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Al-Rihla al-Ismailiyya: Reflections on Ismailis in Ismaili Studies

A lecture by Dr. Sumaiya Hamdani, Associate Professor, History and Art History Dept., George Mason University. Part of the conference "Reflections on Ismaili Studies: Standing on Poonawala's Shoulders."

The rihla or journey is a rite often attributed to scholars of distinction in Islam's past.  In the case of Dr. Ismaili Poonawala, and other Ismaili scholars of his generation, the rihla was a rite that not only involved geographic relocation but one that facilitated access to a rich and complex intellectual tradition in Islam for a larger audience. This paper will discuss how Dr. Poonawala's publication of the Biobliography of Ismaili Literature (1977), as well as his other publications, paved the way for scholarly consideration of Ismaili Shiism's role in and engagement with the intellectual debates and traditions of Islam in the classical period, and thereafter.

Dr. Sumaiya Hamdani received her B.A. from Georgetown University and M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University in the field of Islamic history. Dr. Hamdani's book, Between Revolution and State: the Construction of Fatimid Legitimacy (I.B. Tauris 2006) examines the development of legal and historical literature by the Ismaili Shi'i Fatimid state.  Her research has also included articles and reviews in the fields of Shi'i thought, Islamic thought in general, Islamic history and women in Islam.  Her teaching interests include Islamic, Middle East, Central Asian, and world history, as well as Muslim women's history.  Her current research examines the construction of identity in Muslim minority communities in South Asia during the colonial and post-colonial periods. She has served as book review editor for HAWWA: the Journal of Women in Middle East and Islamic Studies, and as board member of the American Institute of Yemeni Studies, as well as on committees for the Middle East Studies Association, and the Association of Muslim Social Scientists.  She founded and was director of the Islamic Studies program at George Mason from 2003-2008.

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