The curriculum is conceptualized in four modules, each corresponding to a semester of study. The first part deals with history, the second with theology, the third with science, and the fourth with modern challenges for theology. Themes from each of the modules are interwoven; the core themes cannot be treated in isolation from the rest. History provides context for both theology and science; science is informed by history and influences theology; and theology is reconstructed in light of both history and science. Nonetheless, it has been helpful for us to isolate a dominant disciplinary lens through which to enter the conversation in any given module. Poetically, the modules mirror chronology: 1) history and 2) Islamic history (past), 3) science (present), and 3) contemporary challenges to theology (future). The locus of theology in the future reflects the project’s ambition of “reconstruction” or “renewal” of theology in light of a more expansive view of the past and a receptive attitude toward new knowledge in the present: a kindling of the moral imagination.
This website will take you through the thought process of the Madrasa Discourses program, developed by madrasa and Islamic Studies graduates in India, Pakistan, and the United States and housed at the University of Notre Dame. The “multiple literacies” in history, science, and theology that the project is concerned with shall be acquired by reading texts that are central to the Islamic scholarly tradition with new and provocative questions that will help guide students from the familiar to the unfamiliar. Not all the materials used in the original program will be publicly available because of copyright restrictions; however, the site shares the main ideas through open source material along with references for further reading. You are welcome to innovate and introduce your own sources in order to achieve the objectives of this course.
To bring the classical intellectual heritage of Islam into conversation with contemporary academic perspectives on science, history, and theology
To encourage a critical and independent attitude toward the received intellectual tradition of Islam in light of new knowledge
To understand challenges to Islamic (and more broadly religious) thought posed by contemporary intellectual currents
To promote fresh theological reflection in response to these challenges
The purpose of Madrasa Discourses is not to provide answers, but rather to ask questions derived from our contemporary intellectual context and to introduce conceptual tools to better understand the questions being asked. The method is elicitive, which means that we rely on the Islamic scholarly tradition to appreciate the importance of new theological challenges, rather than simply taking new ideas and imposing them onto an Islamic framework.
Madrasa Discourses is designed for the ‘ulamā’—scholars who have received formal education in the texts and traditions of Islam. However, the program may be of use to students of Islamic studies or of religion and theology from non-madrasa contexts as well.
The curriculum is organized in four modules.
Module 1: Conceptualizing the Past
This module is about the theory of knowledge as it relates to the study of history and theology.
Module 2: Contextualizing the Theological Tradition
This module invites us to reimagine the Islamic tradition more broadly as a series of intellectual contestations around big philosophical ideas.
Module 3: Scientific and Theological Worldviews
This module surveys human knowledge of the natural world by articulating the features that distinguish the scientific worldview and how it has changed over time.
Module 4: The Grand Cosmos and the Human Person
This module delves into four scientific and social phenomena that challenge literal readings of the shared sacred history of the Abrahamic traditions.
The program is self-paced and may take anywhere from a month to two years to complete. The pace will depend on your level of preparation entering the program, the depth in which you choose to engage the material, and the time you devote to discussions in case of group study. The course may be adapted for classroom settings, organized into a for-credit college or university class, or used for enrichment learning outside of class by informal groups or individual lifelong learners. As you go through the program, we encourage you to share additional resources that you think are useful to add to this website. Please also share any translations that you develop for local contexts. We would like to make this program as widely available as possible.
اللهم علمنا ما ينفعنا وانفعنا بما علمتنا وزدنا علما وعملا متقبلا
It is our hope that after completing the four module series on this site, students of Islamic thought who are formed in madrasa academic settings will see the Islamic scholarly tradition in new light. We are sharing here one of the program videos we put together for our original cohort on the topic of research methods in order to encourage students to lead productive lives as teachers, scholars, and lifelong learners. Click below to hear the inspirational voices of Notre Dame graduate students in different disciplines along with words of wisdom from Madrasa Discourses Primary Investigator, Professor Ebrahim Moosa.
The Madrasa Discourses project proposes that a conciliation of traditional Islamic thought with contemporary scientific and philosophical worldviews can result in orthodox affirmations of human dignity essential for peaceful coexistence in a pluralistic world.