Theological Formations of Islam
Should the tendency to create study programs in Islam at European universities be seen as a formatting of Islamic theology in accordance with the patterns of Christian university theology?
As new study programs in Islamic theology are introduced in an increasing number of European universities, the formatting of ‘Islam’ and of ‘theology’ is undergoing dramatic transformations. In Germany, five new centres for Islamic theology have been established at state universities, in the Netherlands initiatives have been launched in Amsterdam and Leiden, while the Nordic countries have just started their initiatives, at the universities of Oslo and Uppsala. In all these places, study programs in Islamic theology come in addition to more established religious studies- and social science-oriented approaches to Islam, signalling a need to develop the theological and philosophical legacy of Islam in a secular state university context.
Some of these initiatives have been dubbed “Islamic university theology”, implying that the institutionalization of Islamic theology at state universities might seem to follow some general patterns in how Protestant and – in the case of Germany – Catholic faculties of theology have developed as modern institutions of learning combining a practice-oriented insider perspective with a critical-oriented outsider perspective. One question to be investigated in this subproject is whether the location within a university context shifts the emphasis of Islamic theology from tradition-specific disciplines to more general subjects, for instance, from Islamic jurisprudence to Islamic ethics, or from doctrine to the philosophy of religion. Should this tendency be seen as a formatting of Islamic theology in accordance with the patterns of Christian university theology? The institutionalization of Islamic theology at European universities also entails the question of how a theology being done in secular spaces communicates with Muslim faith communities: The role that Christian faculties of theology have played in training clergy and religion teachers for church and school have strongly contributed to the way in which religion develops in the larger framework of secular society, and the question remains how Islamic theology may contribute to this development.