Islamic Studies

Student Profiles


Mahmoud Afify: (MA in progress)

I have been passionate about pursuing Islamic studies and this has constituted one of my primary missions and goals in life. I joined Al-Azhar University where I received my undergraduate degree in English Language. After graduation, I started a successful career in English teaching, translation, and religious English media programming. My career increased my exposure to different disciplines of knowledge and brought to my attention the importance of studying Islam from an interdisciplinary perspective. As an Azhar student, I gained a strong background in the field of Islamic studies and received good training in classical Arabic and scholarly tradition.

My experience in Al-Azhar University gave me the opportunity to study various disciplines of Islam from a traditional perspective. Now, I seek to gain deeper insights by studying broader disciplines of knowledge in an academic setting and becoming familiar with research methodologies in the study of religion. I believe that CGU is the right place to achieve my aims. The Islamic Studies program will provide me with an excellent foundation in religious studies besides other related disciplines of knowledge. I intend to research on women and the family from an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing on fields such as religion, law, history, gender, theology and sociology.

Before coming to CGU, I was skeptical about the nature of Islamic studies in the West given the lackluster record of Oriental scholarship in the field. However, after I attended classes with Dr. Mavani, I realized that the academic space provides an open environment to engage in rigorous academic scholarship and, as a result, have developed a great sense of religious moderation.

It is my earnest hope that my training and expertise in the traditional and academic settings will enable me to bridge the gap of understanding between nations and people.

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Tahara Akmal-Kariem: (MA from Claremont School of Theology, May 2009)
Thesis title: "Islamic Legal Theory: Organ Donation and Transplantation"

Tahara will be entering a Chaplain Residency program at UCLA Medical Center beginning in September 2009.

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Bridget Blomfield: (PhD in WSR in May 2007)
Dissertation title: "An Ethnographic Study of Ashura Rituals performed by Pakistani, Iranian, and Iraqi Ithna Ashari Women in Los Angeles County, California"

Now Assistant Professor at University of Nebraska in Omaha.

Bridget Blomfield

Asim Buyuksoy: (MA in progress)

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Tracy Hawkins:

While I was a student at Claremont School of Theology, I had the opportunity to take several classes with Dr. Mavani and became very interested in Islamic Studies. When I entered CGU as a Phd student in Women's Studies in Religion, I knew that I wanted to continue to have Islamic studies as an important part of my degree. The program here is perfect for combining interests, and I have had a great experience taking courses that address topics relevant both to Women's Studies and to Islamic Studies.

Tracy Hawkins

Eihsan Khalife: (PhD candidate in interfield PhD study with Comparative Politics and Islamic Studies)

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Neelam Khoja: (MA in May 2007)
Thesis title: "Early Fatimid Rituals: Expressions and Interpretations"

After working in the insurance world for three years, I decided to pursue my passion of studying Islam instead of working up the corporate ladder. I chose Claremont because it offers a learning environment that enables intellectual development as well as personal growth. As CGU is renowned for its program in Religion, I trusted that it would develop a well rounded and strong program in Islamic Studies. My experience here at CGU exceeded my expectations in many ways. Along with engaging classroom time with the faculty and students, CGU also offers fertile ground to cultivate and implement new ideas and theories. I am very happy to be a part of this wonderful endeavor and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a wonderful educational experience.

Neelam is now at Harvard Divinity School working under the supervision of the eminent professor William Graham.

Neelam Khoja

Chase Laurelle Knowles: (PhD in progress)

I was fortunate enough to graduate summa cum laude from UCLA in 2008 with a BA in Film, Television and Digital Media, and a triple minor in Political Science, Middle Eastern and North African Studies, and Public Affairs. My years at UCLA left me with a deep and abiding research interest in the complex inter-relationship between cultural politics, social psychology, media narratives, and religious traditions – particularly Islam. Through the Claremont National Scholars program, CGU has provided me with an incredible level of support, and the extraordinary opportunity, to continue this transdisciplinary research. I have found the professors at CGU to be of unparalleled quality. They require students to master the traditional canon of theoretical disciplinary knowledge, while simultaneously challenging us to pioneer non-orthodox research methodologies where necessary, and translate our academic knowledge into practical applications where needed. As such, I am confident my doctoral program in CGU – which allows me to complete a dual focus in Theology, Ethics, and Culture, and Islamic Studies – is providing me excellent preparation for my desired career as a research academic, and political and media consultant.

Chase Knowles

Sofia Mazgarova: (MA in 2010)
Thesis title: "Islamic Reformism on the Periphery of the Muslim World: Rezaeddin Fakhreddin (1895-1936)"

Being a religious minority for me is not something that I acquired later in life. It is part of my identity, that I was born with. My native city Kazan is a home to Russian Christians, Jews, and the largest ethnic Muslim minority in Russia — the Tatars. Personally, for me Islam was my culture, my name, and most importantly manifestation of my spirituality. The School of the Religion at Claremont Graduate University gives me every opportunity and resource to integrate my life experiences with the academic frame in order to develop skills of producing meaningful intellectual work later in life.

Sofia Mazgarova

Areej Noor: (MA in December 2008)
Thesis title: "The Rise of Islamism in Somalia"

Areej is now working at the Brookings Institute.

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Syed Rizwan: (MA in progress)

After receiving my undergraduate degree in Economics, I began a successful career in the financial services industry with a Fortune 200 company. During my eight year tenure in corporate America, I always had the desire to study Islam in an academic environment. I began researching Islamic Studies programs and came across the one offered by Claremont Graduate University. Shortly after, I made an appointment with Dr. Mavani to discuss the program and my potential matriculation. Through our conversation I was convinced that CGU's Islamic Studies program was the right fit for me and I was excited to study under Dr. Mavani. Matriculating in CGU's Islamic Studies program has been one of the best choices I have made. The classroom instruction and discussions provide space to not only study and reflect on the development of Islamic tradition but contemplate new theories as well. I strongly recommend this program for anyone who is looking to get detailed and nuanced perspectives on Islam. I am confident that CGU’s Islamic Studies program provides me with a strong foundation upon which to build my academic and professional goals.

Syed Rizwan

Mustafa Ruzgar: (PhD in PRT, December 2007)
Dissertation title: "Islamic Religious Pluralism from a Process Perspective"

Assistant Professor at California State University Northridge..

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Abood Shebib: (MA thesis in progress)

It was through word of mouth that I first learned of the Islamic Studies program at Claremont Graduate University.  With more research, I discovered the School of Religion was seriously committed to the development of a rigorous program engaged in the academic study of Islam that at the same time sought to understand the religion within its own integrity. This, along with Claremont's established reputation as an excellent place for Religious Studies in general, drew me to study at CGU.  Here, I found a faculty that maintains open door policies, fostering a supportive environment of mentorship and collaboration.  This ideal learning environment in which to plumb the depths of my field, combined with the resources of the Claremont Colleges and their top notch faculty further reinforced my decision to study at the School of Religion.  Upon completion of my Masters degree, I know that I will have a solid foundation to continue onto a Ph.D. at the best institutions in Islamic Studies or Religious Studies.  Whatever I choose, I will be well prepared and capable of excelling at the next step of my academic path.

Abood Shebib

Soha Yassine: (MA, May 2011)

Thesis: "Between Accommodation and Tradition: Religious Minorities in Iran"

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