Islam in Africa, Islam in Globalization

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Jay Willoughby



On October 15, 2105, the International Institute of Islamic Thought commemorated
Ali Mazrui’s (1933- 2014) first death anniversary by convening a seminar
to honor their mutual close and lasting relationship. Mazrui served as the
editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences (2009-14),
participated in many of the institute’s events, and was awarded the IIIT Distinguished
Scholar Award in 2011. In addition, he bequeathed his collection
of papers and publications to IIIT.
His widow Pauline Utimazrui opened the seminar by recalling how her
late husband always spoke the truth regardless of the consequences, how he
decided to attend Columbia University because so many African students were
going there, and how he sought to bring up controversial issues to force people
to think outside the box. She said that he was a very happy and grateful man
who appreciated others, liked to live a simple life and be in the moment, and
did not believe in accumulating wealth.
Keynote speaker Ebrahim Rasool, former ambassador of South Africa to
the United States and a long-time activist who was jailed for his anti-apartheid
activities, spoke on “Ali Mazrui: Beacon at the Intersection of Islam and
Africa.” He described Mazrui as follows:
Standing for justice is the point of the triangle which is least populated, or
if it is populated it may well be populated in the absence of understanding
the implications of belief in the unity of God or the understanding of the dynamism
of knowledge. Professor Ali Mazrui will be remembered for epitomizing
the completeness and perfection of this golden triangle [of belief,
knowledge and justice], for indeed his knowledge was founded in his unflinching
commitment to Tauhid or unity and this, in turn, impelled him towards
utilizing his intellect both towards identifying the sources of injustice
in the world and positing theoretical and practical solutions towards justice.
He reminded his audience how Mazrui never shied away from controversy,
as can be seen in his battle with National Public Radio (NPR) in terms
of his production and defense of “The Africans: The Triple Heritage,” disagreements
with much of post-colonial Africa’s ideological or philosophical
thinking, and assertion of a distinction between theological Islam and historical
Islam. On a more personal level, in 1969 he rejected an invitation extended ...

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