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Islamic studies in Ph.D. Programs in Religious Studies

The following table is a brief summary of options for pursuing Islamic studies in Ph.D. programs in Religious Studies in North American universities. This list draws on the member institutions in the Council for Graduate Study in Religion, a consortium of 34 universities offering the Ph.D. degree in Religious Studies (this group includes public and private universities, plus divinity schools and seminaries that offer an academic Ph.D.). This list does not include area studies programs based in departments of Near Eastern or Middle Eastern area studies, or stand-alone Islamic studies programs unrelated to a religious studies department. There is certainly no uniformity in the way religious studies departments structure their programs, or in the way that they conceive of Islamic studies (barely half of these universities include Islamic studies in their graduate curricula). For full details, it is necessary to go to each department to determine the nature of the program, the interests of relevant faculty, and the extent to which these programs can call upon the resources of related area studies programs. The program descriptions here are taken from publicly available sources; please communicate any corrections, omissions, or suggestions to

Arizona State University
Boston University
Columbia University

Duke University

Emory University

Harvard University

Indiana University

McGill University

Northwestern University

Princeton University

Stanford University

Syracuse University

Temple University

University of California, Santa Barbara

University of Chicago

University of Iowa

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

University of Notre Dame

University of Pennsylvania

University of Toronto

University of Virginia

Vanderbilt University

Yale University 

Related Links: 
Islamic studies in M.A. Programs in Religious Studies
Directory of Graduate and Undergraduate Programs in Middle East Studies, from the Middle East Studies Association
Current Academic Job Openings in Islamic Studies, from the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations
Guide to the Graduate Study of Religion and Theology, American Academy of Religion

Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ:

Department of Religious Studies
The Department of Religious Studies investigates religion from a core perspective in the Humanities that also engages the social and behavioral sciences.  The faculty, consisting of over 24 full-time professors, leads a PhD program that explores religious ideas and values, as expressed in texts, practices, and institutions throughout history and across the globe.  Religious Studies professors have a special strength in teaching and research regarding Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Native American Traditions.  Expertise in the transnational dimensions of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam is also a distinctive feature of the department.
The Department stands out for its concentration of faculty and resources in several areas that are grouped into doctoral research tracks, including Islam in Global Contextwith concentration on historical and contemporary expressions in Southeast Asia, West Africa, and South Asia.
Faculty Relevant to Islamic Studies: Abdallahi Gallab, Shala Talebi, Mark Woodward

Boston University; Boston, MA: 

The Division of Religious and Theological Studies of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Degrees offered: Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy

Areas of Specialization: Entering graduate students may choose among twelve fields of concentration in three main subject areas, each of which is cross-cultural and multi-disciplinary.

  • Religious Texts and Traditions: Judaic Studies; New Testament and Christian Origins; History of Christianity; Islamic Studies.
  • Religion, Philosophy, and Ethics:Philosophy of Religion; Science, Philosophy, and Religion; Theology; Social Ethics.
  • Religion, Culture and Society: Religion and Society; Religion and Literature; Psychology of Religion; Counseling Psychology and Religion.

Specialization in Islamic Studies:

Description: The concentration in Islamic Studies is flexible and may be configured according to the student’s interests and professional goals. The focus is on the religious, literary, and intellectual history of Islam, with emphasis on both the medieval and the modern periods. Students entering the program should have a broad range of courses in one or more of these fields: history of religion, Islamic history, late antique background of Islam, medieval studies, and an Islamic language (Arabic, Persian, or Turkish) and its literature.

Faculty Relevant to Islamic Studies: 
Kecia Ali, Religion; Thomas Barfield, Anthropology; Irene Gendzier, Political Science; Thomas Glick, History; Shahla Haeri, Anthropology; Robert Hefner, Anthropology; Frank Korom, Religion; Charles Lindholm, University Professor; Herbert Mason, University Professor; Shakir Mustafa, Modern Foreign Languages; Augustus Norton, Anthropology; Sunil Sharma, Modern Foreign Languages. Professor Merlin Swartz, Religion, will be retiring after 2007-8.

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Columbia University; New York, NY:

The graduate program in religion is a cooperative program between the Departments of Religion at Columbia University and Barnard College and Union Theological Seminary.

Degrees offered: MA, M.Phil., PhD

Program In Religion

Description: It is designed for the study of the history, literature, theory, and functions of religion in its various forms within different societies and cultures. A distinctive feature of this program is the opportunity for students not only to gain advanced training in specific fields of religious studies, but also to acquire a basic knowledge of the world’s major religious traditions and of the principal methods and theories employed in the study of religion. Such knowledge is useful as preparation for teaching courses of broad scope and as a background for the study of more limited areas.

Areas of Specialization: 

Chinese and Japanese Religions
Early Christianity
Hebrew Bible
History of Christianity
History of Religions in North America
History of Religions in Late Antiquity
Philosophy of Religion
Religions of South Asia
Sociology of Religion

Specialization in Islam

Description:Once the requisite courses and language study have been completed (Arabic, and Persian, Urdu or Turkish; French and German or another ancient or modern language appropriate to the candidate’s specialization), the candidate prepares an extensive bibliography covering basic issues in the study of Islamic Religion beginning with pre-Islamic Arabia and working up through the late medieval and/or modern periods. Topics that must be covered include Muhammad, the Qur’an, Hadith, Islamic Law, Philosophical Theology, Sufism and Islamic Modernism/Revivalism. In addition to these general topics, the bibliography should focus on the general area of interest of the candidate, e.g., Medieval Islam, the Umayyad Period, etc. This preparation is the basis of the First Field Exam. The student then begins preliminary dissertation research and designs a dissertation proposal. The student is asked to prepare a bibliography that deals more generally with the area of his or her research. Working closely with the advisor, preferably in a guided reading and research course, the candidate prepares a lengthy paper on a mutually agreed upon topic. The paper serves as a first step in dissertation research. The paper is evaluated by the individual’s advisor and another member of the faculty. The candidate should consult with the advisor and second reader after the paper is evaluated. This is the research and preparation for the Second Field Exam. The candidate should then begin the preparation of a more detailed outline of the overall research project, viz., a dissertation proposal.

Faculty Relevant To Islamic Studies: 

Peter Awn, Courtney Bender, Neguin Yavari

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Duke University; Durham, NC: 

The Graduate Program in Religion

Degrees Offered: A.M., Ph.D., JD/MA (Note: Applicants interested in the JD/MA will make application to the Law School rather than to the Graduate School.)

Areas of Specialization: 

  • Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
  • New Testament
  • Ancient, European and American Christianity
  • Judaic Studies
  • Islamic Studies
  • Christian Theology
  • Religion in Modernity (including non-Western traditions)

Specialization in Islamic Studies
The Ph.D. program in Islamic Studies at Duke covers the study of Islam as a religious and intellectual tradition as well as the study of Muslim societies past and present.. Rigorous emphasis on the humanities and social sciences requires students to explore the classical Islamic sciences at the same time that they examine the cultural and historical expression of Islamicate civilization in its various historical phases. Areas of strength include: history (medieval, modern and postmodern; intellectual, cultural and social) and Islamic thought (also medieval, modern and postmodern; legal, philosophical and theological), with special attention to law and society, Qur’anic studies, hermeneutics & text criticism, mysticism, human rights, and gender studies.

Faculty Relevant To Islamic Studies: 
Bruce B. Lawrence (Ph.D., Yale), Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Professor of Religion (history of religion, religions of India).
Ebrahim Moosa (Ph.D., University of Cape Town), Associate Research Professor of Religion (Islamic law, ethics, theology, and critical theory).

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Emory University; Atlanta, GA:

The Graduate Division of Religion

Degrees Offered: Ph.D. 

Areas of Specialization: 

  • American Religious Cultures
  • Comparative Literature and Religion
  • Ethics and Society
  • Hebrew Bible
  • Historical Studies in Theology and Religion
  • New Testament
  • Person, Community, and Religious Practices
  • Theological Studies
  • West and South Asian Religions

Specialization in Islamic Studies

Description: The Program in West and South Asian Religions offers seminars and dissertation supervision in religious traditions of this region (principally Islamic, Hindu, and early Buddhist). The program studies these religions in terms of their texts, practices, systems of thought and values, institutions, and symbolic formations.  Preparation is offered in each of these religious traditions, along with their relations to others (e.g., Islamic-Jewish, Hindu-Christian, Islamic-Hindu). General issues in the interpretation of religion as an orientation to foundational understandings and values regarding human meaning are enhanced by being explored in relation to the religious formations of this region. Seminars are offered in the history, literatures, ethnographies, practices, legal traditions, diaspora and trans-national traditions and practices, religious thought, and interrelations with other traditions. In addition to the modern language requirement of the Graduate Division of Religion, students are required to demonstrate advanced research proficiency in one West or South Asian language. Emory offers introductory to advanced levels of instruction in the following languages: Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, Hindi, and Hebrew. Significant library holdings in West and South Asian religions are housed in Woodruff Library. The Pitts Theology Library also has extensive holdings related to West and South Asian religions, especially in the area of history of Christian missions. Considerable acquisitions are being pursued via electronic formats. Emory and Atlanta offer wide resources in support of the program. The Law and Religion Program of Emory Law School offers seminars and occasional major international symposia in the interrelations among law, religion, and religious human rights, including attention to Islamic ethics, law, and politics. The Atlanta metropolitan area offers significant opportunities for the study of West and South Asian religious traditions in their diaspora context in the American South. Emory enjoys cordial relations with many religious communities, which have been most hospitable in welcoming students to observe and study their communities and practices.

Faculty Relevant to Islamic Studies: Richard C. Martin; Vincent Cornell; Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im; Gordon Newby; David S. Pacini; Devin Stewart; Carrie Wickham.

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Harvard University; Cambridge, MA:

The program in The Study of Religion is sustained by faculty drawn from Arts and Sciences and the Divinity School, with connections as well to faculty in the Kennedy School of Government and the Law School. 

Degrees Offered: MA, PhD

PhD Fields of Study

This degree involves both general and specialized work in the study of religion. At the most general level, every candidate undertakes to develop a synoptic historical understanding of human religiousness at large and a firm grounding in the theories and methodologies in the field of the study of religion. This foundation is to be deepened through a broad grasp of a context of study (see below), which provides the principal framework within which the candidate must develop mastery, at an advanced level, of some specialization in the study of religion.

Context of Study:
As there are substantial faculty and other resources in these areas at Harvard, the following contexts have been recognized for work in the Study of Religion:
TRADITIONS: Buddhist, Christian, Confucian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish
HISTORICAL COMPLEXES: Greco-Roman or Hellenistic World, The Modern West, East Asia, China, Japan, South Asia
Applicants may propose other traditions or historical complexes, e.g. Inner Asian or African religions, for study. Those interested in Iranian or Ancient Near Eastern religions should consult both the Study of Religion and the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations to determine how a program might best be shaped.

Special Field. In addition to locating his or her program within a context of study, a student will focus on an area of specialization.For those students whose contexts of study are the Christian tradition, the Greco-Roman or Hellenistic World historical complex, or the Modern West historical complex, there is a particularly wide range of resources at Harvard Divinity School. At present the special fields (which correspond to certain faculty groups at the Divinity School) pertinent to these contexts of study are:

  • New Testament and Christian Origins 
  • History of Christianity 
  • Theology 
  • Ethics 
  • Religion and Society 
  • Religion, Gender, and Culture

It is important both to the admissions process and in the initial assignment of an adviser that applicants in the Christian tradition, the Modern West, or the Greco-Roman or Hellenistic World, indicate which of the above fields will serve as “home base.”

Topical Interests. More specific topical interests within the special field –such as women’s experience, ritual, popular religion, or mysticism — should also be noted.

Program Options

The Ph.D. program is pursued under any one of three different options:

Option I: Comparative. While there is a comparative element in all advanced study of religion, the work under this Option makes it explicit in that the student chooses for comparison two religious traditions (see list above), one to be the major, one the minor. As historical complexes are by nature comparative, they should not be chosen for comparison in an Option I program. Therefore, one could do an Option I program comparing Christianity and Hinduism, but not Christianity and South Asia. Nor could one compare the Modern West and South Asia, for example. In view of the comparative emphasis, a student should select as the major a tradition to which he or she is not personally related by commitment and/or cultural affiliation. The minor tradition chosen will normally be the one to which the candidate is related.

Option II: A Single Tradition or Historical Complex. Under this option, one of the traditions or historical complexes for which facilities are available at Harvard (see lists above) is chosen as the context of study. The specialization is pursued within that context. Some examples of Option II programs are: Buddhism (context of study)/ethics(specialization); the Modern West (context of study)/Theology(specialization); Hinduism(context of study)/the medieval period (specialization).

Option III: Religion and an Allied Field. Under this Option the student chooses a context of study in religion, which is then allied to the study of another discipline, normally another department in the faculty of Arts and Sciences, or even another faculty at Harvard. Some examples of Option III programs are: Religion (the Modern West) and Philosophy; Religion (Islam) and Law; Religion (the Christian Tradition) and Fine Arts. As noted above, students in the contexts of study of the Christian Tradition or Modern West, should specify clearly their special field, e.g. Theology, Ethics, etc.Applicants proposing to work in Option III should consider the faculty and curricular resources of the allied department or Faculty involved and should familiarize themselves with its own doctoral program requirements. So far as possible, they should try to consult in a preliminary way with members of the faculty in question. (Faculty and staff connected with the Committee on the Study of Religion may be able to facilitate such contacts.)

Faculty Relevant to Islamic Studies: 

William A. Graham, Professor of the History of Religion and Islamic Studies

Leila Ahmed, Professor of Divinity

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Indiana University; Bloomington, IN:

The Department of Religious Studies

Description: The department has established strengths in the areas of religious ethics, North American religions, Chinese religions, South Asian Religions, and Buddhist studies. With some recent appointments we have created new clusters of strength in India Studies, Judaism and Christianity in antiquity and the history of Christianity.

Degrees Offered: MA, PhD

Areas of Specialization: 

critical and ethical studies
cross-cultural studies
biblical studies
historical studies

Faculty Relevant to Islamic Studies:

Jamsheed Choksy [Central Eurasian Studies], Ph.D., Harvard University (1991). Zoroastrianism, ancient and modern; Islamic studies; history of religions. 

Quinton Dixie: Ph.D., Union Theological Seminary (1999). History of African American Christianity, Islam in the African-American Experience, Religion and labor in American Culture.

  1. Kevin Jaques, Ph.D., Emory University (2001). Islamic legal history, Islam in Southeast Asia and Indian Ocean communities, Islam in the United States, religious authority in times of social and cultural upheaval, methods and methodologies in the academic study of religion, ethnography.

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McGill University; Montreal, Quebec, Canada:

The Institute of Islamic Studies: The Faculty of Arts

Degrees Offered: M.A. and Ph.D. in Islamic Studies, and a Graduate Diploma in Islamic Studies.

Areas of Specialization:

  • Islamic languages
  • History of various Muslim Empires
  • The social institutions of the Islamic world
  • Islamic philosophy and thought 
  • Modern developments in various regions of the Islamic world

Faculty Relevant to Islamic Studies:

Uner Turgay (Director of the Institute): B.A. (Roberts College. Istanbul), M.A., Ph.D. (Madison-Wisconsin); Areas of Expertise: Ottoman/Turkish History/Language; Modern Developments in Islam; Central Asia

Sajida Alvi: B.A., M.A., Ph.D. (Punj.)

Areas of Expertise: History of Muslim India/Pakistan; Medieval and Modern Iran; Persian and Urdu Languages

Issa J. Boullata (Emeritus): Ph.D. (London)

Areas of Expertise: Arabic Language/Literature; Qur’anic Studies 

Wael Hallaq: B.A. (Haifa), Ph.D. (Wash.)

Areas of Expertise: Islamic Law; Arabic Language 

Michelle Hartman: B.A. (Columbia), Ph.D. (Oxford)

Areas of Expertise: Arabic Language and Literature; Francophone Arabic Literature

Donald Little (Emeritus): B.A. (Vanderbilt), M.A. (Stanford), Ph.D. (Calif.)

Areas of Expertise: Mamluks; Classical/Medieval Islamic History; Arabic Language

Eric Ormsby: B.A. (Penn.), M.A. (Princeton), M.L.S. (Rutgers), Ph.D. (Princeton)

Areas of Expertise: Islamic Philosophy; Islamic Theology

In addition, the Institute attracts a variety of Visiting Professors and Lecturers each year.

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Northwestern University; Evanston, Ill:

Department of Religion
Degrees Offered: MA, PhD

The Religion Department at Northwestern offers a highly flexible, interdisciplinary PhD program that utilizes faculty expertise from schools and academic departments throughout the University. Students, who are required to take half of their coursework outside of the Religion Department, focus on one of four areas of specialization: American Religion, Buddhism in Its Asian Context; Medieval Christianity; and Religion, Ethics, and Public Life.
Religion, Ethics, and Public Life focuses on religious responses to issues in public life, with an emphasis on the environment, bioethics and sexuality, and social policy. Projects in this concentration may either focus on a single religious tradition or take a comparative approach. Students choose one of two theoretical approaches:
* Descriptive and analytical: investigates the responses of religious individuals and communities to political and social movements focused on moral questions; emphasizes the disciplines of history, sociology, and anthropology
* Critical and constructive: analyzes theological and moral positions on social phenomena as expressed in many genres; stresses the disciplines of philosophy and theology.
Students in this program are also encouraged to participate in TGS’s Interdisciplinary Initiative program, including the African Studies program, with an emphasis on Islam in Africa.

Faculty Relevant to Islamic Studies: Ruediger Seesemann, Muhammad Sani Umar

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Princeton University; Princeton, New Jersey: 

Department of Religion

Degrees Offered: PhD (MA awarded after passing the General Examination)

Areas of Specialization:

Asian Religions 

Religions of Late Antiquity

Religion in America

Philosophy of Religion

Religion, Ethics & Politics


Description: This field is devoted to the study of Islamic beliefs and practices within the cultural and historical context of the Middle East. Applicants should have advanced preparation in Arabic. Students in this field may pursue their graduate work in conjunction with the Program in Near Eastern Studies and will make use of the resources provided by the Departments of History, Near Eastern Studies, and Anthropology. 

Faculty Relevant to Islamic Studies: Shaun E. MarmonMuhammad Q. Zaman

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Stanford University: Palo Alto, CA: 

Department of Religious Studies 

Degrees Offered: MA, PhD

Areas of Specialization:

  • Buddhist Studies
  • Christian Studies
  • Jewish Studies
  • The field ofIslamic Studies is concerned with religious thought as well as the intellectual and social history of Muslim societies. Although open to all sub-fields of Islamic studies, the program is particularly appropriate for students whose interests coincide with the work of Professors Behnam Sadeki (Islamic origins, Quran and hadith, Islamic law) and Shahzad Bashir (Sufism, Shi’ism, religious history of Iran, Central Asia, and India). Students are expected to acquire competence in two Islamic languages (Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Urdu, etc.) along with fulfilling departmental requirements for languages necessary for a mastery of modern scholarship. The program aims to prepare students to work extensively with primary sources in conjunction with paying self-conscious attention to research methodologies in religious studies and related fields. Departmental offerings in religious studies are an integral part of the Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies at Stanford and students are expected to work with faculty in other departments, such as history, history of art, comparative literature, and anthropology. Along with building research competence, the program trains students to teach broadly in Islamic Studies.

Faculty Relevant To Islamic Studies: Shahzad Bashir, Behnam Sadeki

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Syracuse University; Syracuse, NY:

Graduate Program in Religion

Degrees Offered: MA, PhD

Areas of Specialization:

Traditions (African-American, Buddhist, Christian, Graeco-Roman, Hindu, Islamic, Judaic, Mesoamerican, Native American

Geographies (The Americas, Ancient Mediterranean Basin, East Asia, Europe, Middle East, South Asia)

Religion and Culture (Anthropology, Art and Music, Biblical Criticism, Ethics, Gender Studies, Hermeneutics, History, Literature, Myth and Ritual,Psychology, Theology, historical and contemporary, Theology, Philosophy, and Critical Theory)

Faculty Relevant to Islamic Studies: Tazim R. Kassam

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Temple University; Philadelphia, PA:

The Department of Religion 

Degrees Offered: MA, PhD

Areas of Specialization:

  • Historical and Textual Origins
  • Philosophy of Religion and Religious Thought
  • Religion, Culture and Society

Description: Students usually concentrate within one of these Areas, but are expected to develop familiarity with the methods of study in the other Areas. The Department makes available for study a broad spectrum of religious traditions. Instruction is offered in African religions, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Taoism. The intersections of these traditions with the major forces in culture and society are examined, in such subjects as religion and sociology; anthropology; politics; psychology; ethics, and linguistics. The several methods of analysis of the phenomenon of religion are debated, appropriate to historical-textual studies, philosophy of religion, and social and cultural studies.

Faculty Relevant to Islamic Studies: 

Mahmoud Ayoub; Khalid A. Y. Blankinship.
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University of California at Santa Barbara:

Department of Religious Studies

Degrees Offered:M.A./Ph.D.: This program is for students preparing for university teaching and research careers.

Ph.D.: This program is for students transferring to UCSB with a Master’s degree or its equivalent and preparing for a career in university teaching and research.

Areas of Specialization: The department offers courses in the religious dimensions of eastern, western, and third-world cultures. The implications of modern political movements such as nationalism or Marxism for religious studies are also covered. All programs emphasize a cross-cultural comparative study of religions and use interdisciplinary approaches as appropriate to religious studies, incorporating such disciplines as history, political science, anthropology, sociology, comparative literature, and philosophy. Undergraduate and master’s programs provide a general orientation toward religious studies, while the doctoral program offers specialized training leading to professions in teaching and research.

Faculty Relevant to Islamic Studies: 

  • Juan E. Campo
  • Dwight F.Reynolds
  • Magda Campo

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University of Chicago; Chicago, Ill:

The Committee on Constructive Studies in Religion, the Committee on Historical Studies, and the Committee on Religion and the Human Sciences

Degrees Offered: MA, PhD

Areas of Specialization:
Biblical Studies
History of Christianity
History of Judaism
History of Religions
Islamic Studies: The Islamic studies area engages in the study of Islam as a textual tradition inscribed in history and particular cultural contexts. The area seeks to provide an introduction to and a specialization in Islam through a large variety of expressions (literary, poetic, social, and political) and through a variety of methods (literary criticism, hermeneutics, history, sociology, and anthropology). It offers opportunities to specialize in fields that include Qur’anic studies, Sufi literature, Islam and power, and contemporary manifestations of Islam.
Philosophy of Religion
Anthropology and Sociology of Religion
Religion and Literature

Committee on Religion and the Human Sciences: The Committee on Religion and the Human Sciences engages in the humanistic and social scientific study of religious traditions and phenomena, and it studies literature and society in relation to religion. Faculty and students associated with the Committee give primacy to methods of study that have become established in the academic community during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Though each of the areas that constitutes part of the Committee may draw on both the methods and materials of the other areas, each has its own distinctive profile. History of Religions emphasizes historical, phenomenological, and comparative studies; Anthropology and Sociology of Religion concentrates on the cultural context of religious experiences, communities, and practices; and Religion and Literature focuses on the critical and interpretive study of literary texts.

Faculty Relevant to Islamic Studies: Malika Zeghal, Michael Sells

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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Chapel Hill, NC:

Department of Religious Studies

Degrees Offered: MA, PhD

Areas of Specialization:

  • American Religions
  • Ancient Mediterranean Religions 
  • History of Religions
  • Islamic Studies
  • Medieval and Early Modern Studies 
  • Religion and Culture

Specialization in Islamic Studies

General Description:The field of Islamic studies at UNC-CH takes a global, interdisciplinary, and comparative approach to the study of Islamic religion and Muslim cultures. Utilizing literary, historical, sociological, anthropological, and other critical lenses, program participants explore a broad array of Islamic religious traditions, both elite and popular. Students also work closely with program faculty to develop their own particular sub-fields in Islamic studies. 

Languages:All students must develop proficiency in at least one Islamicate language (usually Arabic, Persian, Turkish, or Urdu) before proceeding to the dissertation stage. Additional languages may be required, depending on the research trajectory of the student. 

Faculty Relevant To Islamic Studies: 

Carl W. Ernst, Ph. D. (Harvard University, 1981). Islamic studies, with emphasis on South Asia and Iran. Current research interests: Sufism, Muslim interpretations of Hinduism, Islam in the contemporary world. 

Omid Safi, Ph.D. (Duke University, 2000). Progressive Islamic Thought; Social and Intellectual History of Pre-modern Islam; Islamic Mysticism

Jodi Magness, Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania, 1989). Islamic archaeology, focusing on the early Islamic period in Syria-Palestine. Research interests: Islamic pottery, settlement patterns.

Special Resources:One feature of the program is its close cooperation with the Islamic studies faculty from The Department of Religion at Duke University, located just ten miles from Chapel Hill. Graduate students from both programs regularly participate in joint graduate seminars and informal reading groups, and ask faculty from both universities to serve on their examination and Ph.D. committees. 

Additional resources for the comparative study of Islam in the area include the following:
The Carolina-Duke-Emory Institute for the Study of Islam is a consortium of Religious Studies departments at UNC, Duke and Emory universities, focusing on faculty lecture series, graduate-student semester exchange, and collaborative project development. It promotes the analytical and comparative study of Islam.
The Carolina Seminar on Comparative Islamic Studies is a monthly seminar at UNC that brings together scholars and students from a variety of disciplines at colleges and universities in the Triangle and throughout North Carolina to share current research on Islamic cultures in different regions. It is merging into the new Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations, housed in the UNC Asia Center.
The Center for the Study of Muslim Networks, located at Duke, is a research facility that aims to create an interlocking research program involving visiting fellows and workshops, international conferences, cyber resources and other forms of public awareness and outreach. The center also hosts the Muslim Networks Consortium, a collaborative network of scholars from Duke, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, and Emory University, together with several national and international universities around the world.
The North Carolina Center for South Asia Studies is a National Resource Center for South Asia studies,  cosponsored by UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, North Carolina Central University, and North Carolina State University. It has a particular interest in South Asian Islam.
University of North Carolina Press has launched a manuscript series on  Islamic Civilization 
and Muslim Networks edited by Bruce Lawrence and Carl Ernst. 

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University of Notre Dame; Notre Dame, IN:

Department of Theology

Degrees Offered: MA, MTS, PhD

Areas of Specialization:

Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity 
The History of Christianity  
Liturgical Studies 
Moral Theology/Christian Ethics 
Systematic Theology

DescriptionScholarship pertaining to religious and theological matters is actively pursued in many departments. Hence, the resources available to graduate students exceed what is offered within the Department of Theology. Faculty, courses and research in other sectors of the University are available in the departments of philosophy, history (with resources in church history), sociology (including sociology of religion), government (especially church-state issues), anthropology (with accents on Islam and Latin American Christianity), the Medieval Institute (with excellent library and micromaterial collections), the Center for the Study of Contemporary Society, and the Institute for Church Life.

Faculty Relevant To Islamic Studies: David Burrell

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University of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, PA:

The Department of Religious Studies and the Graduate Group in Religious Studies 

Degrees Offered: MA, PhD

Areas of Specialization: The primary emphasis of the program is upon understanding through interpretation. Interpretation is broadly construed to include: appreciation of the ways in which geographically diverse cultures from ancient times to the present have interpreted their own religious symbols and actions; sophistication with regard to the methodological difficulties confronting those trained in modern, western scholarship as they attempt to interpret other traditions; understanding of the challenges that face the historian who attempts to establish the text, context, and authorship of a document or event for which evidence is scanty or conflicting; and awareness of the variety of theories that are employed by modern interpreters of religion and the philosophical presuppositions and scholarly ramifications that are implied by them. Thus the focus of the program is upon the descriptive, historical, critical and theoretical work that engages every interpreter of religion. Constructive (“sectarian”) participation in those theological and philosophical tasks that are specific to particular religious traditions is not considered part of the Penn program. 

Faculty Relevant to Islamic Studies: Jamal Elias

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University of Toronto; Toronto, Ontario, Canada:

School of Graduate Studies: Centre for the Study of Religion

Degrees Offered: MA, PhD

Areas of Specialization: 

Faculty Relevant for Islamic Studies:

Sebastion Günther: Religion of Islam, Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Dr. Phil (Martin Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg). Areas of research: Religion of Islam, Islamic ethics and education, Shiism. 

Linda Northrup: Medieval Islam, Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, MA (McGill), PhD (McGill). Areas of research: history of the medieval Arab Islamic world, Mamluk history and historiography, political, economic and social history and institutions, including landholding patterns and Muslim-Christian relations.

James Reilly: Modern Middle Eastern History, Islamic Institutions,
Near and Middle Eastern Civilization, BA (Georgetown), MA (American University of Beirut), PhD (Georgetown). Areas of research: Ottoman Syria, urban history, social and economic history, Arab historiography of the Ottoman period

Walid Saleh: Islamic and Arabic Studies, Qur’an, Study of Religion, BA (American University of Beirut), MA (Yale), PhD (Yale). Areas of Research: The Qur’an, Quranic exegetical tradition, apocalyptic Islamic literature, history of Arabic lexicography, and medieval Arabic biographies.

Maria Subtelny, Islamic Religion, Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations,
BA (Toronto), PhD (Harvard). Areas of research: history and culture of medieval Islamic Iran and Central Asia, the Islamic pious endowment (waqf), classical Persian literature especially mystical poetry. 

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University of Virginia; Charlottesville, VA:

Department of Religious Studies

Degrees Offered: MA, PhD

Areas of Specialization: 

  • History of Religions (African Religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism) 
  • Theology, Ethics, and Culture (Ethics, Religion and Culture, Philosophical Theology and Philosophy of Religion)
  • Historical Studies (Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity, European and American Religious History, Historical Theology). 

Description: Theology, Ethics, and Culture and Historical Studies support research in the history, practices, and thought of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as well as their interactions with various cultural, philosophical, and religious traditions.

Faculty Relevant for Islamic Studies: Abdulaziz A. Sachedina, Timothy Gianotti

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Vanderbilt University; Nashville, TN:


Graduate Department of Religion

Degrees Offered: MA, PhD

Areas of Specialization: 

Hebrew Bible
New Testament
Historical Studies
History and Critical Theories of Religion

Within the Graduate Department of Religion, students enrolled in the History and Critical Theories of Religion section may focus on Islam as their primary area. Arabic language training and courses in theory and methodology for the study of religion will be essential.

Theological Studies

Religion and Personality


Faculty Relevant To Islamic Studies: Richard McGregor

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Yale University; New Haven, CT: 

Department of Religious Studies

Degrees Offered: MA, PhD

Areas of Specialization: 

American Religious History
Ancient Christianity
Buddhist Studies
Islamic Studies
Judaic Studies
New Testament
Old Testament/Hebrew Bible
Philosophy of Religion
Religious Ethics

Specialization in Islamic Studies:

Description: Students in Islamic Studies are expected to develop both a comprehensive knowledge of Islamic intellectual history and religious thought, as well as mastery of a field of specialization and the requisite tools for critical scholarship on Islam. They are expected to demonstrate competency in Islamic religious thought (focusing on Islamic philosophy and theology, including normative and sectarian developments such as Shi’ism and Sufism); Islamic religious history (focusing on the development of Islamic civilization, law, society, and institutions in the period from the origins of Islam to 1500 A.D.)and the study of Islamic scripture and tradition (focusing on the composition, redaction and interpretation of the Qur`an as well as on the development of Hadith literature). Recent dissertation topics in Islamic Studies include: Sufi Thought and Practice in the Teachings of `Ala` al-dawla al-Simnani; The Greeks in Medieval Islamic Egypt: A Melkite Dhimmi Community under the Patriarch of Alexandria, 640-1095; The Fabulous Gryphon; an Early Maghribine Work by Ibn al-`Arabi; Slavery in Islamic Law: An Examination of Early Maliki Jurisprudence; Between Mysticism and Messianism: The Life and Thought of Muhammad Nurbakhsh: The Qur`an Commentary of al-Tha`labi; Mystical Language and Theory in the Sufi Writings of al-Kharraz; The Travels and Teachings of Makhdum-i Jahaniyan Jahangasht; Ahmad Ghazzali: Mystical Poet and Philosopher of Medieval Islam. LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS Students admitted to the Ph.D. program in Islamic Studies are expected to possess or quickly acquire a proficiency in two scholarly languages, normally German and French. For further description of policy and procedure, see departmental brochure. Specific requirements for Islamic Studies are the following: No later than the end of the second year, each student must have passed an examination in advanced literary Arabic and must show the equivalent of two years of course work in Persian (Farsi). Under certain circumstances, a third Islamic language, such as Turkish or Urdu, may be extremely useful for research in the field as well. 

Faculty Relevant To Islamic Studies: 

Gerhard Bowering (Baccalaureate, Wurzburg; Ph.L., Philosophische Hochschule, Munich; Diploma, Panjab University, Lahore; Th.L., Montreal; Ph.D., McGill University) has been Professor of Islamic Studies since 1984. 

Frank Griffel (University Göttingen, Damascus University, M.A. Free University Berlin, Dr. phil. Free University Berlin) has been Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies since July 2000. 

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Last updated Oct. 1, 2007.