Amongst the answers given to the questions posed by man in his quest for meaning in this world, the ones provided by Islamic sciences occupy a significant place. All of these sciences emerged directly in relation to the divine revelation, and their ultimate goal is to determine the true nature of the God-man-cosmos relationship. These sciences emerged in the Islamic civilization in light of the notion of "having faith and doing good, righteous work", which very succinctly formulates what was revealed by God through His Last Prophet.
The great Islamic scholar Ibn Khaldun says that every religion has given birth to sciences on its own and according to its own particular set of principles. Rational sciences such as philosophy, mathematics, and physics are a common ground for all humanity, yet religious sciences are private in that they are each is derived by a certain faith. For with the advent of every new body of revelation, a whole new world emerges. In this case, a new body of sciences must develop that will deal with this new spiritual world starting to originate based on the new revelation. Religion plays an important role in history by impacting on its course though these sciences. The sciences that emerged in the Islamic civilization are usually referred to as transmitted, legal, or religious sciences; whereas, Ibn Khaldun prefers to call them simply as "Islamic sciences."
Islamic sciences devlopeddue to deep and hard contemplation by the Companions of the Prophet and the following generations on their knowledge of the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet.Such sciences were handed down from one generation to the next in the hands of great scholars such as Abu Hanifa, Imam Shafi'i, Imam Ghazzali, Fakhruddin al-Razi, Abu's-Su'ud, and Ibn Abidin, to name only a few. Studying in the field of Islamic theology would be a step towards becoming a part of this long-established tradition.Why Islamic Theology in Turkey?
The Ottoman State, whose inheritor is Turkey, was the bearer of a tradition of knowledge and learning dating back centuries since it had become the political and intellectual center of the Islamic civilization, particularly following the Mamluks. Ottoman madrasas managed to build up a unique tradition of Islamic sciences by combining the contributions of many scholars that came from all corners of the Islamic world, and these madrasas carried this tradition all across the Ottoman lands, and primarily to Rumelia. Lying at the heart of this long-established tradition, Turkish faculties of Islamic theology have taken it upon themselves to convey to the future generations this vast body of Islamic sciences that have remained intact to the present day after a centuries-long developing phase. Students who want to study Islamic theology in Turkey will have the opportunity to study Islamic sciences with all its richness without plunging into the bigotry of promoting any one particular school of thought or jurisprudence to the exclusion of others. In addition, unlike other Islamic countries, faculties of Islamic Theology in Turkey teach Islamic sciences accompanied by philosophy, religious studies, Islamic art and literature, and for this reason students are presented with the opportunity to study in, so to say, a full-fledged Islamic university. Most of these faculties have a very intense one-year Arabic preparatory course for the students who do not know the mother tongue of Islamic sciences.Education in Faculties of Islamic Theology
Faculties of Islamic Theology consist of three main departments. At the undergraduate level, students take courses from all three of these.
Basic Islamic Sciences: Making up the backbone of the faculties of Islamic theology, this department teaches the sciences that flourished in fields like law and ethics, which arose from the key sources of Islam by contemplating on the knowledge in these sources. Some of the sciences taught in this department are Islamic Theology (kalam), Quranic Exegesis (tafsir), Hadith, Islamic Law, Sufism (Tasawwuf), History of Islamic Sects, Arabic Language and Eloquence, Reading the Qur'an and the Science of Recitation. Of these sciences, which we can define as "transmitted sciences", Quranic Exegesis deals with understanding and explaining the Qur'ân; Hadith aims for collecting, evaluating and recording the words, deeds and tacit approvals of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and then accurately conveying them to the future generations; Islamic theology deals with the dimension of faith; and Sufism deals with the spiritual world of man and the deeds he performs internally with his heart. Islamic law / jurisprudence deals with man's external deeds that take place in the outside world, seeking to ensure a life that will lead to gaining the contentment of God by establishing a balance between the divine revelation and human actions. Arabic Language and Eloquence aims to teach Arabic, the mother tongue of Islamic sciences, with all its subtleties; Reading the Quran and the Science of Recitation aims to teach a correct reading of the Quran as well as the basic knowledge on the science of reciting the Qur'ân; History of Islamic Sects aims, through comparative studies, to deal with the main approaches of the Islamic sects. This department has also a course that covers the current religious movements in the Islamic world and is thus very conducive to getting to know the contemporary Islamic world better. Basic Islamic sciences are taught alongside their particular methodologies that were devised to teach them more effectively. In this way, students have the chance to find out about the formative stages of these sciences, while also deepening their knowledge on each of the sciences they are taught. Another principle taken into account while teaching these sciences is that individual topics are scrutinized comparatively and not taught in the framework of a single sect.
Philosophy and Religious Studies: One of the aspects that makes theological education in Turkey more advantageous compared to other Islamic countries is that philosophy and religious sciences are taught in an integrated manner with the courses of Islamic theology. One of the greatest gains of the students studying Islamic theology in Turkey is that they have the chance to be acquainted with a very large scope of topics ranging from the connection between intelligence and the divine revelation to the thoughts of the significant representatives of the Islamic philosophy tradition, from the connection between Islamic philosophy and Western philosophy to the opportunity of studying the psychological and social dimensions of religion in a scientific environment. The fundamental disciplines included in Philosophy and religious sciences are the following: Religious Education, Philosophy of Religion, Psychology of Religion, Sociology of Religion, History of Religions, History of Philosophy, Islamic Philosophy and Logic. Religious Education deals with the procedures and techniques of teaching religion to people of all ages; Philosophy of Religion deals with the nature of religious knowledge and with some philosophical problems - primarily that of evil - particularly within the framework of the issue of God; Psychology of Religion deals with the relationship between people's mental and spiritual condition and their religious faith and life; Sociology of Religion deals with the dimension of religion as reflected on the social life; History of Religions deals with the basic creeds and the enjoined behavior principles of major religions; History of Philosophy deals with the accumulated philosophical knowledge of the Islamic civilization in comparison to Eastern and Western philosophical traditions; and Logic deals with the ancient accumulated knowledge and experience of humanity in terms of the effort to reach accurate and reliable knowledge.
Islamic History and Arts: This department is part of the Faculty of Islamic Theology in order to supplement the education of theology in terms of history, art, and literature, and its main courses are Islamic History, History of Turkish-Islamic Arts, Turkish-Islamic Literature, and Turkish Religious Music. The course of Islamic History aims to deal with the history of Islam as a whole from its beginnings and endow its students with the knowledge of a wide range of subbranches in this field such as "History of Islamic Institutions," "History and Geography of Islamic Countries," Paleography," "Sirah (The Prophet's Life) and Its Sources," and "History of Turkish Culture" History of Turkish-Islamic Arts examines the developments in architecture and fine arts particularly in the regions ruled by Turkish states. In this context, there are courses taught on "Islamic Arts and Aesthetics", "Fine Arts", "History of the Turkish Art of Calligraphy" and the "Ottoman Architecture." The Turkish-Islamic Literature focuses on the basic texts of Turkish literature especially from the Islamic periods, also covering literary criticism and textual analysis. Turkish Religious Music aims to examine religious music, which reached its zenith in the Ottoman period, in terms of maqams and words; and through its Turkish Music Ensemble, it practically encourages its students for performing what they learn. If they choose to do so, the students have the opportunity to get nay (reed flute), kanun (a zither-like Turkish instrument; the piano of Turkish Music, so to say) and maqam lessons.
Given the richness and diversity of the departments, a student who will receive theological education in Turkey will be studying in a university, rather than a faculty, as he/she will be acquiring considerable knowledge on philosophy, literature, history, sociology, psychology, and art history in addition to taking the basic courses of Islamic sciences.Qualifications Required of Students and Job Opportunities
Being proficient in one or more of the languages of Turkish, Arabic, Persian, and English will provide a significant advantage to the students who wish to study Islamic theology. In addition, a minimum knowledge of the Holy Qur'an in terms of reading and memorization and having basic Islamic knowledge at the level of faith and worship are among the elements that will greatly assist a potential candidate. Being interested in learning foreign languages, having the ability to work for long periods of time focusing on certain subjects, and possessing advanced verbal and emotional intelligence will also contribute to the success rate in theological education.
Thirty percent of all the undergraduate courses are taught in Arabic in the faculties of Islamic Theology which offers an obligatory one-year Arabic preparatory course. There are also faculties of Islamic Theology whose entire programs are conducted in English. Furthermore, elective courses such as Ottoman Turkish, Persian, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew are taught by specialist teachers. Therefore, graduates of such faculties can proceed with their academic careers as highly qualified students into master's and doctoral programs in Turkey or different parts of the world. Since the graduates will be eligible for an internationally-recognized diploma, they will have the possibility to work as teachers, muftis, preachers, imams, and Qur'an teachers in many parts of the world.
Turkish faculties of Islamic Theology have a number of world renowned academics with international experience. Among them are; Prof. İsmail Kara, one of the leading experts on contemporary Islamism; Prof. Faruk Beşer, one of Turkey's most important experts in Islamic Law particularly with his mind-provoking solution proposals regarding contemporary juridical matters; Prof. Raşit Küçük, one of the most authoritative figures in the field of hadith, who was part of a committee of three scholars who translated Riyad as-Salihin(one of the most widely read hadith books in the Islamic world into Turkish with an annotated interpretation); Prof. İlhan Kutluer, one of the most notable experts of Islamic philosophy in Turkey; And Prof. Mustafa Kara, one of the most important authorities of the history of Sufism.