Taha Jabir Alalwani
Taha Jabir Al-Alwani (طه جابر علواني), Ph.D. (born in 1935), is the President of Cordoba University in Ashburn, Virginia, United States. He also holds the Imam Al-Shafi'i Chair in the Islamic Legal Theory at The Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences at Corboda University. Al-Alwani concentrates on the fields of Islamic legal theory, jurisprudence (fiqh), usul al-fiqh, Qur'anic sciences, and general Islamic thought.
Born in 1935 in Iraq, Al-Alwani received his high school diploma from Al-Azhar in 1953 and received his bachelor's from the College of Shari’ah and Law at al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt in 1959. He continued at the college and earned a Master’s Degree in 1968 and a doctorate in Usul al-fiqh in 1973.
Following his undergraduate studies, Al-Alwani returned to Iraq and became a lieutenant in the Iraqi Military Reserves. He taught in the Military Academy of Iraq in Baghdad and also taught in the College of Islamic Studies where he was a professor for 6 years. While in Baghdad Al-Alwani studied with some of Iraq's most prominent figures including: Sheikh Amjad al-Zahawi, Sheikh Qasim Al-Qaysi, (Grand Mufty of Iraq), Sheikh Mohammad Fu'ad Al-Aloosi, Sheikh Abdul 'Aziz Salem Al-Samerai, Sheikh Mohammed Al-Qazilchi. Al-Alwani led Jummah (Friday Prayers) in the famous Mosque of Hajja Haseebah Al-Pachatchi from 1953 until 1969. He was forced to leave Iraq in 1969 due to his opposition of the Ba'ath party.
He returned to Al-Azhar in Egypt where he earned his PhD. After his PhD graduation he taught for 10 years at the Imam Muhammad ibn Sa’ood University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Al-Alwani then decided to immigrate to the United States in 1983 where he settled down in Northern Virginia for 23 years.
There he studied the history of several religious groups, specifically Jewish history and focused his attention on Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakay, who established the famous Jewish school in Haifa and founded the jurisprudence for Jewish minorities across the globe. Al-Alwani learned many of his lessons on Muslim integration into American society from Rabbi Yohanan. Al-Alwani's openness to gaining knowledge from any source strengthened his benefit to the Islamic community in the United States.
During his time in the United States and in the Middle East, he worked extensively on interfaith projects. He has a vast network of scholars from different religions whom he still keeps up with as friends today. Al-Alwani holds the first chair for an Islamic scholar in the Washington Theological Consortium.
Thought and ideology
Al-Alwani has written and published over 30 books on a wide variety of Islamic issues including the "Ethics of Disagreement". He pioneered many revolutionary original thoughts and ideas that subsequently lead to the establishment of new fields in Islamic Studies. He wrote about the Islamization of Knowledge, the need for Ijtihad, and is the founder of fiqh al-aqalliyyat (Muslim minority jurisprudence) which deals with problems Muslims face in countries where they are minorities and concentrates more on special and exceptional rulings for those special circumstances.
Al-Alwani is known for his vast work in the disciplines in Quranic studies. In his book, "Al-Tadabour" (exegesis, he discusses how to understand the Quran using the Quran itself as opposed to the direct reliance on "Mufassireen" (Quranic interpreters). He believes that due to the diversity in background and studies of these "mufassiroon" they have brought their biases and differences amongst Muslims through their interpretations. By removing the "middle man" Alwani believes that Muslims can find a better understanding of the Quran and Islam.
Al-Alwani has compared America to al-Andalus (Spain) where the Muslims risk deportation from America if they fail to become partners with other groups of society. They can achieve this by serving America and convincing American society that Islam and Muslims in America are an asset to society rather than a liability.
Al-Alwani has 3 children from a previous marriage, Dr. Zainab Alwani, Dr. Ruqaya Alwani and Ahmed Alwani all of which are active in their fathers methodology. He still plays an active role in his late wife's Mona Abul-Fadl work on Muslim's Women Studies and promotes her book, "Arab Regimes".
He founded a library and think-tank in Cairo named Zahra and Mona Rewaq. He is the main supporter of the Arab Association of Women and Civilization Studies which was established by Dr. Mona Abul-Fadl. He enjoys listening to maqaam Iraqi and classical Arabic music (especially Umm Kalthoom). Since he was a child, he has played the musical instrument 'Al-Qanoon' (similar to the piano). He speaks Arabic, English, Persian, and Turkish.
- Dr Alwani's welcome page at Cordoba University
- Shammai Fishman's Prism article on Alwani from December 2003
- Shammai Fishman's Prism article on Alwani's ijtihad September 2004
- Shammai Fishman's Hudson monograph on fiqh al-aqalliyyat from 2006
- Shammai Fishman's Omedia article on the political dimension of fiqh al-aqalliyyat November 2007