Respect Graduate School
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The Master of Arts in Islamic Studies is a 36 credit-hour program. The program is divided into three key areas:

  1. Introductory Courses – five (5) required courses
  2. Selection of one Concentration/Cognate to be selected from four possible areas of concentration or 12 credit hours of electives
  3. Final Research Project – three (3) required courses

Courses offered by Respect Graduate School

MAIS 500 – Introduction to Reading Arabic

This is a NON-CREDIT preparatory course designed to introduce to the Arabic alphabet and sound system forms. In this course, students will have the opportunity to practice reading and writing Arabic script as well as learn how to pronounce Arabic letters directly from the instructor. Along with the letters, they will learn special Arabic characters and marks. The students will then practice connecting letters to form words. The course will also greatly aid in the development of their vocabulary.

* For those without prior knowledge of Arabic script, this course is a requirement before enrolling in MAIS 501. It is offered every Summer.

MAIS 501 – Qur’anic (Classical) Arabic I: Knowledge of Word Structures

This course is the first part of a two-semester sequence. Arabic I and II will enable the students to read the Qur’an and classical texts by providing the tools that unlock the Arabic language. This first part focuses on the knowledge of word structures in Arabic. The course provides a unique educational experience by following the traditional style of learning corroborated by modern techniques. By accessing the basic structure of the word –the trilateral root– students can then go on to deciphering meanings based upon standard structures associated with the addition of “extra” letters to the trilateral root. Besides the derivative verbs and nouns, the students will also learn about non-derivative nouns and dependent words such as prepositions. The course includes many examples, assignments, and practices that help students improve their linguistic skill and competency in classical Arabic. One of the outstanding aspects of the course is that it provides many sample texts, the majority of which are taken from the Qur’an and hadith. As a result, students will begin analyzing texts early in their studies and will become acquainted with reading texts from the start.

* Prerequisite: Knowledge of Arabic Script or MAIS 500

MAIS 502 – Qur’anic (Classical) Arabic II: Knowledge of Sentence Structures

This course focuses on grammar and the knowledge of sentence structures. Students will learn how the Arabic words function in a sentence. Thus, this course will enable the students to read and understand the Qur’an and classical texts. Through the course, the students will also be able to strengthen their knowledge of morphology they learned in Qur’anic Arabic I and to enrich their vocabulary. The course then will give them the opportunity of putting their theoretical knowledge into practice.

* Prerequisite: MAIS 501

MAIS 503 – Introduction to Qur’anic Studies

This course is designed to introduce the students to the Qur’an, both as the primary Islamic Scripture and as a richly complex and multi-layered text which has invited a variety of different hermeneutical approaches, both from within and outside of Muslim faith contexts. The course proceeds with a dual focus. The first focus involves familiarizing students with the content of Qur’anic teaching by direct engagement with the “major themes” of the Qur’an. The second focus involves familiarizing students with both classical Muslim exegetical and hermeneutical approaches to the Qur’an (especially the “sciences” of intra-textual interpretation, abrogation, and context-of-revelation criticism) as well as modern secular approaches to questions regarding the provenance, nature, compilation, canonization, and interpretation of the Qur’an. Specific attention will be given throughout to introducing students to the major textual resources available for Qur’an study, including the classical and contemporary Muslim commentary literature.

MAIS 504 – Introduction to Hadith

The course is designed as a comprehensive introduction to the study of the prophetic traditions as a significant branch of Islamic studies. The course begins with a survey of the history of the development of the canonical collections of hadith literature, with an eye both to traditional Muslim understandings of this process as well as to Western approaches. Special attention is given to the methodologies of classical Muslim hadith criticism for the purposes of authentication and the concomitant “sciences of hadith” developed for these purposes and to how these methods compare and contrast with contemporary secular approaches to hadith criticism. The course then proceeds to explore the function of hadith in Muslim religious scholarship, especially jurisprudence, Qur’anic exegesis, and theology before moving on to cover the major trends in contemporary Muslim hadith criticism. Throughout the course, students are introduced to the major tools of hadith studies to facilitate further study and research in this area.

MAIS 505 – Survey of Islamic Thought

The overall goal of this course is to introduce students to the most significant traditions of Islamic thought and literature through a bibliographic survey of major issues, genres, and disciplines without delving too deeply into any specialized topic. The course covers the Classical Islamic period, which runs from the 7th century (the birth of Islam) to the 13th century (the Mongol invasion). The course begins with a discussion of historical events from the time period and then moves on to an examination of Islamic thought and literature, with a focus on four major traditions: theology, law, mysticism, and philosophy. Students are expected to read and discuss samples of primary texts in their English translations throughout the course.

MAIS 506 – Research Techniques in Islamic Studies and Resources

Research Techniques introductions students to the various modes of research and critical thinking both in Religious and Islamic Studies. The basic skills and processes associated with developing research questions, reviewing relevant literature, conducting research by using efficient tools and time management techniques are discussed. Qualitative and quantitative research methods are reviewed. The subject also covers key principles in academic writing, including referencing and citation methods. Students will be encouraged to develop their own original ideas and formulate research proposals that demonstrate their understanding of applied research. The course provides opportunities to apply various research methods to students’ own areas of interest, and to write for publication in Religious and Islamic Studies.

The course also provides students with the requisite research methods and the core genres of Islamic Studies such as biography, history, prophetic tradition (hadith), and Qur’anic exegesis. It examines a number of the great themes and personalities of the Islamic intellectual traditions with emphasis on theological, legal, mystical, and philosophical thought. The course material will focus on a substantial amount of Arabic text; therefore, the course requires Arabic proficiency. During this course, students are expected to analyze texts in Arabic under supervision.

* Prerequisite: MAIS 501

MAIS 507 – Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion

The course focuses on the nature and function of religion, which emerged in the West beginning with the Enlightenment and continues today in the Western academic scholarship. The course will include the contributions of major thinkers whose work has profoundly shaped the analysis of religion in the Western scholarship. Students will be encouraged: to appreciate the insight and creativity of leading thinkers; to map the ways in which various theories and methods either complement or conflict with one another; to evaluate both the strengths and weaknesses of the theories; to determine which elements of these theories they might integrate into their own critical thinking about religion; and to discuss the applicability of such theories to teaching about religion in more popular settings.

MAIS 508 – Research Paper

Students have the opportunity to write a large research paper independently based on the investigation of a topic of interest under the supervision of a member of the RGS faculty. The Research Paper must be prepared in accordance with the RGS instructions for the preparation of research papers and must be approved by the student’s advisor. Students should also give an oral defense of the paper.

* Prerequisite: All required and elective courses

MAIS 509 Islamic Theology (Kalam)

The course introduces students to the major themes and figures of a primary non-jurisprudential discipline of classical Islamic thought: Philosophical Theology (Ar. Kalam). The course covers the period between the 2nd/8th and 8th/14th centuries, and surveys theology. Students will have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with both the content and methodologies employed in some of the significant controversies and debates that arose among Muslim intellectual circles and schools of the dominant theological discourses of the Late Antique and medieval Mediterranean and West Asian world. During this course, students are expected to analyze texts in Arabic under supervision.

MAIS 510 Islamic Philosophy

This course examines the emergence and the evolution of traditional Islamic philosophy from 8th to 14th centuries. It focuses on the following key topics of Islamic philosophy: God, cosmos, God’s relation with creation, knowledge, and the human good. The views of important Muslim philosophers such as al-Kindi, al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, al-Ghazali, and Ibn Rushd will be discussed during the course sessions. During this course, students are expected to analyze texts in Arabic under supervision.

MAIS 511 – Islamic Spirituality

The course is a general introduction to the nature and history of Islamic spirituality through an exploration of the diverse traditions of Muslim mystical piety.  It begins with an examination of the roots of Muslim spirituality in the Qur’an and Sunna and then moves to a historical and contextual analysis of the emergence of early Muslim asceticism; the development of the spiritual manual and Sufi didactic/apologetic treatise genres; controversy over the relationship between the Shari`a and the spiritual path (Ar. tariqa); mere Muslim asceticism versus Sufism; tensions between “ecstatic” and “sober” expressions of mystical devotion (i.e., sakr v. sahw); the role of Sufism in classical Islamic epistemology; and the evolution of institutional Sufism and its many dimensions. The course will conclude with reflections on the role of Sufism in contemporary Islamic renewal and reform movements, as well as the recent quasi-sectarian developments in the relationship between Sufism and neo-Salafism. During this course, students are expected to analyze texts in Arabic under supervision.

MAIS 512 – Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh and Usul al-Fiqh)

This course introduces students to Islamic law and legal theories. It first discusses the history of formation and development of Classical Islamic law and its sources. It also examines the implementation of Islamic law as a practice. The course then proceeds to discuss the historical development of Islamic legal theories through two major aspects of legal theory: Fuqaha and Mutakallimun. A significant part of the course deals with the contemporary approaches and challenges to Islamic Law and developments in Islamic legal thinking in modern times. During this course, students are expected to analyze texts in Arabic under supervision.

MAIS 513 – Islam and Contemporary Issues

This course addresses contemporary challenges confronting modern Muslims through a critical examination of controversial issues such as jihad, extremism, fundamentalism, and approaches to the Shari’ah. The course also includes some other important debates such as women’s rights, political Islamism, environmental issues, and bioethical debates. The course aims to explore different reactions and responses of Modern Muslim people and groups to local and global developments.

MAIS 514 – Islam and Gender Issues

The course surveys topics related to Islam and gender issues based on the Islamic primary texts and secondary literature. We analyze Islamic texts and consider the historical and cultural state of women’s intellectual activities since the beginning of Islam, including Qur’anic narratives about women. Due consideration is given to the biographies and works on Muslim women figures, scholars, and Sufi mystics. Sources and issues related to women in Islam will be analyzed from the perspective of its relation to the modern world.

MAIS 515 – History of Islamic Civilization I: From Beginning Until Pre-Modern

This course examines the history of Muslim communities and civilization from the death of Prophet Muhammad until 19th century. Rightly Guided Caliphs, the Umayyad Dynasty, the Abbasid Dynasty, the Ottoman Empire, and other Islamic sultanates will be explored. The major historical events, as well as the intellectual, economic, social, and cultural components of Muslim civilization, will be highlighted. Muslims’ contribution to science and civilization and the decline of the Muslim world will also be discussed.

MAIS 516 – History of Islamic Civilization II: From Pre-Modern Until Today

This course looks at the history of Muslim societies from the nineteenth century to today. It critically examines the important events, figures, and movements. The course provides students with a broad understanding of the political and social changes brought about by the fall of the Ottoman, Mughal, and Safavid empires, as well as the rise of national states. The consequences of Western Colonialism and Orientalism on the Muslim world in theological, political, legal, cultural, and spiritual areas will be discussed. Special emphasis will be put on Islamic Revival and Reform movements and their important representatives such as Rifa’a Tahtawi, Khayr al-Din Pasha, Jamal al-Din Afghani, Ahmad Khan, and Muhammad Abduh.

MAIS 517 – Sira: The Life of the Prophet

The course introduces students to the life of the Prophet Muhammad from both the perspective of its 1st/7th-century socio-historical context in the Arabian Peninsula, as well as from the perspective of the significance of the narrative of the Prophet’s life for Muslims and non-Muslims living in contemporary socio-historical contexts. The course seeks to cultivate in students a critical awareness of how to relate and apply the narrative of the Prophet to the present context with intellectual and spiritual integrity. Sources include: the classical sira redaction of Ibn Hisham/Ibn Ishaq; contemporary biographies of the Prophet written by both Muslims and non-Muslims; documentaries and docudramas focusing on the life of the Prophet; and a variety of sermons attempting to extract lessons for contemporary living from episodes in the life of the Prophet. During this course, students are expected to analyze texts in Arabic under supervision.

* Prerequisite: MAIS 501 and 502

MAIS 518 – Islam in America

This course will review the history of Muslim communities in North America, including the arrival of Muslim slaves from Africa during the “Middle Passage,” and waves of immigration throughout the 19th/13th and 20th/14th centuries. Special attention will be given to the particular role of religious communities within American civil society and the particular challenges faced by African American and “Immigrant” Muslim communities.

MAIS 519 – World Religions

This course will cover the content of the main world religions. We will consider Asian cyclical religions and the Western linear religions in their historical and cultural contexts. Given the realities of the increasing multi-faith character of North American society, individuals and congregations find themselves interacting with people and groups from a variety of different faiths. Visits to the sacred spaces of traditions other than Islam should be anticipated. The course will provide a chance for students to reexamine the self in the mirror of the other.

MAIS 520 – Islamic Ethics

This course aims to discuss the main Islamic ethical theories. It will cover fiqh, kalam, falsafa and tasawwuf and give a holistic picture for understanding the multidimensional nature of Islamic ethics. For a better understanding of the theories in question, there will be comparisons from the ethical theories of Western philosophy. At the end of the course, students examine some practical problems in the contemporary world, and apply the theories we have covered to them. We will survey the discussions concerning the role of the Qur’an and Tradition in shaping ethical theories, the source of morality, the moral traits of human beings and how to develop them, as well as the interrelation between ethical teaching and other disciplines that examine social and natural phenomena.

MAIS 521 – Skills for Islamic Ministry

The course aims to provide professional track students with the skill to be competent and growing leaders as imams, chaplains, counselors, financial advisors dialogue center staff and leaders, as well as spokespersons for Islam in inter-religious settings. As there are special needs for hospital and prison chaplains, the course seeks to provide guidance that will lead to accreditation by professional organizations.

MAIS 522 – Introduction to Islamic Banking and Finance

The course will give students a clear understanding of the financial system in which modern Islamic finance operates. The course’s focus is on developing understandings of how Shariah rules including those concerning interest (riba) are applied in financial operations, products, and environments. Rules derived from historical fiqh rulings as well as specific faith based moral imperatives are included in modern Islamic financial concerns and procedures. Since several countries have systemized rules to allow the emergence of robust domestic Islamic banking and capital markets activities, participants will learn how and why Islamic financial products are structured to meet certain government, business, and consumer financial needs. They will learn key rules, the means to layer structures or to analyze why complex fiscal products are either successful or controversial. These products will be given context: banking or investment banking, specific countries, and generic applications. The course will consider key standard setting bodies and their rulings such as the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions, the International Islamic Financial Markets, as well the Malaysian, Bahraini and American regulators. To promote understanding, the course is neutral in the analysis and application of different standards, systems, and styles. The course will follow practical case studies drawn from Muslim majority and minority markets, from conventional and Islamic banks, and environments with and without clear regulations.

MAIS 523 – Reading Islamic Texts in Classical Arabic

In this course, students will read Arabic texts from major Islamic disciplines such as Tafsir, Hadith, Fiqh and Aqaid under the supervision of instructors. As a result, they will be able to put their reading skills learned in the Classical Arabic classes to use.

* Prerequisite: MAIS 501 and MAIS 502

MAIS 524 – Dialogue in the World of Diversity

This course examines religious diversity in both religiously pluralistic societies such as the United States and largely religiously uniform societies such as India and Turkey. The course will address questions of how Muslims have historically and in the present engaged religious pluralism in both theory and practice, particularly with respect to Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism. It will also examine recent developments in selected Islamist political theologies of violent resistance and exclusion, as well as recent developments in Islamic theologies of religious pluralism and the latter’s relationship to Islamic principles of social justice and participatory government. Particular attention will be given to efforts that provide for inter-religious dialogue, understanding and cooperation in local communities, national organizations, and international arenas.

MAIS 525 – Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)

CPE is an off-campus course in supervised ministry in inter-religious settings accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education. The centers include hospitals, correctional institutions, nursing homes and other agencies. Normally students are to apply for admission to a program at a center six months in advance of starting the program. The course is aimed at developing the student’s self-awareness, learning ministry skills, and theological reflection on the human condition.

MAIS 526 – Science and Civilization in Islam

This course aims to give a holistic picture of the origins, accomplishments, and the so-called “decline” of Islamic Civilization by tracing the theoretical perspectives behind it. The focus is on the medieval institutions of Islamic civilization, the various sciences and arts that have been practiced by Muslims, the background philosophies, interactions with Western civilization and the perceived challenges that modern science poses to the Islamic faith.

MAIS 527 – Islam and Global Politics

This course explores the interaction of Islam and democracy, civil society, and globalization in Muslim majority societies. On the basis of an anthropological approach to Islam, we recognize Islam’s internal diversity while it adapts to and resists different global contexts. Consideration is given to the roles of competing Muslim authorities, such as traditional scholars, Sufi orders, and revivalist movements in diverse settings involving social change, ethnic conflict, and economic development. Among the areas of the Islamic world, discussed are India, Turkey, and the Near East.

MAIS 528 – The Near East

The course introduces students to the study of the Near East in the light of broader religious, historical, cultural, and political perspectives. Special attention will be paid to the role of religions in the region. Transformation of Islam/religion in different political settings is a significant aspect of the course. Beginning with a general overview of Near East history, politics and religion, the course moves to examining the relationship of religion and politics in four major Near Eastern countries: Egypt, Iran, Turkey, and Israel.

MAIS 529 – History of Christian-Muslim Relations

This course will review the historical encounter between Muslims and Christians since the 7th/1st century up until the end of the Ottoman Empire in the 20th/14th century. Special attention will be given to the texts written by each faith community of and about the other, as well as particular social-political contexts with the Near East.

MAIS 530 – Independent Study

Student may explore a topic of interest in depth as it relates to the field of Islamic Studies. This is an individual, independent study based upon a plan submitted by the student. Permission to conduct an independent study is dependent upon the consent of a supervising instructor and the Dean of Academic Affairs.

* This course is offered irregularly.

MAIS 698 – Introduction to Philosophy of Religion

The philosophy of religion entails the rational examination of all aspects related to religious phenomena. Throughout this course, we will explore both the historical and contemporary perspectives concerning cosmological, ontological, and teleological arguments. Additionally, we’ll delve into the current discourse surrounding fine-tuning arguments supporting the existence of God, along with debates addressing the problem of evil, both for and against the existence of a divine being.
This exploration will extend to various pertinent topics such as immortality, morality, miracles, the intersection of science and religion, and the concept of religious pluralism, all examined through a philosophical lens. Our aim is to link these philosophical inquiries to real-life experiences, presenting not outdated elements but functional, guiding principles for life. The course will emphasize active engagement through attentive reading, participatory discussions focusing on key points highlighted in class, and a comprehensive understanding and critical evaluation of philosophical predicaments.

* This is an on-site/in-person only course.

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