Shirin has made life-long friendships at CMCS after seeking advice on her post-doctoral research

Shirin Shafaie of Visual Academics worked with CMCS after she finished her PhD in 2013 and has been a member of the Reading the Bible in the Context of Islam study group.


I was fortunate to come across the Centre while seeking advice on my postdoctoral proposal from the Centre's Director, Dr Martin Whittingham, directly after I finished my PhD in 2013. I was welcomed warmly and assisted very generously by everyone at the Centre ever since then.

In fact I was awarded a fellowship to conduct my postdoctoral research at the Centre where I have been a member of Reading the Bible in the Context of Islam research group since 2014. Our work in this group, under the academic leadership of Dr Ida Glaser, culminated in the publication of an edited volume on the same subject by Routledge in 2017. I am also currently working on a monograph on Reading Genesis 37-50, or the Story of Joseph and His Brothers, in Islamic Context.

I learned so much from my Christian colleagues about their faith that I would not have learned from any written source. Sometimes it is the lived experience of studying, working and just being together that really opens the doors to mutual understanding and respect.

I was particularly struck by the inclusive and friendly nature of the "Learning Community" at CMCS. I had felt that academic departments at other institutions had become too impersonal and bureaucratic at times, so the opportunity to converse with my colleagues and other scholars during designated coffee times or during Friday afternoon 'Tea and Conversation' sessions was a most refreshing and inspiring addition to my daily routine at work. 

Our research group consisted of 2 Muslims and 2 Christians. I found that this model of working together was most conducive to the kind of writing and research that is truly inter-religious and inter-contextual. Moreover, I learned so much from my Christian colleagues about their faith that I would not have learned from any written source. Sometimes it is the lived experience of studying, working and just being together that really opens the doors to mutual understanding and respect. CMCS has been one of the only spaces where I have truly experienced and benefitted from such interactions.

From an academic perspective, I learned about the new method of reading the sacred scripture of one religion in the context of another religion. It took me some time to fully understand what it means to read the Bible in the context of Islam; a method in which the Qur'an is also considered as an Islamic context and not just a parallel text. This method helped me to go beyond the literal comparative study of shared sacred narratives (for example the Joseph Story) in order to offer an inter-contextual analysis of such shared stories. 

My experience at CMCS made me feel more informed about the sacred scripture of Christianity and Judaism while at the same time providing me with a fresh perspective toward the sacred scripture of my own religion. I feel more connected with the members of my own community as well as the members of other faiths. I am therefore full of enthusiasm and motivated to carry on and deepen the channels of mutual understanding via my research, writing and teaching. 

My experience as a post-doctoral fellow at CMCS has been one of the most informative and formational experiences that I've had in my life. I learned so much and made relationships and friendships that will last for life no matter where I go afterwards.