Visiting Professor Ahmed Toufiq presented the lecture "The Friday Sermon: Searching for a Modern Speech in Orthodox Islam" on Tuesday, March 13, in the Sperry Room of Andover Hall. His lecture was the first public event in the expanding program in Islamic religious studies at Harvard Divinity School.
Toufiq, who is spending this semester as a Visiting Professor of Islamic Studies at HDS and its Center for the Study of World Religions, is a professor of history at the University of Mohammed V, Rabat, Morocco, and director of the National Library of Morocco. He also is a novelist and his novels, including Jarat Abu Musa and Al Sayl, are well known in the Islamic world.
His current research focuses on the process of Islamization in Morocco before the centralizing Almoravide State. The courses he is teaching at HDS this semester are "The Beginnings of Islam in North Africa" and "Sufism, From Its Origin to the Present."
Toufiq's appointment was made possible by a generous gift from a local Muslim couple to the CSWR, to broaden the understanding of Islam and strengthen the teaching of Islamic religious studies. The Divinity School supplemented the gift and proposed that a visiting professor be appointed in Islamic religious studies. This step preceded the establishment of the Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan Professorship in Islamic Religious Studies. That endowed chair was announced in fall 2000, and the active search for an appointee will get under way next fall.
Among the attendees of the Toufiq lecture was His Excellency Alafri Al Dhahri, Ambassador to the United States from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), whose country's leader was instrumental in endowing the new Islamic studies professorship at HDS. His Highness Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, supported the professorship "in recognition of the desire by the United Arab Emirates to promote a better understanding of Islam among the non-Muslim peoples of the world and to foster dialogue among the world's great religions."
Of the growing programs in Islamic studies, J. Bryan Hehir, head of HDS, has said: "The Divinity School has a long and vital tradition of promoting scholarship and teaching of the major religious traditions of the world. Contemporary developments in politics, economics, science and culture highlight the need for in-depth scholarship in the rich traditions of the Islamic world."