Advanced Comparative Islamic Studies (MA)

Program Vision

The MA program continues in the spirit of the BA program combining traditional Islamic Sciences with comparative social sciences in a comprehensive curriculum whose objective is to produce a new generation of Muslim scholars who actualize a systemic/holistic understanding (idrak kulli).

Program Overview

The Advanced Comparative Islamic Studies program offered by Usul Academy is a two-year academic program comprised of two years of course work and a thesis. The program is designed to immerse students in the time-honored scholarly traditions of Islamic Civilization as well as comparative Social Sciences. We believe that the challenges of the modern world can be analyzed and answered only by knowing both the traditional scholarly heritage of Islamic Civilization in critical dialogue with modern scientific knowledge. By equipping students with this in depth multiplex curriculum, the program aims at furthering the education of young scholars who can tackle contemporary problems facing humanity from an authentic Islamic perspective.

Program Structure

The annual program consists of three 11-week long terms, plus a 3-week long retreat in Istanbul during the first summer. The weekly schedule consists of 9 hours of online classes. Courses will be a combination of asynchronous and synchronous classes. Recordings will be available for all asynchronous classes, and for synchronous classes upon request only. These online classes will be complemented with an intensive 3-week long Summer Suhba retreat in Istanbul for in-class education, forming ṣuḥbah (fellowship), meeting with our distinguished scholars, as well as visits to historically and culturally important sites throughout Turkey. 

Student Profile

We are aiming to accept students with a solid background in both Islamic Studies and Social Sciences, i.e. the equivalent of our own BA graduates.

Curriculum Components

The curriculum of the Advanced Comparative Islamic Studies Program has four main components: core Islamic studies courses; comparative social science Courses; Guided Self-Study/Disciplinary Focus and the thesis.

I. Core Islamic Studies

Core Islamic Studies courses comprise ‘Ilm al-Kalam, Falsafa & Hikmah, Fiqh & Usul al-Fiqh, ‘Ilm al-Hadith, Tafsir/‘Ulum al-Quran, and Tasawwuf. The courses on Core Islamic Studies will follow the curriculum and methods of traditional education in Islamic Civilization, specifically the Ottoman madrasah system, which consists of reading an advanced classical text (or selections from classical texts) in the original language from each discipline under the supervision of an instructor.


II. Comparative Social Sciences

Comparative Social Sciences courses comprise a number of courses in the humanities and social sciences, which critically engage with and comparatively analyze the modern and postmodern narratives. The courses aim at providing the student with the conceptual tools and perspectives of traditional Islamic Civilization combined with critical perspectives in the humanities and social sciences in order to engage with the contemporary challenges of the modern world. The courses are designed to complement that Semester’s Core Islamic Studies disciplines and provide a dialogic space of encounter between the traditional Islamic discipline and cognate contemporary theories and approaches. The courses include: Comparative Philosophy of History, Comparative Philosophy of Science, Comparative Philosophy of Law & Ethics, Comparative Hermeneutics, Comparative Philosophy, and Comparative Theology.

III. Disciplinary Focus & Guided Self-Study

Students work with supervisor(s) on developing research relevant to chosen fields of specialization. The objective of these is to:

  1. Help students develop knowledge in specialized areas of knowledge not offered in the other core courses of the MA program.
  2. Develop research related to their final year thesis.


I. Thesis

The thesis is the jewel in the crown of the MA program. It is the culmination of the student’s two years of research, learning, and writing. It will consist of a relatively original piece of research that brings both strands of the MA program (Islamic and Social Sciences) into critical and creative dialogue.



Grade Type

Core Islamic Studies

Number grade

Comparative Social Scienses


Disciplinary Focus/Self-Guided Study

No grade (instructor recommendation)


Number Grade



Who can apply to the Advanced Comparative Islamic Studies Program?
Usul Academy’s MA Program is designed for students who hold a BA degree, upper level knowledge in Islamic Studies and have a solid background in the social sciences. Students may be currently enrolled in a university program or professionals who wish to take the MA in parallel with their other commitments. It has been designed to be flexible and fit the schedule of the average university student or professional.*

*Ideally, you should look at our BA Honours Program in Comparative Islamic Studies and peruse through the courses. If you feel you know or have studied the material in these courses (both the Islamic Studies and Comparative Social Science courses) then you are prepared for our rigorous MA program.

What is the mode of teaching?
Classes will be a combination of asynchronous and synchronous modes of delivery. Exact schedule will be determined based on the cohort and instructors.
You are expected also to coordinate with your supervisor for the weekly 1-to-1 supervisions.
During the Summer Semester, Usul Academy brings students to Istanbul for three weeks of intensive face-to-face study.

What is the language of instruction?
Students are expected to be proficient in both English and Arabic, as the language of instruction may vary depending on the subject, texts, and instructors.

How are students graded?
Core Islamic Studies courses are number graded, the Social Science classes are pass/fail. The 1-to-1 supervisions are evaluated based on the recommendation and discretion of the supervisor. There is also the thesis.

What is the summer retreat in Istanbul?
The purpose of the summer retreat in Istanbul is to cultivate a sense of ṣuḥbah (fellowship) between peers. The retreat lasts three weeks, and is a chance for students to study, visit historical sites in and around Istanbul, and meet with great scholars.

Is the retreat mandatory?
Yes. It is the only opportunity during the MA program of meeting several of your instructors and all the other students of your cohort. The cost for the three-week retreat is an additional $1,500 each. The cost will cover: accommodation, food, trips and transportation within Turkey.