The new interdisciplinary certificate, which allows students to explore Islam in a wide variety of contexts, will be led by Principal Supriya Gandhi.
Zoe Berg, Senior Photographer
Starting this semester, all Yale undergraduates have the option to pursue the Interdisciplinary Certificate in Islamic Studies.
Led by Principal Supriya Gandhi, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, the certificate allows students to explore Islam in a wide variety of contexts. Interested students must complete five credits of courses that fall under the categories of Islamic society, Islamic history, Islamic religion, and Islamic art, architecture, or literature. According to Gandhi, the certificate aims to create opportunities to explore Islam for a wide variety of students, including those who do not major in the humanities or focus on religious studies.
Islamic studies joins educational studies, medieval studies and translation studies as interdisciplinary certificates offered by Yale College.
“When I came to Yale, I noticed that there were a lot of students interested in studying Islam, but there was no way for them to really explore that interest,” said said Shawkat Toorawa, professor of Arabic literature and founder of the program. . “This [certificate] provides a simple way to organize certain courses.
According to Toorawa, Islamic studies focus on the study of “anything, wherever Muslims live”. He added that the study of Islam involves the study of an entire civilization and its complex presence within society.
For Aziz Ahmed Díaz ’25, the certificate is a natural progression after completing two courses related to the study of Islam.
“[The certificate] is a no-brainer for me because I am interested in the Islamic world and Islamic studies in general,” explained Ahmed Díaz. “I really enjoy looking at Islamic philosophy and learning more about the medieval Islamic period.”
Other professors emphasized the interdisciplinary nature of the study of Islam. Toorawa explained that many professors who teach courses included in the Certificate of Islamic Studies do not have the word Islam in their title. Samuel Hodgkin, an assistant professor of comparative literature whose courses fall under the certificate, added that the work he does often spans multiple regions – beyond the Middle East and into Central Asia and Russia.
Claire Roosien, assistant professor of Slavic languages and literature, described her own research on Islam as encompassing “much more than just religion”.
“My research focuses on the Soviet Union, which was an explicitly anti-religious policy, but I think it’s still relevant to Islamic studies,” Roosien said. “There is a whole orb of cultural realities attached to Islam that persist even in the context of state repression of the religion.”
According to Danish Khan ’26, the opportunity to take courses in Islamic art and literature for the certificate would complement his interests in theology and history by providing a more holistic view. He added that subjects such as theology and history are not isolated and are interconnected with many other fields of study.
Gandhi explained that the idea of a certificate in Islamic studies might be appealing to students who do not major in the humanities or who do not focus on the study of Islam. She encouraged interested students to consult with professors and start taking courses that count towards the certificate.
“We hope this [certificate] would encourage students to consider courses they might not have paid attention to in the past,” Gandhi said. “It’s a way of looking at Islam from multiple angles, with a focus on literature, society, history and religion.”
Ahmed Díaz explained that as someone interested in helping the development of the Islamic world through politics or economics, “you must have a good understanding of the Islamic world before you jump in.”
According to Yale College Degree Programs, interested students must request the certificate no later than one week before the end of the final timetable for their last semester of studies. Approval of the certificate belongs to the certificate committee and the director.
“As the teacher who built this certificate, we are excited that students want to do this certificate,” Toorawa said. “I specifically want to encourage students to explore all of the cross-disciplinary certificates Yale has.”
Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, according to the Pew Research Center.