The Alridha Foundation Research Arm was established in July 2007 to bring the Shi’a Hawza tradition and the Western academic tradition closer to each other as well as to foster greater understanding of Islam. It aims to produce research on traditional and contemporary issues specifically from Shi’a perspective and promote a better understanding of the Shi’a faith, its people and heritage in academia and society.
By contextualising the Shi’a tradition and valuing both seminary and wider academic thinking, our Research Arm endeavours to offer original analysis on a wide range of fields from religious heritage and philosophy to politics and bioethics.
Each year, our Research Arm holds an Advisory Board meeting. The meetings bring up discussions on the objectives, structure and activities of the Research Arm with particular emphasis on the scope of Shi’a studies within Western academia and universities.
Other issues that are discussed are ways to bridge the gap between Shi’a seminaries and Western universities, increasing the recognition and richness of Shi’a studies, mutual projects between the Research Arm and universities as well as the need for contemporary challenges to be tackled from the Shi’a perspective.
The Alridha Foundation Research Arm’s first international conference titled “The Shi’a of Samarra” that took place in February 2009 was eventually published into a book by international publisher I.B. Tauris in February 2012. The book which is titled “The Shi’a of Samarra: The Heritage and Politics of a Community in Iraq” explores and analyses the cultural, architectural and political heritage of the Shi’a in both Samarra and the Middle East, thus highlighting how this city functions as a microcosm for the contentious issues and debates which remain at the forefront of efforts to rebuild the modern Iraqi state. Its examination of the socio-political context of the Shi’a/Sunni divide provides important insights for students and researchers working on the history and politics of Iraq and the Middle East, as well as those interested in the art and architecture of the Islamic world.
“Islamic Metaphysics in Bioethics: Animal-Human Experimentations” (May 2010) by Sibtain Panjwani and Imranali Panjwani is another publication of the Alridha Foundation Research Arm. The book focuses on Bioethics from a Shi’a Muslim perspective and discusses Interspecies embryos as well as Metaphysical approaches in Medical and Bioethical Decision making.
Classical Texts Translation Project
In the future, we aim to publish academic works. This is vital work for bringing the Hawza and academia closer together through clearly translating the important books that are studies and read in the classical seminary. The texts that are currently being translated are: Kitab Sulaym ibn Qays al-Hilali, Rijal ibn al-Ghadhairi, al-Naafi’ Yowm al-Hashr fi Sharh Baab al-Hadi Ashar, al-Imama wa al-Tabsira Min al-Hira and Kitab al-Madrassah al-Tafkikiyyah.
Established in 2007, the Alridha Foundation Research Arm library now consists of more than 3000 books in English, Arabic and Farsi languages as well as several educational DVD’s. Many are primary works and textbooks which are an essential reading list for Islamic Studies. Some of the categories included in the Islamic library are principles of Islam, Shi’a faith, history, sciences, politics, arts and architecture.
Samarra: Heritage and Culture (February 2009)
The first conference of the Alridha Foundation Research Arm was held in the Brunei Gallery at SOAS, University of London. This was to encourage awareness of the historic city of Samarra, its heritage and culture since the Abbasid dynasty in the mid-ninth century and up to the modern era.
The conference hosted many academics and speakers: Peter Sluglett, Professor of Middle Eastern History and the University of Utah, Professor Alistair Northedge of the University of Paris Sorbonne who is the world expert on Samarra and Dr. Usam Ghaidan, the UNESCO chief architect and site manager in Samarra. The conference hosted guests from several key organisations such as the British Museum, AMAR Foundation, Next Century Foundation, various Arab Embassies and Scotland Yard.
Minority Reports in Pakistan (March 2014)
Held in Khalili Lecture Theatre of SOAS, University of London this event revolved around the persecution of Minorities in Pakistan, with a focus on Shi’a persecution. Speakers included Sayyid Zafar Abbas, Rubab Mehdi Rizvi, Ale Natiq, Zain Haider Awan and Khalil Yousif.