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Scholars Are Building a New Academic Program Encompassing Advanced Islamic Theology and Contemporary Thought

Many Muslim higher educational institutions currently teach a curriculum focused on more at-hand legal and social issues, sometimes at the expense of the study of the finer issues of theology and creed. This summer, Shaykh Jihad Brown (Jason Totten), an American Muslim scholar and public figure, is launching a new two-year program, based at the Bayan Islamic Graduate School (a division of the Claremont School of Theology in Southern California), that aims to correct some of that imbalance. With a $234,500 grant from the John Templeton Foundation, he is developing a certificate program in Advanced Islamic Theology to equip budding Muslim thought leaders with resources for constructive theologizing for the present day.

The program will be overseen by Brown along with Munir Shaikh, Bayan’s Director of Academic Affairs, and will draw on both Muslim and non-Muslim sources in the creation of specific courses in classical, post-classical and contemporary Islamic theology. The program will also fund a summer institute which will draw two dozen emerging Muslim theologians, helping to build a cohort of well-networked Muslim scholars equipped for high-quality, interdisciplinary research.

Founded in 2011, Bayan Claremont offers graduate, masters, and doctorate level degrees in various fields of Islamic religious sciences, with the goal of preparing its graduates to engage the current and future generations of American Muslims. Because many of Bayan’s graduates go on to teach thousands of Muslim congregants in mosques and other institutions cross the country, it is hoped that equipping these future faith leaders with a richer view of the resources of Islamic theology will have a multiplicative effect.

“In many American Muslim communities, theology can be taught as a kind of dry, rote dogmatism that seems to bear little on the lives of everyday Muslims,” says Rashid Dar, the John Templeton Foundation’s Program Officer for Global Strategies. “A lack of theological grounding has led to Muslims being unable to adequately defend against attacks levied against Islam and theism in general, and under-equipped to share their worldview with others. Without rigorous theological training, imams run the risk of presenting the Shari’ah to their congregants as existing in a vacuum from theological concerns and presumptions. If this project is successful, the study of theology will make real headway as a serious discipline with felt ramifications for Muslim life in the West.”

STILL CURIOUS?

Learn more about project leaders Shaykh Jihad Brown and Munir Shaikh.