IN MEMORIAM: Ismail Raji al-Faruqi 1921-1986

Ismail Raji al-Faruqi (January 1, 1921 May 27, 1986), renowned Palestinian-American philosopher who is widely recognized by his peers as an authority on Islam and comparative religion. He spent several years at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, taught at several universities in North America, including McGill University in Montreal. He was Professor of Religion at Temple University, where he founded and chaired the Islamic Studies program.

Dr. al-Faruqi and his wife, Lois Lamya al-Faruqi, were stabbed to death in their home in Wyncote, Pennsylvania on May 27, 1986, as the result of either a bungled burglary or a politically-motivated attack.

Early life and education

Dr. al-Faruqi was born in Jaffa, Palestine. His father, ‘Abd al-Huda al-Faruqi, was an Islamic judge (qadi) and a religious man well-versed in Islamic scholarship. Dr. Faruqi received his religious education at home from his father and in the local mosque. He began to attend the French Dominican College Des Frères (St. Joseph) in 1936.

His first appointment was as a Registrar of Cooperative Societies (1942) under the British Mandate government in Jerusalem, which appointed him in 1945 the district governor of Galilee. When Israel became an independent Jewish state in 1948, Dr. al-Faruqi at first emigrated to Beirut, Lebanon, where he studied at the American University of Beirut, then enrolled the next year at Indiana University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, obtaining his M.A. in philosophy in 1949. He was then accepted for entry into Harvard University’s department of philosophy and was awarded his second M.A. in philosophy there in March 1951, with a thesis entitled Justifying the Good: Metaphysics and Epistemology of Value. However, he decided to return to Indiana University; he submitted his thesis to the department of philosophy and received his Ph.D in September 1952. By then he had a deep-rooted background in classical philosophy and the developing thought of the western tradition. In the beginning of 1953, he and his wife were in Syria. He then moved to Egypt, where he studied at Al-Azhar University (1954-1958) and viewed as similar to acquiring another Ph.D.

Scholarly Achievements

Al-Faruqi’s signatureDr. al-Faruqi was an extremely active academician. During his years as a visiting professor of Islamic studies and scholar-in-residence at McGill University, a professor of Islamic studies at Karachi’s Central Institute of Islamic Research as well as a visiting professor at various universities in Northern America, he found the time to write over 100 articles for various scholarly journals and magazines in addition to twenty-five books, of the most notable being Christian Ethics: A Historical and Systematic Analysis of Its Dominant Ideas. Despite all of this academic activity, he managed to establish the Islamic Studies Group of the American Academy of Religion and chaired it for ten years. He served as the vice-president of the Inter-Religious Peace Colloqium, The Muslim-Jewish-Christian Conference and as the president of the American Islamic College in Chicago.

His early emphasis was on Arabism as the vehicle of Islam and Muslim identity. He would draw on these sources intellectually, religiously, and aesthetically throughout the rest of his life. He was also one of those who proposed the idea of Islamization of knowledge and founded the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) together with Sheikh Taha Jabir al-Alwani, Dr. Abdul Hamid Sulayman, former Rector of the International Islamic University, Malaysia (IIUM) and Anwar Ibrahim, in 1980.


On May 27, 1986, a knife-wielding man broke into the Faruqi home in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, and viciously attacked Dr. Faruqi, his wife Lois Lamya, and their daughter, Anmar al-Zein. Dr. Faruqi and his wife died from their wounds. Their daughter survived the attack but required 200 stitches to close her wounds. Prominent religious figures and politicians paid tribute to the Faruqis at a memorial service held in Washington in late September. The event was organized by the al-Faruqi Memorial Committee, which is made up of the Council of Presidents of Arab-American Organizations, the Islamic Society of North America, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).

At about the same time, ADC published an eight-page “Special Report” on the murders, including a detailed account of the crime, its victims, and the current status of the investigation. Although nothing was missing from the house, some investigators working on the case believe the murders resulted from a bungled burglary attempt. However, the police lieutenant in charge of the investigation described the incident as an assassination, saying that “someone took it upon themselves” to kill Faruqi. In view of the rise of violent anti-Arab and anti-Muslim incidents in those recent years, the report suggests that the murders could very well have been politically motivated.  Source:  Martin Frost


al-Faruqi, Ismail & Lamya: The Scholars Pen Is Mightier Than the Assassin’s Blade, S. Parvez Manzoor

International Institute of Islamic Thought collection of Dr. Faruqi’s papers
Wikipedia entry