American Muslims have established many religious academic institutions in America specializing in the study of Islam and Islamic Sciences, its civilization and history. We recognize that religious education and guidance in the West requires a type of scholarship that in some ways is different from the scholarship available in Africa, Asia or the Middle East. Muslims living in the west face several challenges. In most Muslim communities, these challenges are being faced largely with the guidance of locally-trained scholars. In matters of religion, Muslim communities in the West have come to rely for religious leadership on Imams and scholars whose training is mainly rooted in the cultural and educational environment of their countries of origin.
This training is not always sufficient to deal with the cultural environment of the West, nor with the challenges arising from interaction with Western societies. With the rising number of Muslims living in the West, and the accelerated movement of people and ideas across national and cultural borders, Muslims today are living an unprecedented experience of multiculturalism. This development of relations between religions and cultures, imposes new theoretical as well as practical issues on Muslims in minority situations. Non-Muslim majority societies also face new questions. More mutual understanding cannot be to the detriment of either; Muslims and non-Muslims in the West and Muslims in the Muslim world stand to gain a great deal from such enterprises.
The West in general and the Muslim World are now much more aware of each other than in previous centuries. This calls for a new and more objective analysis of their common characteristics and differences. Islam is a religion of long and established traditions of learning. These traditions, however, developed in a largely favorable milieu, and by absorbing various elements of their local environments became highly diversified and differentiated. It is, therefore, vital to understand Islamic traditional culture in its historical and social context. This is a prerequisite for the revitalizing of Islamic thought and making Islamic contributions in the realm of ideas relevant to the human condition. As an answer to these needs, Islamic University of Minnesota came into being.