William Graham advocates for Islamic studies across faculties

Area studies to Islamic studies 1973

William Graham Advocates for Islamic Studies across Faculties

After receiving his B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Ph.D. from Harvard, Professor Graham joined the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard in 1973 and later also the Faculty of Divinity in 2002. His scholarship has focused on early Islamic religious history and textual traditions, especially Qur’an and hadith, and on the global history of religion. In addition to his teaching in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and the Study of Religion and his later work for a decade as Dean of Harvard Divinity School, Professor Graham served as director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, master of Currier House, chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and director of the Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program. Among his many publications are Divine Word and Prophetic Word in Early Islam (1977), which was awarded the American Council of Learned Societies History of Religions Prize in 1978, Beyond the Written Word (1987), and Islamic and Comparative Religious Studies (2010).


Islam in the Broader University Currculum

William Graham

You know, I think this issue of the Western, of our undergraduate curriculum in particular, has, of course, become much more diverse and so on, and I'm still a believer that it's nice to have the classical Western fields there at the core of things, but I do think the integration of studies of Islam and of the Hindu or Buddhist world in particular, those three that have been so immensely influential, and the Chinese as well, I would say those four that have had this wide influence, and still today have in major portions of the globe and major portions of the world population, that to be integrating these into any core curriculum program, any general education program, should be a sine qua non of having such a program today. That was not true in the past, and it's only gradually become to be true in recent, really fairly recent decades, or even recent years. So I think that's something that we also need to think about, is integrating Islam as an important part of American undergraduate studies, in some fashion. It may only be in one course, or even in one part of one course but it should be part of that core knowledge of the world that you'd like to think a liberally-educated American undergraduate would have, when they get an AB or a BS degree. I just, you know, really feel that very, very strongly. So that's all that I really have to say about that, is that I do think if we want to remember that we're not doing Islamic studies, just for the specialist on the non-Western world, or even on the global Islamic world, West and East, but we're doing it really to try to see Islam as part of the human story rather than just part of a Middle Eastern or even an Oriental world. And that that I think is very important. And I think Islamicists should keep trying to push for that kind of ideal within their own universities and their own undergraduate curricula all the time.

William A. Graham
William A. Graham