A short conversation with Ayman Ibrahim
How have you grown as a teacher during your career?
During these five years at Southern Seminary, I have realized the importance of listening to my students. They ask good questions and provide engaging feedback that can help make clear to me how I can better design my courses. Through my interaction with my students I have added lectures, altered sessions, and adjusted material. I have grown in part because my students encouraged me to continue to grow.
I have also grown as a teacher because I have read more than ever before. The more I read, the more rigor I bring to my analysis of Islam. Interacting with Muslim and non-Muslim scholars alike has encouraged me to explore new dimensions of understanding Islam.
What is your favorite course to teach? Why?
My two favorite courses are Texts of Islam and History and Religion of Islam. If someone does not have the time to take all nine courses on Islam that Southern Seminary offers, I urge them to consider these two. They help form a foundational understanding of Islam. But my preference is for students to take all nine courses! Southern’s Islamic Studies program is one of a kind. No institution of Christian higher education in North America, besides Southern, offers such a rigorous and in-depth program in Islamic studies, including Arabic.
Is there a main point you want students who complete your courses to take away?
We have to emphasize the distinction between Islam and Muslims. Islam is a religion, based on a set of ideas that can be engaged; Muslims are people created in the image of God. I can have opinions on Islam as a belief system, but I am called to love everyone, including Muslims. Muslims are also not a monolithic group; they come from different backgrounds and varied beliefs and traditions. It is key that we are aware of the way individual Muslims understand their own faith.
How do you build strong relationships with students — even at one of the largest seminaries in North America?
I love interacting with my students beyond the classroom, whether over a shared meal or during office hours. As part of our classroom study, we visit the mosque in town and listen to the Imam explain his views on Islam, which we then reflect upon in our studying session back at the school. I am happy to bring entire classes to my home, so they see my life beyond the classroom.