During her 33-year career in the College of Arts and Sciences, Riffat Hassan, an internationally acclaimed Islamic scholar and activist,taught generations of students about Islam, articulating a progressive understanding of the religion that influenced Muslims around the world. In the wake of September 11, 2001, Dr. Hassan developed and directed two major peace-building exchange programs, namely “Islamic Life in the U.S.” (2002-2006) and “Religion and Society: A Dialogue” (2006-2009), funded by the U.S. Department of State through grants to UofL. These programs were highly successful in building bridges between the U.S. and the Muslim world and Dr. Hassan’s pivotal role in making these programs models for future exchanges involving Muslims was widely recognized.
A Pakistani-American, Dr. Hassan earned B.A. with Honors in English and Philosophy in 1964 and Ph.D. in Philosophy in 1968 at Durham University in England. Beginning her academic career in the U. S. in 1972, she started teaching at UofL in 1976. She chaired the Religious Studies Program during 1980-1982, Spring 1985, and 1987-1992, and she was a member of the team that developed the criteria for selecting the winner of the annual Grawemeyer Award in Religion.
Dr. Hassan, now Professor Emerita, retired in 2009. Her publications include eight books, 58 book chapters, 52 journal articles, and 85 articles in newspaper special supplements, on such topics as Muhammad Iqbal, Women in Islam, Islam and interreligious dialogue, and human rights in Islam. She has made presentations in settings ranging from local churches to U.N. conferences at Cairo (1994) and Beijing (1995) where she was a major speaker.
Internationally acknowledged as a pioneer of Islamic feminist theology, Dr. Hassan is also recognized as an activist who has done much to promote women’s rights in Muslim societies and to combat honor” crimes against women in Pakistan. Lengthy profiles of her work have appeared in books published in the U.S., Europe and Asia, and researchers in Germany, Holland and Indonesia have written dissertations on her feminist theology.
Throughout her career, Dr. Hassan has participated in inter-religious dialogue at every level – local, regional, national, international. She has been particularly involved in interreligious dialogue among Jews, Christians and Muslims. In 2003, she was awarded the Distinguished International Service Award by UofL’s College of Arts and Sciences.