Michigan State University has received a $228,000 grant from the Templeton Religion Trust to fund a multi-year, multi-national, multi-faceted research project on “Science, Art and Faith: Architectural Heritage and Islam.”
Led by Martha Olcott, James Madison College Professor, and Mohammad H. Khalil, Director of the Muslim Studies Program and Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, with support from Salah Hassan, Director of Global Studies in Arts and Humanities in the College of Arts & Letters, the project will reflect on the interreligious dimensions of Islamic architecture by exploring multi-faith contexts.
Funds from Templeton Religion Trust will facilitate partnerships with international specialists to examine the material legacy of Islamic architecture through existing structures as well as archaeological and textual sources.
“The scientific innovations of Muslim thinkers, which find expression in Islamic architecture, are the product of dynamic historical intercultural and interreligious relations.”Mohammad Khalil, Director of the Muslim Studies Program
“The scientific innovations of Muslim thinkers, which find expression in Islamic architecture, are the product of dynamic historical intercultural and interreligious relations,” Khalil said. “Studying these relations properly will require an interdisciplinary approach and a diverse team of contributors.”
The research will focus on the architectural heritage spanning Islam’s history in Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Morocco, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. The project will encourage students and an informed public to explore their own religious history in new ways, as well as influence how the next generation of scholars are trained to incorporate these ideas in their future work. In addition, a special topics course (GSAH 391) based on research related to the project will be offered in fall 2022 by the Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities Program.
“Mohammad, Salah, and I are thrilled by the support from the Templeton Religion Trust,” Olcott said. “These funds allow us to work with a tremendous team of international scholars of architecture, art, religion, and philosophy.”
As part of the project, MSU will host world-renowned scholar Bernard O’Kane, Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at The American University in Cairo the week of April 18 for several events.
O’Kane will provide a lecture at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn on April 19, a public lecture titled “The Triumph of Color: Islamic Architecture in Iran” for the MSU Muslim Studies Program on April 20, and conclude his visit on April 21 with a public lecture on “The Mosques of Egypt” at the Islamic Center of East Lansing.
“Having MSU scholars collaborate with international partners devoted to unpacking Islamic theology and scientific innovations through architecture will provide greater perspective and appreciation for the culture communities of faith have offered historically and their influence on the art world today.”Cameron Thies, James Madison College Dean
“I am very much looking forward to the body of work that comes from this project,” said Cameron Thies, James Madison College Dean and MSU Foundation Professor. “Having MSU scholars collaborate with international partners devoted to unpacking Islamic theology and scientific innovations through architecture will provide greater perspective and appreciation for the culture communities of faith have offered historically and their influence on the art world today.”
“Science, Art and Faith: Architectural Heritage and Islam” will lead to an enhanced and open arena for multi-faith engagement through the appreciation of the multiple roles played by members of different faith communities in the creation and preservation of Islamic religious architecture.
“Our first international event will be in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in May, with planned travel to Egypt and Indonesia later this year and reciprocal visits by scholars from these countries to MSU,” Olcott said. “We also expect Javlon Vakhabov, Uzbekistan’s Ambassador to the U.S., to visit campus in September, timed to coincide with our hosting of Uzbek scholars.”