[Vol. I No. 14] 01 - 15 January 2007
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IOS Minaret Vol-1, No.1 (March 2007)
Bill Gate
Single Parent Family

 Minarets of Learning and Enlightenment    The Islamic Foundation, Leicester

There has been a long, and often rich, history of interaction between the Islamic World and Europe, and the Muslim presence in Spain has been recognised as a golden era which influenced the direction of culture and civilization in the whole of Europe and beyond. Despite important historical events and changing circumstances, the relationship between the Islamic world and Europe, with all its ebbs and flows, has continued. More recently, Muslims have settled in Europe, initially coming as migrant workers and now Western Europe is home to over 25 million Muslims. It is therefore appropriate to no longer talk of ‘Muslims and Europe’ but of ‘European Muslims’.

Amidst all the rhetoric of ‘clash of civilizations’, most can appreciate that we actually stand at the threshold of a genuinely plural, multi-religious and multi-cultural socity, which celebrates and welcomes diversity. This new era of mutual understanding and tolerance is a blessing for mankind, and striving towards such a society is a common calling. It is a multi-dimensional challenge. The Islamic Foundation represents, at the academic and educational levels, a pioneering effort of the Muslim community to play its part in helping to build a more diverse yet cohesive society in Europe.

The Islamic Foundation, established in 1973 in Leicester, is one of the leading Muslim research institutions in the West. Now located at a 9.3 acre site in the tranquil village of Markfield, it provides a peaceful environment for study and reflection, and it is open to all. It has been a priority of the Foundation to encourage dialogue with other cultures, ideologies and religions, recognising the need for Muslims and non-Muslims to live together and co-exist for a better tomorrow. The Islamic Foundation has published over three hundred books in English, a figure which is rapidly growing, as well as publishing its own specialized journals. It also organises regular educational courses, seminars and conferences on a wide variety of subjects.

The Islamic Foundation has been able to set up research units in different fields of study. It has established a specialised library used by researchers and academics from all over the world. In addition to its academic endeavours, the Foundation provides essential services and support to help the Muslim community in the UK. The site also functions as a conference centre which is available for hire.

The Islamic Foundation is primarily a centre for research, publications, 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 (acting as a bridge between East and West) and to contribute to a better future – not just for Muslims but for humanity at large.

Professor Khurshid Ahmad, founder and Chairman of the Foundation, has received a number of awards including the first Islamic Development Bank Prize in Islamic Economics in 1989, the prestigious King Faisal Award for Services to Islam in 1990 and an Honorary D.Litt. from Loughborough University in 2003.

Dr. Manazir Ahsan, Director General of the Foundation, was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2000 in recognition of his contribution to community relations and inter-faith dialogue.

Markfield Institute of Higher Education

The most ambitious project of the Foundation to date has been the establishment of the Markfield Institute of Higher Education (MIHE) in 2000. This Institute is an innovative centre of Islamic learning and research, with its degrees awarded by Loughborough University and the teaching facilities administered and run by dedicated and qualified professional staff. The MIHE is led by Muslim scholars with appropriate academic credentials and attracts students from many different countries and backgrounds.

The MIHE provides students with high standards of contemporary scholarship, in an environment in keeping with Islamic values and traditions. A feature of education at the MIHE is its effort to introduce students to the traditional educational philosophy of Islam, along with the rigour of the modern methodologies of social science and contemporary approaches to the study of religion. As an autonomous academic institution under the supervision of its Academic and International Advisory Boards, consisting of distinguished academics and public figures, the MIHE offers both home and overseas students the opportunity to pursue MA/MPhil and PhD degrees as well as postgraduate Diplomas and Certificates in many areas including Islamic Thought and Sources, Gender and Feminism, Islamic Management Economics and Banking, Islam and the West, Islam and Pluralism, Management of Islamic Centres and Chaplaincy Training.

During the first four years since its establishment, the MIHE has made steady progress in building its reputation both in the UK and abroad. The journey began in the year 2000 with 16 students and one MA programme in collaboration with Portsmouth University. At present there are 67 full-time and part-time students, engaged in three different MA programmes. The curriculum and assessment are supervised by an Advisory Board.

With the first four years, 267 students successfully received their MA degrees and five PhD students completed their dissertations at Portsmouth University. One of them, Ehsan Ehsanullah at the age of 86 received the distinction of being the first PhD graduate of the MIHE. Its students come from over a dozen countries around the world.

From 2004 the MIHE has introduced a video link teaching programme, supported by the Islamic Development Bank, Jeddah. This new hi-tech facility links the MIHE with the Islamic Development Bank’s Research and Training Institute (IRTI) as well as International Islamic University, Islamabad, State Bank of Pakistan and Imam Sadiq University of Tehran.

Islamic Economics

As an initiator and leader in the field, this department has an impressive history of research, publication and educational activities. It has produced more than twenty-five major works on the subject and many occasional papers, as well as the bi-annual Review of Islamic Economics. The department has the largest Islamic Economics library in Europe and in 1994 it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Loughborough, further to which, in 1995, the University introduced an MSc course in Islamic Economics, Banking and Finance. Teaching on this course was carried out by the Islamic Foundation sponsored research fellow (1995-2000). The department was also involved in teaching programmes on Islamic Economics at the European Universities Summer School, Barcelona (Autumn 1996) and National Open University, Madrid, Spain.

In collaboration with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Jeddah, the Department organizes an annual intensive orientation course on Islamic Economics, Banking and Finance. Additionally, in 1995 the department organised an International Conference on Islamic Banking and Finance in which the Governors of the Bank of England and the Bank Nagara Malaysia and several eminent persons from Abu Dhabi, Malaysia, Qatar and Egypt, took part. Representatives of the IMF and various British Universities presented papers. In 2000 the Fourth International Conference on Islamic Economics was organised by this department at Loughborough University in collaboration with the Islamic Development Bank, Jeddah, Loughborough University and the International Association of Islamic Economics.

Inter-Faith Relations

The Inter-Faith department focuses mostly on the interaction and relationship between Islam and Christianity as well as other faith communities. The department has produced authoritative situation reports about different countries and has been involved in establishing local, national and international inter-faith bodies and has been actively engaged in such forums. It publishes the bi-annual journal on inter-cultural perspectives, Encounters. The department is currently involved in the development and enhancement of models for a more pluralistic outlook among Muslims.

The department organises regular conferences and seminars in which such issues as ‘Christian-Muslim Co-Existence into the New Millennium’, ‘Islam and Religious Pluralism’, ‘The Rights and Obligations of Muslims Living as Minorities in the West’ are discussed. The seminars are generally attended by prominent members of the Muslim community and experts on inter-faith issues.

Islam in Europe

Established in 1992 this department has engaged in collecting, classifying and analysing materials on Muslims in Europe. To this end, the department has published a number of important occasional papers and also a newsletter called The European Muslim. The department is presently engaged in a number of research projects that focus on identity, integration, Isalmophobia and citizenship in Europe. Regular seminars and conferences are organised to discuss issues pertinent to Islam and Muslims in Europe, for example Cultural Pluralism and Religion in Europe: the Contribution of Islam and Christianity to the Future (1997), Islamic Movements in a Plural Society (1999) British Muslims: Loyalty and Belonging (2002) and Islam and Social Justice (2003).

New Muslim Project

The New Muslims Project focuses on the need of those who have embraced Islam in recent years. It is estimated that there are over fifteen thousand Muslims who have embraced Islam in the UK. Converts often require support – social, emotional and educational – to help make their lives as British Muslims stable and productive. They need appropriate training support as well as facilities to overcome language and cultural barriers. This Project provides new Muslims a place to interact with each other and interface with the wider Muslim community and conducts research into conversion and also provides educational and social programmes, local contacts, resource materials and telephone and online support and advice.

The Project organises several weekly and fortnightly residential Qur’anic Arabic and Islamic Studies courses for Muslims new to the faith. Around a hundred new Muslims participate in these programmes annually and improve their reading and comprehension of the Qur’an. The New Muslims Project also publishes a quarterly newsletter, Meeting Point, and has prepared appropriate and relevant reading materials for new Muslims, for example A Simple Guide to Prayer. The Project regularly organises ‘Umrah and Hajj trips for them.


The journals published by the Islamic Foundation manifest the Muslim contribution to on-going academic debates on Islam and Muslims in today’s pluralistic world.

The Muslim World Book Review published quarterly since 1980, critically analyses the latest publications mainly in English on Islam and the Muslim world. The Review serves as a very useful tool for researchers and lay people alike in keeping abreast of academic research on Islam today.

Encounters: Journal of Inter-Cultural Perspectives, a bi-annual refereed journal, published since 1995, serves as a forum for studying Islam in relation to other major world faiths, traditions and ideas. It takes on the challenges presented by modernity and presents Muslim responses.

The Review of Islamic Economics, another refereed bi-annual journal of the Islamic Foundation and the International Association of Islamic Economics, is devoted to the study of Islamic Economics as a distinct and independent discipline. This caters for the needs of an ever-growing number of researchers and scholars in this field. To make it accessible to non-English readers, abstracts of its articles in Arabic are also published.


The Foundation has published hundreds of titles, mostly in English and its publications are internationally acclaimed for their high academic standard, their relevance to modern times and their authenticity. The Qur’an and the sirah (the life of the Prophet Muhammad) are central to Islamic faith and some of the important publications in this field include the exegetical works by Mawlana Abu’l A’la Mawdudi, Sayyid Qutb and Abdul Majid Daryabadi, as well as books on sirah by Professor Zakaria Bashier and Adil Salahi.

The foundation has published several ground-breaking books in areas such as Islamic Economics, of which several have won international awards. There are also publications on the development of European and British Muslim identity, Islamic law and jurisprudence, gender roles and family life in Islam and Christian-Muslim relations.

Over fifty titles alone have been published for children and young people presenting the teachings of Islam, its morals and manners as well as its history. These books are designed to be visually appealing which captures children’s imagination and curiosity on the one hand and increases their knowledge on the other.

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