The Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati is donating $1 million to create The Inayat and Ishrat Malik Professorship in Islamic Studies within the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Cincinnati (UC). Funding for this gift came directly from Inayat and Ishrat Malik. Dr. Inayat Malik is a urologist with The Urology Group and a pioneer in the local Muslim and interfaith community.
The Malik Professorship marks a new era for UC by rounding out its complement of expertise in Abrahamic religions; Judaic and Catholic studies chairs already exist. The new position will allow the university to boost classes and research related to Islamic studies that already include a strong focus on the Middle East and Arabic language and culture.
"I am impressed by the Maliks' desire to lift up UC and the entire community," said UC President Neville G. Pinto. "This professorship will strengthen our relationships in the Muslim community, similar to how our Judaic and Catholic chairs are linked to their respective communities. It also will deepen our academic expertise in related fields including history, philosophy and international relations."
The Maliks, the Islamic Center and UC have a long history together. Dr. Malik came to Cincinnati in 1967 to specialize in urology at the UC Medical Center and subsequently became a leader in the Muslim community. He was on the clinical faculty of the UC College of Medicine for more than 20 years and in private practice for most of his career.
The Islamic Center has its roots in Clifton, dating back more than 50 years. Growth in the local Muslim community resulted in the creation of the present-day Islamic Center. Today, it
sits on an 18-acre campus in West Chester, and is celebrated for its strong interfaith relationships, cross-cultural understanding and community service. Dr. Malik was instrumental in its creation, serving as the first board chair for 18 years.
"We have a significant Muslim population in the area now, many of them affiliated with UC Medical Center," Dr. Malik said. "Ishrat and I felt that we needed to make this resource available to UC, not just for the sake of the Muslim community but for the larger community so they have an understanding of the history of Muslim civilizations and contributions."
As a modern institution, UC has many partnerships in the community; collaboration with institutions like the Islamic Center enhance the quality of education for students and faculty. Shakila Ahmad, a 1982 graduate of UC, is the Islamic Center's board president. She is also a trustee of the University of Cincinnati Foundation.
"When we realized the need that existed at the university, we felt the Islamic Center had a responsibility to fill the education gaps in regard to Islam and understanding the Muslim-American community," Ahmad said. "The Muslim community has a strong link and commitment to the university and relies on it as an institution with a wealth of knowledge."
"We are very grateful to the Maliks and the Islamic Center for this tremendous gift," said College of Arts & Sciences Dean Ken Petren. "This professorship will expand and deepen teaching and research around Islamic history and culture. Our college already covers a diverse number of related topics, and this will help grow our expertise and add breadth to existing work in world religious traditions."
Dr. Malik is not the only family member with ties to UC. Four out of five of the Malik's five daughters are UC alumnae.
Having lived more than 50 years in Cincinnati also influenced the Maliks to give this gift to the Islamic Center and, ultimately, UC.
"I've spent most of my adult life and all of my professional life here, we've raised our children here, we love the city," Dr. Malik said. "And the faith community has been very open to Muslims and very responsive to our outreach – whether it be the Catholic, Protestant or Jewish communities."
The Maliks see their support of UC, the Islamic Center and other civic work as part of their faith, which teaches that whatever gift you've been given, you share with others.
Ahmad said she has directly benefited from their example.
"One of the principles that I have learned is that we have a responsibility to Islam and a responsibility as Americans," she said. "Inayat and Ishrat have lived out that faith and that practice for so many of us to follow. This gift to the university is a perfect example."
Dr. Malik's involvement in the local interfaith community includes cofounding the Bridges of Faith Trialogue, an on-going conversation among Cincinnati civic leaders of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths. He serves on several local and national boards and lauded for his work in diversity and inclusion.