The Aziz Foundation scholarship has benefited me in my role as a Community Imam and Liaison Officer at Ashford and Staines Community Centre. As part of my role, I engage with external stakeholders, such as with priests and rabbis, interfaith initiatives, universities, schools, police, hospitals, councils and so on. Based on my interactions thus far, I have already noticed the greater credibility that studying at a prestigious university like Oxford gives me.
As important as credibility in the eyes of others certainly is, the benefit of the scholarship is not limited to this. Learning Hebrew at Oxford has not only enriched my Islamic studies, but has also opened up studying the Bible for me. In interfaith settings in particular, this has been especially beneficial for me, adding extra weight to my work, as my learning goes beyond my religion. Additionally, coming from an unprivileged background, studying at Oxford or Cambridge was not an option. But my journey has opened up eyes for colleagues who have undertaken traditional Islamic studies, and several students of mine, young and old, and highlighted to them that hard work pays off, and coming from a traditional or unprivileged background is not necessarily a barrier when it comes to aiming high and studying at world-class universities.
Muhammad is a SOAS graduate who specialises in the historical-critical study of the Qur’an. His work aims to discover the complex interplay between the temporal and timeless dimensions of the Qur’an. With a view to advancing onto a PhD on the historical-critical study of the Qur’an, he is pursuing an MSt at Oxford this academic year.