Course Credits

Module Name Code Credits
Research methodology BYB 813 20
Living Islam BYB 814 20
Hermeneutics BYB 823 10
History of Islam BYB 815 20
Christian-Muslim Encounters BYB 816 20
Mini Dissertation BYB 893 90
Total Credits 180

The programme consists of five taught modules followed by a mini-dissertation. The first module is an intensive two-week Research Methodology seminar. Following this, students meet for weekly online sessions (except for the Easter break). Students will complete preparatory readings and submit their reading assignments before each session. At the end of each module, students write an essay (10 pages). OCRPL offers Qur’anic Arabic for Beginners alongside the coursework.

Once students finish with their coursework, they commence writing their mini-dissertation (60-62 pages). Students should submit their dissertation worth 90 credits within a six-month period. On completion of the programme, the student will have achieved 180 credits.

Course Breakdown (2022)

Date Information Deadlines
18 Jan 2022 Induction
25 Jan 2022 – 22 Feb 2022 Research Methodology 22 Feb 2022 Research Methodology Essay
1 Mar 2022 – 24 May 2022 Living Islam 24 May 2022 Living Islam Essay
11 Apr 2022 – 25 Apr 2022 Easter Break
24 May 2022 – 5 Jul 2022 Hermeneutics 5 Jul 2022 Hermeneutics Essay
12 Jul 2022 – 6 Sep 2022 History of Islam 6 Sep 2022 History of Islam Essay
    23 Aug 2022 Thesis proposal submission
    7 Sep 2022 – 9 Sep 2022 Thesis proposal defence
13 Sep 2022 – 11 Oct 2022 Christian-Muslim Encounters 11 Oct 2022 Coursework hand-in
11 Oct 2022 – 11 Apr 2023 Thesis writing 11 Apr 2023 Thesis Submission

Course Breakdown (2023)

Date Information Deadlines
3 Jan 2023 Induction
9 Jan 2023 – 20 Jan 2023 Research Methodology 24 Jan 2023 Research Methodology Essay
24 Jan 2023 – 28 Mar 2023 Living Islam 18 Apr 2023 Living Islam Essay
3 Apr 2023 – 17 Apr 2023 Easter Break
18 Apr 2023 – 30 May 2023 Hermeneutics 6 June 2023 Hermeneutics Essay
6 June 2023 – 1 Aug 2023 History of Islam 8 Aug 2023 History of Islam Essay
    11 July 2023 Thesis proposal submission
    2 Aug 2023 – 4 Aug 2023 Thesis proposal defence
8 Aug 2023 – 5 Sep 2023 Christian-Muslim Encounters 5 Sep 2023 Coursework hand-in
5 Sep 2023 – 5 Mar 2024 Thesis writing 5 Mar 2024 Thesis Submission

Duration of the Programme

Normally the duration of the MTh programme is 18-24 months with a two-week online intensive seminar on Research Methodology that counts as a residential conference.

There is a possibility of finishing the whole programme in one year, if the student successfully submits all the assignments and MTh mini-dissertation ahead of schedule.

Module Descriptions

Module 1: Research Methodology (BYB 813) – 20 Credits

Students will learn about Ninian Smart and his Seven Dimensions of Religion. They will learn and critically examine the following approaches to the study of religion (and specifically the study of Islam): Historical approach, textual approach, sociological approach, anthropological approach, phenomenology of religion, philosophical and theological approaches, confessional approach/Christian approach to the study of Islam, and empathetic approach to the study of religions/Islam.

Module 2: Living Islam (BYB 814) – 20 Credits

Islam is the one of the fastest growing religions with more than 1.8 billion followers across the world. Founded by the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the seventh century, Islam rapidly spread through military conquest, commerce, and the efforts of missionaries and Sufi mystics. Its current significance goes beyond religion and culture to the spheres of politics, finance, and security, among others. It is thus vital to have a thorough grasp of Islam, its sources, interpretations, and expressions as well to be able to critically evaluate the current implications and impact that this religion and its followers have in the world, and particularly on the Christian community.

This comprehensive course on Islam starts with a module on Living Islam. Students will examine the core beliefs and practices of Islam within their historical and cultural contexts. Understanding the foundational beliefs of Islam should be done in reference to its foundational sources (Qur’an and Hadith) and the role of reason. Islamic practices are explored by looking at the Five Pillars of Islam – Creed, Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving and Pilgrimage. Special attention is given to Islamic law – Shari‘a – and the “spiritual struggle” also known as Jihad. Students will also look into the diversity of Islamic expressions, whether Sufism, Folk Islam, Islamist or other contemporary forms. Students will make have an in-depth examination of Muslim missionary efforts or da‘wa, conversion to Islam and blasphemy laws. This module concludes with a discussion on family life in Islam, the position of women, and slavery in Islam.

Module 3: Hermeneutics (BYB 823) – 10 Credits

This module focuses on the Islamic main sources – the Qur’an and Hadith (tradition) – and Qur’anic interpretation (tafsir). By reading the primary texts and supplementing with secondary literature for historical context, theology and development of ideas, students will gain an advanced understanding on how Muslims approach and interpret their scripture and tradition.

Students will explore the structure and format of the Qur’an, its content and main themes, its style and literary features, and its position and function in the life of Muslims and Islamic society. This module provides a critical examination of the historical origin and compilation of the Qur’an. Particular attention will be given to the Uthmanic recension and textual variants, and Qur’anic codices/collections. Epistemological questions of revelation (wahy) and abrogation (naskh) will be also addressed. The Qur’an will be studied thematically, especially its Biblical subtext, covering narratives about Jesus and Mary, Jews, prophets, Jesus’ death and crucifixion, and the Trinity, among other topics.

This module also covers the Hadith (traditions), the second most authoritative source in Islam. This has been variously classified by Muslims as well as Western scholars such as John Wansbrough and Andrew Rippin. Students will survey the Hadith’s literary genre; historical context and the role Hadith plays in the synthesis of Islamic beliefs and practices. Just as with the Qur’an, particular attention will be given to the critical examination of Hadith origin, historicity of the texts and authorship.

Finally, the module will have several sessions on tafsir or the Qur’anic commentary, an extensive body of literature spanning from the early period of Islam to modern days. Muslims believe that one can understand the Qur’an only through its commentary, and as such it is an important hermeneutical tool in Islamic theology. Students will familiarise themselves with different commentators, classical and modern, and their contribution to Islamic theology and practices. This will be approached critically and examined through the lens of academic scholarship.

Module 4: History of Islam (BYB 815) – 20 Credits

This module covers the history of Islam from its formative period (seventh century) to the rise of European Empires (sixteeth to nineteenth centuries). The formative period is covered in the first four lectures starting with pre-Islamic Arabia and its religious makeup – polytheism, Christianity and Judaism among others. According to Islamic tradition their Prophet declared himself to be a messenger of God who received a revelation from an angel, Gabriel. He started preaching the religion of Islam, meaning “submission”, in his hometown of Mecca and then in the city of Medina. His preaching and ministry are divided into two periods – Meccan and Medinan, with the later period described as increasingly militant and expansionist. The rule of Muhammad’s first four successors is known as the “Rashidun Caliphate” (the rule of the “Rightly guided” caliphs). It was characterised by a rapid expansion but also by internal split that culminated in the schism between Shias and Sunnis, a 1,400-year-old divide that still divides the Muslim community now.

This module covers the period from the pre-Islamic Arabia and early stages of the spread of Islam to the rise of European colonialism in the Muslim world. The module covers different periods and caliphates: expansion under the Umayyads (661-750AD) and the Abbasids (750-1258AD), Umayyads in Cordoba, Spain and the Fatimid Caliphate in North Africa (909-1171), the period under the Seljuk Turks and the Ottoman Empire as well as Mongol invasion and Crusades. The emphasis is on the Christian community/ minority and their experience during this period.

Module 5: Christian-Muslim Encounters (BYB 816) – 20 Credits

Islam in Africa, its historical complexity and diversity, will be discussed in the last module. Students will learn about Islam in its African context, how it was accommodated, developed and spread. An example of this will be the Mali Empire, Kanem-Bornu Empire, and Sokoto Caliphate. Particular attention will be given to Christian-Muslim relations in Africa, and its current dynamics and interactions.

Students will also analyse the role of the reformist movement and its key thinkers such as Jamal Al-Din Al-Afghani, Muhammed Abduh, Abul A’la Maududi, Hasan Al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb, among others. Their legacy and the growth of Islamist movements such as Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda and others will be discussed. Progressive thinkers in Islam and their role and impact will also be under scrutiny.

Understanding current events and world issues will be difficult without grasping the events that led to them. Encounters in the modern world will be discussed in the context of the Middle East, where conflict in Israel has been the ongoing flashpoint, the Iranian revolution and its legacy as a game-changer, as well as more recent conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. The second lecture on encounters in the modern world will focus on Islam in the West and the unfolding process of Islamisation, often backed by oil money from Saudi Arabia as well as other Muslim-majority countries.

The final lecture is on Christian-Muslim encounters and dialogue. The rise of inter-faith dialogue and scripture reasoning is a case in point. There is also another aspect of this encounter, and this is to do with persecution of Christians in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, which has intensified in recent decades.