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Prof Farid Esack

The Order of Luthuli in

Prof Farid Esack Awarded for:
His excellent contribution to academic research and to the fight against race, gender, class and religious oppression. His body of work continues to enlighten generations of fledgling and established academics.
Profile of Prof Farid Esack

Prof Farid Esack was born in Bonteheuwel in Cape Town. He lost his mother at an early age but he continued to make life for himself. He grew up to become a respected theologian, academic, activist and internationalist. He completed the Darsi Nizami, the traditional Islamic theological studies programme, in Madrasahs in Karachi, Pakistan, where he studied for eight years. He completed his PhD at the University of Birmingham and subsequently did post-doctoral work on Biblical Hermeneutics at the Philosophische Theologische Hochschule, Sankt Georgen in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany.

Formerly a Commissioner for Gender Equality, appointed by former President Nelson Mandela, Esack has also lectured in many distinguished local and international institutions of higher learning. He is a former Distinguished Mason Professor at the College of William and Mary in Virginia; he also occupied a University Professorship in Ethics, Religion and Society at Xavier University in Ohio. He served for two years at Harvard University – between the Divinity School, and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences – as the William Henry Bloomberg Professor and the Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal Professor in Contemporary Islam.

A veteran of the struggle against apartheid and an activist in the inter-religious solidarity movement for justice and peace, he played a leading role in the United Democratic Front, the Call of Islam, the Organisation of People Against Sexism and the World Conference on Religion and Peace. He was involved in South Africa’s struggle for freedom from a young age, and remains a committed comrade of the struggle for greater equality and justice. He has always been an ardent activist for racial, gender and economic equality and justice.

In addition to his academic pursuits, he continues his activism through various HIV, development, environmental justice and Palestine solidarity organisations – several of which he serves as a board member, both in South Africa and internationally. Esack struggles to live and understand the meaning of faith as well as an alternative liberation vision in a world savaged by the Empire and the often dehumanising responses to it by its subjects and victims.

Esack is a son of South Africa who contributed to the struggle against apartheid, made a consistent contribution to the country post-1994 and also championed international struggles.