The Graduate Masters of Divinity in Islamic Studies is a three to four year program designed specifically for students who wish to become professional and credentialed Muslim leaders, spiritual care givers, or chaplains. The curriculum, presented below, was developed in consultation with some of the most prominent Muslim chaplains, therapists, bioethicists, and spiritual care givers in America, and, as a result, it offers a richness of practical education in conversation with contemporary counseling and psychology education. Our program development consultation partners also included some of America’s leading Jewish and Christian seminaries, and so students enrolling in this program benefit from the best of expert opinion, even across the boundaries of tradition.  


As is evidenced below, the program requirements ensure a robust theological preparation that overlaps entirely with the Islamic Theology-track of our MA program, but – instead of awarding a Master’s of Arts in Islamic Theology at the end of the second year (the 36 credit hour mark) – the MDIS degree program requires an additional three terms of full-time, rigorous training in the core competencies Muslim spiritual caregivers and chaplains need to be effective in their day-to-day work within a North American environment. These competencies include the basics of pastoral care, psychological assessment and counseling, cross-cultural communication, conducting and/or facilitating Islamic devotional rites and lifecycle ceremonies, unique skill-sets for spiritual care within hospitals and prisons, working competently with trauma, and developing service programs to meet constituent needs.  Therefore the MDIS program consists of three to four years (72 hours) of academic study, pastoral education, and fieldwork/internship experience. This is quite consistent with the requirements found within Divinity programs at some of our sister institutions here in Chicago and across North America. While studying alongside our MA Students in the Islamic Theology track, MDIS students are required to fulfill all of the requirements for the MA, which is conceived to consist of two years of full-time study (36 credit hours). Then, in the third and fourth years of the MDIS program, students are required to take a minimum of eleven (11) courses, seven (7) of which are core requirements of the MDIS program. Each of these courses count for three (3) credit hours of study except for IS 601 (the spiritual care/leadership/chaplaincy training practicum), which includes a final paper and so counts for a total of six (6) credit hours.

The required, core courses are noted by boldfaced type below while the elective courses are in regular typeface.

IS 600 – Introduction to Clinical Pastoral Education
IS 601 – Spiritual Care/Leadership/Chaplaincy Training Practicum (400-hour internship plus paper for a total of 6 credits)
IS 602 – Islamic Pastoral & Moral Theology
IS 603 – Counseling Theory, Methodology, Assessment
IS 604 – Intercultural Communication & Competence
IS 605 – Marriage & Family Counseling
IS 606 – Youth & Young Adult Mentoring, Coaching, and Counseling
IS 608 – Correctional Counseling: Working with Offenders
IS 609 – Psychology of Trauma
IS 611 – Islamic Bioethics, End of Life Decisions & Hospital/Hospice Care
IS 615 – The Fiqh of Islamic Ritual Practices
IS 616 – The Fiqh of the Muslim Life Cycle
IS 619 – Interfaith Chaplaincy & Spiritual Care
IS 620 – Mosque/Muslim Non-Profit Organization & Management


Additional Program Requirements: Formation & “Candidacy Status”

The MDIS program includes the very important element of formation as part of a more holistic evaluation of a candidate’s readiness for spiritual care and religious leadership.  This is a standard feature in Divinity programs across North America. In other words, students are required to be in regular contact with their MDIS advisor for academic advising and spiritual direction and integration of their studies and experiential education.  MDIS students must meet with their advisor/director at least three times per semester.  These meetings help assess the student’s readiness for the complex demands of the spiritual care/religious leadership/chaplaincy role and also provide an opportunity for a more complete integration of his/her studies and fieldwork. The advisor’s assessment serves as part of a larger, program-wide assessment of the student’s readiness for “Candidacy Status” – a program requirement that is independent of academic credit hours.


Candidacy Status

After the MDIS student has completed the first term of MDIS specific study in his/her third year, the MDIS Advisor, together with the other MDIS faculty, will award “Candidacy Status” to the student if he/she is deemed to have

1) met the requirements & standards of outlined objectives;
2) completed coursework satisfactorily;
3) maintained ‘good standing’ in academic coursework;
4) achieved a positive recommendation from internship supervisor;
5) demonstrated the maturity and overall readiness (emotional, spiritual, legal, and theological) for chaplaincy work and spiritual care.


Once “Candidacy Status” is achieved, the student is able to continue and complete the MDIS program with the continuing support of the MDIS advisor, in consultation with the other participating MDIS faculty. If a student is not deemed to be ready for the completion of the MDIS program, he/she can nevertheless be released with the MA in Islamic Studies (Theology concentration) in recognition of his/her fulfillment of those program requirements en route to the MDIS. This promises a just and constructive outcome for students who are deemed not ready for the psychological and emotional challenges of spiritual care and religious leadership.




COURSE DESCRIPTIONS: Masters of Divinity in Islamic Studies   

IS 600 –  Intro to Clinical Pastoral Education     3 Credits     (Required)         

This course serves as a theoretical and experiential introduction to Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) – an experience-based approach to learning practical skills and developing competencies for spiritual care. It thus combines academic study with qualified supervision, group reflection, and experiential / “hands on” exposure to a variety of spiritual and pastoral care settings.  Students will be challenged to develop a practice of self-reflection and empathic dialogue as they encounter patients, staff, and fellow students.  Students will be challenged to work sensitively within the world view of the patient/client and assist her/him to express and interpret the experience of illness or trauma or loss in accordance with the patient’s own religious beliefs and spiritual values.


IS 601 – Spiritual Care/Leadership/Chaplaincy Training Practicum (400 hour internship)      3 Credits     (Required) 

This course marks a more sustained exposure to theories or core environments introduced in the IS 600.  Students will be placed in a supervised field placement (or series of placements) and work under the direct supervision of an experienced imam, counsellor, social worker, chaplain, or spiritual caregiver.  Placements are determined in consultation with the student, the advisor, and the supervising practitioner in the field.


IS 602 – Islamic Pastoral & Moral Theology     3 Credits     (Required) 

This course opens new theological horizons for the MDIS student as it explores theologies of service, suffering, healing, forgiveness, liberation, reconciliation, transcendence, and transformation within the Qur’anic, prophetic, and spiritual traditions of Islam.


IS 603 – Counseling Theory, Methodology, Assessment     3 Credits     (Required) 

Embracing an active and participatory approach, this course is designed to help MDIS students cultivate basic knowledge and skills in the areas of counseling, psychological assessment, and psychotherapeutic theory and practice.  The major modalities covered will include the Psychoanalytic, Neo-analytic, Person-centered, Humanistic and Affective, Behavioral, Cognitive, and Family Systems therapies.  Students will be taught culturally and religiously sensitive approaches to intervention strategies for dealing with psychological, emotional, relationship, and adjustment problems.


IS 604 – Intercultural Communication & Competence     3 Credits    (Required)  

This course explores an array of communication systems and formations from different cultures and provides an introduction to the major principles and theories of interpersonal, intercultural, and international communication, from one on one encounters to the macro-level of mass media.  Students are exposed to various ways culture, gender, religion, socio-economic background, and nationality influence the way individuals and communities communicate and so are challenged to apply this to their work in pastoral, spiritual care and religious leadership.  The goal of this required core class is to help students examine their own communication styles and assumptions while developing the sensitivity, cultural dexterity, and practiced techniques they will need to be effective communicators and care givers within a multicultural and multi-religious world.


IS 605 – Marriage & Family Counseling     3 Credits      

This course aims at equipping MDIS students with the most essential therapeutic tools and techniques for helping families in such areas as parent-child and family dynamics, mental and nervous disorders within the family, marital and family education, coping with divorce and loss, domestic violence (DV), and sexual dysfunction.  Adolescent psychology, counseling theories and strategies (including one-on-one cognitive therapy and group therapy), human growth and development, diverse marriage and family systems, gender identity, sexual orientation, family violence, critical interventions, divorce, and many other topics will be touched on in this course:  all infused with and informed by foundational Islamic principles relating to human dignity, mercy, justice, balance, and social responsibility.  Students will also become familiar with psychological, religious, community-based, and legal tools for providing first-tier assistance for victims of domestic violence as well as for addressing and treating the causes of DV within the home and/or community.  To this end, we will explore the nature and definition of domestic violence, the challenge of identifying the victims of DV, the signs of DV within individuals and family dynamics, psychological and religious strategies for intervention and working with victims and perpetrators of DV, how to find professional help and resources for victims of DV, and strategies for breaking the cycle of violence within the home and the community.


IS 606 – Youth and Young Adult Mentoring, Coaching & Counseling     3 Credits 

This course seeks to equip AIC MDIS students with a basic understanding of the unique struggles adolescents face and to help students develop a spiritually informed approach to mentoring, counseling, and coaching youth within a caring, non-judgmental, and positive context.  Students can expect to develop competencies in the following areas:  understanding the major relational, emotional, and behavioral issues faced by adolescents today within an American context; helping adolescents acquire the tools for working with the challenges they face; identifying the critical signs that signal the need for intervention and/or professional referrals; identifying and building up the core qualities and gifts of young people; educating and, if necessary, mediating with parents so that they can better understand the world in which their children are living.


IS 608 – Correctional Counseling: Working with Offenders      3 Credits 

This course helps prepare MDIS students for working with convicted / incarcerated individuals within a religious context of healing and restoration.  Special attention is given to techniques for building rapport and opening a sustained conversation that gradually moves toward the core issues a client faces.  Thus, the underlying causes of addiction, violence, and other destructive and delinquent behavioral patterns are explored, and religious resources for forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration (individual and community) are studied.  Additional topics include working within a correctional environment, understanding the criminal justice system within the US, strategies for coping in stress and crisis situations, unique challenges for female and male clients within a correctional setting, and strategies for living a restored life beyond incarceration.


IS 609 – Psychology of Trauma     3 Credits 

This course introduces MDIS students to the psychology of trauma, explored in several varieties and from a range of psychotherapeutic approaches.   Topics considered include the types of trauma, including sexual trauma, PTSD, and disaster trauma, the identification of trauma symptoms, trauma-related defenses and dissociative states, personality disorders, individual and group approaches to trauma therapy, such as interventional debriefing, and community resources for referral.  Students will be challenged to develop an Islamic pastoral theology of trauma in conversation with the knowledge and psycho-therapeutic approaches learned in this course.


IS 611 – Islamic Bioethics, End of Life Decisions & Hospital/Hospice Care     3 Credits 

This course explores the emerging field of Islamic bioethics, along with the legal, ethical, and pastoral dimensions of caring for individuals and families facing end-of-life decisions. Topics addressed include the range of Muslim attitudes toward health care in America, Muslim health care needs and accommodations, major topics in bioethics, the goals of hospice care, counseling techniques and strategies for the critically ill, the dying, and their loved ones, helping individuals and families come to a religiously-informed understanding of suffering, death, and the afterlife, the ethics of the caregiver relationship, psychological and spiritual practices that help individuals and families cope with serious illness and help prepare the individual for death, the legal dimensions of Muslim funerary practices (wills, funerals, burials), comparative death rituals, and understanding the stages of grief, bereavement, and healing.


IS 615 – The Fiqh of Islamic Retual Practices     3 Credits     (Required) 

This course explores the fiqh (legal dimensions) of Muslim religious practices (al-‘ibādāt) and so prepares students to teach, advise, coach, and, if necessary, lead others in the obligatory practices of prayer, fasting, calculating and giving zakat, and performing pilgrimage.  Our approach is denominationally inclusive, and so differences between the various legal schools will be noted and discussed in a respectful manner that promotes tolerance and focuses upon “best practices” within each tradition.


IS 616 – The Fiqh of The Muslim Life Cycle     3 Credits      (Required)

This course examines the major milestones of the Muslim life-cycle and prepares the student to care for individuals and families as well as preside over appropriate rituals from birth to death. Our approach is denominationally inclusive, and so differences between the various legal schools will be noted and discussed in a respectful manner that focuses upon “best practices” within each tradition.


IS 619 – Interfaith Chaplaincy & Spiritual Care     3 Credits 

Chaplains, spiritual caregivers, and pastoral human beings are often faced with the challenge of caring for individuals of other faith traditions, and so this course helps MDIS students develop strategies and competencies for offering empathic and spiritually-infused care to clients who inhabit other belief systems or no belief system.  Interfaith chaplaincy or counseling is thus understood to be a kind of companioning that helps individuals find transcendence and illumination within their particular situation and name that transcendence or illumination in their own language.  As part of this course, then, we will explore spiritual experience from interreligious and cross-cultural perspectives, and we will study and practice contemplative listening, formless prayer, and the ministry of presence.


IS 620 – Mosque / Muslim Non-Profit Organization & Management      3 Credits  

Students aspiring to lead Muslim congregations or run non profits learn to create and manage a budget, develop business plans, create marketing and public relations strategies, institute responsible human resources/personnel policies, and build effective teams across the lay – leadership divide.  Other topics touched upon include nonprofit law, governance and accountability.




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