Farhad Daftary and Zayn Kassam Institute of Ismaili Studies, New, Simerg

Zayn Kassam Appointed New Director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies as Farhad Daftary, Who Has Dedicated His Life to Ismaili Scholarship, Retires from Management Roles

Compiled and prepared by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos

The websites of the Institute of Ismaili Studies and the Ismaili community, The Ismaili, have jointly announced the appointment of Dr. Zayn Kassam as the new Director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS), following the decision by Dr. Farhad Daftary to retire from his management roles, which included serving as the co-director of the IIS for the past 12 years.

Dr. Daftary will continue his scholarly research, writing and teaching activities at IIS indefinitely. As appropriate recognition of Dr. Daftary’s contributions to IIS and his long service of 34 years, Dr Daftary has been conferred the lifetime title Director Emeritus when he relinquishes his current role and will be appointed to the IIS Board of Governors. In this way, IIS staff, students and other stakeholders will continue to benefit directly from his knowledge, wisdom and guidance.

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Aga Khan, Illustrated History of the Ismailis, Farhad Daftary, Gilden Jubilee, News Simerg
Professor Azim Nanji (centre), then Director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies, and his successor Dr Farhad Daftary (left) present Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, with a copy of The Ismailis: An Illustrated History on July 4, 2008 during his Golden Jubilee visit to the United Kingdom. Photo: Gary Otte

Following a thorough and extensive international search process undertaken by the Board of Governors which considered internal and external candidates, Professor Zayn Kassam of Pomona College in California has been appointed as the next Director to succeed Dr Daftary with effect from January 2023. Professor Kassam is a highly accomplished scholar and academic leader and has spent the last 27 years in a variety of positions at Pomona College in California. Her profile page on the College’s website reads as follows:

“Zayn Kassam is the John Knox McLean Professor of Religious Studies at Pomona College, Claremont, California. A graduate of McGill University (Ph.D. 1995), she teaches courses on mysticism, gender, literature, ethics, and the environment.

“She has lectured widely on gender issues in the United States, Canada, and Britain. She has been honored with three Wig Awards for Distinguished Teaching at Pomona College, as well as an American Academy of Religion Excellence in Teaching Award.​

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Zayn Kassam new director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies, news Simerg
Zayn Kassam, who will succeed Farhad Daftary as the new Director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies in January 2023. Photo: Pomona College.

“Kassam is the author of Introduction to the World’s Major Religions: Islam (2006), and editor of Women and Islam (2010) and Women in Asian Religions (2018). She is also the section editor for Islam for the volume on Islam, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism for the Encyclopedia of Indian Religions (2018).

“She has chaired the department of religious studies at Pomona College, and has coordinated the programs in gender and women’s studies, Asian studies and Middle Eastern studies. She is currently the director of the Pacific Basin Institute. She serves on several national editorial boards, including the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion and the Journal of the American Academy of Religion.”

Simerg congratulates Dr. Zayn on her new appointment, and wishes Dr. Daftary good health and success in all his scholarly endeavours as he continues to serve the IIS in the years to come.

The Ismailis: An Illustrated History
Book that was presented by Dr. Farhad Daftary to Mawlana Hazar Imam during his Golden Jubilee visit to London in July 2008. See photo at beginning of post (without jacket cover)

While the IIS has been in existence since December 1977, it was not until Dr. Daftary joined the Institute that we began seeing a significant increase in the number published texts, short papers and monographs on Ismaili and Shia Studies in particular, and Islamic studies in general. As well as his own books, Dr. Daftary’s fervour for Ismaili history, philosophy and culture, encouraged other specialty scholars in the field of Ismaili studies to submit their scholarly research for publication through the IIS. Among the books that Dr. Daftary published himself or as a co-author or editor of numerous volumes, we would like to mention a few of them: The History of the Ismailis, A Short History of the Ismailis, The Assassin Legends: The Myth of the Ismailis, Historical Dictionary of the Ismailis, The Ismailis: Their History and Doctrines, The Shia World, A History of Shia Islam, The Ismailis: An Illustrated History, Islam: An Illustrated Journey and, most recently, The Ismaili Imams: A Biographical History. (We invite you to visit IIS Listing of Publications and also Amazon.)

With regard to Zayn Kassam, in addition to some the works mentioned in her profile, we are pleased to share links to two pieces that she contributed to Simerg:

1 Two Tales from Rumi: The Snake-Catcher and the Serpent and The Elephant and the Travellers
2. Henry Corbin and his Understanding of Ismailism

In their announcement, the IIS notes:

“The Board thanks Dr Daftary for his many years of service to IIS, congratulates him on his appointment to the Board of Governors and wishes him continued success in his new role as well as welcoming Professor Kassam as the incoming Director of IIS.”

Date posted: September 22, 2022.


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