Norbani Ismail is the Malaysia Chair of Islam in Southeast Asia at Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, School of Foreign Service. She has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the International Islamic University Malaysia where she was also an Assistant Professor of the Qur’an & Sunnah Studies for six years. Dr. Norbani’s dissertation explored a comparative Qur’anic exegesis (tafsir) on women related issues in the works of an Indonesian exegete, Hamka (d.1981), and an Egyptian, Shaykh al-Sha’rawi (d.1998).
Her research interest includes modern interpretation of the Qur’an in Southeast Asia and Egypt, and women’s social activism in Malaysia. Currently she is working on a book monograph that explores the twentieth-century interpretation of the Qur’an in modern Indonesia and Egypt; and how Hamka and al-Sha’rawi draw their conclusions about understanding of the Qur’an within their respective contexts. The exegetes speak the language and employ vocabulary of Islam that is comprehensible to the diverse non-secular literate public: a uniquely different vocabulary from that used by secular ruling elites or the scholarly classes.