It is an honor to resume membership of the IIIT Board and to be elected Chairman of its Board of Trustees. As you know, I have great admiration for the contributions made by IIIT and have remained committed to serving the organization – through thick and through thin. I look forward to working with you as we embark on a new phase of our mission to serve Muslim societies by offering insights and vision based on a critical analysis of the Islamic intellectual tradition.
As we look to the future, we must acknowledge the intellectual luminaries who preceded us. They had the courage and resolve to undertake the mammoth task of establishing a global institution dedicated to the study and dissemination of contemporary Islamic intellectual thought. Dr. Ismail Al-Faruqi, Dr. Taha Al-Alwani and Dr. Jamal Barzinji (May Allah have mercy on their souls), as well as those who are still with us, are pioneers whose contributions to the Muslim community cannot be overstated.
It was their vision to which IIIT owes much of its reputation as an organization dedicated to critical thinking and reasoned dialogue and which, today, stands apart from other Islamic intellectual institutions in its rejection of dogma, ideology and narrow mindedness. This has resulted in strong and pioneering publications on Maqasid al-Shari’a (“higher purposes of Islamic Law”), as well as publications on civilizational renewal, Islamic thought, revitalizing and advancing education, and making the timely and well-considered shift from the “Islamization of Knowledge ” to the “Integration of Knowledge ” paradigm. This change shows our determination to ensure that IIIT remains relevant and continues its mission of promoting knowledge and learning as means for societal advancement, in an increasingly interconnected world.
The Integration of Knowledge must push the boundaries of academic disciplines. We need to situate ourselves at the frontiers of knowledge in areas that affect Muslim societies and humanity at large, building on our rich tradition as Muslims and what IIIT’s founders established. Several themes should be institutionalized as programs of study at our institutions:
a. Good governance in Muslim societies
b. Ethical and socially responsible investment
c. Conflict, stability and development in Muslim societies
d. Emerging civil societies
e. Non-state actors in fragile environments
f. Displacement and migration
Through its educational arm, The Fairfax Institute, IIIT has for many years now hosted some of the brightest minds around the world at its Winter Student Programs and Summer Student Programs, partnering with leading scholars and intellectuals to further students’ education in understanding and dealing with the Qur’an, the Sunnah, and the Islamic sciences. In addition, for a decade, IIIT has hosted the Summer Institute for Scholars, which is one of the largest academic forums focused on Islamic thought. The annual Summer Schools and Winter Schools organized in several countries have contributed to the intellectual and academic development of graduate students. Furthermore, IIIT is working with the Centre for Postnormal Policy and Futures Studies to train young scholars in the United Kingdom, Turkey, Bosnia, and South Africa to think and explore alternative futures, understand and navigate the complex nature of contemporary times, and engage critically with problems and issues of Muslim societies.
We are living in highly sensitive, complex and volatile times that require new forms of thinking and action. For IIIT to contribute effectively, it must reform its own methods and practices. Let me begin by asserting the following core principles and objectives:
1) We will give high priority to maintaining financial transparency in all our transactions utilizing the best accountancy practices and programs.
2) We will thoroughly rethink our publication and translation programs to address the challenges facing Muslim societies today. We will absolutely avoid linking the IIIT name to any content open to misinterpretation and negative construal or which is intrinsically biased, inflammatory, defamatory, or possibly considered libelous. In other words, we will ensure the highest quality of content production worthy of the IIIT name, a brand IIIT worked very hard to establish and which must be protected at all costs.
3) We will consolidate IIIT’s operations around the globe so that the organization and all of its branches in various countries adhere to a single set of policies and core objectives. If we cannot sustain the highest level of excellence in our satellite offices, we must be ready to close them.
Part of IIIT’s original vision was to translate an accumulation of vital theoretical knowledge into pragmatic educational and societal reform to benefit the global Muslim community. It is a very exciting time for IIIT, as it has gone through the needed restructuring and is now positioned to accomplish this by launching its Advancing Education in Muslim Societies (AEMS) initiative. AEMS identifies its research within the so-called “Third Space,” which means that education serves more than just the acquisition of knowledge and skills; it also serves as a vehicle for a meaningful and holistic life. Based on this framework, education functions as a means for transformation and hope for a better future for Muslim societies as well as humanity at large. AEMS research will focus on pedagogy, curriculum, governance and leadership, education policy and context, and assessment and evaluation. Along the way, we intend to introduce Qur’anic values of empathy, forgiveness, moral reasoning, community mindedness and sense of belonging into the AEMS framework, these being essential to the creation of healthy societies.
Educational reform, in our view, remains integral to the reform needed across Muslim societies. It is a generational pursuit which we must continue to invest our resources in. In fact, this is the central point of the Integration of Knowledge paradigm. This paradigm is rooted in Islamic epistemology, which gives credence to the Qur’an and the Sunnah as the constitutive, methodological and explanatory sources of knowledge, in addition to human knowledge in all its aspects and manifestations. The Integration of Knowledge has shaped the discourse of IIIT’s publications, academic and intellectual discourse, and activities for more than three decades.
As Chairman, I am committed to working together with the Board to achieve IIIT’s goals, which can serve not only Muslim societies, but humanity at large. Just as the message of the Qur’an and Sunnah are intended to be blessings that all of mankind can enjoy, whether Muslim or not, the entire world can benefit from projects that are inspired by this message — a message that can be defined as the cleansing or purification of the heart so that it can forgive and fully empathize, using the head to form sound moral reasoning, and the hands to serve the diverse community that makes up humanity.
Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim
Chairman of the IIIT Board of Trustees