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BOOK LAUNCH SEMINAR: THE CHALLENGE FOR MADRASAS: Implications of reform for Muslim communities

Delivered by

Professor Ebrahim Moosa [University of Notre Dame, USA]


Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool [Former South African Ambassador to US and Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Georgetown University’s Edmund A Walsh School for Foreign Service]

Book launch seminar of Professor Ebrahim Moosa’s new book – ‘What is a Madrasa?’ Date: Saturday 14th November 2015 Time: 6pm – 9pm

Venue: Ebrahim College, 80 Greenfield Road, London E1 1EJ

The seminar is open to all but spaces are limited. Entry is through prior registration only.



Madrasa’s seem to be the ‘curry’ flavour of the month for many in the political establishment, some like it mild, others like a ‘Vindaloo’ and some settle with a ‘Korma’. As UK’s No.1 dish and with a colonial baggage, where the ‘Sun did eventually set’, you would have thought, British tastebuds would have been more experienced by now, maybe a re-screening of David Lean’s film, ‘A Passage to India’ should be high on the cards!

We will be launching Professor Ebrahim Moosa’s new book – ‘What is a Madrasa?’, published by the University of North Carolina Press [March 2015] with opportunity for book purchase and signing!

Ambassador Rasool will speak about the larger socio-political context of reform and renewal of Islam, Muslim communities, and religious instruction and the consequences of the lack and meeting of social needs.

Reviews of the book:

1. “This splendid book is a wonderful primer on the world and culture of the madrasa.  Given the importance of madrasas to American political interests in the Muslim world, I cannot imagine a more timely book. Ebrahim Moosa, with his firsthand knowledge of the madrasa culture in the Indian subcontinent, writes as very few people can about being an insider in a way that is highly accessible to general readers and students who don’t know about madrasas or Islam. Extraordinary.” – Professor Amir Hussain, author of Oil and Water: Two Faiths, One God

2. “Offering a historically informed insider account of the madrasa, Ebrahim Moosa presents a view of the madrasa which is very different from what has often been purveyed by the media. Enriched by Moosa’s account of his return to several madrasas nearly four decades after he had first arrived at them–this time as a seasoned observer rather than as a young and impressionable student–the book puts the madrasa’s intellectual concerns in their historical context, dispels myths, and provides a critique of contemporary madrasas. Presuming no prior acquaintance with Islam or the madrasa, it is accessible to a broad readership and will be read with interest by general readers, college students, journalists, policy analysts, and by anyone else who wishes to understand this seemingly peculiar but key Muslim institution.” –Professor Muhammad Qasim Zaman, author of Modern Islamic Thought in a Radical Age: Religious Authority and Internal Criticism

Taking us inside the world of the madrasa – the most common type of school for religious instruction and seminaries in the Islamic world – Professor Ebrahim Moosa provides another alternative but yet interesting perspective for anyone seeking to understand orthodox Islam in global affairs. Focusing on postsecondary-level religious institutions in the Indo-Pakistan heartlands, he explains how a madrasa can simultaneously be a place of learning revered by many, drawing on his own years as a madrasa student in India, the daily routine for teachers and students today. He shows how classical theological, legal, and Qur’anic texts are taught, and he illuminates the history of ideas and politics behind the madrasa system.

Addressing the contemporary political scene, he introduces readers to madrasa leaders who hold diverse and conflicting perspectives on the place of religion in society. Some admit that they face intractable problems and challenges, others, he says, hide their heads in the sand and fail to address the crucial issues of the day.

Offering practical suggestions to both madrasa leaders and policymakers for reform and understanding, he demonstrates how madrasas today still embody the highest aspirations and deeply felt needs of traditional Muslims.

Professor Ebrahim Moosa [Duke University, USA]

Ebrahim E.I. Moosa is Professor of Religion and Islamic Studies in the Department of Religion. His interests span both classical and modern Islamic thought with a special focus on Islamic law, history, ethics and theology. 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) and editor of the last manuscript of the late Professor Fazlur Rahman, Revival and Reform in Islam: A Study of Islamic Fundamentalism. He was named Carnegie Scholar in 2005 to pursue research on the madrasas, Islamic seminaries of South Asia. Born in South Africa, Dr. Moosa earned his MA (1989) and PhD (1995) from the University of Cape Town. Prior to that he took the `alimiyya degree in Islamic and Arabic studies from Darul Ulum Nadwatul `Ulama, one of India’s foremost Islamic seminaries in the city of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. He also has a BA degree from Kanpur University, and a postgraduate diploma in journalism from the City University in London. Previously he taught at the University of Cape Town’s Department of Religious Studies in South Africa till 1998 and was visiting professor at Stanford University 1998-2001 prior to joining Duke University. As a journalist he wrote for Arabia: The Islamic World Review, MEED (Middle East Economic Digest) and Afkar/Inquiry magazines in Britain, and later became political writer for the Cape Times in South Africa. He contributes regularly to the op-ed pages of the New York Times, Atlanta-Journal Constitution, The Boston Review and several international publications and is frequently invited to comment on global Islamic affairs. Currently he is completing a book titled What is a Madrasa? Also under construction are two books on ethics: Muslim Self Revived: Ethics, Rights and Technology after Empire and another title, Between Right and Wrong: Debating Muslim Ethics (Wiley). In these writings Moosa explores some of the major challenges that confront a tradition-in-the making like Islam , in a rapidly changing world. Moosa examines the way religious traditions encounter modernity and in the process generating new conceptions of history, culture and ethics. Dr. Moosa serves on several distinguished international advisory boards and is associated with some of the foremost thinkers, activists and role-players in the Muslim world and beyond. He advised the first independent South African government after apartheid on Islamic affairs and serves on committees of the Organization of Islamic Conference in addition to others. He also has extensive experience in human rights activities. He has received grants from the Ford Foundation to research contemporary Muslim ethics and issues of philanthropy in the Muslim world. For further details and access to research materials please visit Dr Moosa’s website

Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool* [Former South African Ambassador to US and Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Georgetown University’s Edmund A Walsh School for Foreign Service]

Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Georgetown University’s Edmund A Walsh School for Foreign Service. He works in the Al Waleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, advancing an alternative paradigm to the inertia of Orthodoxies in the face of Extremisms. He is the founder of the World for All Foundation that endeavors to create a world of coexistence and that is safe for difference.

Ambassador Rasool has recently completed a term of duty as South Africa’s Ambassador to the United States of America, an appointment that was the culmination of a distinguished record of Public Service in South Africa. Previously he served as a Member of Parliament in South Africa’s National Assembly, Special Advisor to the State President and has built up extensive experience in various Departments like Health, Welfare, Finance and Economic Development in the capacity of Provincial Minister.

Ambassador Rasool has been the recipient of a number of awards: “Social Services Leader of the Year” Award (1995) from the African Investment Group; “Visionary Leadership and Public Good” Award from the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists (2008); “Commitment and Leadership in the Fight Against Crime” from Business Against Crime (2009); The 2005 London Financial Times “Foreign Direct Investment (Africa) Personality of the Year” Award; The “Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights” presented to him by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 1998; and “Indonesian Diasporean of 2012″ Award by the President of Indonesia. During his term as Ambassador he also received the Award for his Lifetime Commitment to Human Rights by Shared Interest in New York, and Inaugural Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

Founder of the World for All Foundation, Ambassador Rasool is active in rethinking the intellectual tools for co-operative relations between faiths, cultures and communities at a global level, and establishing dignity, inclusion and equity for those marginalized and excluded. The World for All is especially active among Muslim Minority communities, transferring examples of co-existence from South Africa, and increasingly is acting as a conduit for Nelson Mandela’s lessons to the Muslim heartlands in need of freedom, democracy and human rights.

Ebrahim Rasool studied at the University of Cape Town where he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature and Economic History, and a Higher Diploma in Education. He has an incomplete Honors in Literary Criticism, started while in prison. In 2014, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa, by the Roosevelt University in Chicago, and the Doctorate of Public Service, Honoris Causa from Chatham University in Pittsburgh.

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