Dr. Mohammad Ali Shomali of Qom, Iran to deliver lecture titled, “Characteristics of Shi’a Islam”
Dr. Mohammad Ali Shomali, Founding Director of the International Institute for Islamic Studies (IIIS) in Qom, Iran, will give a lecture titled, “Characteristics of Shi’a Islam: An Overview,” at 7:00 PM on Friday, March 13 in the Laudamus Auditorium (500 Shaftesbury Blvd.).
“It is exciting to have Dr. Shomali at CMU for the fourth time in as many years,” says Dr. Harry Huebner, Director of International and Inter-Faith Theological Initiatives at CMU. “He is a man of deep faith, an effective teacher, and an engaging storyteller. It is especially important in today’s climate to hear Islam explained by a scholar from within the faith.”
Shomali is a graduate of the Islamic Seminaries of Qom, and also holds Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in Western Philosophy from the University of Tehran. He earned his PhD from the University of Manchester and wrote his doctoral thesis on ethical relativism.
In addition to his work with the IIIS, Shomali is the Director of London’s Islamic Centre of England.
CMU is hosting Shomali as well as seven of his graduate students from Qom from Sunday, March 8 until Wednesday, March 18. During this time, CMU faculty will teach the students an intensive course in Christian Systematic Theology.
It will be the third time since 2011 that CMU has hosted Muslim students from Iran.
“Dr. Shomali believes it is important for his students to be trained in, and understand, other monotheistic faiths,” Huebner says. “He also believes it’s important for his students to be exposed to Western culture and Western societal dynamics.”
The visit stems from a series of dialogues that began in 2002 that bring together Shi’a Muslim scholars from Iran and Mennonite scholars from Canada and the U.S. The goal of these dialogues is to improve understanding between Muslims and Christians.
Last May, four professors and six students from CMU travelled to Qom for the sixth dialogue. Afterward, the students spent 14 days in the cities of Isfahan, Shiraz, and Tehran. They travelled to significant sites to learn more about Iran’s history, people, beliefs, and culture.
The trip, as well as the Muslim students’ upcoming visit, was made possible in part by a grant Huebner received from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
Huebner says he is looking forward to hosting Shomali and the students.
“These are students that will be the future clerics, professors, and Shi’a Islam leaders in Iran,” Huebner says. “For us to be in dialogue with them, and learn to relate to them as friends, is extremely significant for the future.”
Huebner adds that Iranian society is driven by intellectual pursuit and thus places a high value on academics, which makes possible a special relationship between universities.
He is excited to see what members of the CMU community can learn from these visitors.
“We need to remember that there is another world of scholarship out there,” Huebner says. “Our awareness and openness to that is important.”
He adds that Islam is often misunderstood in the mainstream media, and Muslim-Christian dialogues and exchanges like this help create better relationships.
“The news doesn’t give us a good understanding of what Islam is,” Huebner says. “Getting to know people from Iran is one way of cutting across that.”
A Christian university in the Anabaptist tradition, CMU’s Shaftesbury campus offers undergraduate degrees in arts, business, humanities, music, sciences and social sciences, and graduate degrees in Theology and Ministry. CMU has over 1,600 students, including those enrolled in degree programs at the Shaftesbury campus and in its Menno Simons College and Outtatown programs.
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