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Akbar Ahmed

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Ambassador Akbar Ahmed is currently the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington DC; the First Distinguished Chair of Middle East and Islamic Studies at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis; and a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He has taught at Princeton, Harvard, and Cambridge Universities and has been called “the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam” by the BBC. He has advised myriad US agencies and organizations on Islam and foreign policy. Regularly interviewed by CNN, NPR, BBC, Fox, he has appeared several times on Oprah, and has also been a guest of The Daily Show and Nickelodeon. Ahmed was the Pakistan High Commissioner (Ambassador) to the UK and Ireland. He is the author of over a dozen award-winning books, including Discovering Islam, which was the basis of the BBC six-part TV series called Living Islam, and the critically acclaimed "Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization". His book Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam (Brookings Press, 2010), culminated in the full length documentary, "Journey into America", and won the American Book Award for 2011. His Pukhtun Economy and Society was re-published in 2011 as part of the Routledge Revivals—“restoring to print books by some of the most influential academic scholars of the last 120 years.” Ahmed most recently published a book of verse, Suspended Somewhere Between (2011), and is currently working on a study which examines the role of America and the conflict between tribe and state in the Muslim world, to be published by Brookings Press in 2012. On September 11, 2011, Ahmed gave a sermon as part of the memorial service commemorating the decade since 9/11 at the Sunday service at St. Alban’s Church, the National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.  The renowned American historian Professor Stanley Wolpert called him "the greatest scholar of Islam in America and the world...nobody else stands so high..." he is "..the Dara Shikoh of modern Islamic leaders" (Pakistan Link, 30 December issue, 2011).

Listen to Akbar Ahmed on the Library of Congress' The Poet and the Poem Podcast HERE

Listen to this interview with Akbar Ahmed on WPFW (Washington DC).

 

Purchasing Links

Suspended Somewhere Between: A Book of Verse
Author: Akbar Ahmed with a foreword by Daniel Futterman
Publisher: PM Press / Busboys and Poets
ISBN: 978-1-60486-485-4
Published April 2011
Format: Paperback
Size: 8.25 by 5
Page count: 152 Pages
Subjects: Poetry, Islam

$15.95

Akbar Ahmed’s Suspended Somewhere Between is a collection of poetry from the man the BBC calls “the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam." A mosaic of Ahmed’s life, which has traversed cultural and religious barriers, this book of verse is personal with a vocal range from introspective and reflective to romantic and emotive to historical and political. The poems take the reader from the forbidding valleys and mountains of Waziristan in the tribal areas of Pakistan to the think tanks and halls of power in Washington, DC; from the rustic tranquility of Cambridge to the urban chaos of Karachi.
 
The collection spans half a century of writing and gives the reader a front row seat to the drama of a world in turmoil. Can there be more drama than Ahmed’s first memories as a boy of four on a train through the killing fields of North India during the partition of the subcontinent in 1947? Or the breakup of Pakistan into two counties amidst mass violence in 1971? Yet, in the midst of change and uncertainty, there is the optimism and faith of a man with confidence in his fellow man and in the future, despite the knowledge that perhaps the problems and challenges of the changing world would prove to be too great.
 
Ahmed’s poetry was a constant source of solace and renewal to which he escaped for inspiration and sanity. He loved poetry of every kind whether English, Urdu or Persian. Ahmed was as fascinated by Keats and Coleridge as he was by Rumi and Ghalib. For us, he serves as a guide to the inner recesses of the Muslim world showing us its very heart. Through the poems, the reader gets fresh insights into the Muslim world and its struggles. Above all, they carry the eternal message of hope and compassion.

Praise:

"Akbar Ahmed is a national treasure. Allow him to lead you through his tumultuous, thrilling life in this gorgeous collection of poems, written across five decades and three continents—a life of loss, despair, child-like wonder, and love."
—Daniel Futterman, actor (A Mighty Heart, as Daniel Pearl, 2007) and Oscar-nominated screenwriter (Capote, 2005).

“Ambassador Akbar Ahmed is a brilliant and wise authority on Islam, and now we have the chance to see what a beautiful soul he has. In these poems, we see the mix of the personal, political, historical, and lyrical. This book is deeply inspiring.”
—Walter Isaacson,  president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, author, former chairman and CEO of CNN, and former editor of TIME magazine.

"Anyone wanting to understand Islam today must read Akbar Ahmed's collection. We are given rare glimpses into the dilemmas, pain, and despair but ultimately love and hope of Muslims through the verses of this true renaissance man."
—Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea

"As a fan of his work for many years I am delighted that Prof. Akbar Ahmed has found a new medium in which to convey his messages, thoughts and ideas about the world, celebrating human relationships and the current issues and themes."

—Qaisra Shahraz, author of Typhoon and The Holy Woman

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Events

For a calendar of speaking events, please click here

Blog

 

suspendedSuspended Somewhere Between: A Review
By Z.G. Muhammad
Greater Kashmir
August 29th, 2013

Ahmed's poems reveal no solutions to global issues. At their best they realign the reader towards love, even forgiveness ("does it matter now/which side did this/or why"), through their language and attention. Our affiliations and borders are erased momentarily; thus he is a poet writing in the lineage of Rumi, Kabir, Ghalib. He knows, as they did, our common name is silence.

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suspendedSuspended Somewhere Between: A Review
By David Keplinger
The American Bazaar
December 20, 2012

Ahmed's poems reveal no solutions to global issues. At their best they realign the reader towards love, even forgiveness ("does it matter now/which side did this/or why"), through their language and attention. Our affiliations and borders are erased momentarily; thus he is a poet writing in the lineage of Rumi, Kabir, Ghalib. He knows, as they did, our common name is silence.

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suspendedSuspended Somewhere Between: A Review
by Mark Scheel
Common Ground News Service
January 10, 2012

Shawnee Mission, Kansas - Praising Ambassador Akbar Ahmed’s new book of poetry, Suspended Somewhere Between: A Book of Verse, Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, opined, “Anyone wanting to understand Islam today must read Akbar Ahmed’s collection. We are given rare glimpses into the dilemmas, pain and despair but ultimately love and hope of Muslims through the verses of this true renaissance man.” In a world that all too often seems fractured along religious and cultural lines, Ahmed's work provides an important model of what can be accomplished through interfaith understanding.


suspendedSuspended Somewhere Between: A Review
by Manjula Kumar
Global India Newswire
December 21, 2011

In a world torn by terror and violence, the clear, poignant and eloquent poetry of Dr. Ahmed is recommended reading -- rather prescribed reading. This is not "escapism," it is a reiteration and a reaffirmation of Life. As we approach the holiday season, his vision for a new world and his message of Peace, Love, Humanity, Harmony and Understanding is a gift for all. This collection of poems will continue to inspire and heal generations to come. 

 

suspendedSuspended Somewhere Between: A Review
by Manjula Kumar
The Huffington Post
November 3rd, 2011

Just this year, Dr. Akbar Ahmed, renowned scholar, playwright, diplomat, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at the American University, Washington, D.C. published his latest book on poetry Suspended Somewhere Between. The Oscar-nominated actor/writer Daniel Futterman, in his Foreword, has called Dr. Ahmed "a national treasure." Walking in the footsteps of great Sufi poets Dr. Ahmed expresses "primal emotions that are universal." His poetry touches the heart and soul while reflecting on the past with memories of the partition of India. It speaks to the present generation and will live on for generations. The title is derived from the poem and reflects the challenges we face as individuals in balancing our desire for material prosperity and spiritual well-being.

 

suspendedSuspended Somewhere Between: A Review
by SJ Ahmed
Writers Hub
September 30th, 2011

There are so many other noteworthy poems in this collection that it is hard to do them all justice in the limited space available in this review. walking the streets with the Dahta is a tour de force of a poem that takes the reader on a stroll through the living, breathing, and at times, downright scandalous heart of the city of Lahore on its way to the shrine of the Sufi saint Dahta Ganj Baksh. Whilst, Pakhtun landscape: a mood paints a different part of Pakistan, this time its North-Western province that borders Afghanistan, a land that may appear to the reader of the poem to be further away from the cultural Lahore than it is in actual map miles. Although there is no indication of when it was written, the lawlessness and blood feuds described in this poem could be contemporary.

suspendedPoetry, Faith and the Muslim Soul
By Shadab Zeest Hashmi
Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies
Vol. 3, No. 2 (2011)

Suspended Somewhere Between does a remarkable job of exploring dualities and even multiplicities of the self, of the loneliness and the longing for identity that has anguished the Pakistani soul since its inception.  Akbar Ahmed’s voice is a vital contribution to the world of contemporary letters and he has aptly been called “a national treasure.” the collection — the Akbar Ahmed of today and from the 1960s are different entities, with different ideas.

suspendedPoetry, Faith and the Muslim Soul
By Human Yusuf
Dawn.com

April 10, 2011

You have written non-fiction books, plays, academic essays, film scripts, and diplomatic cables. What does poetry offer that other genres do not?

My poetry is intensely personal. It’s an immediate response to personal emotions, that part of me that has not gone public until now. For example, one of my longer poems, “I Sarrison,” was written when I was 21 years old. I was having a hot bath at university, and I suddenly felt the need to find some paper, and the poem poured out of me. Some of the ideas expressed are so personal that they may not make sense to anyone except the poet. That explains why I have not edited or altered the older poems in the collection — the Akbar Ahmed of today and from the 1960s are different entities, with different ideas.

 

suspendedPoetry, Faith and the Muslim Soul
By Frankie Martin
The Washington Post
February 21, 2011

Suspended Somewhere Between, a new collection of poetry by Akbar Ahmed, the world-renowned Islamic scholar and chair of Islamic studies at American University, provides these insights, giving an authentic and new perspective on a religion and a part of the world that is so constantly on our minds. The poems provide a window into Islam today, with its problems as well as its possibilities.

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The former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.K. speaking on a range of issues based on his breadth and depth of his experience. 


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