Platform of Knowledge

By Abdullah, Umberine | Islamic Horizons, November/December 2008 | Go to article overview

Platform of Knowledge


Abdullah, Umberine, Islamic Horizons


Twenty-five years ago, Dr. M. A. Waheed Fakhri (president, Association of Muslim Social Scientists [AMSS]), Dr. Sulayman S. Nyang (vice president, AMSS; Department of African Studies, Howard University), and Dawood Zwink (treasurer, AMSS) decided that America needed a Muslim-led and Muslim-organized scholarly journal to inform university and college students, as well as policymakers, about the views of Muslim social scientists. BY UMBERINE ABDULLAH

Another objective was to provide a forum for Muslim scholars, especially those associated with AMSS, to publish their research. At the time, it was believed that Muslim social scientists were having a hard time getting published in mainstream scholarly journals. In addition, such an undertaking would help collect Muslim views and understandings of the social sciences. These three men envisioned the proposed journal as a cuttingedge social science and humanities research publication that would employ both Western social science research methodologies and Islamic theoretical and methodological perspectives.

The board members drew upon the intellect and services of AMSS members as well as friends and sympathizers. Dr. Mumtaz Ahmad (now at Hampton University), a respected and active AMSS member who had served as the editor of a scholarly journal in Pakistan, became one of the journal's associate editors the other two were A. H. Usmani and Dr. Ilyas Ba Yunus (first president of ISNA, 1983-85; president, AMSS, 1975-76; president, MSA, 1968-69) - and Dr. Nyang became the editor-inchief. Several prominent Muslim personalities were invited to serve on the International Editorial Board (e.g., Professor Khurshid Ahmad and Dr. Fazlur Rahman [1919-88]) to widen the circle of involvement.

In 1984, the first issue of the "American Journal of Islamic Studies" (AJIS) appeared. Drs. Nyang and Ahmad did everything: contacted prospective contributors, reviewed and sent contributions for peer review, corrected the proofs, compiled the mailing list, and met frequently to discuss the journal's progress. Encouraged by their peers' positive feedback on the first two issues, they redoubled their efforts.

Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, a future editor-in-chief of the journal (1984-94) who had completed his term as MSA's president ( 1980-83) and participated in its transformation into ISNA, says that the twenty years of organizational growth and development in America had "convinced us of the unique challenges and potential for Islam and Muslims in America. Establishing an institution to conduct research on Islam itself was a necessity, for we were faced with bringing people of different schools of thought into one community and with bringing those same schools into an environment of unprecedented pluralism. Thus, the International Institute of Islamic Thought (HIT) was established in the Washington Metropolitan area to involve scholars and thinkers in developing new paradigms of Islamic thought."

Dr. Syeed, who had also served as the chairman of the editorial board of "Islamic Horizons", (1982-84; and later in 19942006) moved from Indiana and joined the new institution. IITT was organizing conferences of Islamic scholars in various Muslim countries around the idea of reconstructing Islamic knowledge and scholarship. Dr. Syeed recalls: "I had the fresh experience and contact with the growing Muslim community as well as with the Muslim scholarly community. I had served as the secretary general of the AMSS for several years and had organized its conferences."

IIIT's leaders, who also wanted to start a journal dealing with the Islamization of Knowledge, says Dr. Syeed, explained their vision to Dr. Nyang and his group and were prepared to fund their journal if its focus was changed to addressing the stagnation of contemporary Islamic thought. An agreement was reached and, to reflect the new focus, IHT proposed a new name: the "American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences" (AJISS). …

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