Exploring Community-Engaged Models of Teaching and Learning in the Islamic Studies Classroom

Islam has shaped global cultures for 1,400 years and today is lived by 1.8 billion people around the world. American Muslim communities too are growing more diverse, in culture, ethnicity, ideology, politics and practice. At the same time, the decades-long policy and media positioning of Muslim communities within the frame of national security has encouraged a reductive conversation about Islam among American publics. In some quarters, this conversation tends to understand Muslims as inherently violent, in others, as inherently peaceful. Both are stances that erase the complexity of history, belief, and practice that animates religious communities. 

Within American Muslim communities as well, this conversation encourages a public positioning that places inordinate emphasis on unity and amity in the community. This positioning erases the richness of intra-community debates and disagreements around theology, identity, and practice. 

The Program in Islamic Studies is exploring pedagogy that is situated, contextual, and brings to life the richness and complexity of Islam and Muslim communities. Baltimore is a historical urban center with a long and diverse history of Muslim participation and engagement in civic and cultural life. The students in our classrooms are diverse and intellectually curious, many identify as religious or spiritual, and a substantial subset also identify as Muslim. Each one offers unique perspectives that enhance teaching and learning about Islam.

This convening is a place to learn, reflect and share ideas for those of us who embrace teaching and learning as political acts, who identify as scholar activist or scholar advocates, who are committed to teaching as a liberationist practice but need space to think through what that actually looks like, who personally work in many different spaces at once with multiple positionalities, those of us who are simultaneously scholar and community and recognize institutions of higher education as largely untapped resources to address community needs as defined by the communities themselves, who understand that knowledge comes in many containers and who value the pedagogy of experience. 

Student Learning Questions

How does the Islamic Studies minor at JHU integrate community-engaged learning opportunities into the curriculum that:

  1. encourage self-awareness, critical thinking and civic engagement among our undergraduates, and
  2. are created in partnership with and responsive to the needs of community stakeholders? 


  • Create a network of faculty in Islamic Studies across the country who are integrating CEL into their pedagogy, to develop skills and share best practices.
  • Create resources for faculty who are considering integrating CEL into an Islamic Studies classroom or program, through a comprehensive literature review of existing resources and the publication of case studies.
  • Document and publish the Wabash-funded project as the research and design phase of a multi-year endeavor to integrate a community-engaged curriculum into the JHU Program in Islamic Studies. 
  • Strengthen collaboration between the JHU Program in Islamic Studies and the JHU Center for Social Concern.


Homayra Ziad, Director, Program in Islamic Studies
Hussein Rashid, founder of Islamicate, L3C and Adjunct Instructor, Union Theological Seminary
Shawntay Stocks
Shawntay Stocks, Assistant Director, Engaged Scholarship, Center for Social Concern, Johns Hopkins University


Iman Abdoul Karim
Iman Abdoul Karim, PhD Student, Religious Studies, Yale University
Bilal W. Ansari
Bilal W. Ansari, Faculty Associate in Muslim Pastoral Theology and Co-Director of the Islamic Chaplaincy Program; AVP Campus Engagement, Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity, Williams College
Mahjabeen Dhala
Mahjabeen Dhala, Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies, Director of Madrasa-Midrasha Program, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley
Shabana Mir
Shabana Mir, Associate Professor of Anthropology and DUS, American Islamic College
Shehnaz Haqqani
Shehnaz Haqqani, Assistant Professor of Religion, Mercer College
Celene Ibrahim
Celene Ibrahim, Faculty, Religious Studies and Philosophy, Groton School
Faiyaz Jaffer
Faiyaz Jaffer, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Service of NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, Assistant Research Scholar for the Islamic Center at New York University, Associate Chaplain for the Center of Global & Spiritual Life, NYU
Danielle Abraham
Danielle Widmann Abraham, Assistant Professor, Islamic Studies and Comparative Religion, Ursinus College

Instructors and Facilitators

Tahira Mahdi
Tahira Mahdi, community psychologist and consultant who works on and in the Go-Go music cultural community in DC
Roxanna Harlow
Roxanna Harlow, sociologist, professor of ethnic studies at Carroll Community College, and founder and Executive Director of Higher Learning, Inc, a non-profit academic program for underserved youth, ages 11-17
Jean Lloyd,
Jean Lloyd, cultural architect and consultant in structural transformation, shifting the listening of individuals, corporations and organizations to create systemic equity.