Yale College adds new Islamic studies certificate
The new interdisciplinary certificate, which allows students to explore Islam in a wide variety of contexts, will be led by Director Supriya Gandhi.
Zoe Berg, Senior Photographer
Beginning this semester, all Yale undergraduates have the option to pursue the interdisciplinary certificate in Islamic studies.
Led by Director 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 course credits 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 are not majoring in humanities or focusing on religious studies.
Islamic studies joins education studies, medieval studies and translation studies as interdisciplinary certificates offered by Yale College.
“When I first arrived at Yale, I noticed that there were a lot of students interested in the study of Islam, but there was no way for them to really explore that interest,” Shawkat Toorawa, professor of Arabic literature and program founder, said. “This [certificate] provides a straightforward way to curate some courses.”
According to Toorawa, Islamic studies focuses on studying “anything, wherever Muslims live.” He added that the study of Islam entails studying an entire civilization and their complex presence within society.
For Aziz Ahmed Díaz ’25, the certificate is a natural progression after taking two courses that relate to the study of Islam.
“[The certificate] is a no-brainer for me because I’m interested in the Islamic world and Islamic studies in general,” Ahmed Díaz explained. “I really enjoy looking at Islamic philosophy and learning about the Medieval Islamic period.”
Other professors emphasized the interdisciplinary nature of studying Islam. Toorawa explained that many professors that teach classes included in the Islamic studies certificate 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 across regions — beyond the Middle East and into Central Asia and Russia.
Claire Roosien, assistant professor of Slavic Languages and Literature, described her own research in Islam as encompassing “so much more than just religion.”
“My research is focused on the Soviet Union, which was an explicitly anti-religious polity, but I think that it’s still relevant to Islamic studies,” Roosien said. “There’s a whole orb of cultural realities attached to Islam that persist even in the context of state repression of religion.”
According to Danish Khan ’26, the opportunity to take Islamic art and literature classes 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 areas of study.
Gandhi explained that the idea of an Islamic studies certificate might be attractive for students not majoring in humanities or focusing on studying Islam. She encouraged interested students to consult with faculty and begin taking courses that count towards the certificate.
“We hope that this [certificate] would encourage students to consider courses that they may not have paid attention to in the past,” Gandhi said. “It’s a way of looking at Islam in a multifaceted manner, with emphasis on literature, society, history and religion.”
Ahmed Díaz explained that as someone interested in helping develop the Islamic world through politics or economics, “you need to have a good understanding of the Islamic world before you dive in.”
According to the Yale College Programs of Study, interested students must apply for the certificate at the latest one week before final schedules are due in their final semester of study. Approval of the certificate rests with the certificate committee and director.
“As the faculty who built this certificate, we are excited about students who want to do this certificate,” Toorawa said. “I specifically want to encourage students to explore all the interdisciplinary certificates that Yale has.”
Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, according to the Pew Research Center.