QATAR - Health & Education
Dean, College of Islamic Studies (CIS) & Interim Provost, Hamad Bin Khalifa University
Emad El-Din Shahin is the Dean of CIS and Interim Provost of Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Qatar Foundation. Before joining CIS, he was the Hasib Sabbagh Distinguished Visiting Chair of Arabic and Islamic Studies, a visiting professor of political science at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and the editor-in-chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Politics. Shahin holds a PhD from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and has taught in universities in the US including Harvard, Notre Dame, Georgetown, George Washington, and Boston universities. He has authored, co-authored, and co-edited six books and has more than 50 scholarly publications.
How do the two dimensions of Islamic studies and global affairs fit within the College of Islamic Studies?
Islam is a comprehensive universal religion in the sense that it tries to project the universal Islamic values to the entire world; for example, the dignity of the human being, freedom of choice, pluralism, diversity, the issue of justice, and the universal value of cooperation. We also seek to embody these values into our curricula and deliver morality-laden syllabi utilizing state-of-the-art pedagogies. In this regard, we introduced a master’s program called Islam and global affairs, one of the few in the world—if not the only—degree granting program of its type. It focuses on Islam and diplomacy, contemporary diplomacy, and how these can be intertwined. It also explores topics such as humanitarian assistance, the role of technology, social inequalities, and environmentalism. Our perspective always combines the internal and external dimensions. For example, two major projects have emerged from this program: the Maker-Majlis which brings together a global council involving collaborators from across the globe to discuss creating a better world, innovation, and SDGs; and Design Post-COVID Humanity (DPCH), which is a six-month global program dense with activities, ideas, and training, and involves collaborators such as the UN, UNDP, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
What new areas of knowledge and challenges will be covered by Islamic studies in the future with this new normal?
We have introduced a number of new programs and activities in niche areas; for example, the first master’s degree in the world in applied Islamic ethics. It is extremely relevant in the current times we are living in with a full spectrum of ethical issues that contemporary societies are trying to navigate. We also have an Islamic art, architecture, and urbanism program that informs the built infrastructure of past and modern Muslim societies; and Islamic finance programs that delve into the concepts of financial solidarity and social economy to boost microprojects to alleviate poverty. We have also completely redesigned our master’s program in Islamic studies, which explores interesting aspects of society, law, media, and foundational studies.
How crucial will the digital world be for Islamic studies in the aftermath of COVID-19?
We have switched all our courses to online lessons. We viewed this crisis and its implications as both a challenge and an opportunity, such as how the digital world allows us to surpass geographical and spatial barriers. In terms of collaboration, we have invited prominent figures from leading universities to co-teach with us in courses virtually to avoid unnecessary travel while also enriching the student experience. We introduced modules within courses and switched total delivery to digital until it is safe to consider an on-site/online blended format. We have promoted more collaborative teaching and platforms with other prominent universities and redesigned our students’ learning outcomes for the digital world. As a modern educational institution, we plan to continue with a blended system even after the crisis.
Why are Islamic values and studies suitable for contemporary challenges?
Islamic studies can truly contribute positively to modern and contemporary crises. For example, when we investigate the core cause of the financial crisis in 2008, all the complex dynamics at play essentially boiled down to greed. This is where Islamic and ethical studies can play a role. We can help societies find a balance between self-interest, profit, and ethical and social values. A second element is the future digital and technological development, which are fraught with ethical issues. AI, for example, is an area that CIS has already initiated work in. Another example is genome testing, which can give us more in-depth information about our own DNA composition but engages highly controversial ethical debates. In the college, we do not look at these issues from a parochial point of view, as we are open to all faiths as well as interfaith inquiry. The combination of Islamic studies and modern challenges can have positive outcomes and build better clarity and direction for Muslim societies globally.
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