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Islamic Foundation

By:
Jørgen S. Nielsen, Dilwar Hussain
Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Islamic Foundation

Established in 1973, the Islamic Foundation describes itself as “a centre for research, publication, education and training, as well as inter-cultural and inter-faith dialogue.” It aims to “promote a better understanding of Islam, to foster stronger relations between Muslims and others … and to contribute to a better future—not just for Muslims but for humanity at large.”

The foundation came into being primarily at the initiative of a Pakistani Muslim economist, Professor Khurshid Ahmad, who was a leading figure in the Jamāʿat-i Islāmī of Pakistan. Ahmad was the foundation's first director, serving until he returned to Pakistan to become minister of planning soon after President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq came to power; he later became a senator. He was succeeded by Khuram Murad, who was director during the 1980s and passed away in 1996. The current director is Dr. Manazir Aḥsan, who is not a member of the Jamāʿat. The foundation is registered as an educational institution under the British law governing organizations with charitable purposes.

Initially housed in a small office in Leicester in the United Kingdom, the foundation moved into an eighteenth-century mansion that was donated to it in 1976. At the end of the 1980s it bought a small conference center from the regional health service, some ten miles northwest of Leicester. This Markfield Conference Centre now houses the foundation, its publications wing, and a higher-education facility; it also hosts courses and conferences.

The foundation traditionally has relied for its funding on gifts from wealthy individuals and charities around the Muslim world, with some donations coming from institutions such as the Islamic Development Bank in Jiddah; such donations, as well as loans, allowed it to establish the Markfield Centre. More recently, the flow of such donations has abated, and the foundation has sought to raise more of its funds from within Britain.

The foundation was one of the first Muslim organizations in Britain to establish cooperative relations with higher-education institutions, working with the then Leicester Polytechnic on multicultural education and with the University of Leicester on Islamic economics. Ahmad played a leading role in the establishment of the Centre for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at Selly Oak Colleges, Birmingham. The foundation later established a teaching program with the University of Loughborough. This experience allowed it to establish the Markfield Institute of Higher Education in 2000, which runs postgraduate degrees in Islamic studies that are validated by a British university. The institute received the Prince of Wales in 2003 at the formal launch of its teaching center. Courses on training Muslim chaplains and mosque management have also been established with the cooperation of local Anglican clergy.

The foundation's research priorities have evolved over the years, though a major investment has always been maintained in economics and interfaith matters. It remains engaged in numerous interfaith projects from the local to the international level and was involved in the establishment of the national Christian-Muslim Forum of the United Kingdom. Through the 1990s the foundation developed a focus on Islam in Europe, and in 2008 it launched the Policy Research Centre, aimed at engaging with policy makers and think tanks on issues of domestic social policy, including identity, integration, and preventing extremism.

During the 1980s the foundation increasingly concentrated its efforts on publishing; by the late 2000s it has over four hundred titles to its name. Regular bulletins on Muslim Central Asia and on Christian-Muslim relations have been published, and a series of books for Muslim children continues to appear. A number of journals have also been produced over the years. These include the Muslim World Book Review (1980–), the Review of Islamic Economics (1992–), and Encounters: Journal of Inter-Cultural Perspectives (1995–). The foundation has published on a wide variety of Islamic subjects, including theoretical works and those relating to various particular regional situations. Islamic economics has been a particular area of concentration, and a multivolume English translation of Abū al-Aʿlā Mawdūdī's large Qurʿānic commentary is being published (1990–). More recently the foundation has also focused on topics related to Muslim minority life, publishing some of ṭāriq Ramadān's works and other writings on evolving British Muslim identities.

The foundation has, in the past, supported Muslim youth organizations, and it had a close relationship with the National Association of Muslim Youth. More recently it established a Muslim women's network for interfaith dialogue and also supported the formation of a network of Muslim chaplains. All these organizations were established as independent entities. Initially, the wider Muslim community perceived the foundation as being an expression of the Jamāʿat-i Islāmī, although the links to the Pakistani movement were personal rather than organic. More recently this image has begun to change, especially with the increased interaction with the Muslim community created by the foundation's teaching programs, particularly the chaplaincy course for imams and religious leaders, which includes many women. Outside the community the foundation has established itself as a major constituency of Islamic interests and expression, especially in educational, interfaith, and policy circles. Dr. Ataullah Siddiqui, director of the Markfield Institute, was asked by the Minister of State for Higher Education to produce a major report on Islam in higher education in the United Kingdom. Other staff members have participated in the Preventing Extremism taskforce established by the United Kingdom's Home Office and have also conducted research and training programs for government departments.

See also EUROPE, MUSLIMS IN; GREAT BRITAIN; JAMāʿAT-I ISLāMī; and MUSLIM-CHRISTIAN DIALOGUE.

Bibliography

  • Islamic Foundation. Contributing to a Better Tomorrow. Markfield, U.K., n.d.
  • Nielsen, Jørgen S.Muslims in Western Europe. Edinburgh, 1992. See pages 43–51, 134–136.
  • Ramadān, ṭāriq. To Be a European Muslim: A Study of Islamic Sources in the European Context. Leicester, U.K., 1999.
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