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UWC is the First to Offer Islamic Studies as a Major

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) has broken new ground to become the first University in South Africa to offer Islamic Studies as a major subject for undergraduate students. 

For over a decade, the University has taught Islamic Studies to senior students. This year UWC’s Department of Religion and Theology started offering Islamic Studies as a major subject towards a BA degree in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. 


Head of Department, Professor Ignatius Swart, stressed the importance of the new offer and said: “It allows graduates to develop a core set of attributes, skills and knowledge that will enable them to teach at Islamic madrasas, lead congregational prayers, deliver sermons, and work at Islamic banks and various other organisations.” 


“Modules in Islamic fqih may benefit law professionals and students, Muslims and non-Muslims, who wish to become familiar with Islamic interpersonal law, inheritance, waqf (endowments), and Islamic finance. A Major in Islamic Studies will allow students to continue with postgraduate studies in this area.” 


According to Prof Swart, although modules in Islamic Studies are offered at several other higher education institutions around the country, students cannot take Islamic Studies as a major towards an undergraduate programme. UWC, he said, is well-placed to fill this niche.


Since 2014, UWC has been offering three modules in Islamic Studies at the postgraduate level, and the University has an increasingly robust annual intake of students at the honours level with signs of growth for master’s and PhD levels. Prof Swart said that since the addition of such postgraduate modules in Islamic Studies, the possibility of adding Islamic Studies as a significant subject, especially within the BA programme, had re-emerged.


The Department of Religion and Theology established a committee that consulted widely with stakeholders in the Muslim community and scholars involved in teaching Islamic Studies at tertiary level elsewhere in the Southern African region. Approval was obtained from Senate Academic Planning in 2023. The course and curriculum will be rolled out from 2024 to 2026 through first, second and third-year modules being delivered as the offering becomes fully established. UWC is the only university in South and Southern Africa to offer Islamic Studies as a Major in the BA Degree. 


Prof Swart explained that the curriculum was planned to meet the training needs of imams, secondary school teachers, madrassa teachers, community workers, and students doing a law degree who may take electives in Islamic Studies. “Given the envisaged client groups, students taking Islamic Studies as a Major towards the BA Degree may complement that by selecting, for example, Arabic Studies (envisaging a career in language and translation), History or Geography (envisaging a career in teaching), Psychology (envisaging a career in counselling), Ethics or Women and Gender Studies (envisaging a career in community organisations) as a second major”. 

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