Respect Graduate School is a private Islamic graduate school located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The school opened in 2015 and is currently focused on offering a Master of Arts in Islamic Studies (MAIS) degree.
The MAIS degree program at Respect Graduate School (RGS) is unique from others in that it offers two tracks of study for students. For instance, students may choose from either the Academic or the Professional track of the program to complete their study. The academic track of the MAIS program is designed for students who aim to continue their education onto the Ph.D. level in preparation for an academic career. The professional track of the program, on the other hand, is for students who are interested in a wider array of careers such as Islamic ministry, chaplaincy, education, Islamic finance, inter-religious relations, international relations, or journalism.
RGS is dedicated to promoting interfaith and intrafaith dialogue and holds regular events open to the public in cooperation with the Lehigh Dialogue Center and Moravian Theological Seminary. RGS also offers a summer program called Al-Mizan Summer Youth Institute that aims to prepare high school aged students for college.
Master of Arts in Islamic Studies (MAIS) is a 36 credit-hours dual-track program. A student who is enrolled full-time in the program and who, with the guidance of their advisor, satisfies the requirements outlined for the program and their chosen track is expected to be able to complete the program in two years (four semesters total). In this program, all students are required to include the following core courses to their study:
* MAIS 620 Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion
* MAIS 621 The Qur’an and its Interpretation
* MAIS 622 History of Islamic Thought and Literature
The core courses are designed to provide a broad background both in the study of religion and in the foundations of Islamic Studies. After completing the core courses, students choose either the Academic or the Professional track of the program to complete their study. The academic track of MAIS is designed for students who aim to continue their education on a Ph.D. level in preparation for an academic career. The professional track of the program is for students who are interested in Islamic Studies for careers, which may vary in a wide range from Islamic Ministry to journalism.
The RGS dual-track system affords all of the students in the program the opportunity to explore the foundations of the program in partnership not only with students who share similar track-specific career goals, but also with students pursuing the alternative track and associated career goals. In other words, in the core courses, students in the professional track will have the opportunity to explore the course material in conversation with their colleagues in the academic track, and vice versa. In this way, students in both tracks will be programmatically positioned to recognize the critical importance of integrating the academic with the professional and vice versa. Thus, the core experience is, in part, designed to cultivate an awareness in students that their developing expertise in either the academic or professional area is a matter of specialization and emphasis, and not a matter of operating in silos of professional exclusivity. The core experience is designed to signal to students that their graduate formation as religious leaders will be deficient to the extent that the aspiring academic professional fails to integrate an ongoing concern with the practical dimensions of religious leadership, or to the degree that the aspiring practical professional fails to so the same with the academic dimensions.
Another important aspect of MAIS curriculum is its interdisciplinary nature in a way that it interweaves, throughout the curriculum, its multiple commitments to:
* The best of critical Western scholarship in Islamic studies and related disciplinary fields such as history, political science, sociology, anthropology, and comparative literature
* Key texts and other elements of the classical Islamic religious sciences, as well as some of their concomitant methods of classical pedagogy e.g., Qur’anic recitation, and memorization
* The classical and more recent theories and methods of the history of religions (a.k.a. “religious studies”)
* The theories and methods of the burgeoning field of interreligious studies, including the sub-fields of the theologies of religious pluralism and comparative theology
Students who plan to continue their education on a Ph.D. level are advised to choose the Academic Track of the MAIS program. The Academic Track deals with religion, and more specifically with Islam as an academic discipline without bias or favoritism for one tradition or interpretation over another. Although the program aims to offer a broad coverage in its field, it sees certain aspects of the study as the core components of the subject. Therefore, the students in the Academic Track are required to include the following courses in their study:
- MAIS 629 Arabic I: Foundations of Qur’anic Arabic
- MAIS 623 Islamic Theology and Philosophy
- MAIS 625 Islamic Law and Legal Theories
- MAIS 626 Hadith
Students in the Academic Track are required to write a Master’s thesis, which is equivalent to a 6.0 credit hour course. The procedure of writing a Master’s thesis may be found in the Student Handbook.
In order to complete the 36 hours requirement of the program, students will also take enough electives and/or independent studies in consultation with their advisor.
Students can be exempt from the required course Arabic I: Foundations of Qur’anic Arabic if they pass the competency exam. The procedure of the competency exam may be found in the Student Handbook.
Students who plan careers as imams, chaplains, teachers, and interfaith entrepreneurs or to work in public policy, law, foreign service, business, and journalism are encouraged to elect the Professional Track of the MAIS program. The Professional Track provides students with the requisite education in the tradition and the organizational, administrative, and counseling skills to engage with diverse communities constructively. Therefore, students in the Professional Track are required to include the following courses in their study:
* MAIS 629 Arabic I: Foundations of Qur’anic Arabic
* MAIS 625 Islamic Law and Legal Theories
* MAIS 628 Skills for Islamic Ministry
* MAIS 637 Recitation and Memorization of the Qur’an
Students in the Professional Track are required to take one unit of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) from any accredited institution that provides it. One unit of CPE corresponds to 3.0 credits.
The course in the Recitation and Memorization of the Qur’an has a significant role in the MAIS curriculum and the context of higher education in North America. The Qur’an, the central religious text of Islam, literally means “the Recitation” and Muslims believe that the Qur’an has been passed down from generation to generation primarily through its recitation. Among the classical sciences of Islam, the one that concerns with the recitation of the Qur’an is called Qira’ah. North American institutions of higher education normally do not include this science. RGS addresses this need by incorporating Qira’ah into its curricula.
Besides the core courses, in order to complete 36 hours requirement of the program, students will need to take enough electives and/or independent studies in consultation with their advisor.
Students can be exempt from the courses of Arabic I: Foundations of Qur’anic Arabic and Recitation and Memorization of the Qur’an if they pass the competency exam. The procedure of the competency exams may be found in the Student Handbook.
The Professional Track also allows students the option of completing a Master’s thesis, which is equivalent to a 6.0 credit hour course.
Address: 2200 Industrial Drive, Bethlehem, PA 18017
Phone: (610) 419-1751