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The history of the relationship between Sunnism and Shi’ism goes back to the death of the Prophet Muhammad. This long history will be surveyed with the goal of facilitating better understanding of the present day relations between Sunnism and Shi ‘ism. There also will be an account of the manipulation for political interests of Sunni-Shi’ite differences by forces both internal and external to the Islamic world. Finally, with consideration of both accord and discord that exists in different areas between Sunnism and Shi’ism, attention will be paid to the future of this relationship and the impact it is likely to have within the Islamic world itself and in its relation to the West.

The Willem A. Bijlefeld Lecture, named after the first director of the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, brings a distinguished scholar to campus for a public presentation on Islam or Christian-Muslim relations to promote interreligious understanding and mutual respect in the local, national and world communities.

Seyyed Hossain Nasr is University Professor of Islamic Studies at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Dr. Nasr was born in Tehran, Iran in a family of educators and scholars. He is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he studied physics and mathematics, and received a Ph.D. from Harvard University in the history of science and philosophy with specialization in Islamic cosmology and science.  From 1958 to 1979, he was a professor at Tehran University and for several years the dean of the Faculty of Letters and the vice chancellor of the University.  He also served as president of Aryamehr University in Iran.  In 1964-65, Dr. Nasr was the first Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Studies at the American University of Beirut. In 1979 Dr. Nasr migrated to the United States where he became Distinguished Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Utah, then Professor of Islamic Studies at Temple University. In 1984, he joined the faculty at George Washington University.

Dr. Nasr has lectured widely throughout the United States, Western Europe, most of the Islamic world, India, Australia and Japan.  He has given several major lectures such as the Azad Memorial Lecture in India, the Iqbal Lecture in Pakistan, the Charles Strong Memorial Lecture in Australia, the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and the Cadbury Lectures at Birmingham University in England.  Dr. Nasr is the author of more than fifty books and more than 500 articles.

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