The Catholic University of America

Certificate in Islamic World Studies

The Islamic World Studies Certificate allows students to focus their elective and distribution requirements around the interdisciplinary study of the languages, cultures, religions, history, and politics of the Islamic world. It provides an excellent foundation for students anticipating international work or service, graduate school, or just graduating into an increasingly "global" world. The focus of this program is the Islamic world from late antiquity to the present, across the Middle East and Africa to South and Southeast Asia to Muslim minorities in Europe and the Americas.

Requirements. The IWS Certificate has two requirement areas: content courses and Arabic language.

Content courses. The Certificate requires the completion of six IWS-qualified “content” courses. Two of these are required “gateway” courses: HIST 309-Rise of Islam and ANTH 310-Islam in the Modern World. (Beginning Fall 2016 students may substitute HIST 308A-Modern Middle East for ANTH 310). Students choose a further four courses from the IWS-qualified offerings in SAS, the School of Theology & Religious Studies, and the School of Philosophy. Students may count up to two qualified courses in their majors toward the IWS Certificate.

Arabic language. In addition to content courses, the IWS Certificate requires Arabic-language study through the advanced intermediate level. Usually, this means completing the first six semesters of Arabic offered at CUA: ARAB 101-104 and 203-204. Equivalent Arabic offerings are available in various accredited study abroad programs.

For detailed program policies, see below.

Does this mean taking extra courses? No. IWS-qualified courses in Islamic philosophy and religion, for example, are the same ones that meet those CUA distribution reqirements. Likewise, IWS-qualified courses in literature, humanities, and social sciences satisfy distribution requirements in those areas. Completing the IWS Arabic curriculum also satisfies the general SAS foreign language requirement. Basically, for an IWS Certificate, a student would choose courses for distribution requirements and free electives that also count for IWS. The Certificate is a way to organize your distribution requirements around a central theme: the study of the Islamic world.

How about an example? A Politics major could complete the IWS Certificate by taking the following courses: HIST 309 and ANTH 310 (IWS requirements and general education distributions), POLI 326 and 327 (major electives), PHIL 334 (Philosophy distribution requirement), and TRS 395 or 398 (Theology & Religious Studies distribution requirement). Plus Arabic, of course, which also satisfies the Foreign Language requirement.

How does a Certificate differ from a minor? The big difference between the IWS Certificate and Minor is that Arabic language courses are optional, not required, for the Minor.

What if a major does not contribute courses to the IWS program? No problem. All IWS courses will fill some slot in the distribution requirements. An English (or Physics!) major would select ANTH 310 for a social science requirement and then POLI 326 or 327 for another, HIST 309 for a humanities requirement and then one of the FREN, SPAN, or SEM literature courses for another, PHIL 334 for a Philosophy requirement, and TRS 398 for a Religion requirement. The Certificate provides a frame for choosing free elective and distribution courses, so long as these come from at least three departments and/or schools.

What about Study Abroad? Students planning to study abroad, particularly in Europe where universities have been adding courses on the Muslim world, should contact the Program Director to identify appropriate language and optional courses for the IWS Certificate in proposed host institutions. Since 2011, CUA is affiliated with the AMIDEAST program, which offers Arabic language and culture courses in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, and Oman that transfer to CUA. And the Department of Modern Languages can advise about additional programs abroad offering Arabic language instruction.

What courses qualify for the IWS Certificate?

Required gateway courses

  • HIST 309 - Rise of Islam (spring semesters)
  • HIST 308A - Modern Middle East/ANTH 310 - Islam in the Modern World (fall semesters)

Optional IWS-qualified courses (four required)

  • ANTH 390 - Politics & Religion in the Middle East
  • ARAB 213 - Development & Humanitarian Interventions
  • ART 341 - Islamic Art & Architecture
  • FREN 279 - Borders, Exile & War in the Mashrek
  • HIST 309C - Muslims, Christians & Jews in the Medieval Mediterranean
  • HIST 311B - Gunpowder Empires of Islam: Ottomans, Safavids & Mughals
  • PHIL 334 - Philosophy in the Islamic World
  • POLI 326 - Politics of the Middle East
  • POLI 327 - Nationalism & Islam: Post-Colonial Movements
  • SPAN 326 - Medieval Spain at the Crossroads of Cultures
  • SPAN 360 - Muslims in Latin America: Intersecting Cultures
  • SEM 247/547 - Arabic Literature in Translation
  • SEM 545/6 - Medieval Arabic Literature
  • TRS 395 - Christian Muslim Relations
  • TRS 398 - Introduction to Islam
  • TRS 398A - Introduction to the Quran
  • Plus similar courses in approved Study Abroad plans or from the Consortium of Washington Area Universities


Program policies. Students must receive a grade no lower than C+ in a course to count it toward the IWS Certificate. The six content courses must total 18 credit hours and must be drawn from no fewer than three CUA departments and/or schools. Placement in Arabic language courses, and “placing out” for the purposes of completing the Certificate language requirement, is by examination as determined by the Department of Modern Language and Literatures. Students may substitute ARAB 205 for ARAB 204. Students completing or placing out of ARAB 204 may count one further content-focused Arabic course, such as ARAB 205, as one of their six required content courses. The Semitics Department offers a pair of courses in reading Classical Arabic (SEM 241-242) that may replace some of the Intermediate MSA courses for students interested in reading ancient texts (permission of the instructor and IWS Director required). ARAB 130 cannot count as a content course for the purposes of completing the Certificate.