Kenan Rifai Islamic Studies Chairs

Sufism is a way of life. Sufism can be understood in two parts. First, its philosophy and understanding how moral values can be applied to our lives. The second is the establishment of a teacher-student relationship in order to put this philosophy into practice.

The aim of the research centers, institutes and chairs that have been opened is to make the first part of Sufism comprehensible and to make the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) understandable. Understanding how we should live by learning about the lives of the Prophet, his Companions and Sufis.

The Prophet said that religion is good morals. While the Prophet emphasized that true religious life depends on being ethical, Ken'an Rifai showed the academic way of carrying this understanding into life by saying "Sufism will one day be taught in academies".

Sufi education is a preliminary step for people to know, find and live universal human values. Sufism is the most favorable way to develop a consciousness and attitude of social unity. This approach will also make it easier for us to re-identify and update ourselves and the needs of society.

It is a source of renewal and dynamism that prevents people and societies from freezing, calcifying and all the ailments that this can cause in a world that changes and transforms every day.

Sufism has a comprehensive cultural interest in all fields, from music to painting, literature to philosophy, history to sociology, political philosophy to popular culture. There is a need for more institutional activities in order to strengthen (and deepen) the efforts to live Sufi culture and to strengthen (and deepen) the aesthetic and humanitarian dimension that can penetrate the tissues of life. TÜRKKAD sees 'thematic university structures' as the most favorable environment for this.

Institutions established within academic structures as TÜRKKAD:

  • University of North Carolina (UNC) Ken'an Rifâî Chair in Islamic Studies

The Ken'an Rifai Distinguished Professorship of Islamic Studies

It was established on February 12, 2009 and started training in July 2011.

  • Ken'an Rifâî Chair of Islamic Studies at Peking University

Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies, Peking University, The Ken'an Rifai Distinguished Professorship of Islamic Studies

Established on August 19, 2010, the chair was inaugurated in October 2011.

  • Kyoto University Ken'an Rifai Center for Sufi Studies

Kenan Rifai Center for Sufi Studies at ASAFAS, Kyoto University

Established and inaugurated March 6, 2016

"The establishment of Kenan Rifâî chairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in China, and perhaps in other universities, are remarkable examples of far-sighted philanthropy, educational responsibility/commitment to education, and the creation of links between cultures. Whenever I tell the history of the establishment of these chairs and the role of TÜRKKAD and Cemalnur Sargut in this, those who listen are amazed and amazed that people from so far away can come together to create such a strong intellectual legacy for the future. So I believe this is a very important example of a vision that brings together spirituality and educational philosophy and will have an international impact." Prof. Carl W. ERNST, Department of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"Thanks to the blessing and favor of the Kenan Rifā'i chair at the University of North Carolina, we have been able to introduce Islam and Sufism here... We have been extremely pleased to introduce hundreds of students to the true face of Islam and to immerse them in the depth of Islamic spirituality and literature. My hope and our hope here is that we can continue to be a part of the mission started by His Holiness Kenan Rifâî. This mission is to tell humanity that the place to teach how to be truly human must now move from the tekkes to the university. The university is the place where the real person, the human being, will be taught and trained. That is all we are trying to do.

These beautiful initiatives that unite the East and the West, the establishment of these ties from China to Istanbul, Oxford, North Carolina, remind me of the verse in the Holy Qur'an: "Wherever you turn your face, east or west, there is Allah's waji". I hope that wherever Kenan Rifâî pulpits are utilized, this pulpit will serve as a means of bringing humanity together, uniting us and moving us towards a point of understanding. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to be of some small service to the Kenan Rifâî Programs. I thank you with feelings of gratitude." Prof. Omid Safi, Duke University, Department of Religious Studies

"Thanks to the magnanimity and sacrifice of the Turkish Women's Cultural Association, the Kenan Rifâî Chair established at Peking University has enabled the establishment of an Islamic Philosophy course with a focus on Sufism for the first time in the history of Peking University, and it is very important to recognize this.

The Kenan Rifâî Chair is a source of inspiration for the University, both in terms of opening similar chairs and expanding spiritual interest to include many spiritual traditions such as Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism.

It is also an inspiration for other leading Chinese universities to do similar things. With this chair, TÜRKKAD has opened a very, very important area and initiated a truly meaningful and significant international joint initiative." Prof. Weiming Tu, Head of the Institute of Humanities, Peking University