Dr. Zainab Alwani is the Founding Director of the Islamic Studies program at Howard University School of Divinity (HUSD). She is the Associate Professor of Islamic Studies and the chair of the Religious Studies Master of Arts program at HUSD. She is an Islamic scholar, researcher and community activist. Dr. Alwani is also the first female jurist to serve on the board of the Fiqh Council of North America and currently serves as the Council’s Vice-Chair. She is a member and a board member of various national organizations including, Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights KARAMAH, and the American Academy of Religion. Dr. Alwani is currently serving as the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Islamic Faith and Practice. Her research focuses on Quranic studies, Islamic jurisprudence, the relationship between civil and religious law in the area of family, women and gender, and inter-religious relations.
Currently, Dr. Alwani is working on a groundbreaking project regarding orphan care, the Orphan Care Project. The goal is to provide knowledge and scholarship from an Islamic perspective as well as alert the community to this pressing issue. As the Program Director of the Fiqh Forum on Orphan Care, she is calling for orphan care to become a priority of the Muslim community.
Prior to joining the School of Divinity, Dr. Alwani was the Program Director and Adjunct Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the Northern Virginia Community College. She was also an Adjunct Professor of Arabic Studies at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. She developed courses in Arabic Studies that focused on the link between Islamic philosophy, language and culture. She also taught Islamic history, inter-religious dialogue and comparative religion at Wesley Theological Seminary and the Washington National Cathedral.
She has authored and co-authored a wide variety of publications ranging from textbooks and book chapters to scholarly articles. She co-edited a special issue of The Muslim World journal published by Hartford Seminary, Judaism and Islam in America, (October 2014 Volume 104, Issue 4). Some of her latest publications include: Maqāṣid Qur᾽āniyya: A Methodology on Evaluating Modern Challenges and Fiqh al-Aqalliyyāt (p 465–487), The Quranic Model for Harmony in family relations, Critical Reading in al-Ghazālī’s Usul al Fiqh/Legal theory Books, “Muslim Women as Religious Scholars: A Historical Survey,” in Muslima Theology: New Voices of Muslim Women Theologians,” “What Islam Says about Domestic Violence” and “Religion, Gender, And Family Law: Critical Perspectives On Integration for Western-Muslims” in Applying sharia in the West”, Leiden University Press.
Dr. Alwani received her PhD in Islamic Sciences (Usul Al-Fiqh) and Islamic Jurisprudence from the International Islamic University in Malaysia. Her PhD dissertation examined Maqāṣid/objectives of al Sahriah in the area of family, the book “The Family and Maqasid Al Shariah: Marriage and Divorce in American Muslim Family.”
Dr. Alwani is a mother of four, and a grandmother of four. Her hobbies include spending time with her family, reading, writing and traveling.