The Mahad’ad-Dawa Institute was founded by former BBC journalist and broadcaster John Butt.
During the reign of King Zahir Shah, John Butt came to Afghanistan and settled in the cross-border regions. He accepted Islam in 1970, after which he studied Islam in various madrassahs, and with a number of scholars in the Frontier province and in Afghanistan, before travelling for further religious studies to Darul Uloom Deoband in India in 1978. He graduated from Deoband in 1983.
Between 1982 and 1988, he worked with the Delhi-based Islamic journal Al-Risala that is committed to presenting Islamic teachings in a contemporary idiom.
John Butt’s work with Al-Risala represented his first step in the field of journalism, after which he went on to work with the Pakistan national daily published from Peshawar – the Frontier Post – and then with the BBC, where, after working for two years with the Pashto service, he became founder and editor of the popular BBC radio soap opera for Afghanistan “New Home, New Life”.
After five years heading “New Home, New Life”, John Butt set up a similar programme in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, known as “A Cure for Every Ill” (Har Dardro Davoie).
He returned to the Pak-Afghan cross-border regions in 2004, where he established PACT Radio. The aim of PACT Radio is to find “Traditional Solutions for Modern Problems” through popular consensus-building.
John Butt’s long career in the media – and his emphasis on an alternative strain of media work which embraces traditional values of peace-making and helping others solve their problems – is reflected in the Mahad’ad-Dawa Institute, which has a strong department of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Besides his work in Central and South Asia, in 1999, John Butt became Muslim chaplain (Imam) in Cambridge University in England. He continues to occasionally visit Cambridge, where he gives lectures in Quranic studies, as well as leading the Friday prayers in the University.
Explaining his motivation for establishing the Mahad’ad-Dawa Institute, John Butt says: “I am trying to give back to the Pashtoons what they gave to me. They gave me Islam over 40 years ago, a grounding in traditional Islam, a good Islamic education – in 1983 I became the only European ever to graduate from Darul Uloom Deoband – and then a successful career in the media – I rose to senior management with the BBC in Afghanistan before branching out on a career in traditional media. I would like other Pashtoon religious scholars to have similar opportunities, and also to be more effective force for peace and well-being in their own community.”