has published widely in peer-reviewed journals in Nigeria and abroad and he has five books to my credit.

Dr. Hamza Mustafa Njozi

Professor Hamza Mustafa Njozi is the current Vice Chancellor of the Muslim University of Morogoro, Tanzania, East Africa. Before his appointment as Vice Chancellor in 2007, Prof. Njozi was Chair in the Department of Literature at the University of Dar es Salaam. He served as an East African Visiting Scholar at the Centre of African Studies, SOAS, University of London in 1998 and as a Fulbright Scholar at the Center for African Studies, University of Florida in the following year. From September 2001 to May 2002 Prof. Njozi was a Guest Scholar at Uppsala University under the sponsorship of the Swedish Institute. He is the editor of a book titled, East Africa and the US: Problems and Issues and author of The Sources of the Qur’an: A Critical Review of Authorship Theories. His other books include Mwembechai Killings and the Political Future of Tanzania (2000) and Muslims and the State in Tanzania (2003, 2010). He has also translated into Kiswahili Muhammad Asad’s book, Islam at the Crossroads. He obtained his BA and MA degrees from the University of Dar es Salaam and his doctorate degree from the National University of Malaysia (UKM).

Dr. Wardah M. Rajab-Gyagenda 

Dr. Wardah M. Rajab-Gyagenda is the director for Research, Publications, and Innovation at the Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU). She is a dedicated manager with more than 10 years experience spanning Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and the United States. Dr. Rajab-Gyagenda promotes Islam through Education and Public Health. In the short period of time in Uganda, Dr. Rajab-Gyagenda has facilitated at several local, national, regional and international fora on topical issues. She is currently working with Muslim youth and women organizations to create awareness and promote education development among the disadvantaged Muslim communities of the West-Nile region. Dr. Rajab-Gyagenda is well grounded in research and policy analysis and brings a wealth of experience from the academia, civil society and governance areas. In the United States, she worked extensively with federal, state and community agencies in promoting access to quality care for disadvantaged and minority populations. She initiated and spearheaded a series of summits on Islamic Health Education and Dua in the African Diaspora. She has been instrumental in shaping Office of Minority Health Resource Centre’s (OMHRC) African immigrant Health Initiative. Dr. Rajab-Gyagenda was a founding member and task force committee member for the OMHRC’s National African HIV/AIDS Initiative. She has served on HIV/AIDS Immigrants and Refugee’s Advisory Board of Georgia.

Dr. Rajab-Gyagenda received her PhD from Clark Atlanta University - Atlanta, GA; her MSc from Clemson University – Clemson, SC, and her BA from Makerere University – Kampala, Uganda.

Dr. Ahmad K. Sengendo

Dr. Ahmad K. Sengendo is the Rector of Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU). Dr. Sengendo is an investor in the education sector. He is a firm believer in the power of education to fundamentally and positively transform individuals and societies. As one of the only two Muslim academics at Makerere University by 1988, Dr. Sengendo opted to be among the pioneer team that established the University in 1988. He then dedicated his youthful time to serve IUIU for more than 25 years at different academic and administrative capacities. Over the years, he played a pivotal role in establishing three other campuses of the University including the Females’ Campus which has provided more access to university education for the girl-child. Dr. Sengendo has been involved in promoting Muslim education generally and curbing illiteracy since 1980. Dr. Sengendo has enhanced capacities of teachers and schools; and has promoted education as top priority to Muslim students and parents. He has sourced several scholarships for the needy students. Dr. Sengendo has served on several committees, boards of national and international institutions and organizations. He has attended and presented papers at over 100 local and international conferences, seminars and workshops. Dr. Sengendo has several publications to his credit, mainly in the field of education.

Dr. Sengendo received both his PhD and MSc from the University of Kansas, USA; his PGDE and BSc from Makerere University – Kampala, Uganda.

Dr. Adam Adebayo Sirajudeen

Dr. Adam Adebayo Sirajudeen holds B.A. (Hons.) Islamics from the University of Ilorin, M. A. Ahmadu Bello University, and PhD from University of Jos. Currently Senior Lecturer with the Department of Arabic & Islamic Studies, Kogi State University, Anyigba, Nigeria where he has taught and supervised research works in both Arabic and Islamics both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels with special interest in Afro-Arabic Literary History and Historiography as well as Afro-Arabic Manuscripts collection, documentation, digitization, and preservation. A member of learned professional associations like the Nigeria Association of Teachers of Arabic & Islamic Studies, (NATAIS), member / participant, Timbuktu Manuscripts Project, University of Cape Town, South Africa, Nigerian Society of Indigenous Knowledge and Development, Association for the Collection and Preservation of Arabic Manuscripts In Sub Saharan African.

Dr. Alex Thurston

Alexander Thurston received his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Northwestern University in 2013. His research concentrates on Muslim thought and activism in Nigeria and the countries of the Sahel region. He conducted field research on Muslim youth movements in Senegal in 2006-2007 as a Fulbright Scholar. In 2011-2012, supported by grants from the Social Science Research Council and the Wenner-Gren Foundation, he completed dissertation fieldwork in northern Nigeria. His dissertation focused on the careers and writings of Muslim intellectuals who studied at Arab universities and returned to Nigeria. From 2009-2013, he wrote Sahel Blog, which covered politics and religion in the Sahel. He has published articles in Islamic Africa and the Journal of Religion in Africa.

Dr. Ann Wainscott

Ann Wainscott is a Visiting Assistant Professor at St. Louis University in the Department of Political Science. Her work examines the politics of public education in Morocco, with a focus on the post-independence period. In her dissertation she argues that the Moroccan monarchy employed reforms to public education to discourage students from adopting leftist ideologies but inadvertently created the conditions that have allowed for the flourishing of Islamist ideologies. More details are available at her website:

We have started a category on this site called MyTIRN where original scholarly working papers, essays, book Q&As, and book reviews written specifically for TIRN (and sometimes ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN) will be showcased. This is a MyTIRN selection. 

This article was made possible by the Transcultural Islam Project, an initiative launched in 2011 by the Duke Islamic Studies Center —in partnership with the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations and the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies— aimed at deepening understanding of Islam and Muslim communities. See and for more information. The Transcultural Islam Project is funded by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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