The Study of Islam in African Universities Reflections on Ghana

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Zakyi Ibrahim



Although not as comprehensive as the articles featured in this special issue,
this editorial presents my comments and the results of my survey conducted
among professors and lecturers who teach Islamic studies in Ghanaian universities.
For a comparative perspective, similar questions were also sent to
colleagues in Nigeria. I undertook this preliminary research to prepare myself
for a roundtable discussion that was held at the annual African Studies
Association meeting (Philadelphia, November 29-December 1, 2012) on
“The Study of Islam in African Universities: Is it a Priority?” Based on my own
on-the-ground knowledge and what I gathered from my survey’s respondents,
this topic does not seem to be a priority for Ghana’s university administrators
(viz., the presidents, vice chancellors, and deans all the way
down to the department heads and their administrative support), students,
parents, or policymakers.
In general terms, Ghana’s university administrators see no value in supporting
this stream of study because it does not “produce” graduates who can
make constructive contributions to the national agenda of industrial development.
The study of religion (or religious studies) in general suffers from this
bias internationally, and religion itself is becoming less popular among young
people. Other indications of this low priority are the courses offered in religious
studies departments and the lack of “suitable” experts. After my presentation,
one audience member who had earned a PhD in Islamic studies from a Middle
Eastern university, pointed out that he could not find a teaching job in a Ghanaian
university. He seemed to believe that his situation had a lot to do with discrimination
and bias; however, I was not so sure. He is now an adjunct
instructor in Islamic studies at a local junior college in the Philadelphia area.
Of Ghana’s 8 public and 48 private universities,1 only 5 or six 6 have departments
that include Islam in their courses listings.2 Apart from the newly
established Islamic University College, which is not included here because it
is an Islamic university, none of the leading universities offer a major or a
minor in Islamic studies. The University of Ghana (Accra) does come close, ...

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