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Scholars’ Biographies – 2014

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Kamal Abu-Shamsieh, was born in Ramallah, Palestine and is currently a PhD student at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA in the area of the cultural and historical studies of religion. His PhD thesis focuses on constructing a practical methodology for religious and spiritual support for Muslim patients utilizing Maqasid and Qawaid al-Shariah. In addition, he works as a contractual chaplain at Stanford Hospital. To promote the concept of Islamic chaplaincy, he is supervising three pilot sites for Islamic Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia where he is developing a cadre of Muslim chaplain. He earned his Graduate Certificate in Islamic Chaplaincy from Hartford Seminary in 2011, and M.A. in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations from Hartford Seminary in 2012. He worked for the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles (2000- 2003), The Interfaith Alliance in Washington DC (2003-2005), and served as director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno (2005-2012).

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<strong>JASSER AUDA </strong>is the Director of Maqasid Institute, UK, and Visiting Professor at Carleton University, Canada. He is a founding member and a member of the executive board of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, a member of the academic committee of the International Institute of Islamic Thought, and a Fellow of the International Institute of Advanced Systems in Canada. He wrote a Ph.D. thesis on the Philosophy of Islamic law at the University of Wales, UK, and a Ph.D. thesis on systems analysis at the University of Waterloo, Canada, and an M.Jur. thesis on maqasid/purposes of the Shari’ah at the Islamic American University. Early in his life, he had studied Fiqh, Usul, Hadith, Sunnah, and memorized the Qur’an in the halaqas of the Azhar Mosque in Cairo. He worked as a Deputy Director of the Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics in Doha, Director of the Maqasid Center in the Philosophy of Islamic Law in London, as a professor in the Faculty of Law, Alexandria University, Islamic Fiqh Academy of India, American University in Sharjah, University of Waterloo, Canada, and has lectured on Islam in dozens of universities and institutes around the world. He is the author of a number of books including, Maqasid al-Shari’ah as Philosophy of Islamic Law: A Systems Approach (London: IIIT, 2008).

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<strong>MAHMOUD M. AYOUB </strong>was born in South Lebanon. He received his education at the American University of Beirut (BA, Philosophy, 1964), the University of Pennsylvania (M.A., Religious Thought, 1966), and Harvard University (Ph.D., History of Religion, 1975). From 1988 to 2008, he was a Professor and director of Islamic Studies in the Department of Religion, Temple University, Philadelphia, an Adjunct Professor at the Duncan Black Macdonald Center, Hartford Seminary, Connecticut, a Research Fellow at the Middle East Center, University of Pennsylvania, and the Tolson visiting professor at the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley California. Prof. Mahmoud Ayoub has also previously taught at San Diego State University, the University of Toronto, and McGill University. Mahmoud Ayoub is the author of a number of books including, Redemptive Suffering in Islam and The Qur’an and Its Interpreters (vol. 1 &amp; 2). The summer of 2000 saw the release of his two-volume publication, Dirasat fi al-‘Alaqat al-Masihiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Arabic (Studies in Christian-Muslim Relations). Islam: Faith and History appeared in 2004.

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Samy Ayoub has a Ph.D. in Islamic law from the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies and the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona. He has studied human rights law, statutory interpretation, and gender and law. His research covers the history and practice of Islamic law and judicial processes in the late Ottoman Empire, especially in Egypt, Palestine, and Syria. His current work addresses the relationship between Ottoman state and Ḥanafī juristic discourse in 16th – 19th centuries. Dr. Ayoub has received systematic instruction in Ḥanafī jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. He has taught Islamic law and Islamic civilization at the University of Arizona and New York University.

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Usaama al-Azami is a PhD candidate at Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies. He began his Arabic studies in 2003 and completed his BA in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Oxford in 2008. He has also travelled and studied throughout the Middle East. His dissertation critically examines contemporary Islamic political and legal thought, focusing on an analysis of Islamist conceptions of secularism, democracy, and liberty. In particular, he explores the work of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Rashid al-Ghannushi, and Muhammad ‘Umara. His other interests include Islamic history, fiqh, legal theory, and hadith studies. He is also currently preparing a manuscript on Ibn Taymiyya and his contemporaries that provides a revisionist account of the scholar’s relationship with his one-time student and colleague Shams al-Din al-Dhahabi.

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Jacquelene Brinton received her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in August of 2009 in the Department of Religious Studies with a specialty in Islamic Studies. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Kansas. Her manuscript: “Preaching Islamic Renewal: Religion and Authority in Modern Egypt” is currently under review at the University of California Press. The book focuses on the famous Egyptian television preacher and exegete Muḥammad Mitwalli Sha’rāwī. Her main areas of interests within the discipline of Islamic Studies are: The role of the ‘ulamā’ in contemporary Islam, preaching, popular religion, and media and religion. Dr. Brinton’s research is focused on the role authoritative discourse plays in ensuring the continuity of religious traditions: specifically, how media preaching has helped the Egyptian ‘ulamā’ communicate religion as socially and historically relevant, and how technology aids this process. In her next book, she will examine the hermeneutics of digitized religion by considering how new media affects the production and reception of religious texts.

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Carl W. Ernst is William R. Kenan, Jr., Distinguished Professor and Co-Director of the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Carl W. Ernst is a specialist in Islamic studies, with a focus on West and South Asia. His published research, based on the study of Arabic, Persian, and Urdu, has been mainly devoted to the study of three areas: general and critical issues of Islamic studies, pre-modern and contemporary Sufism, and Indo-Muslim culture. He has received research fellowships from the Fulbright program, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and he has been elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His current research projects include an edited volume on Islamophobia in America (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2013), studies of Muslim interpreters of Indian religions, and a translation of the Arabic poetry of al-Hallaj. His most recent book is How to Read the Qur’an: A New Guide, with Select Translations (UNC Press, 2011). He studied comparative religion at Stanford University (A.B. 1973) and Harvard University (Ph.D. 1981).

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Katrin Jomaa (Ph.D., Indiana University, 2012) is an assistant professor at the University of Rhode Island with a joint appointment in the Departments of Political Science and Philosophy. Her interdisciplinary research interests encompass classical and modern political philosophy, as well as Islamic thought and Qur’anic exegesis. Prof. Jomaa focuses on the relationship between politics and religion in the Muslim world. Her research method employs analysis of Islamic primary sources to explore key concepts which could be utilized in constructing modern Islamic political theory. In addition to her interest in politics and religion, Prof. Jomaa has a dual passion for science and technology. She has a Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering from the American University in Cairo and a Masters degree in Applied Materials Science from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Her scientific background has informed her teaching method and research with a more structural and analytical base.

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Mouez Khalfaoui is a Junior Professor of Islamic Jurisprudence at the University of Tuebingen, Germany (since 2012). He started his academic career at the University of Tunis, wherefrom he received a Master degree of Arabic Studies and Islamic Studies in 1994; that was followed by a State Examination (degree) in Islamic Studies in 1998. During this period up to 2001 he was a teacher for Islamic Civilization, Arabic Language, and Arabic Literature at secondary and tertiary levels in Tunisia. He followed his Career of Education and Educating in Germany during his Dissertation where he lectured Arabic at the Martin-Luther University and the University of Erfurt where he attained his PhD degree in 2007. He was a research associate at the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research (2007-2009), and Lecturer for Islamic Studies and Arabic Linguistic at the University of Berlin (2009-2012). His main research fields are Islamic Law and its History, Islamic Law as Minority Rights, Arabic and Islamic Literature, The Education and Pedagogy of Islamic Religion, Ethics, Didactics, and Interreligious Studies. He has authored and co-authored some 25 articles and books, and has written 4 Reviews in various Journals. 

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Shahirah Mahmood is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Her fields of interest are gender, politics and religion, Islamic law, democratic governance and civil society. Shahirah has recently completed one year of fieldwork in Indonesia. She is currently working on her dissertation manuscript, Embedded Islam and Entangled Feminists: Muslim Women’s Organizations and the Fight for Gender Equality in Indonesia. Her research has been supported by the American Association of University Women International Fellowship Award. She has recently published a paper, “Politics of Shariah Reform and Its Implication for Muslim Women in Malaysia” in an Australian National University based journal, Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific. She has also published several chapters in edited volumes on Muslim women’s activism in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Prior to entering graduate school, Shahirah was a research analyst with the Contemporary Islam Program at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. Her editorials on Malaysia’s 12th General Elections have appeared in The Straits Times and The Nation.

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Hamid Mavani obtained his MA and PhD from McGill University at the Institute of Islamic Studies. His expertise in Islamic Studies stems from not only academic training but specialized theological training at the traditional seminaries in the Muslim world. His primary fields of interest include Shi‘i law and gender justice, Islamic theology and political thought, Islam and secularity, transnational Islam in Asia, intra-Muslim discourse, and Muslims in North America. He is the author of a book recently published by Routledge titled, Religious Authority and Political Thought in Twelver Shi‘ism: From Ali to Post-Khomeini (Routledge, June 2013) under Studies in Political Islam series. Professor Mavani’s scholarship also includes translations of Islamic texts from Arabic and Persian into English. His most recent translation from Persian to English is a work on jihad by Ayatollah Salehi Najafabadi, providing a novel and a creative re-reading of this much misunderstood concept.

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Ebrahim Moosa is Professor of Islamic Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at Duke University. In August 2014 he will join the History Department and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. At Notre Dame he will co-direct the Contending Modernities Program and will launch a new program titled Islamic Thought and Muslim Societies in the Keough School of Global Affairs when it opens in 2017. His interests span both classical and modern Islamic thought with a focus on Islamic law, ethics and theology. In 2007 he delivered the prestigious Hassaniyyah lecture on the invitation of his Majesty King Mohammed VI in Fez. He was named Carnegie Scholar in 2005 and is the recipient multiple grants and honors. Dr. Moosa is the author of Ghazali and the Poetics of Imagination, winner of the American Academy of Religion’s Best First Book in the history of religions (2006). His book, What is a Madrasa? will be released in the spring of 2015 by the University of North Carolina Press. He edited books on Modern Islam, Muslim family law, Islamic revival and the African renaissance and the Arab spring, in addition to multiple publications on issues related to classical and modern Islamic thought, ethics and law. He is a Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University.

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Abdulaziz Sachedina is Professor and IIIT Chair in Islamic Studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Dr. Sachedina, who has studied in India, Iraq, Iran, and Canada, obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. He has been conducting research and writing in the field of Islamic Law, Ethics, and Theology (Sunni and Shiite) for more than two decades. In the last ten years he has concentrated on social and political ethics, including Interfaith and Intrafaith Relations, Islamic Biomedical Ethics and Islam and Human Rights. Dr. Sachedina’s publications include: Islamic Messianism (State University of New York, 1980); Human Rights and the Conflicts of Culture, co-authored (University of South Carolina, 1988) The Just Ruler in Shiite Islam (Oxford University Press, 1988); The Prolegomena to the Qur’an (Oxford University Press, 1998); The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism (Oxford University Press, 2002); Islamic Biomedical Ethics: Theory and Application (Oxford University Press, February 2009); Islam and the Challenge of Human Rights (Oxford University Press, September 2009), in addition to numerous articles in academic journals. He is an American citizen born in Tanzania.

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Asaad Al-Saleh is assistant professor of Arabic, comparative literature, and cultural studies in the Department of Languages and Literature and the Middle East Center at the University of Utah. His research focuses on issues related to autobiography, displacement, and political culture in the Arab world. His book, Voices of the Arab Spring: Personal Stories from the Arab Revolutions is forthcoming (2015) by Columbia University Press. He is currently working on a book on the Syrian revolution. Some of his publications appeared in Arab Studies Quarterly, Arab World English Journal, and Oxford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Science and Technology in Islam. In addition to scholarly writing, he contributes opinion pieces in Arabic on political, cultural and religious issues in Syria.

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Christopher B. Taylor is currently a Visiting Researcher at Georgetown University in the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. He is also a PhD candidate at Boston University in the department of anthropology. His dissertation Islamic Charity in India: The Revival and Re-Invention of Zakat is based on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Lucknow, India, and participant observation and survey research with six Islamic charities in 2012 and 2013. During that time, he also studied fiqh al-zakah with a mufti in the madrasa of Nadwat ul-‘Ulama, a traditional Islamic seminary in Lucknow. He has written on civil society and governance in Afghanistan, transnational Shi’ism in Central Asia, charitable foundations in Iran, and the caste rights movement in India. Mr. Taylor is a Graduate Research Fellow of the National Science Foundation (NSF), which supported this research.​

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Sarra Tlili is an assistant professor at the University of Florida, Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. She obtained her PhD in 2009 from the University of Pennsylvania, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Her primary research interests are animals in Islam, stylistics of the Qur’an, and Arabic literature. She is the author of Animals in the Qur’an (Cambridge University Press, 2012) and several articles on animals in Islam and modern Tunisian literature.” Her publications include, “Animals Would Follow Shafiʿism” Book chapter (forthcoming); “All Animals Are Equal, or Are They: The Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ’s Animal Epistle and its Unhappy End” Journal of Qur’anic Studies, June 2014; “Innocence, Maturation, and Liberation: The Maturation Process in al-Mīdānī b. Ṣāliḥ’s Work”, Arabica, 59 (2012) 552-598; “The Meaning of the Qur’anic Word ‘dābba’: ‘Animals’ or ‘Nonhuman Animals’?” Journal of Qur’anic Studies 12 (2010) 167-187; and “Retelling al-Maqāma al-maḍīriyya: Intertextuality between a modern short story and a classical maqāma” Journal of Arabic Literature 40 (2009) 319-334.

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David Vishanoff is an Associate Professor in the Religious Studies Program at the University of Oklahoma, where he teaches courses on the Qur’an, Islamic law, Islamic theology, and comparative religion. He earned his Ph.D. in West and South Asian Religions, with a focus on Islamic thought, at Emory University, after completing an M.A. in Religious Studies at the University of Colorado and studying Islamic legal theory in Fez, Morocco. His research is principally concerned with how religious people interpret and conceptualize sacred texts—both their own and those of other religious traditions. His publications have dealt with Islamic thought, including the early history of Islamic legal theory (The Formation of Islamic Hermeneutics), and with interactions between religious communities, including Muslim rewritings of the Psalms of David. He is presently writing a modern commentary on Imām al-Ḥaramayn al-Juwaynī’s Kitāb al-Waraqāt fī uṣūl al-fiqh, and has begun to study recent developments in Qur’anic hermeneutics in Indonesia where he spent the spring of 2013 as a Fulbright senior scholar.​

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Jonathan Brown is an Associate Professor and Assistant Director at Prince Alwaleed bin Tala Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. He received his BA in History from Georgetown University in 2000 and his doctorate in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago in 2006. His book publications include The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim: The Formation and Function of the Sunni Hadith Canon (Brill, 2007), Hadith: Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World (Oneworld, 2009) and Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2011). Dr. Brown’s current research interests include the history of forgery and historical criticism in Islamic civilization, comparison with the Western tradition; and modern conflicts between Late Sunni Traditionalism and Salafism in Islamic thought.​

Jamal Barzinji is President of the International Institute of Islamic Thought, USA. He was a founder and has served as President of the Muslim Students Association, and is a founder of Islamic Society of North America. He has served as the Dean of the Faculty of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences at the International Islamic University of Malaysia. Dr. Barzinji holds PhD and M.Sc. in Chemical Engineering from Louisiana State University, and a B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering & Fuel Technology from the University of Sheffield (UK). Dr. Barzinji is a recipient of numerous awards for his contributions and service to American Muslim organizations and causes, including ISNA’s Dr. Mahboob Khan Community Service Award.

M. Yaqub Mirza is President and CEO of Sterling Management Group. He is also an Advisor to the Board of Trustees of the Amana Mutual Funds. Dr. Mirza is a member of the Board of Directors, University Islamic Financial Corporation, and is a member of the Board of Trustees, George Mason University Foundation, Inc. He holds a M.Sc. from University of Karachi, and a PhD in Physics and an MA in Teaching Science from the University of Texas at Dallas. He is the author, most recently, of Five Pillars of Prosperity: Essentials of Faith-Based Wealth Building (White Cloud Press, 2014).

Abubaker Al Shingieti is Executive Director of the International Institute of Islamic Thought, USA. He has been a Research Associate at the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. He has also served as Vice President at the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy (ICRD). In addition, he served as editor of Islamic Horizons, a monthly magazine of the Islamic Society of North America and was a founding member of the Society for Islamic Thought and Culture in Khartoum, Sudan. Dr. Shingieti earned a B.Sc. (Honors) in Architecture from the University of Khartoum, a graduate diploma from the Institute of African and Asian Studies at the University of Khartoum, and a PhD in Communications from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Ermin Sinanović is Director of Research and Academic Programs at the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT). Before joining the IIIT, he was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, where he was also a faculty affiliate with the Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies. In 2011, he became a Faculty Associate in Research at Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University. Prof. Sinanović studied for an MA and a PhD in Political Science at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, where he wrote the doctoral dissertation titled, “The Role of Ideas in Contemporary Islamic Revival: The Case of Malaysia.” He obtained two BAs (one in Qur’an and Sunnah Studies, the other in Political Science) from the International Islamic University Malaysia, and an MA in Islamic Civilization from the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC), also in Malaysia. His work has been published in Politics, Religion & Ideology, American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, Islam and Muslim-Christian Relations, and Intellectual Discourse. He is the author of a monograph, Singapore’s Muslim Minority: A Moral Voice? Comparative Perspectives on Integration in a Global Age (Singapore: Centre for Research on the Islamic and Malay Affairs, 2013).

Iqbal Unus is a former director of The Fairfax Institute (TFI), the instructional division of International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), where he has also served as director of human development and director of administration since 1989. Prior to joining IIIT, Dr. Unus served as secretary general of Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Between 1980 and 1982, Dr. Unus taught in the applied sciences and nuclear engineering departments at King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Some of the offices he has held include president of the Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada (1975), several offices including president of the Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers (AMSE), and a trustee of All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS). His major area of interest is non-profit management and leadership studies. He has conducted numerous training programs in leadership skills and facilitated strategic planning retreats for Muslim community organizations. Dr. Iqbal Unus holds two Master’s degrees in physics and nuclear engineering and a Ph.D. in nuclear physics (1977).