“Training and development of volunteer educators is a key priority of ITREB USA. During these sessions, participants engage with IIS scholars and each other to improve their pedagogical skills and content delivery. Crucially, we discussed ways in which they can facilitate the Jamat’s inquiries around their own faith, strengthen their sense of belonging in the community, and help them navigate contemporary ethical dilemmas.”
ITREB Chairman Murad Abdullah speaking about the Continuing Education Program (CEP)

Over ninety Waezeen, teacher educators, STEP Teachers (including the Regional Academic Leads and Teacher Leads), and youth facilitators gathered in Houston during the weekend of January 20, 2020, to participate in the annual training session organized by the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS) and the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for the United States (ITREB-USA).

This year, Dr. Shiraz Kabani, Head of the IIS Department of Community Relations, and Dr. Karim Gulamali, Course Director of the International Training Programme, facilitated a discussion around the articulation of Imamat focusing on the frequently asked questions from the Jamat. The session highlighted the difference between an essentialist or static approach to Islam, versus one that encompasses the ethos of dynamic thinking, with scope for intellectual inquiry, adaptation, and fluidity. It also helped educators to contemplate on the needs of the Jamat and called on them to nurture an empathetic and thoughtful disposition. The training included a skills-development module where educators were challenged to provide responses to case studies reflecting the prominent concerns and inquiries from the Jamat.

Dr. Kabani and Dr. Gulamali also led a hands-on workshop on the art of elocution, focusing on the delivery of waez. In addition to emphasizing tone, pitch, and the use of pauses, they noted that affect and emotions, too, are didactic.

On the final day of training, participants learned about how to conduct literary analysis with Professor Karim Dharamsi, Chair of General Education and Professor of Philosophy at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta. Studying the works of Plato, they examined questions of epistemology – from the situatedness of knowledge and different ways of knowing, to learning how to analyze the validity and soundness of arguments, with a focus on common fallacies made in the construction of such arguments.

Sarfaraz Abdullah described his time at the training as, “an exhilarating experience to be in a room with so many talented, experienced, and knowledgeable individuals, immersed in high energy discussions and debates on issues of key significance to the many segments of our Jamat.”

Nahid Husain-Habib, a youth facilitator, said, “The Houston CEP was a wonderful platform to begin new conversations between a variety of stakeholders who interact with the Jamat in different ways. Together, we shared ideas to better serve the Jamat and its changing needs. Insha’allah, these conversations will continue and lead to positive change within our institutions.”

Board members for ITREB USA, Furhana Husani and Warda Ali expressed satisfaction that the sessions were well received. “We feel that such continuing education platforms are crucial for us to build community across educators as well as to ensure that there is a platform for us to discuss emerging issues,” said Furhana. Warda agreed, noting that “ITREB USA will continue to create additional training opportunities for educators, including exploring online platforms.”