A joint program sponsored by GSISS, the Heritage Trust, and the Washington Theological Consortium.
The purposes of the Taha Al-Alwani Certificate in Muslim-Christian Studies are (a) to give students a deeper knowledge of Islam/Christianity; (b) to give students greater knowledge of dialogue and of reconciliation; (c) to enable students to assume positions of interfaith leadership in their local communities; (d) to provide a foundation for future study of relations between Christianity and Islam.
The Certificate Director holds the Al-Alwani chair in Muslim-Christian Studies at the Consortium. The Director is assisted by an Advisory Board, made up of one school dean, and Christian and Muslim scholars qualified in this field. The Director will survey courses in the schools each term, and select those qualified for the Certificate, with advice form the Advisory Board, and reporting regularly to the Deans.
The certificate may be earned by any “Master’s level or higher degree or certificate student” who enrolls in one of the member schools, on a full-time or part-time basis. (Consortium Practices Booklet, 2005). If not enrolled, call the Consortium office for recommendations at (202) 832-2675.
Muslim students will usually come through the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences. On other campuses, the Dean or a faculty member will recommend the student to the certificate Director for the Certificate Program. The student will complete an enrollment form and submit it to the Director before the courses commence.
To receive a Certificate in Muslim-Christian Studies, the student must complete a total of twelve credits in courses that address Muslim-Christian dialogue as they are offered by faculty in the Consortium member schools.
Required Courses (3 credits each)
- Introduction to Islam (for Christian students) or Christianity (for Muslim students) – origins and history, introduction to Qu’ran or Bible.
- Interreligious dialogue – including how Christians and Muslims understand each other, the nature of religious conflict, processes of mediation, and conflict resolution
- Practical issues in collaboration – care for the poor, democracy, world peace, and more.
- Elective (in the tradition other than one’s own, or another course in Muslim-Christian studies).
Up to 3 credits can be given for a pastoral placement in a Muslim or interfaith institution -with appropriate theological reflection – or an immersion experience recognized by a member school.
The Director will approve the student’s course selections, which must lead to a broad familiarity with the variety of Christian and Muslim faith communities. Normally at least two courses will be taught (or co-taught) by a member of another religious tradition than the student’s, and at least one course is to be taken at a campus other than one’s own. The student must complete all requirements in a timely fashion in accord with the policies of her/his home institution.
Students currently matriculated in one of the schools of the Consortium may apply courses already taken to the certificate program with the approval of the Director. (This privilege will not extend to students who have already graduated.)
For more information, please contact Certificate Director Salih Sayilgan, or call the WTC office at (202) 832-2674.
The Muslim-Christian Studies Certificate is a continuation of the work of Taha Al-Alwani of our Affiliate Member, the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences, and of The Heritage Trust.
Why Pursue Muslim-Christian Studies?
By Dr. Richard Jones, Al-Alwani Chair of Muslim Christian studies, emeritus
As we expand our knowledge of the world’s cultures, we sometimes come upon areas that call us to pause and dig deeper. In the Washington metropolitan area — an immigration destination as well as a center for national and international government — our institutions of higher learning offer rich human and documentary resources for historical, social scientific and geographic approaches to human cultures. Each of these approaches defines its own scope, often prescribing a mandatory sequence of courses leading to an academic credential of proficiency. Each approach is committed to normative procedures for inquiry. These procedures usually include adopting an impartial, non-engaged posture. Insider accounts are subjected to outsider interpretive theory and observations, and the outsider retains the last interpretive word.
Religious studies, an approach to culture aiming to explore the deepest sources of human values, motivations, and belief, present a particular challenge. Human religions can be fruitfully scrutinized with the methods of history, social science, and geography. Yet the impartial or secular observer may come away from such study still unable to account for the power and resilience of religious traditions in human communities. The testimony of the insider, the believer, the engagé, is needed, on its own terms, free from an outsider’s imposed last interpretive word. Only by deep listening can we seriously assess the depth of this dimension of a culture.
Muslim-Christian studies offer specific, focused knowledge about topics of immediate use to public policymakers, community leaders, people in business, pastoral workers, law enforcement personnel, social service providers, and educators whose work or residence puts them outside the boundaries of their own religious tradition and into contact with the other tradition and its living adherents. In the United States of America, and the Washington area in particular, Muslims are a growing, articulate, ethnically diverse, and increasingly influential minority. Christians in the Washington area are a historically dominant, ethnically diverse component of the population with complex views about their collective role in public life. Present-day social conflicts, local and global, as well as a heritage of fourteen centuries of encounter, make Muslim-Christian studies an important addition to the competence and skills of both professionals and good neighbors.
The Certificate in Muslim-Christian Studies offers the opportunity to acquire foundational knowledge and build competence in core skills that will enable the student to engage confidently with individuals and groups from a tradition that is not one’s own. In these studies personal religious convictions do not have to be checked at the door. Rather, these studies assume as part of their method that it is possible to listen with attentive humility, and hence to learn deeply, while still retaining and when appropriate articulating one’s own deepest convictions, even if these convictions cannot for the moment be reconciled with those on the other side. In many classes the other side will be present in the person of the instructor or fellow-students. Beyond the three required courses, additional courses may be chosen to match a current interest or need. What will be called for in all these studies is active listening, openness to new data, and critical – including self-critical – reflection.
To put it into one word, this study demands dialogue.