The Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa (ISITA) is the first research center in the United States devoted entirely to the study of Islam and Africa. Its mission is to stimulate interest in the Islamic tradition of learning in Africa and encourage further research so that new African knowledge can be incorporated into existing patterns of understanding of Africa and Islam. ISITA was founded in 2000 by John O. Hunwick of Northwestern University and R. Séan O'Fahey of the University of Bergen, under sponsorship of the Ford Foundation. Since then, ISITA has secured funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. ISITA is housed at the Program of African Studies (PAS) at Northwestern University and is currently directed by Dr. Muhammad Sani Umar, an Islamic studies scholar who specializes in Nigeria.
ISITA has sponsored a wide variety of activities including publications, residential fellowships for African scholars, field research in Africa, and conferences, in Africa as well as Evanston, on both historical and contemporary themes. Through these activities, ISITA has successfully linked research on contemporary cultural life in Islamic Africa to the centuries-old scholarly, literary and creative energy found in Africa's Muslim communities. In doing this, ISITA has challenged long-held stereotypes of an isolated and peripheral "African Islam." Today's dynamic, expanding Muslim communities in Africa can be appreciated as contemporary expressions of an age-old tradition that both derived inspiration from and contributed heavily to the Arab Islamic world. ISITA now connects a vibrant international network of scholars with shared interests in Islam and Africa.
ISITA collaborates with Northwestern University Press on the publication of Islamic Africa, a peer-reviewed, multi-disciplinary academic journal.