Skills requirements for the master’s degree in Islamic texts include five three-unit courses: Arabic Grammar 1, Arabic Grammar 2, Logic, Dialectics, and Thesis Research Methods. The first four courses not only supplement those in the area concentrations by training students in advanced forms of reasoning, disputation, and grammar but also constitute in themselves foundational Islamic sciences. The Thesis Research Methods course is designed to take students through the full range of reading, composition, and research methods necessary to complete a thesis of publishable quality.
The two elective courses allow students to study in an area of concentration other than the one chosen for their degree, or in another scholarly field altogether. Furthermore, many of our highly skilled undergraduate professors are available to conduct tutorials in Islamic texts not offered in the curriculum as well as in texts from traditional Jewish, Christian, and classical scholasticism and mysticism.
Thesis units are meant to provide time for students to work on their thesis during the academic semester. Three thesis credits should amount to approximately nine hours of study, whether in preparation or in writing.
Second-year graduate students present informal lectures as part of the MA program. The topics of the lectures usually address ongoing work in the students’ special areas of research and serve as a required stage in the thesis-writing and thesis-defense process. The lectures are open to all students and faculty, and the discussion is meant to be vigorous, benevolently critical, and collegial. Second-year students must sign up for one of the available time slots—designated in the academic calendar—at the beginning of the academic year. Beyond serving to sharpen critical reasoning and research habits, these lectures habituate students to critical engagement with an audience of peers. A long-term goal of Zaytuna’s MA program is to produce students who are capable of presenting elegant, rationally balanced, and original scholarly work in a public forum.
With the usual exceptions of the “skills” courses (Arabic Grammar, Logic, and Dialectics), students are required in each course to write a research paper of a minimum of 15 pages that demonstrates their composition and research skills and their mastery of the subject matter.
In the first year of study, students must submit for approval to their advisor a research readiness paper, which is a 15- to 20-page research paper written for one of the required or elective courses and which they choose to exemplify the kind and quality of research to be pursued for their master’s thesis. The research readiness paper must be approved by the academic advisor before students write their master’s thesis proposal.
Before officially beginning the writing of the thesis, students must write a master’s thesis proposal and have it approved by their thesis advisor. Note: The thesis advisor may or may not be one’s academic advisor.
All students are required to demonstrate proficiency in one modern language (other than English) that is relevant to their field of study. This requirement can be fulfilled by submitting transcripts showing two years of academic study of the language or by taking a challenge exam. No credit toward the MA degree is given for courses taken to prepare for the modern language exam. Depending on students’ chosen field of study, an ancient language still spoken today—such as Persian or Greek—can count toward the modern language requirement.