Whether English or Arabic is now Denmark’s second language, Islam is certainly Denmark’s second religion, something that is also true in much of Western Europe. The days are gone when it made sense to study the Arab and Islamic worlds as a distant ‘other.’ Arab communities are to be found in Europe as well as in the Arab world, and Islam is a Western religion as well as an Arab one. The Aarhus MA in Arab and Islamic Studies therefore focuses on today’s globalised and transnational realities, on Islam and Muslims in Europe as well as in the Arab world.
Seminars and other courses are taught by active researchers, focusing on topics that they themselves have researched or are currently researching. Researchers choose topics – especially for the elective seminars, from which students may choose – that reflect their own interests as well as the expected interests of students. Students thus experience cutting-edge research, and the passion that drives it.
Researchers attached to the ICSRU work not only on the Arab world but also on Europe, Turkey, and South Asia. Their research interests range from the reception of natural science to Sufism, from Upper Egyptian tribes to terrorism. Over and above these and other topics, students may if they wish also take relevant seminars offered by Aarhus graduate programmes in the Study of Religion, in Anthropology and in Political Science, or relevant seminars offered by nearby centers with which we have cooperation agreements.
The programme assumes that students have already spent some time studying Arabic, but that they need further help in transforming their linguistic skills into tools that can be used routinely. Two Arabic courses are thus included which differ from those normally taken at undergraduate level. The first, Arabic Text Reading, develops speed and fluency in using Arabic texts – skills like skimming, and locating and extracting information. The second, Arabic for Research Purposes, comes immediately before the thesis, for which students are expected to use Arabic sources in ways that make the best use of their own linguistic skills. Students who are strongest with formal written language use formal written texts, students who are strongest with informal spoken language use their skills in dialect, and so on.
During their first two semesters, students take a foundational course on Theory and Method in Arab and Islamic Studies, two required courses – Globalised and Transnational Islam & Islam and Muslims in the West – and two elective seminars, and one course on Arabic Text Reading.
During their third semester, students take one further elective seminar and begin to prepare for the thesis, which is written in their fourth and final semester. Preparation takes the form of a course on Arabic for Research Purposes, and an Elective Project.
During the Elective Project, students work individually under supervision, normally on the background to the topic on which they intend to write their thesis, but optionally on a separate topic that they wish to explore. Students have the option to change their minds: what was originally a separate topic may become the background to a thesis, or background to a thesis may become an independent topic if a student decides to write a thesis on something else. It is also possible to substitute a further seminar for the Elective Project.
The program ends with the MA thesis, written during the final semester.