Sherman Jackson Named among the World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims

The King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture in USC Dornsife has been recognized for his work bridging the gap of understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.
ByAmbrosia Brody

Sherman Jackson, King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture, and professor of religion and American studies and ethnicity in USC Dornsife, has been named for the second time among the world’s 500 most influential Muslims by The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre.

The independent research center affiliated with the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Amman, Jordan, selected Jackson for his impact on community and international research.

The center publishes the annual “Muslim 500” magazine to highlight the movers and shakers of the Muslim world.

For Jackson, the recognition signals that his scholarly work in Islamic and Near Eastern studies, American law and African American studies influences local readers as well as those as far as Malaysia and sub-Saharan Africa. His reputation in the world of scholarship centers primarily on his contributions to the field and understanding of Islamic law. 

“[This honor] is very humbling,” Jackson said. “This shows me that people are listening and being affected and rethinking things even when you think they’re not.”

Jackson has been active as an academic and intellectual in his research as well as Muslim communities throughout the United States.

Jackson strives to spark meaningful conversations between Muslims and non-Muslims in the United States. He has written extensively on Islam and black America, authoring four books, including the fort coming publication Sufism for Non-Sufis (Oxford Press, 2012.)

“It is a great honor for prominent scholar Professor Jackson that showcases the importance of his scholarship to the fields of Islam and Muslim practice in the United States and beyond,” saidMacarena Gomez Barris, American studies and ethnicity interim chair and associate professor of sociology.In the contentions and politics following the wake of September 11 his work has especially helped contextualize the importance of historically grounded fellowship on Muslim communities.”

Prior to joining USC Dornsife in 2011, Jackson served more than 14 years at the University of Michigan as professor of Arabic, Islamic and African American studies. His contributions to the fields have been recognized with several awards and appointments. In 1997, he co-founded the American Learning Institute for Muslims in Canton, Michigan.

After the death of Saddam Hussein in 2006, Michigan’s Islamic community requested Jackson’s assistance to help ensure the fall out around the dictator’s hanging would not negatively affect the region’s large Shiite and Sunni communities. Jackson facilitated a “pact of mutual understanding and respect” that he said was signed by all Shiite and Sunni Imams in the greater Detroit area. The effort helped to thwart sectarian violence between the Sunni and the Shiite communities.

At USC, Jackson hopes to establish a center at USC Dornsife that would support research on Islam and the world. He is working to erase “Islamophobia,” fears of and hostility toward Islam in the U.S.

Jackson’s courses, “Introduction to Islam” and “Survey of Islamic Intellectual History,” help students understand the growing Muslim community that makes up approximately 23 percent of the world’s population. He is teaching students to read stories in the mainstream media with a critical eye.

“We are in need of a translation effort,” Jackson said. “It’s sort of like bringing together two civilizations that have two very different languages, two very different stories and getting them to talk with each other in such a way that the actual result is not necessary agreement but mutual understanding.”

The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre’s “Muslim 500” publication intends to give insight into the various ways Muslims impact the world. The recipients are named based on their influence — cultural, financial, political or otherwise — on the world or their community. The series selects from 14 categories of influence, including scholarly, media, political, and science and technology. Jackson was also recognized in the scholarly category in the center’s publication in 2009.