IIS Director Bids Farewell
In the autumn of 1998, Professor Nanji became the Director of the IIS. After leading the Institute for ten years, he is now leaving to join the Abbasi Programme in Islamic Studies at Stanford University as a Senior Associate Director. Under his leadership, the IIS expanded its programmes and activities and has emerged as an institution known for its high quality research and publications in areas related to Muslim cultures, particularly in the fields of Ismaili and Shi‘i Studies.
Perhaps the most enduring achievement of his period at the Institute is the creation of a community of scholars resulting in a large number of publications from some of the best names in Shi‘i and Islamic Studies. The Institute’s fellowship programme ensured that many young and upcoming scholars would work with well-established names in the field. During Professor Nanji’s tenure, the Institute also hosted many innovative conferences and seminars, such as Word of God, Art of Man: The Qur’an and its Creative Expressions; Muslim Pluralism; Civil Society in the Muslim World; Nasir Khusraw: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, and Contemporary Islam(s) and Muslims. The Department of Community Relations, the Quranic Studies Unit and the Central Asian Studies Unit were established under his leadership while the Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities grew from strength to strength and the new Secondary Teacher Education Programme was launched.
Professor Nanji was also pivotal in furthering the Institute’s intellectual support to the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and the Ismaili community world over. The secondary curriculum materials are now in advanced stage of publication; a series of training programmes are well established and the IIS supports various AKDN activities on a regular basis. Initiating closer co-operation between the Institute and various organisations in Europe engaged with the educational activities of Muslims was yet another feature of his period.
He leaves his imprints not only through programmes but also through his personal style of leadership that valued empowerment, decentralisation and responsibility. It was during his tenure that the Institute celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. Asked about his experience of working with the Institute, Professor Nanji said: “An opportunity to lead and build further an institution like the IIS is a rare privilege. In this case also, there was a happy coming together of a moment in history, committed colleagues, as well as Imamat and Jamati support. My stay here will remain for my wife Razia and myself, a period full of fond memories and lasting friendships.”
It is poetically apt that Professor Nanji joined this institution and the next one in the season of Fall. For it is said that “Autumn is indeed the crowning glory of the year, bringing us the fruition of months of thought and care and toil”. Professor Nanji’s stay at the IIS did indeed bring to fruition not months but rather years of thought and care. Following his departure, the Associate Director, Dr. Farhad Daftary has been appointed as the Acting Director.