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2 - Overview of Islamic Studies and Mode of Thinking

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 September 2023

Norshahril Saat
Affiliation:
ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute
Azhar Ibrahim
Affiliation:
National University of Singapore
Noor Aisha Abdul Rahman
Affiliation:
National University of Singapore
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Summary

Generally, we can distinguish two types of Islamic studies as an academic discipline. One is the confessional-type of Islamic studies offered in various universities in the Muslim world; the second, the Islamic studies programmes offered in several universities in the West. The latter continues the colonial-orientalist tradition and its long history of Islamology. While there is a growing body of works that appraises the latter, critical evaluation of the former, specifically Islamic studies found in Muslim countries hardly exist, if at all. For the majority of Muslim students pursing basic degree in Islamic studies, the confessional approach is popular, and only a handful enrol into higher degree programmes in western institutions.

The nature, type and efficacy of Islamic studies are tied to various factors. Islamic studies programmes found in various institutions of higher learning have evolved differently in Muslim countries, and they are tied to the respective national education policies and dominant religious outlook of the country. Islamic studies programmes in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, for instance, invariably have strong Salafi-Wahhabi imprint, unlike the Indonesian State Islamic Universities (UIN) in Jakarta, Jogjakarta and Surabaya. In these premier Indonesian state-funded Islamic universities, eclectic approaches to the study of Islam are evident, with social sciences and philosophy integrally incorporated and infused into the Islamic studies corpus. However, most Islamic studies programmes in Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent are modelled after the Al-Azhar University’s Islamic studies (in Cairo), deemed to be the paradigm for Sunni religious learning and scholarship.

Besides being taught in Islamic universities, Islamic studies are also offered in departments, faculties, or academies in many “secular” universities around the world, both in Muslim majority countries as well as in Muslim minority ones. The rise of public universities throughout the Muslim world has witnessed the emergence of various Islamic studies programme, apart from the full-fledged Islamic universities. The rise of modern universities in Malaysia, Jordan, Libya, Turkey, Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, has seen an expansion of Islamic studies, gradually incorporating various modern subjects within its purview, inasmuch as it retains traditional learning corpus. For example, the international Islamic universities in Pakistan and Malaysia are known for their Islamization of knowledge flagship, perceived to be an Islamic intellectual approach aligned to the Saudi-sponsored International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) based in Virginia, USA.

Type
Chapter
Information
Reaching for the Crescent
Aspirations of Singapore Islamic Studies Graduates and the Challenges
, pp. 20 - 35
Publisher: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
First published in: 2023

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