Bayan was established in 2011 as an independent, not-for-profit Islamic educational institution based in the United States that offers accredited graduate degrees with the aim of creating a world that understands Islam in a modern context. Bayan’s mission focuses on cultivating the next generation of leaders and scholars for Muslim American communities, building capacity grounded in Islamic values and effective at impacting society at large. Bayan offers academic credit-bearing courses relevant to Islamic Chaplaincy, Organizational Leadership, Islamic Studies, Islamic Education and Islamic Theology (kalām).
As an institution established by Muslims for the purpose of offering graduate degrees and career paths for Muslims wishing to serve Muslim American communities and beyond, it is of great importance to Bayan that our curriculum pursues these objectives while reflecting our Islamic faith and tradition. As compared to secular academic studies, Bayan seeks to offer Muslims a faith-based education that consistently incorporates Islamic teachings into its curriculum, while broaching a range of academic disciplines.
Bayan’s understanding and approach to teaching the Islamic tradition is premised on the broad, pluralistic, and authentic tradition that has been accepted by the general community of Islam since its inception through today. Bayan’s educational programs are designed to provide students a general orientation to Islamic teachings and methodology as relevant in their chosen fields as opposed to being a program meant to produce Islamic scholars in specific traditional disciplines. Bayan applies a general definition of the Islamic tradition that is inclusive of the historic diversity of opinions and schools of thought within Islam yet firmly within the boundaries of what our community and scholars have accepted as authentically Islamic.
Bayan defines the Islamic tradition as follows: The body of knowledge and methodology, both oral and written, initiated by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ with his Companions (al-ṣaḥābah), may God be well pleased with them, and then developed by them, their followers (al-tabiʿīn), and the successive generations of Islamic scholars from that time to the present, as a means for preserving, transmitting, and applying the teachings of God’s final revelation from generation to generation. The primary sources of all Islamic knowledge are the Qur’an and Sunnah. The various traditional Islamic sciences such as "aqeedah, fiqh, tasawwuf, tafsir, hadith, usul al-fiqh, Arabic language, etc. have all been developed and categorized as distinct sciences necessary as a means for preservation and specialization of knowledge in order to best ensure that the community of Muslims stay true to the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah over the passage of time.
The boundaries of Islamic tradition that have been accepted as authentic and represent acceptable differences of opinion on secondary matters include the four schools of thought within Sunni Islam, the two major schools within Shiʿi Islam, the Ibadi school, the Zahiri school and what is referred to in modern times as the authentic Salafi school. The various schools of “aqeedah" that are associated with these major branches of the community, including Athari, Maturidi, Ashʿarī, and Imami as well as all other branches of knowledge that are established and practiced within the major schools of the Islamic tradition are included in the broad definition of the Islamic tradition.
As practiced historically and into our present time by its leading scholarly authorities, the Islamic tradition is a highly intellectual, rigorous, and sophisticated discourse which Bayan actively engages and integrates into its curriculum. The Islamic tradition is concerned with success for humanity in this life and salvation in the next. As such, it is a comprehensive system of thought and practice intended to deal with all aspects of reality in this world and the eternal life hereafter. The Islamic tradition in its specific application focuses on the direct teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah and how such teachings must be understood and implemented appropriately in any given time and circumstance; whereas the Islamic tradition in its general sense, is concerned with all forms of human knowledge and endeavors to be in dialogue with various forms of human knowledge and practical experience at the highest levels from all fields such as the natural sciences, social sciences, legal theory, political theory, comparative religion, philosophy, business, economics, anthropology, culture, etc. in order to fulfill its objectives of guiding humanity towards success in this life and the next.
Bayan strives to clearly fulfill expectations within the broad mainstream of being a “normative” resource for learning Islam within an open academic environment. We hold that a healthy understanding of Islam’s timeless doctrinal principles, vetted legal methods, ethical purposes, and the supporting disciplines of knowledge constitute a critical foundation for future Muslim thinkers to better consider how a traditionally grounded Islamic worldview might best navigate contemporary environments and the needs of humanity.
Bayan’s initial academic offering in the form of a Master of Arts (MA) degree sought to introduce emerging Muslim leaders, community professionals, and Imams to Western academic discourses in Islamic Studies and the diversity of Islamic thought, along with best practices in leadership, interfaith engagement and cooperation, and public representation of Islam. To date, Bayan has among its affiliated faculty traditionally trained scholars, chaplains, community leaders, Western academics, and expert Muslim/Non-Muslim professionals.
Bayan was initially part of an “interreligious consortium” of theological schools, with other institutions training Christian clergy, rabbis and cantors, and Buddhist leaders. While degrees are offered through an accredited partner institution (previously the Claremont School of Theology and now the Chicago Theological Seminary), Bayan has always operated as an independent 501(c)(3)non-profit organization with its own governing board, curriculum, and long-term strategic plan to grow as a premier Islamic academic institution.
As Bayan developed, it began to broaden and deepen its approach to Islamic Studies, incorporating an orientation to the classical tradition for newly admitted students and initiating new courses in Islamic theology and law, integrated into its curriculum in a manner that best suits each of the various specializations. This enables students to have a solid grounding in the normative Islamic tradition, its doctrinal commitments, legal parameters, and ethical aims. Bayan simultaneously offers a range of academic and practical courses to augment their capacity as leaders in the American context. Bayan believes this approach offers students a necessary general understanding, analytical tools, a framework of the Islamic tradition and the needed contextual training to help them best serve in a contemporary context.
In 2017, based on substantial needs for spiritual care in Muslim American communities and beyond, Bayan expanded its academic offerings to include a Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree with a dedicated concentration in Islamic Chaplaincy. Presently, roughly 50% of Bayan’s students are enrolled in the MDiv program, with the remainder pursuing MA degrees in Islamic Studies, Islamic Leadership, Islamic Theology, and Islamic Education, or a Doctorate degree in Public Ministry focusing on Islamic Leadership.
Bayan students come from a variety of backgrounds in terms of Islamic knowledge ranging from very little traditional Islamic learning to students that have completed full-time imam training, Darul ʿUlum, Al-Azhar, and similar basic traditional studies programs. The diversity of perspectives, educational backgrounds, and professional experiences of students greatly enriches the classroom discussions. Bayan alumni work in a variety of fields as imams, hospital, prison and military chaplains, school administrators, teachers, non-profit leaders, attorneys, therapists, artists, and many other professions. Graduates have also pursued PhD programs at the most elite universities in the United States.
Bayan has several full-time faculty members, but the majority of Bayan’s faculty are visiting scholars. This enables Bayan students to be taught by individuals who have expertise in a wide range of subjects. Some faculty are well-trained Islamic scholars while others are Western scholars affiliated with top universities that may have little to no Islamic training and others blend traditional Islamic training with Western instructional methods. Faculty members who are traditionally trained typically teach our core Islamic studies courses (e.g. Qur’an, Theology, Usul al-Fiqh, Islamic Law, Spirituality), and the various academic and practical elective courses are taught by those with expertise in the various fields.
In order to meet accreditation requirements, the majority of Bayan’s faculty are required to hold terminal degrees while all instructors are required to hold at least a Master’s degree or above from an accredited university. Bayan's diverse faculty teach courses in a rigorous manner in accordance with Bayan’s mission and instructional standards.
As an academic institution, Bayan engages Muslim and Non-Muslim scholars, professionals, and religious leaders. This includes hosting guest lecturers and participating in academic symposia and conferences. This should not be construed as Bayan endorsing the personal views or activities of any individual.
Bayan’s Master of Arts (MA) degree involves 48 units of coursework and can be completed within two academic years on a full-time basis. The Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree in Islamic Chaplaincy is a 75 unit program that can be completed in three years. Bayan’s Doctor of Ministry Degree in Islamic Leadership (DMin) is a 30 unit program that can be completed within three years.
Bayan employs a hybrid online and in-person teaching method. 30 hours out of the required 45 hours of instructional contact time per course are completed during an intensive week each semester in person. The remaining 15 hours take place online. Full-time students enroll in three or four courses per semester.
In order to confer degrees from an accredited institution, Bayan developed a collaborative arrangement with the Chicago Theological Seminary (“CTS”) in Chicago, Illinois, an institution that maintains its separate identity as a progressive Christian seminary. For the MDiv program, 18 of 75 units (or 6 courses) are offered by CTS faculty in the area of chaplaincy and the American cultural landscape while the remaining 57 units (or 19 courses) are taught by Bayan faculty. In the MA program, 9 of 48 units (or three courses) are taught by CTS faculty in other religious traditions and American social and cultural topics, 3 units are allocated to a thesis that is prepared with advising from Bayan faculty, and the remaining 36 units (or 12 courses) are taught by Bayan faculty.
Bayan’s institutional relationship with CTS is based upon mutual respect of differences and in working together as religious communities towards establishing a God-centered society. We are grateful to CTS for being open to hosting and being in dialogue with an Islamic school that is afforded the right to be unapologetically true to our traditional perspectives.
As part of Bayan’s commitment to educating and elevating Muslim American communities, Bayan offers various continuing education programs that do not require a full-time commitment for a graduate degree. As such, these offerings aim to reach a broader segment of the Muslim community that is interested in learning Islam.
Continuing education offerings include certificate programs, summer programs, public symposia and talks on key issues, professional training programs (e.g., doctors, lawyers, scientists, journalists, etc.), educational travel programs, and online courses. All of Bayan’s continuing education programming focuses on offering an introduction to and grounding in the Islamic Tradition for a broader segment of the Muslim community.
Bayan holds itself to the highest ethical standards, and is firmly rooted in a normative Islamic legal position when seeking donations from the public. Bayan relies on both general sadaqah as well as zakat. Bayan relies upon the traditional edict that allows zakat to be given to students of Islamic knowledge.