Ziauddin Sardar was born in Dipalpur, Pakistan. However, he was both educated and brought up in Britain. He read physics and then information science at the City University, London. After a five-year stint at King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – where he became a leading authority on the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca —– he returned to work as Middle East correspondent of the science magazines Nature and New Scientist. In 1982, he joined London Weekend Television as a reporter and helped launch the trend-setting Asian programme Eastern Eye. In the early 1980s, he was among the founders of Inquiry, a magazine of ideas and policy focusing on Muslim countries, which played a major part in promoting reformist thought in Islam. While editing Inquiry, he established the Center for Policy and Futures Studies at East-West University in Chicago.
In the late eighties Sardar moved to Kuala Lumpur as advisor to Anwar Ibrahim, the former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, who is now the leader of the opposition. He came back to London in the late 1990s to work as Visiting Professor of Science Studies at Middlesex University, and write for the New Statesman, where he later became a columnist. In 1999, he was appointed editor of Futures, the monthly journal of policy, planning and futures studies, and became involved in Third Text, the prestigious journal of arts and visual culture, which he co-edited till 2005. Also in 1999, he moved to the City University London, London, as Visiting Professor of Postcolonial Studies. From 2001 to 2013, he was Professor of Law and Society in the School of Law at Middlesex University.
After leaving London Weekend Television, Sardar wrote and presented a number of programmes for the BBC and Channel 4. He conceived and presented Encounters With Islam for the BBC in 1983, and two years later his 13-half-hour interview series Faces of Islam was broadcast on TV3 (Malaysia) and other channels in Asia. In 1990, he wrote and presented a programme on Islamic science for BBC’s Antenna and his six-part Islamic Conversations was broadcast on Channel 4 early in 1995. He wrote and presented the highly acclaimed Battle for Islam, a 90-minute film for BBC2 in 2005. And followed that with Between the Mullahs and the Military, a 50-minute documentary on Pakistan for Channel 4’s Dispatches series. Most recently he wrote the three-part one-hour documentary The Life of Muhammad for BBC2, broadcast in July 2011. He has appeared on numerous television programmes, including the Andrew Marr Show and Hard Talk, and was a regular member of the ‘Friday Panel’ on Sky News World News Tonight during 2006 and 2007. He appears in various filmed philosophical debates at the Institute of Art and Ideas.
Sardar was amongst the first Commissioners of the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (March 2005 – December 2009); and served as a Member of the Interim National Security Forum at the Cabinet Office, London, during 2009 and 2010. His journalism and reviews have appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, The Times, the UK weekly magazine, New Statesman and the monthly magazine New Internationalist. Sardar’s online work includes a year-long project for the Guardian, ‘Blogging the Qur’an’, published in 2008.
In 2009, Sardar re-launched the defunct Muslim Institute as a learned society that supports and promotes the growth of thought, knowledge, research, creativity and open debate; and became the Chair of the reorganized Muslim Institute Trust. He conceived and launched, in 2011, the quarterly Critical Muslim, a ground-breaking journal of freethinking that seeks new readings of Islam and Muslim culture, jointly published by the Muslim Institute and Hurst & Co.
In 2014, Sardar re-launched the Center for Policy and Futures Studies at East-West University as The Center for Postnormal Policy and Futures Studies, which focuses more acutely on his recent work on Postnormal Times.
National Life Stories conducted an oral history interview (C1672/32) with Ziauddin Sardar in 2016 for its Science and Religion collection held by the British Library.