Endowed Chair at Asia Institute

The Sultan of Oman Endowed Chair in Arab and Islamic Studies

The chair was established to honour His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said under whose leadership Oman made a leading contribution to the preservation and promotion of Arab and Islamic civilisation, and as an enduring testimony to the amity and partnership between the Sultanate of Oman and Australia.

Without limiting the generality of the professor’s duties, the professor is to:

  1. teach and conduct research in Arab and Islamic Studies in the contemporary world with some emphasis on the Sultanate of Oman (‘Oman’)
  2. promote the development of advanced scholarship in fields relevant to Oman’s special contribution to Arab and Islamic Studies; and
  3. encourage the exchange of ideas and understanding among scholars in Oman and Australia and the international academic community

During March 2003, an agreement was finalised by the Omani Minister of Higher Education, Dr Yahya Mahfoodh Al Manthri and the then Vice-Chancellor Professor Alan Gilbert to found The Sultan of Oman Chair in Arab and Islamic Studies. The Chair was created with a U$1.5m endowment from the Sultanate of Oman.

The Minister said that in endowing the Chair at Melbourne, Oman was continuing a series of endowments to prestigious universities throughout the world. Other universities with Sultan of Oman endowed chairs include the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and at Georgetown University in the USA.

According to Dr Al Manthri, “the signing of this agreement in Australia represents a significant step forward in building a partnership between our two countries that will continue to benefit the international world of scholarship and diplomacy.”

The launch of the chair

Professor Abdullah Saeed – the University of Melbourne’s inaugural Sultan of Oman Chair in Arab and Islamic Studies – delivered his professorial lecture, titled ‘Muslims in the West – Coexistence or Conflict’, on Tuesday 19 October.

The launch was attended by a delegation from the Sultanate of Oman led by the Minister for Higher Education, Her Excellency Dr Rawya Saud Al Busaidi. Others who attended include former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, Governors-General, Sir Ninian Stephen and Dr Peter Hollingworth, and leaders of Melbourne’s Muslim community including Yasser Soliman and Sheik Femi.

In his lecture, Professor Saeed explored Muslim responses to this debate, the transformation that is taking place in relation to the notion of what it means to be Muslim in the West, and the prospects for a more harmonious and pluralist vision for Muslims in the West.

The lecture marked the formal launch of the Sultan of Oman Chair in Arab and Islamic Studies which was awarded to the University of Melbourne in 2003, with an endowment of US$1.5 million, by the Sultanate of Oman, as a lasting token of the partnership between Oman and Australia.