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




Tuition and Fees

Frequently Asked Questions

For more than a century, the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations has embodied 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 Islamic Studies, Christian-Muslim Relations, and Interreligious Engagement/Interfaith Dialogue
  • competence to produce original research and written works to advance the scholarship on Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations for the benefit of religious communities, academy, and society
  • knowledge, skills and competence to teach in these subjects in religious communities and academia

Contact 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 PHD-800: Seminar 1 (3 credits)
Electives (6 credits)

Electives (9 credits)

* Language Exam I

2 PHD-830: Research Seminar in Selected Topics (3 credits) [optional]
Electives (6 or 9 credits)
PHD-801: Seminar 2 (3 credits)
Electives (6 credits)* Language Exam II
II 3  Comprehensive Exams  Comprehensive Exams
III 4-5 Dissertation proposal defense

Documents and information for students:

Ph.D. Academic Policies

Ph.D. Program Matrix

Ph.D. Comprehensive Exams

Core Bibliography for the Ph.D. Program

Semester Research Study Plan

Annual Report on Research in the Ph.D. Program

Ph.D. Research Proposal Guidelines


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 will take courses in each of the following subject areas at the 600 level or higher; Christian or Muslim Theology, Ethics, History, Religion and Society, and Sacred Scriptures (Bible and/or Qur’an). Language courses are non-credit requirements.  Students should choose their courses in consultation with their program advisor directly relevant to the topic on which they plan to write their dissertation.

If enrolled in a 600 level course, PhD students will be expected to do additional work beyond the MA level, including extra reading and writing assignments, normally 10 additional books and a final paper of at least 25-35 pages/8000-1000 words.

Students may opt to take one independent study or guided reading, up to one online course, and up to one BTI course per year 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.

Students are allowed to count six credits taken at any of the BTI accredited institutions toward the elective requirements for the Ph.D. degree. Any course taken through BTI while a student is enrolled at Hartford Seminary must be pre-approved by the student’s program Advisor and the Dean (and students must complete the Transfer Credit Pre-Approval Form and identify requisite additional work if enrolled in a MA level course). Students in the Ph.D. Program are not allowed to transfer credits into the program from non-BTI schools.

Language Requirements:

Students must acquire sufficient academic knowledge and comprehension for research purposes of at least two of the languages (excluding English). Applicants must have at least one year of classical or Qur’anic Arabic at the time of admission.  All students will be required to take a mandatory test at orientation of their first year to determine whether they demonstrate academic proficiency of Qur’anic and classical Arabic. Students who need remedial work to demonstrate proficiency will be required to avail themselves of the advanced Arabic courses offered by the Seminary.  The Arabic instructor will issue a determination whether the student has demonstrated proficiency.

Students must also demonstrate sufficient academic knowledge and comprehension for research purposes of at least one additional language relevant to their dissertation topic and academic scholarship in the second year of course work.  Students should consult their student advisor regarding requirements and testing. It is the student’s responsibility to acquire an adequate knowledge of additional foreign languages and demonstrate proficiency.  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:

  1. Program Advisor: During the first and second stages of the PhD program, students will be supervised by the Director of the PhD Program, who will be the Program Advisor. This advisor shall meet with students twice every semester (once at the beginning and one at the end), and whenever a student requests additional meetings. It will be the duty of this advisor to:
    • Guide students through all the stages of their study and assist with administrative and academic matters related to the program.
    • Advise them to:
      • think with them about the elective courses they might consider taking in the light of the student’s research subject of interest
      • listen to and consult with them on any concern, challenge or need related to courses and a student’s experience in the program
      • attend to any general inquiry or need in relation to any part of the program.
    • Assess the students’ progress 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 decide on the student’s ability to continue in the program on the basis of the threefold assessment criterion:
      • Grades in all courses (of no less than B). Students who receive on C will be put on Academic probation. Two C’s will result in expulsion from the program.
      • Course instructors written evaluations of a student’s participation, abilities and potentials, shared 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), summarizing the regular advising meetings and data which the Program Advisor collects from sources 1 & 2.

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, normally 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.  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 to think about a specific research topic 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.

During the second year spring semester, students are required to take the PhD 801 seminar course. In this course, they will prepare and present a preliminary draft of their thesis proposal to be presented before their colleagues and faculty. This will assist them in preparation for the dissertation proposal defense.

Stage Two

Stage Two is one year-long (two semesters). It is considered full-time for registration, health care, loan and visa purposes. Before beginning this stage, students must have finished all the requirements in Stage One. Students with outstanding work will not be allowed 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 dissertation 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:

The Comprehensive Exams are intended to assess competency of comprehensive knowledge of selected fields of study through two major exams and mastery of a specific field of specialization in two minor exams. The exams are as follows:

1- Two Major Exams: students must sit for two exams in the program’s two major areas of study: Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations, and Theologies of Interreligious Engagement/Interfaith Dialogue. In collaboration with their advisor, students will suggest the topic and scope of their exams and select sources for each exam drawn from the two sets of core bibliographies and additional works agreed upon by the advisor and student. The list of sources should be agreed upon by the end of the semester of the fall term of the second year. From these sources, the advisor and Director of the PhD program, will draw up the questions. The student will be notified of these questions a week before the exam.

The date for the exams will be set so as to be completed by the end of the spring term; normally on a Tuesday and Thursday of the same week. Students will have six hours to complete each exam, with a one hour break. (International students or those for whom English is not their primary language will be given an additional hour to complete the exams.) These exams will be assessed and marked by two professors whose expertise is relevant to the two chosen subjects. If possible, an external examiner will be utilized.

2- Two Minor Exams: students will be required to propose two subjects relevant to their research focus to produce to scholarly/research papers on. The papers need to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of classic Arabic and/or to demonstrate sufficiently and solidly the students’ competence in engaging in original research in these selected areas.

The focus and scope of the papers should be established in consultation with the Advisor by the end of the fall term of the second year. Both should be due by March 1st of the spring term.

These two papers will be read, assessed and marked by two professors whose expertise is relevant to the two chosen subjects. The papers should be considered as potential submission to peer-reviewed scholarly journals and follow the normal conventions for the relevant journals of the field in which the student is researching.

In lieu of one or two exams, a student may submit a previously submitted and accepted, or published paper from a scholarly peer-reviewed journal during their first stage of the PhD program, in one of the areas of examination. This would demonstrate competency in said field.

The comprehensive exams are to be completed by the end of the spring semester of that year of stage two. The PhD committee will meet to assess the exams and then inform the student on the committee’s decision in an official letter/message. For the major exams the committee may elect to: pass, ask for the student to retake one or both exams (after a three-six month period), or fail. For the minor exams the committee may elect to: pass, ask for a re-write one or both papers, or fail. In the case in which the student is found deficient, the committee may elect to terminate the student’s candidacy, and award an M.A. degree.

The Dissertation Advisor 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 Dissertation Advisor, normally from the Core Faculty of the seminary. The Dissertation Advisor will be the student’s main guide from this point until graduation or termination.  From the second year in stage one, students are strongly encouraged to develop open communication with members of the faculty with whom they think could be potential advisors 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 Three

This stage is normally two years-long and is considered full-time for registration, health care, loan and visa purposes. It is the research and writing stage where the students must dedicate their full-time to 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, and 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 dissertation will be assessed on:

1- its level of analytical, methodological and cognitive thoroughness that demonstrates acceptable scholarly standards in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations in the professional field.

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

3- its ability to demonstrate that the student has the required skills and knowledge to carry out autonomous projects in 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 3 hours) 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 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 dissertation 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- recommend that the dissertation is acceptable and the student can be granted the PhD degree.

2- recommend minor corrections and revisions to the dissertation and requesting re-submission (without re-examination) to the thesis and granting the student prior to April 1 of the year in which the student hopes to graduate, working 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- recommend 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- disqualify the dissertation upon its inability to demonstrate sufficient quality as outlined in the assessment rules (see section II above) and the students’ failure to make a sufficient case/defense for his/her thesis. This will result in denying the student a PhD degree. The PhD committee may elect to recommend the student be granted an MARS degree at Hartford Seminary.


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’s degree or equivalent in Islamic Studies or a related field from an accredited institution, or the Master of Arts in Interreligious Studies with the specialization in Islamic Studies from Hartford Seminary prior to their enrollment into this program.  At least one year of classical Arabic or equivalent is required at the time of admission (there will be a mandatory test for all Ph.D. students in the first week of the program to evaluate academic proficiency of Qur’anic and classical Arabic). The following materials are also required:

  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores;
  • Students who do not have English as a first language, or as a primary language in previous academic studies, are required, prior to application, to take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) examination and achieve a minimum score of 550 (written version), 213 (computer version) or 80 (internet version), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and achieve a minimum score of 6.5, or the Duolingo English Test (DET) and achieve a minimum score of 110.
  • three letters of recommendation;
  • all official transcripts from tertiary institutions applicants attended. Non-U.S. transcripts must be evaluated by a credential evaluation service such as Spantran, WES, or by a member organization of NACES ( SpanTran has created a custom application for Hartford Seminary to make sure you obtain the right kind of evaluation at a discounted rate.
  • 20-25 page sample scholarly paper;
  • and approximately 1,000 word personal statement outlining the student’s reasons for applying to this program.

Click here to download the Ph.D. Application

Contact admissions if you are interested in applying for this program.

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.


 Administrative Questions:

Q: How do I submit the application for admission?

The application for admission to the Ph.D. is found on this page under the Admissions tab. It is in a fillable pdf format.  Please save it to your computer first. Once completed, it should be emailed to

Q: What is the application deadline?

Applications are processed for fall semester enrollment only.  The deadline for submission of materials is January 31.

Q: How do I pay my application fee?

The application fee is $100.  It may be paid online by credit card.  You will find instructions at the end of the online application. We accept AMEX, MasterCard, and Discover.  Cash, wire transfers, bank transfers, or checks are not accepted.

Q: Which college/university transcripts are required?

You must request official transcripts from every institution you have attended beyond secondary school, including community and junior colleges.

Q: How do I submit transcripts?

The Seminary will accept official transcripts via mail or electronically.  Electronic transcripts must be provided by secure electronic delivery services (such as the National Student Clearinghouse, eScrip-Safe, Parchment) and sent to  Paper transcripts must be sent to: Admissions Office, Hartford Seminary, 77 Sherman Street, Hartford, CT USA 06105.  International applicants: please refer to the International Applicants FAQs for transcript information.

Q: How are letters of recommendation submitted?

You must reach out to three individuals (professors or former professors) to write letters of support.  You will enter the names and contact information on your application.  The Admissions Office will contact them to provide instructions on how to submit their recommendations electronically.

Q: How do I submit supplemental, required materials?

You may send your Statement of Purpose, Scholarly paper, and Curriculum Vitae to by the January 31 deadline.

Q: What should be included in my Statement of Purpose?

Your statement should include your interest in dialogue among religions and its relevance in a pluralistic society, how your educational background has prepared you for advanced study in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations and how your goals match with Hartford Seminary’s program.  You may also include the doctoral research area or topic you are considering

Q: Is the Graduate Record Examination Required?

Yes.  Official scores must be sent directly to Hartford Seminary from the Educational Testing Service (

Q: Is there a minimum GRE score required for the Ph.D.?

The Seminary does not require a minimum GRE score.  The test is one aspect of your application and is considered along with other required documentation (transcripts, statement of purpose, recommendation letters, scholarly paper).

Q: Is an interview required?

It is preferred and encouraged. While it does not have to be a face-to-face one, it can be held via telecommunication means.

Q: How do I check on the status of my application?

The Admissions Office will contact you regularly via email as materials are received.

Q: When may I expect to hear of the admission decision?

Admissions decisions are made in late February.

Academic Questions:

Q: Do I need to be examined in Arabic if this is my native language and I have done scholarly work on classical Arabic manuscripts and texts?

All students accepted in the program must sit for the Arabic language exam.

Q: When will I take the Arabic Language efficiency exam?

The Arabic language exam will be provided to students no later than the first semester of their study.

Q: Are students allowed to take core courses or electives at other schools and will the credits they earn be transferable to Hartford Seminary?

Students will be allowed to take only the courses that are offered within the Boston Theological Interreligious Consortium (BTI). Students may take no more than 6 credits during the two-year-long course stage. These may be taken at any of the BTI institutions for elective credit. Any course through BTI must be pre-approved by the Hartford Seminary program advisor and the Academic Dean. Students must complete the Transfer Credit Approval Form and identify requisite additional work if enrolled in MA level courses.

Q: Are Ph.D. students allowed to conduct independent studies with Hartford Seminary faculty and at other schools?

Students are allowed to complete only one independent study per academic year, and they must study primarily with Hartford Seminary faculty. A student may be approved to study with an outside professor if he or she can make a persuasive case.

Q:  Are Ph.D. students allowed to enroll in Hartford Seminary’s online courses?

Students may take no more than one online Hartford Seminary course each semester.


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