Opportunities and Challenges of Teaching Islamic Studies in Theological Seminaries

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Fatima Siwaju

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Abstract

On Saturday, November 21, 2015, from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., a panel coorganized by the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) entitled “Opportunities
and Challenges of Teaching Islamic Studies in Theological
Seminaries,” was held during the Annual Meeting of the American Academy
of Religion (AAR) at the Marriott Hotel in Atlanta, GA. The panel was presided
over by Reverend Dr. Serene Jones (president of Union Theological Seminary
and AAR president-elect), and included contributions from Nazila Isgandarova
(Emmanuel College), Munir Jiwa (Graduate Theological Union), Jerusha
Lamptey (Union Theological Seminary), Nevin Reda (Emmanuel College),
Feryal Salem (Hartford Seminary), and Ermin Sinanović (IIIT). Amir Hussain
(Loyola Marymount University) served as respondent.
The purpose of the roundtable was to address the growing trend among
Christian seminaries in North America of offering courses and, in some cases,
professional degrees in the study of Islam, which has often involved hiring
Muslim academics. The panelists endeavored to explore the opportunities
and challenges posed by this new context, as well as the possible future direction
of theological schools in addition to the future trajectory of Islamic
studies at them.
Nazila Isgandarova, a spiritual care coordinator for the Center for Addiction
and Mental Health in Canada and a graduate student at Emmanuel College,
spoke of her personal experience as a Muslim student in a theological school.
She noted that one of the unique advantages of studying Islam in a Christian
environment is that it provides a space for the exchange of ideas. Isgandarova
identified clinical pastoral education (CPE) as one of the major advantages of
studying at a seminary. She emphasized that Islamic spiritual care education
should be grounded not only in the Islamic tradition, but also in the conceptual
and methodological frameworks provided by CPE. While she acknowledged ...

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