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With the founding of the Berliner Institut für Islamische Theologie (Berlin Institute for Islamic Theology, BIIT), the tableau of scholarly disciplines at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin is being expanded. In conjunction with other venues in Germany, it is promoting the still young faith-oriented field of study and, as a research-intensive academic discipline of international interest, it is expected to enrich Berlin’s higher education landscape.

The BIT places value on a theology of diversity and will, in particular, give due consideration to both Sunni and Shia teachings in a comparative perspective. It pursues its scholarly objectives in close cooperation with Christian theologies, as well as with other studies related to religion at the HU and in Berlin’s research landscape as a whole. In light of Berlin’s approximately 300,000 Muslim residents, an equally important task of the BIT is the training of young theologians, who, on the basis of rational penetration into Islamic articles of faith, prepare for teaching in schools, as well as for work in mosques, civil society and welfare services. The Islamic profession of faith is not a requirement for students of the BIT.

Legal Foundations and Foundations in Higher Education Policy

The founding of institutes of Islamic theology goes back to a recommendation made by the Council of Science and Humanities in 2010. Per this recommendation, such institutions should come into being at several German universities and as part of an arts and humanities or cultural studies faculty. The aim was to train religion teachers, Islamic religious scholars for the mosques, and Islamic theologians for university instruction and research. On the view of the Council, to this end, four to six professorships were required, which it also described in particular (Exegesis, including the Sunna; Systematic Theology, including ethics, etc.; Islamic Ecumenism; Historical Theology; Islamic Law and Legal Methods; Practical Theology and Religious Education).

For the purpose of safeguarding the religious self-determination of the Islamic community, as constitutionally required, the Council proposed advisory boards, which can raise and enforce objections in the process of founding the institutes, the elaboration of the programs of study, and the filling of the professorships. The function of the advisory boards is conceived as being analogous to that of the Christian churches, which possess the same sort of right of participation and have to accord the – as Catholics put it – “nihil obstat” in the appointment of professors. The candidates proposed for appointment must be of the Islamic faith.

The Higher Education Contract between the city-state of Berlin and the HU foresees the founding of the BIIT in the period from 2018 to 2022.