IRD National Outreach Programs (NOPs) at Gilgit-Baltistan and Karakoram International University at its Campuses of Gilgit and Hunza

The Iqbal International Institute for Research & Dialogue (IRD) of the International Islamic University (Islamabad) organized its National Outreach Programs at Gilgit-Baltistan from 23-28 October 2019. Seminars and lectures were held in collaboration with the Karakoram International University, Gilgit and Hunza Campuses. The keynote speaker was Prof. Dr. Abdulkader Tayob, who is a Professor of Religious Studies (University of Cape Town, South Africa) and holds the chair in Islam, African Publics and Religious Values. He talked with faculty members and research students at the university.

Prof. Dr. Atta Ullah Shah, Vice-Chancellor, KIU delivered his lecture on “Principles for an Ethical Framework for Sports”. He talked about respect, basic justice and fairness, refusing to take unfair advantage and willing compliance with law and rules. He described the freedom to enjoy and flourish and harm prevention. He explained about impartiality and objectivity. He stressed trustworthiness, honesty, and transparency. He advised avoiding any kind of conflict.

Prof. Dr. Abdulkader Tayob University of Cape Town, South Africa delivered his lecture on “Ethics and Morality”. He said that Islam is a comprehensive way of life, and morality is one of the fundamental sources of a nation’s strength, just as immorality is one of the main causes of a nation’s decline.  Islam has established some universal fundamental rights for humanity as a whole, which are to be observed in all circumstances.  To uphold these rights, Islam has provided not only legal safeguards but also a very effective moral system.  Thus, whatever leads to the welfare of the individual or the society and does not oppose any maxims of the religion is morally good in Islam, and whatever is harmful is morally bad.

The certificate distribution ceremony was held in KIU, Gilgit. The Vice-Chancellor, KIU was the chief guest on this occasion. The students and faculty who involved during the activities of IRD were presented Certificates of Appreciation. 

Mr. Muhammad Ismail (Deputy Director, IRD) made a courtesy call at of the office of Dr. Manzoor Ali, Provost/Chairman, Department of Physics, KIU and discussed bilateral issues. He also visited the office of Director (Public Relations), KIU, Meer Tahzeem Akhtar, who is also President, OWA, and KIU. The officials discussed on mutual understanding and bilateral cooperation.  Meer Tahzeem Akhtar very graciously arranged a recreation trip for the delegation.



Seminar on Research Methodology in Social Sciences held at KIU Gilgit Campus

The seminar was started with the recitation from the Holy Quran and Naat-e-Rasool (SWS). Prof. Dr. Khalil Ahmad, Dean, Faculty of Life Sciences, KIU welcomed the IRD delegation. He expressed his gratitude for the visit to KIU and provided an opportunity to interact with young scholars.  He introduced the Faculty and its Departments and highlighted the potential of mutual interests.

Prof. Dr. Abdulkader Tayob delivered his lecture and introduced the University Of Cape Town, South Africa, and informed that it was established more than a hundred years ago. He said that religion is a part of the social sciences. He shared the historical writings of Abdur Rahman Ibn-e-Khaldun and identified his pioneering role in the study of society. The Muqaddama (introduction) is a unique and articulate theory of thinking of society and history. He based his theory on humanity’s natural desire for food and its ability to acquire it. Human beings needed the cooperation of others to work together for this purpose.

When the social sciences developed in Europe, the ideas of Ibn-e-Khaldun were appreciated. Some consider him the founder of Sociology. The social sciences focus their attention on how society changes and develops.  Social scientists are not only studying the complexity of human relations but also humanity at large scale.

Prof. Tayob moved to the Language of Society as one of the key questions in social sciences in the 20th century. He discussed how a language reflects society, but also creates it. Language is a dynamic element of society. He singled out his work in the Language of Islam. Understanding Islam as a language, he pointed to how empires were created by language. The language of Islam in the modern world was affected by colonialism and modernization. But a new way of talking about Islam has emerged among Muslims. Even though Muslims are deeply divided, they share a language through which they agree and disagreed with each other. He advised the participants to collaborate with each other and resolve the issue of society. Reflection of world creates something.

Questions/Answers. There were many questions from the floor. Many of the questions focused on the intolerance of religion. Prof. Tayob asked students to be attentive to their languages, and the capacity for sharing and understanding. When students raised the question of the crises facing society, Professor Tayob first pointed out that Muslim discourse in the modern world is marked by a sense of crisis. The crisis is written into the language of Islam. Muslims think of themselves as weak and deficient, which is then deeply embedded in their language. Prof Tayob suggested that facing problems should not begin with a disempowering feeling of crisis. Rather, start with specific challenges and address them one at a time. A feature of social science is to identify small problems, study them and then seek their solutions.

Some students asked why Muslims did not accept each other. Prof. Tayob responded by saying that the difference in views is part of being Muslim. In the absence of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), no one person can claim to have a full and final understanding of Islam. This should be the foundation of tolerance among Muslims, he said.

A question was raised on Islamophobia in the language of Islam. To this, Prof Tayob said that Islamophobia is a feature of European discourse. The fear of Islam has a long history in the West and has now been revived in Western politics. He stressed that Islamophobia is not primarily part of Muslim discourse, but some Muslims have made it by focusing on what others thought of them.

KIU Hunza Campus

The Iqbal International Institute for Research & Dialogue (IRD) of the International Islamic University, Islamabad in collaboration with the Karakoram International University Hunza Campus organized a seminar on Youth and Social Change.

Ms. Samina, Department of Development Studies of the KIU Hunza Campus welcomed and thanked the IRD delegation to come to KIU Hunza Campus. She introduced the keynote speaker, Prof. Dr. Abdulkader Tayob.

Prof. Dr. Abdulkader Tayob said that it is a great privilege for him to be at the Hunza Campus to interact with the youth. It was his first visit to this region. He began by highlighting the academic programs of the University of Cape Town, South Africa. He introduced his presentation with a reflection on the Arab Spring. He shared his views that it was a youth movement that shocked the world. It began in response to the cruel economic conditions and the low standard of living in Arab countries. The Arab Spring began in Tunisia and spread to other countries. The youthful protestors expressed political and monetary grievances and faced violent crackdowns by the security forces.

A similar youth movement, called “Rhodes must fall (RMF)” began in 2015, sparked by the statue of Cecil John Rhodes at the University of Cape Town. The protest for the removal of the statue received wide attention and soon led to the demand for the decolonization of education across the country.

Prof. Tayob used these two examples to highlight the role of youth in society. He contrasted the perception of youth in the 20th and 21st centuries. In the former, youth were seen to be at the forefront of revolution and protest, leading to changes in politics, society, and culture. In contrast, 21st-century youth were not considered to be committed to social change. The technology they used did not promote commitment. Social media fragmented identities, and led to consumption and playfulness, rather than commitment. Prof. Tayob argued that the youth of the Arab Spring and Rhodes Must Fall challenged this stereotype.

With this background on youth and their potential, he turned to a reflection of spiritual journeys that Sufi scholars had developed in history. With the portrait of Maulana Jalal al-Din in the background, he said that a spiritual journey was divided into many stages. He elaborated on the middle stage, al-nafs al-lawwāmah (the rebuking self), as an apt representation of youth. They had awoken to their potential to do well, but it was not the final end of the journey. Prof Tayob suggested that this stage was full of potential, but it was also marked by self-doubt and follies. He expressed a critical appreciation of the value of youth through this model.

At the end of the lecture, many good questions were raised by the students and responded by the speaker.

Visit Attabad Lake and Sost Pak-China Border

The delegation was escorted to Attabad Lake and Sost Pak-China Border. The Attabad Lake is located in Gojal, Hunza. It is about fourteen kilometers upstream east of Karimabad and was formed by a massive landslide in 2010.Twenty people were killed in this tragedy, and the flow of the Hunza River was blocked for about five months. Due to the blockage of the Hunza River, a lake was formed. Before it was just a mountainous terrain and village with residents living their lives within their community with hardly any tourists. At the time of its formation, the local residents had no idea that the lake formed would hold so much beauty and would become a famous destination for tourists. The lake connects the Hunza Valley to Sost Village and the beauty of this region is unique.

Sost is a village in Gojal, Upper Hunza, Gilgit–Baltistan, Pakistan. It is the last town in Pakistan on the Karakoram Highway before the Chinese border. Khunjerab Pass (elevation 4,693 meters or 15,397 feet) is a high mountain pass in the Karakoram Mountains, a strategic position on the northern border of Pakistan (Region of Gilgit–Baltistan’s Hunza and Nagar Districts) and on the southwest border of China.

The delegation also visited Sost Dry Port which is managed by National Logistic Cell (NLC) for clearance of Pakistani customs and immigration. Pakistan and China have resumed trade and traffic on the Karakoram Highway through the Khunjerab Pass. 

The delegation visited old Silk Road locally known as ‘Kinu-Kutto’ [great views of Rakaposhi]. The section of the visible road high up on the cliff across the river evolved from being a footpath into a pony track. It was widened for Jeep access in 1958-60. With the construction of the Karakoram Highway in 1970 the old Silk Road fell into disuse.

In order to show the nature of the historic connection, the Aga Khan Culture Service Pakistan with funding from the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Islamabad restored the visible section of the road in partnership with Budalas (Nagar) and Khizerabad, Hunza communities in 2004.  

The Silk Road was an ancient network of a trade route established during the Han Dynasty of China. It linked the regions of the ancient world in commerce between 130 BCE and 1453 CE. As the Silk Road was not a single thoroughfare from east to west, the term ‘Silk Routes’ has become increasingly favored by historians, though ‘Silk Road’ is the more common and recognized name.

The delegation visited three world-famous mountain ranges, The Himalayas (means the “Home of Snow”), The Karakoram and the Hindu Kush (which means the “Killer of Hindus”) meet at the northern region of Pakistan. The delegation was escorted by Mr. Saadat Rahim, Coordinator, and KIU. Gilgit-Baltistan is home to some of the world’s highest mountain ranges. The delegation was driven at the point where three mountain ranges were visible. These mountain tops, Koh-e-Karakoram, Koh-e-Himalayas, and Koh-e-Hindu Kush were clearly sighted.  The Coordinator, KIU also briefed on the highest mountains at Nanga Parbat and K2 Mount Godwin-Austen, one of the most feared mountains in the world.

The delegation also visited the Kargah Buddha. The face of the Buddha is broad and squash with distended ears flattened, broad mouth, compressed lips, hair arranged in skull tight hand raised in ABHAYAMUDRA (a feared pose). Moreover, it looks draped through a concentrated vision. As per local tradition it is called YATCHANI which means a female demon Djinior evil spirit. A former British political agent DLR Lorimer, stationed at Gilgit 1920 to 1924, had collected and published this Yachnic tale in his book, Gilgit Chitral and Yasin, for the interest of visitors and general readers.

The delegation visited Agha Khan Secondary School in Gilgit. Mr. Saadat Rahim, Coordinator, KIU is a former faculty member of the college and said that the college was established in 1998 and is a part of Agha Khan Schools Network. The College is located across the river Gilgit near Gilgit City. He informed that more than 1500 students are studying in this college. The college offered education of Secondary and Higher School. He told that medium of language is English and faculty members are not allowed to deliver lectures and discussions in any other language. Prof. Dr. Abdulkader Tayob and his Spouse Mrs. Hawa thanked Mr. Saadat Rahim for his informative introduction to the college.

The delegation visited Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development, PDC, Gilgit. Mr. Zeenat Shah welcomed the delegation and briefed the institute. He informed that all Aga Khan Centers are centrally connected with each other all over the world. He added that the Professional Development Centre, Northern Area was performed by His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan Forty-Ninth Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslim on 19 October 2000.

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