July 26, 2023

In Memory of Dr Shabbir Akhtar

It is with great sadness that we convey the passing of Dr Shabbir Akhtar, an internationally renowned Muslim scholar of philosophy and theology who worked for several years lecturing at Markfield Institute of Higher Education on philosophy and Islamic history. His regular contributions to The Muslim World Book Review, published by The Islamic Foundation, delivered profound and exceptional essays warmly received across a global readership.

Born in Pakistan to humble beginnings, Dr Shabbir’s early years were spent in Bradford, where his father was employed as a bus driver. Attaining three degrees from the UK and Canada, Dr Shabbir advanced as a multilingual, eminent and brilliant academic. Following his work within British race relations, he taught the philosophy of religion and comparative religion at the International Islamic University of Malaysia for four years and for a decade at the Old Dominion University in Virginia, USA. More latterly, he became an associate member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford. He was also an associate fellow of the Centre for Muslim-Christian Studies, who published widely on Islam and Christianity. His articles appeared in academic journals and the national press, while a number of his books were translated into Islamic languages to widely disseminate his knowledge and thinking.

Dr Shabbir did not shy away from controversy and took a firm stance against oppression and injustice. Amongst his long list of academic publications, books and accomplishments, which included fine poetry, he was perhaps most well-known for his writing following the Salman Rushdie debacle, where he penned the now famous rebuttal of The Satanic Verses entitled, Be Careful With Muhammad: The Salman Rushdie Affair, of which a revised edition with a new preface was published in 2020.

While at the Markfield Institute, Dr Shabbir inspired students with his teaching along with those who had the pleasure of working with him and who gained insight into his profound ideas. Dr Shabbir will be greatly missed by staff and students here. We reflect upon the privilege of having known this remarkable scholar and the blessing of having his presence in our lives. Great fondness and affection for him instilled in our memory, recollects his outstanding intellect, his sense of humour and the friendship and care that he showed to us all.