2023 Hamilton Naki Award

Professor Abdul Tayob

Department for the Study of Religions, University of Cape Town

Hamilton Naki Award

Professor Abdulkader Tayob was born and raised in Brits, North-West Province, during the height of apartheid. Despite the incredible hurdles to education and advancement, he charted a novel path in the academic world that significantly transcended the racialised boundaries he faced in South Africa.

His intellectual journey was constituted by a high degree of commitment to education supported by community projects. Both his parents and grandparents had limited schooling but they impressed upon him the value of education. He wanted to become a maths teacher and spent many evenings teaching maths in township projects. He overcame the hurdles of segregation and second-class belonging to ultimately obtain a PhD in Islamic Studies at Temple University in the United States.

In 1989, he was appointed lecturer at UCT. As one of the first doctorates in South Africa in Islamic Studies, he developed the field in South Africa. Here, he co-founded the Centre for Contemporary Islam in 1996. He was soon recognised globally for his work and recruited to the Netherlands in 2002. He returned to UCT in 2006 to take up the South African Research Chair on the Study of Islam in Africa. In 2019, he was awarded the George Foster Prize for a lifetime of academic achievement by the Humboldt Foundation in Germany.

Over thirty years, he has left a legacy by publishing widely, setting up networks of
scholarly engagement, and training a new generation of scholars. There is hardly a department for the study of religion in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa that has not been impacted by his scholarship and academic citizenship. His research outputs over the last eight years include nine peer-reviewed journal articles, nine book chapters and four edited journal issues.