Dual-Degree Honors Program in
Comparative Islamic Studies (BA)
The Honors Program offered by Usul Academy is a four-year academic program comprised of two years Foundations, and two years Core Studies. Students who are not proficient in Arabic are required to complete a one-year Academic Arabic preparatory program before being admitted to Foundations. The program is designed to introduce students already enrolled in secular universities to 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 multiplex curriculum, the program aims at educating future scholars who can tackle contemporary problems facing humanity from an authentic Islamic perspective.
The annual program consists of three 11-week long terms, plus a 3-week long retreat in Istanbul during the summer. The weekly schedule consists of 9 hours of online classes. Classes will be asynchronous during the week and synchronous on Saturdays. 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.
The Curriculum of the Honors Program in Comparative Islamic Studies has four main components. During their course of study at Usul Academy, the students of the program will take a number of courses from four fields: Academic Arabic, Classical Islamic Studies, Comparative Social Sciences and Spiritual Development.
I. Classical Islamic Studies
Classical Islamic Studies courses comprise both what is traditionally called Auxiliary Disciplines (disciplines that are instrumental in understanding and interpreting classical texts) such as grammar (ṣarf and naḥw), logic (manṭiq), rhetoric (balāghah); and the core Islamic Disciplines such as fiqh (law), uṣūl al-fiqh (jurisprudence), tafsīr (exegesis), kalām (theology), and uṣūl al-ḥadīth (principles of hadith). The courses on Classical Islamic Studies will follow the curriculum and methods of traditional education in Islamic Civilization, specifically the Ottoman madrasah system, which consists of reading a classical text 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 will include Islamic Civilization, The Birth of the Modern World, Comparative Theories and Methods, Comparative Psychology, Comparative Economics, Bio-Ethics, and Self, Society and Politics.
III. Spiritual Development
Spiritual Development is the third component of the program. In accordance with the scholarly tradition in Islamic Civilization which aims at producing individuals not only with knowledge but also with exemplary ethical behavior, the Honors Program offers classes on ethics, moral character, and spiritual purification through the classical texts and a sense of fellowship (ṣuḥbah) amongst the cohort. This will be a particular focus of the Summer Suhba Retreats.
IV. Academic Arabic
For the students who are not proficient in Arabic, Comparative Islamic Studies BA at Usul Academy starts with a one-year rigorous preparatory Academic Arabic program. The student is trained to develop a capacity for engaging with classical and contemporary Arabic texts, including reading, writing and oral communication. By end of this year the students reach advanced level according to the ACTFL standards. Students who have Arabic competency can take the Arabic proficiency exam at Usul Academy and be exempted from the preparatory year.
The Comparative Islamic Studies BA is divided into levels: Foundations and Core Studies.
Foundations (Year 1 & 2)
Foundations refers to the 1st and 2nd years of the Honors Program in Comparative Islamic Studies. The program aims to equip students with the necessary foundational knowledge in Arabic, linguistic disciplines (e.g. Ṣarf, Naḥw, Waḍʿ and Mantiq), Sīrah, ʿAqīdah, Ādāb al-Baḥth wa al-Munāẓarah, and basic Fiqh. It also provides students with a holistic understanding of Islamic history, culture and civilization along with a critical introduction to modern thought, and comparative theories and methods in the social sciences. In addition, students explore key texts in Islamic ethics and spirituality. The Foundations program also includes two face-to-face summer retreats in Istanbul. The Summer Suhba is a three-week intensive program that consists of the study of select texts, immersive travel in and around Istanbul and Turkey, and spiritual retreats (ṣuḥbahs) with scholars.
Students who complete the two years of Foundations are automatically admitted into Core Studies to complete the four year Comparative Islamic Studies BA Honors Program.
Core Studies (Year 3 & 4)
Core Studies refers to the 3rd and 4th year of the Honors Program, culminating in a BA degree. Core Studies at Usul Academy aims at equipping students with the knowledge of central disciplines of the Islamic scholarly heritage. It is accepted by Muslim scholars that Islamic Civilization is built on uṣulayn (two principles): uṣūl al-fiqh (jurisprudence) and uṣūl al-dīn (rational theology). In accordance with such an insight, these two principles, and disciplines in their own right, are taught based on classical texts. Therefore, the Core Studies curriculum includes a number of ḥadīth (Prophetic traditions), tafsīr (Qur’anic exegesis) and kalām (rational theology) courses.
In addition to Islamic disciplines, a number of comparative social science classes are offered during these two years. Some of the classes include Comparative Psychology, Comparative Law and Ethics, Comparative Economics, Comparative Art and Aesthetics, and Comparative Bio-Ethics. Through these classes, students will be exposed to the study of contemporary subjects and pressing questions of our age from an Islamic perspective.
Courses on Islamic Ethics and Spirituality complement the learning experience in a unique way, to nourish not only the mind but the soul. Students will be exposed to several tazkiyah works, reflecting upon classics such as Ibn ʿAṭāillāh’s al-Ḥikam, al-Māwardī’s Adab al-Dunyā wa al-Dīn, and Imam Rabbānī’s Maktūbāt.
The Core Studies program also includes two face-to-face summers in Istanbul. The Summer Suhbah terms are three intensive weeks that consist of the study of select texts, immersive travel in and around Istanbul and Turkey, and spiritual retreats (ṣuḥbahs) with scholars.
Students who successfully complete the Core Studies program are awarded a BA in Comparative Islamic Studies and will have completed the Honors Program.
Usul Academy is not accredited by any external organization. Usul Academy is self-accredited according to the time-honored tradition of the Ottoman Madrasah system. Students who pursue the Honors Program in Comparative Islamic Studies will have the chance to obtain multiple ijazahs from various scholars.