Islamic Studies

Ebrahim Moosa , convener

The Ph.D. program in Islamic Studies at Duke covers the study of Islam as a religious and intellectual tradition as well as the study of Muslim societies past and present. Rigorous emphasis on the humanities and social sciences requires students to explore the classical Islamic sciences at the same time that they examine the cultural and historical expression of Islamicate civilization in its various historical phases.

Areas of strength include: history (medieval, modern and postmodern; intellectual, cultural and social) and Islamic thought (also medieval, modern and postmodern; legal, philosophical and theological), with special attention to law and society, Qur'anic studies, hermeneutics & text criticism, mysticism, human rights, and gender studies.

Core Faculty

Mona Hassan

Mohsen Kadivar

Ebrahim Moosa, convener

Requirements for the Major


Demonstration by course-work and written exam of proficiency in Arabic as well as one other Near Eastern, African or Asian language appropriate to the student's special interests.

  1. Demonstration by written exam of competency in one modern European language, preferably French or German.


Students will take at least three advanced courses a semester for two or three years. Students entering from an undergraduate program will complete six semesters of course work and those with advanced degrees MA or its equivalent, will complete four semesters of course work. All course work will be in doctoral seminars that result in major papers.

Among the core courses that all students will be required to take are: Methodology and Pedagogy, Text and Society in Formative and Classical Islam, Hermeneutics, History and the Making of Authority in Islam, Modern Islamic Thought and Muslim Societies, and Theorizing Religion.

Internal Minor

Students must choose another Field within the Graduate Program in Religion, and take a minimum of two courses to fulfill the requirements of that Field.

External Minor

Students must also choose another field in another department or program of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. The minimum courses from this field are two, and it is expected that the instructor in one of these courses will also serve on the Preliminary Examination Committee as well as the Dissertation Committee that is established after passing the Preliminary Examination.

Preliminary Exams

There are one oral and four written components. The written components are:

  1. general exam in Islamic thought
  2. exam in the dissertation area
  3. exam in the internal minor
  4. exam in the external minor.

The oral exam takes place after the written exams, and reviews all four of them.


On completion of the Prelim Exams, a Dissertation Committee will be formed. It will guide the student to submit an acceptable dissertation proposal, then to prepare a dissertation, and finally to defend the dissertation in a final oral examination. The written dissertation must be submitted a month in advance of oral defense, and may require revision before being filed as a final document with Perkins Library.

Requirements for a Minor

To minor in this field, all students must pass a minimum of two courses and also develop a bibliography that will be used as the basis for the Minor Field Exam in the Prelim Exam phase of doctoral study. The two courses must be selected from the core courses listed above that relate directly to Islamic Studies.