Hartford Seminary

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Ph.D. in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations




Tuition and Fees

The Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, the first of its kind in the nation, embodies Harford Seminary’s commitment to the study of Islam and Christianity and the complex relationship between the two religions throughout history and in the modern world. This Ph.D. program will continue the Seminary’s long legacy of educating and training experts in Christian-Muslim relations. It will provide advanced study in the knowledge and practical application of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim relations and train scholars who will be experts in this area. We envision graduates of this program will further the mission and purpose of Hartford Seminary as professors at institutions of higher education, independent scholars and experts in Christian-Muslim relations, and as leaders or directors of organizations that are involved in interfaith work.

The learning objectives of this program are for the students to acquire:

  • comprehensive knowledge in Christian-Muslim relations, theologies of interreligious engagement, or interfaith dialogue
  • competence to produce and engage in original research and writing to advance the scholarship on Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations for the benefit of faith communities, academy, and society
  • competence to teach this area in religious communities and academia
  • skills and knowledge to inspire and encourage students to do autonomous projects that will advance the understanding of Christian-Muslim Relations in religious communities and academia

Contact Tina Demo, Director of Recruitment and Admissions,
if you are interested in applying for this program.

The Ph.D. curriculum consists of 36 credit hours of course work, 12 credits for the comprehensive exams, and 36 credits for the dissertation, for 84 total credit hours. There are two Ph.D. Seminars required which will focus on research methods and skills and student development as scholars. Then the students will choose, in consultation with their advisor, an additional ten courses in the traditional theological disciplines in order to acquire sufficient knowledge to begin identifying and formulating their dissertation topics. Students will be required to write papers related to the study of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations in all courses they take. After successful course work, students will spend one year preparing and taking the comprehensive exams and formulating and defending their dissertation proposals. Finally, after successful comprehensive exams, students will write and defend their dissertations in their fourth and fifth year.

The sufficient proficiency and knowledge of Qur’anic and classical Arabic is critical to the success of this program. One of the requirements for admission to this program is that applicants need to have at least one year of classical or Qur’anic Arabic at the time of admission. There will be a mandatory test for all Ph.D. students after one year in the program to demonstrate academic proficiency of Qur’anic and classical Arabic.  The intended language goal for the program is to train students to have the sufficient proficiency and knowledge to work with classical/Qur’anic Arabic in their study and research.  In the second year of course work, students must also demonstrate mastery of at least one additional language relevant to their subject of dissertation and academic scholarship.


Three Stages of Ph.D. Program

The PhD program consists of three stages of study in which the students are expected to 1) complete their coursework and language requirements, 2) shape their doctoral research agenda and pass their exams, and 3) research, complete and defend their dissertation.

Sample curriculum and timeline

Stage   Year   Fall   Spring
I 1 Ph.D. Seminar 1
Islamic History I or II
Electives (3 or 6 credits)
Ph.D. Seminar 2
Christian-Muslim Relations in Early Islam
Electives (3 or 6 credits)
2 Major Themes in Qur’an and Bible
Electives (3 or 6 credits)
Islamic Theology/Thought
Electives (3 or 6 credits)
II 3  Comprehensive Exams  Comprehensive Exams
III 4-5  Dissertation  Dissertation


Stage I

Stage One is intended to be 2 years-long, 36 credit hours. Students are required to complete a certain amount of courses and to prepare themselves to begin formulating their doctoral research proposal and producing preliminary draft of it.
Within the 36 credit hour requirement, students must take at least one course in each of the following subject areas at the 600 level or higher; Christian or Muslim Theology, Religion and Society, Sacred Scriptures (Bible and/or Qur’an), Ethics, History, and Worship and Spirituality. Students must also take an additional 12 elective credits to reach the 36-hour requirement.  Language courses do not count in this 36 credit hour requirement.  Students should choose their courses in consultation with their program advisor and directly in accordance to its relevance to the subject they plan to write their dissertation on.

Students may only take 600 level courses or higher.  If enrolled in a 600 level course, PhD students should expect to do additional work beyond the MA level including extra assignments such as additional book readings and larger term papers.

Students may opt for independent studies or guided reading courses with relevant faculty, with the permission of their advisor and the faculty member responsible for the course. The requirements of these courses must meet the standards of an upgraded 600 level course.

Linguistic Efficiency:

Students must acquire sufficient academic knowledge and comprehension of at least two of the languages (excluding English) they will need to pursue their doctoral research.  Applicants must have at least one year of classical or Qur’anic Arabic at the time of admission.  All students must pass a mandatory test after one year in the program to demonstrate academic proficiency of Qur’anic and classical Arabic. Because sufficient proficiency and knowledge of Qur’anic and classical Arabic is critical to the success of this program, students are encouraged to avail themselves of the advanced Arabic courses offered by the Seminary.  Hartford Seminary will examine the students’ linguistic competency through an exam offered to students near the end of the spring semester of the first year.  An Arabic language examination team of Seminary faculty will attend to this task.

Students must also demonstrate mastery of at least one additional language relevant to their subject of dissertation and academic scholarship and will be tested on this mastery in the second year of course work.  Consult the student advisor regarding these language requirements and testing. It is the student’s responsibility to acquire an adequate knowledge of additional foreign languages and provide conclusive evidence that they have knowledge of and ability to use the language in academic pursuits.  Failure to pass the two language exams will result in the student not being allowed to proceed to the second stage of the PhD program.

Supervision and Assessment of Progress and Qualifications:

Students will have two forms of academic supervision during their PhD program:

Program Advisor: During the first and second stages of the PhD program, students will be supervised by the Director of the PhD Program, who is going to serve as their Program Advisor. This advisor shall meet with students twice every semester (one meeting at the beginning of the semester and one meeting at the end of it), and whenever students request additional meetings throughout the first two stages of the program. It will be the duty of this advisor to:

  • guide students through all the stages of their study and aid them in relation to all kind of administrative and academic matters related to the overall process of the program.
  • Advise them on the course load by:
    • thinking with them about the elective courses they might consider taking in the light of the student’s research subject of interest
    • listening to and consulting with them on any concern, challenge or need related to courses and a student’s experience in the program
    • attending to any general inquiry or need the student seeks help with in relation to any part of the program.
  • Assess the students’ progress and manifested qualifications to decide with the PhD Committee whether or not students are proceeding as expected and are demonstrating the skills and qualifications required to succeed in the program. The PhD committee shall develop its decision on the student’s status and progress to the following stage in the program on the basis of the threefold assessment criterion:
    • A student’s grades in courses (no less than B)
    • The courses instructors’ evaluation of a student’s participation, abilities and potentials, which the instructors share through a written report with the Program Advisor at the end of every course.
    • The Program Advisor’s annual report (to be submitted to the PhD Committee at the end of every year), which will summarize the interactions of regular advising meetings and data which the Program Advisor collects from sources 1 & 2

Thesis Supervisor: After successfully completing stage one, students will be assigned a Thesis Supervisor for the remaining two stages of the program.  This supervisor, who is one of the school’s core-faculty, will work closely with the student to help shape a research question, area of dissertation study and the writing of the final dissertation product.  While the Program Advisor will still be fully available to attend to anything students may need in the program, the Thesis Supervisor will be asked to report to the PhD Committee on the student’s progress in the program once every year of the last two years of the program.

Producing Preliminary Draft of the Thesis Proposal:

While developing the official draft of the thesis proposal should not take place until successful completion of stage one of the program, students will be expected and pushed toward thinking seriously about their specific research proposal from the very first semester of the first year in the program. Students should do this in close consultation with a member of the faculty related to their intended area of study.  This informal conversation can help the students to sharpen their ideas and enable them to crystalize their scholarly thoughts as they begin to build their academic knowledge on the envisioned subject. These conversations will also help the students begin constructing a potential student-supervisor relationship with a prospective faculty professor who can become their official dissertation supervisor.
In stage one during the second year spring semester, students are required to take the PhD 701 seminar course. In this course, they will prepare and present a preliminary draft of their thesis proposal as a paper before their colleagues and faculty members. This will be a training for them in preparation for the thesis proposal defense.  Students must treat the date of presenting a preliminary paper-draft of the thesis proposal as a ‘deadline’ and should do their best to benefit from all the feedback, comments, corrections, questions and suggestions they will receive from their colleagues and the faculty during the sessions of this PhD701 seminar.

Stage II

Stage Two is one year-long (two semesters). It is considered full-time study for registration purposes, loan and visa status. Before beginning this stage, students must have finished all the requirements in Stage One, incompletes and unfinished work are not an option to move to Stage Two. The 12 course credits of this stage consists of the following requirements:

The Official Version of the Final Proposal:

Students are required during the first semester of this year to finish composing their thesis/research proposal. The proposal must be written following the standard proposals-writing format that is usually accepted in other academic universities and will be available from the Program Advisor.
During the fall semester of the third year (toward the end of the semester) students will be asked to stand before the PhD committee and faculty to defend their thesis proposal.

The students whose assessment is a ‘B’ shall make the revisions and resubmit the proposal to his/her, Thesis Supervisor, who will evaluate this resubmission and report to the PhD Committee, without the need for the student to stand and defend it again before the full committee.

On the other hand, the student whose assessment is a ‘C’ shall make the revisions and stand again before the committee during the ensuing spring semester to re-defend the thesis proposal. This student would be doing this in the presence of his/her, Thesis Supervisor. This reexamination would occur early of the spring semester and before the regular time is due for PhD students to sit for the comprehensive exam toward the end of that very same semester.
The Comprehensive Exam:

This is one of the major stations in stage two and in the entire program. Students must succeed in passing four major exams administered during this Second Stage in the third year. The comprehensive exams will take place at the end of the spring semester in the third year.
The exams are as follows:

1- Two Major Exams: students must be examined in the program’s two major core-subjects: Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations/Interfaith Dialogue. The two exams are 6 hours-long, held on two separate days, and will take place at the end of May that academic year.

The exams will be in a form of a list of questions drawn from the reading lists. Students will be given two bibliographies from which the major exams will be drawn. These exams will be assessed and marked by Seminary professors who are experts in these two areas of study.

2- Two Minor Exams: students will be required to propose two subject areas (in addition to the above major exam subjects) relevant to their research focus to produce to scholarly/research papers (8000 words\25 pages long) on. The papers need to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of classical Arabic and demonstrate sufficiently and solidly the student’s competence in engaging in original research in these selected areas. These two papers will be read, assessed and graded by two professors whose expertise is relevant to the two chosen subjects. The two papers are to be submitted by the first week of March of that academic year.

The comprehensive exam’s four parts are to be completed by the end of the spring semester of that third year. The PhD committee will then meet and vote for officially upgrading the successful students to the Third Stage of the program or the Dissertation research and writing phase.  The Program Director/Advisor will inform the students on the committee’s decision in an official letter.

In case a student failed one or all of the exams, the student would be allowed to attempt them again after six months. Nevertheless, a second failed attempt at passing the exam means the student cannot continue the program, and will be required to leave but with the possibility of being awarded an MA degree.

The Thesis Supervisor Appointment:

During the first semester of stage two, and simultaneously with a student’s defense of the thesis proposal, each successful student will be assigned a Thesis Supervisor. The Thesis Supervisor will be the student’s main supporter and guiding reference from this point until successful graduation or termination.  Students are strongly encouraged, from the second year in stage one onwards (if not even earlier) to develop open communication channels with members of the faculty with whom they think could be potential supervisors at this stage. Sharing with the Program Director/Advisor their wishes on which supervisor they hope to work with and developing a preliminary communication with this prospective faculty member will help in the process of supervisors’ assignment when the time for pursuing this task draws near.

Stage III

This stage is normally two years-long and is considered a full-time study period. It is the research and writing stage where the students must dedicate their full-time to finishing the task of writing their dissertations and submitting them to examination. During this stage, some teaching or lecturing opportunities will be available to students (subject to the school’s needs) through the Program Director/Advisor to help them acquire some teaching skills.

The Dissertation:

The doctoral thesis must be written according to the standard rules, requirements and quality of doctor of philosophy theses that require original contribution to the field and follow the standards of accredited universities and academic institutions.

The dissertation must normally be between 200-300 pages-long (up to 80,000 words-long), excluding cover sheet, table of contents and bibliography. It should be written in academic English (with citations, quotations and scriptural verses in original/foreign languages, e.g. Arabic, German, French, etc. and translated properly into English, whenever this is needed). Its format should follow the writing style and format that is officially adopted for standard academic/scholarly publication. The thesis must also be gender-sensitive and free of discriminative, stereotyping, judgmental or aggressive language.

The Dissertation Assessment:

The thesis will be assessed after:

1- its high level of analytical, methodological and cognitive thoroughness that matches those of standard scholarly projects in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations in the professional field.

2- its timeliness, originality and ability to advance scholarship on Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations

3- its ability to demonstrate that the student has the required skills and knowledge to do autonomous projects on Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations

4- its strict abidance with the program’s policy, namely that all dissertations must have an explicit focus on Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations and neither of these two areas should be optional foci of the dissertation.

The Dissertation’s Examination:

The student must conduct a defense of the dissertation (no longer than a 3 hour-long discussion) before an appointed committee, faculty and PhD students. The committee will be made of the following members: external examiner, internal examiner, Director of the PhD program and the Academic Dean. The Director of the program and the Dean will be present to observe the entire process and make sure that it proceeds fairly, professionally and ethically.
The student’s supervisor(s) will be expected to attend the defense session. However, he/she will not be allowed to interfere by any means in the process or to participate in the discussion. He/she must sit in this defense as auditor only.
The dissertation will be examined by two main readers/examiners: a scholar expert in the area of study of the conducted research from outside the school, and another expert in the thesis’s area of study from the school’s faculty. The examiners will be asked to compose thorough and comprehensive reports on the dissertation after its examination and submit them to the director of the PhD program, who in turn must share their results with the Academic Dean and the PhD Committee members to make the appropriate relevant decision accordingly.

The Outcome Criterion

In light of the reports of the two examiners, the PhD committee will decide whether to grant the candidate the PhD degree or not. The final decision of the examiners in their reports must be stated after one of the following fourfold criterion:

1- recommending that the dissertation is acceptable and the student can be granted the PhD degree

2- recommending minor corrections and revisions to the dissertation and requesting re-submission (without re-examination) to the thesis and granting the student 2-3 months to work closely with his/her supervisor on applying these minor corrections to the dissertation. The supervisor will then support the re-submission with a report on the student’s success in fulfilling all the recommended revisions and the dissertation’s legibility to approval.

3- recommending major corrections and substantial revisions to be made to the dissertation and request a reexamination session after availing 5-6 months to the student to work closely with his/her supervisor on re-readying the dissertation for re-submission and re-examination. The PhD committee reserves the right to either ask the same examiners (especially the external) to re-conduct the second defense, or to appoint another external examiner to join the already appointed internal examiner (the same reader who was chosen the first time) in conducting the second defense session.

4- disqualifying the dissertation upon its inability to demonstrate fulfillment of the dissertation assessment rules (see section II above) and relating the students’ failure         in making sufficient case/defense for his/her thesis to pass the exam, which will result in denying the student the PhD degree and availing to him/her the chance of getting an M.A. degree instead.


The Ph.D. program seeks international and domestic students who know about the reputation of Hartford Seminary’s long-standing work on Christian-Muslim relations and are interested specifically in Christian-Muslim relations. All applications will be reviewed by the Admissions Committee that is made up of three faculty members and the Director of Recruitment and Admissions. Applicants are required to have earned a Master of Divinity or equivalent from an accredited institution, or the Master of Arts in Religious Studies with the focused area in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations from Hartford Seminary prior to their enrollment into this program. At least one year of classical Arabic is required at the time of admission (there will be a mandatory test for all Ph.D. students after one year in the program to demonstrate at least a rudimentary working knowledge of Qur’anic and classical Arabic). The following materials are also required:

  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores;
  • TOEFL or IELTS for students who are not native speakers of the English language with a minimum of 80 Internet based test on the TOEFL and 6.5 on the IELTS;
  • three letters of recommendation;
  • all official transcripts from tertiary institutions applicants attended (for international students, certified, translated and evaluated international transcripts);
  • 20-25 page sample scholarly paper;
  • and approximately 1,000 word personal statement outlining the student’s reasons for applying to this program.

Application deadline for Fall 2017 is January 31, 2017.

Contact Tina Demo, Director of Recruitment and Admissions,
if you are interested in applying for this program.

Financial support is available. Please contact our admissions office to learn more at admissions@hartsem.edu.

Payment of Tuition and Fees

Application Fee $100
Yearly Tuition (Full-Time only; no part-time allowed) during the course work and comprehensive exam stage (first three years)
$25,000 payable in two installments of $12,500 at the beginning of each semester (Fall and Spring). This fee is paid for three years and is subject to change.
Yearly Tuition during the dissertation stage $2,000 per semester beyond the initial three years of the program.
Student Comprehensive Fee $100 per semester
Returned Check Fee $20
Transcript Fee $10
Graduation Fee $185

The cost of the Ph.D. program is the total of tuition for the prescribed number of years.

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