The Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion will continue its work to change the conversation about religion with a new book prize that will recognize scholars who reimagine the connection of religion and global affairs.
The Randa and Sherif Nasr Book Prize on Religion & the World will recognize the winning author with a significant cash award. An annual symposium highlighting the year’s award-winning book will facilitate important multifaith dialogue among scholars.
The prize is funded thanks to the generosity of Drs. Sherif Nasr and Randa Nasr, co-founders of siParidigm Diagnostic Informatics in Pine Brook, N.J.
The award was announced on November 10, 2021, during the launch of the Ansari Institute’s five-year strategic plan. In his remarks, Sherif Nasr, who came to the United States from Egypt in 1981, said that the world is still in search of a healthy synthesis of “tradition” and “modernity.” Nasr said that he wanted to combine the best aspects of the more traditional religious culture in which he grew up and the more modern, secular culture in which he has since lived and worked. Inspired by the work of the Ansari Institute in religious engagement, he and his wife decided to support the book award as a way of building space for substantive conversations about religion and its power to shape the world.
“I feel so privileged to be part of a righteous community that is working on changing the conversation and making this world a better place,” Nasr said. “I came and joined [this work] and inshallah, God willing, others will come and join.”
The Nasrs’ generosity will enable the Ansari Institute to achieve that vision and host transformative conversations, said Executive Director Mahan Mirza.
“The Ansari Institute believes that recognition of a major book in this form will enhance the importance of the institute as a place for changing the conversation about religion,” Mirza said. “A symposium around each year’s award-winning book will generate new knowledge—indeed, perhaps even a new subfield—in which ancient wisdom, as transmitted to us in the form of the major religious and philosophical traditions of the world, can inform and even transform current debates.”
The award is substantively well aligned with the Ansari Institute’s strategic plan. It will serve as an example of what the late scholar Rabbi Jonathan Sacks once described as religion’s capacity “to be a source of systemic and structural good in a manner that is relevant to global affairs.”
Beyond the recognition and generation of scholarship, the award ceremony and symposium will help the Ansari Institute build a community of like-minded scholars that includes members of diverse faith traditions and commitments. Over time, the annual book award symposium will reflect a kind of “fellowship of faiths,” as envisioned in the Ansari Institute’s strategic plan.
In order to be eligible for this award, a book must:
- Speak from a normative and authentic voice that aspires to be representative of a major religious tradition, recognizing that all traditions are internally diverse.
- Be conversant with current “ways of knowing” about the world. In other words, the book must be academically informed by one or more of the academic disciplines in the humanities or the social or natural sciences.
- Engage one or more contemporary issues in global affairs, providing new ways to understand existing problems or identifying novel solutions to already well-defined problems.
- Must have been published within the past five years. Earlier works that deserve recognition may be considered on an exceptional basis.
The award will follow an annual cycle that includes:
- Convening of a committee of experts to select a book for the award
- Invitations to scholars to respond to the book in writing, with special attention to its faith-based aspect and its potential policy implications
- Organizing a symposium and award ceremony
- Publishing the proceedings online or in print
The first book award recipient will be announced at a symposium scheduled for Oct. 2-3, 2022 on the University of Notre Dame’s campus. Thank you to everyone who nominated a book for this year's award.
The book prize will help to promote dialogue, which is a key emphasis in the Ansari Institute's strategic plan. This related story explains the plan in further detail.