George Mason University announced a $3 million gift to its Center for Global Islamic Studies, which will be renamed the AbuSulayman Center for Global Islamic Studies in recognition of the donation.
The commitment was made by the Mirza Family Foundation, headed by Yaqub Mirza, a current member of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) Dean’s Advisory Board and a former George Mason University Foundation trustee. The AbuSulayman Center for Global Islamic Studies is housed within CHSS.
“This gift helps solidify the center’s position as a global resource for the study of Islam. This will advance scholarship and the public’s understanding of this global religion that touches so many,” said Mason President Gregory Washington at the September 29 event announcing the gift. “The center and its relationship with the Mirza Foundation is a testament to Mason’s commitment to diversity of thought and its growing reputation in Islamic Studies globally.”
Abdul Hamid AbuSulayman, who passed away in August 2021, was an early advocate for the study of Islam from a global perspective. Called “a giant among giants” by Mirza at the celebration, AbuSulayman’s doctoral thesis, Towards an Islamic Theory of International Relations, published in 1993, was revolutionary in its counter to a traditional, Eurocentric view of the field, which had often overlooked the impact of Muslim countries and cultures.
AbuSulayman was chairman of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) in Herndon, Virginia. The organization is a hub for scholarship and research that advances education in Muslim societies.
The gift will create new community resources, produce research and support undergraduate and graduate students in Islamic studies. Mirza said that he expects the center will become a “hub of exchange for Islamic students across the globe.”
“This partnership with the Mirza and AbuSulayman families will propel and expand the impact of the center’s work, and we are immensely grateful for this new philanthropic collaboration,” said CHSS Dean Ann Ardis. “The collaboration underscores what is at the heart of the center—faculty from many different disciplines focusing on Muslim communities are their connection to each other around the world.”
The center is already exploring connections with centers in Malaysia, Indonesia, Bosnia, and South Africa.
“We want to begin trying to reflect this global Islamic studies paradigm in new international, institutional partnerships, where we begin connecting ourselves with similar centers that do Islamic studies research with a common approach in other countries around the world, including Muslim-majority ones,” said Peter Mandaville, the center’s outgoing director and Mason professor of international affairs. “These new international partnerships will enable things like exchanging faculty, students and researchers.”
Mandaville, who is currently on a leave of absence from Mason, recently accepted a two-year appointment at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He will return as the center’s director at his appointment’s conclusion.
“We are going to be able to build on the center’s success and address global issues facing Islamic communities,” said Maria Dakake, associate professor of religious studies and the center’s interim director. “We are excited about [forming new partnerships] and the opportunities they will bring, not just for our faculty and students but for the advancement of Islamic studies as a discipline that studies Islam from a global perspective.”
The AbuSulayman family has close connections to Mason. Several other AbuSulayman family members are studying at or have graduated from Mason. Abdul Hamid AbuSulayman’s daughter, Muna AbuSulayman, BA English ’96, MA English ’96, was honored as one of 50 high-achieving alumni at the Alumni Association’s 50th anniversary celebration.
Learn more about the life and work of Abdul Hamid AbuSulayman at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences webpage.
This article first appeared in GMU News on November 9, 2022: https://www.gmu.edu/news/2022-11/gift-rename-center-global-islamic-studies-honors-abusulaymans-advocacy