Professor Launches Project to Advance Scientific and Theological Literacy Among Madrasa Graduates in India

Author: Joan Fallon

With a $1.2 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation, Ebrahim Moosa, professor of Islamic studies at the University of Notre Dame, has launched a three-year project to enrich scientific and theological literacy among recent graduates of Islamic seminaries in India.

Working with scholars and teachers at Notre Dame and in India, Moosa will develop a curriculum and online learning program that integrates modern and classical knowledge traditions for young orthodox seminarians in India.

The teaching team will recruit and train 100 recent madrasa graduates who are eager to acquire scientific knowledge that is indigenous to the Muslim tradition and interested in exposure to comparative theologies and modern humanities and social sciences.

“Equipped with these knowledge resources,” Moosa said, “madrasa graduates can discover new ways to transform their lives and advance human dignity and the public good.”

The project is expected to have a multiplier effect throughout the subcontinent of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. “Graduates of madrasas are very influential in shaping the religious thinking, values and practice of mainstream Muslims,” Moosa said. “They are well-placed to play a transformative role as disseminators of ideas and agents of change.”

Moosa joined the Notre Dame faculty in fall 2014 after spending 13 years at Duke University. He holds appointments in the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and the Department of History in the College of Arts and Letters.

He is co-director of Contending Modernities, a global research project focused on Catholic, Muslim and secular forces in the modern world. His 2015 book, What Is a Madrasa? draws on his extensive scholarship on Islamic seminaries in South Asia as well as his own years as a madrasa student in India.

“Professor Moosa’s vision recognizes that reform in the Muslim world — as within many religious communities — begins with the education and formation of local religious leaders,” said Scott Appleby, dean of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs. “This innovative project holds tremendous promise as a model for how local and global religious thinkers and scholars can work together as agents of change.”

The John Templeton Foundation serves as a philanthropic catalyst for “discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality.”

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