July 29, 2011. About 15 years ago, the Jackson family entered Detroit living on the revitalized Wayne State University campus. Dr. Sherman Abdul-hakim Jackson was taking a leave of absence from his post at Indiana University to do a visiting professorship at WSU. While there, the Jacksons had their first daughter – their first Michigander- Saphia downtown at Hutzel hospital. And while there, the University of Michigan made the wise decision to hire Dr. Jackson into their Arts and Humanities and eventually their law school.
Dr. Jackson is the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Visiting Professor of Law and Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Michigan.
He received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and has taught at the University of Texas at Austin, Indiana University, and Wayne State University. From 1987 to 1989, he served as Executive Director of the Center of Arabic Study Abroad in Cairo, Egypt. He is author of several books, including Islamic Law and the State: The Constitutional Jurisprudence of Shihâb al-Dîn al-Qarâfî (E.J. Brill, 1996), On the Boundaries of Theological Tolerance in Islam: Abû Hâmid al-Ghazâlî’s Faysal al-Tafriqa (Oxford, 2002), Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking Towards the Third Resurrection (Oxford, 2005) and Islam and the Problem of Black Suffering (Oxford, 2009).
He has been featured on the Washington Post–Newsweek blog, “On Faith,” as well as the Huffington Post. In 2009, he was named among the 500 most influential Muslims in the world by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in Amman, Jordan and the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. He has also been recognized by Religion Newswriters Association ReligionLink as among the top ten experts on Islam in America.
Dr. Jackson was already a well-known scholar by the time he reached Michigan, however, Michigan and its vast Muslim community and the rich academic environment were the right formula for his ideas, scholarship and community leadership to flourish and grow. The Jacksons would spend the next fourteen years in Ann Arbor where the likes of schools like Stanford could not persuade them to leave. The Jacksons were active in southeastern Michigan as a whole as well as around the globe.
Dr. Jackson recently resigned from the University of Michigan to accept the King Faisal Chair at the University of Southern California along with the Directorship of a new Center for Islam in America. Although Southern California will be receiving a great scholar, Dr. Jackson leaves behind a legacy of trained students who are still contributing to the Michigan community in many different areas.
He also continues on with a summer program called American Learning Institute for Muslims commonly referred to as ALIM. ALIM is a specialized institution seeking to produce Islamically Literate Muslims who will come to positive realizations of the truth of Islam within themselves and exert a positive influence on the communities within which they live.
Although Senior in the Academy Dr. Jackson was also a community leader in Michigan, nationally and internationally. He presided over weddings, funerals and everyday activities of the Muslim community locally. He will be greatly missed by many Michiganders.
Recently, a group of Muslim Students Alumni put together a video to be seen at the Islamic Society of North America’s annual conference and convention to remember Dr. Jackson and his wife Sr. Heather. It can been seen below. The video is a small sampling of students Dr. Jackson and/or his wife had affected along the way.
Sr. Heather has also been active in the Michigan community by serving on nonprofit boards, speaking frequently on Islam to community members across south eastern Michigan, by creating the Summer Arabic Institute and by writing for the Examiner. She was one of the coveners of the first World Congress on Muslim Philanthropyin Istanbul, Turkey and even spent time in Senator Levin’s DC office.
Sr. Heather will continue to write for the Examiner in California. She will also expand her Institute to Los Angeles and engage in service activities.
The Jacksons want to leave the community letting them know that they feel they have been given much more than they ever gave and learned much more than they ever taught from the Michigan Muslim community.
“As we were driving by different institutions this evening remembering their history what stood out to us even more was not the structures, but the memories of people and families. Within the Michigan Muslim community landscape exist some very modest families who by any secular standards have reached a fair amount of success, but whom upon meeting them they are so modest you would not know it.” These are the memories they will keep with them most.
They had the priveledge to see many students grow up, get married, have children and try to manage life.They saw some in the community pass away. At the end of the day, they are so grateful to have been a part of this Michigan landscape and hope with the new technologies to be able to stay in touch with people from Michigan.