HARVARD UNIVERSITY: The Birthplace of IQRA’

DR. ABIDULLAH GHAZI RETURNS TO HARVARD

After a delay of over 40 years, prominent Muslim educator and scholar Dr. Abidullah Ghazi returned this May as a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Harvard’s famous School of Law. He had been invited to pursue his life’s passion, which is research on the role of the Ulama’ (Muslim religious scholars) in South Asian political and social movements. 

Having completed his Masters in Economics from the London School of Economics in 1967 (his wife, Tasneema Ghazi secured her diploma in Post-Graduate Education from the University of London) Dr. Ghazi to set out to leave for India, where he was to resume his responsibilities as Head of Political Science department of Delhi College (Delhi University). To his surprise, he received a convincing letter from famed Harvard scholar Wilfred Cantwel Smith asking him to study for a year at Harvard Divinity School’s newly established Center for the Study of World Religions. Overcoming initial reluctance, Dr. Ghazi accepted this proposition and unknowingly initiated a lifelong vocation as a scholar of Islamic studies and world religions. It was a move that would forever define the lives and careers of both Dr. Ghazi and his wife.

During their time at Harvard’s Divinity School (1967-72) the Ghazi’s saw firsthand what other religious communities – notably American Christians and Jews – were doing to provide religious education to their communities, especially in supplementary and full-time religious schools for children.  In 1969, with two of her own children and three of her friends’, Dr. Tasneema established the first Islamic Sunday School at Harvard University and lent a hand establishing a similar school at the Quincy Mosque, now known as New England Islamic Center.  This experience put both Ghazis in the thick of the unique endeavor of helping young minds living in a secular, democratic and pluralistic society blossom through Islam. The Ghazis examined both Christian and Jewish religious studies curricula and systems of education, as well as the Islamic studies curricula taught throughout the South Asian madrasah systems (specially Dars-i Nizami), the Middle East and Far East. However, they found no momentous educational scheme of study available in English or any other language designed to teach Islam to children and youths, at least one comparable to those used by non-Muslims in the West.

At a time when the Muslim community in the United States was quite small, the Ghazi’s possessed a vision of the future, and instead of bemoaning the realities of the day, they set about designing a comprehensive and integrated program of Arabic and Islamic studies envisioning future Muslim growth in the West.  Accordingly, notion for IQRA’ International Educational Foundation was born at Harvard Divinity School. Nearly a decade passed in which Ghazis deliberated, studied, consulted and reflected on their master plan to develop Islamic education in North America as well as for Muslim minority populations, a plan that would integrate authentic Islamic foundations with modern methodologies in hopes of bring about a generation of Muslims who could be active participants in development in the societies in they lived.

Despite their thoughts being on the American Muslim community, the Ghazis were committed to return to India and complete their efforts there. Nevertheless, they were advised by many well-known Muslim scholars (including Dr. Ghazi’s father), to stay in the United States and carry on with this work. Strengthened by the prayers and advice of their respected elders, the Ghazis made the decision to commit their lives to this task and resolved to become American citizens. In 1983 they began to take steps for the concrete establishment of IQRA’ International Educational Foundation and commenced with the designing of a complete and comprehensive curriculum of Arabic and Islamic studies as the first step in implementing a comprehensive plan of education.

Doctors Abidullah and Tasneema Ghazi initiated a worldwide movement for Islamic educational all the while developing two comprehensive programs of education, authoring and editing more than 400 books and other educational materials, providing consultation to Islamic schools worldwide and engaging in interfaith work. They are now anxiously looking to pass the torch of this responsibility to the next generation.

Dr. Abidullah Ghazi’s return to Harvard after four decades will allow him to complete a number of long-pending projects regarding South Asia, as well as plan for IQRA’s administrative transition. We wish Dr. Ghazi success in pursuing his passion and complete his impending research project and planning for the future of IQRA’. This post-PhD fellowship will last three months, at which time Dr. Ghazi will be living in Boston. Nevertheless, his heart is still with IQRA’, its staff and its Ansar.

Article copyright by: Bassam Helwani
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