Thursday, May 9, 2013

URSP Student Saima Ahmad Researches Methodologies and Challenges Among Muslim Academia

The idealistic side of humanity has always appealed to me, and as such religions have been a source of complete fascination to me: the universality of its goals in perfecting the self and its attempt to create and to develop a profound awareness of the ethereal. However, in the past year, my fascination with the metaphysical and philosophical began to weigh heavy upon me, as I realized that theorizing is rather useless without praxis.                                                                       

I went to Dr. Maria Dakake asking for an opportunity to assist her in her personal research and she suggested I study how Islamic institutes of higher learning apply their religious worldview in their attempt to study other religions. This project has been an opportune way to investigate my interest for the relationship between theory and praxis, which complements my intrigue in religions and higher education. It has been a crucial stepping stone in my goal to develop a scholarly career in the field of Islamic studies, as I've always been interested in reforming the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated in Muslim countries.

Each week I am in constant contact with international institutes, obtaining information and materials from them on their comparative religions courses and asking them investigative questions from my examinations. In the latest weeks, I have been analyzing my findings in light of relevant scholarly works, in order to contextualize my data and understand it within a larger framework. I meet with Dr. Dakake on a regular basis, which allows me to ask questions about my findings and hold informative and beneficial discussions with her.

While I am continuously learning throughout my research, I’ve learned significant things this week which have required me to evaluate my own personal presumptions. I’ve realized how ingrained Western assumptions are in my perspective, regardless of how I thought I was aware of this bias. Such learning is welcomed though, for that which is challenging is highly rewarding.