An Interview with Jeyhun Mammadov, Rector of Azerbaijan Institute of Theology

16 August, 2019

- Currently, the admission to higher education institutions is continuing. Azerbaijan Institute of Theology offers admission in two majors. What are your expectations from this admission?

- Azerbaijan Institute of Theology is currently preparing for the new academic year. As you mentioned, admission to Azerbaijan Institute of Theology is conducted in two majors, Religious and Islamic Studies. The applicants who wish to study Islamic Studies must also pass an interview. I would like to note that we already have applicants who have passed the interviews successfully. Since this area is specific, we try to select the most eligible ones.
As you know, the students that are enrolled in Islamic studies are expected to work in mosques as religious figures after graduation. The students who are admitted to Religious Studies major are expected to work in government agencies and higher religious education institutions.
I would like to note that this year the Institute will admit 72 students in total and 36 students will be admitted to Islamic studies major. More than 130 applicants are competing for 36 places. We choose the most eligible ones among the applicants. It is satisfying that the applicants participating in the interviews have high scores.

- During the current academic year Azerbaijan Institute of Theology organized trips to the districts of the country. What was the purpose of these visits?

- The visits had several purposes. One of them was to attract high-level and intellectual students for the 2019-2020 academic year through promotional events in the regions of Azerbaijan. We have spread information about the conditions created for students at our institute in Lankaran, Ganja, Barda, Aghstafa, Gazakh, Gabala, Guba, Zagatala, Shirvan, Bilasuvar, Mingachevir and Ismayilli districts so far.
I would like to point out one important factor that education at Azerbaijan Institute of Theology is tuition-free. After graduation, students have the opportunity to continue their education in the foremost universities of the world. Apart from this, they will be able to work in various government agencies.I would like to restate that the Institute visits different regions and cities of the country with the aim of attracting potential young people from all regions. We are also trying to promote our newly established Institute.
Another purpose of our visits is to enrich students’ world outlook, familiarize them with the historical and religious monuments and be aware of the multicultural and tolerant environment in the country.
During the visits to Jojug Marjanli, Gabala, Shamakhi and Guba regions, our students familiarized themselves with the ancient and spiritual culture. Preserving our national-moral values and passing them down to the younger generation is a very important issue. Azerbaijan Institute of Theology occasionally organizes such trips to develop and educate young people in a patriotic spirit.

-You mentioned that some of the visits are aimed at promoting Azerbaijan Institute of Theology. What else did you do to promote the Institute?

- Since its inception, many activities have been carried out to promote the Institute. First, our catalogue was published to highlight the activities of the Institute. I would like to note that the catalogue has been published in Azerbaijani, Russian and English. We have also printed brochures and booklets in our native language as well as in English, Arabic and Russian. Our website has been launched in the Azerbaijani, Russian and English languages. The information on the website is updated daily in 3 languages. You can get all the necessary information and follow the news about the Institute on the website.
I would also like to note that during the year, various articles and information have been prepared by mass media, television channels, news agencies, newspapers, and news portals to promote the Institute. I would like to once again thank all the media leadership and staff for this.

- I would like to note that you are continuing your activity despite the summer holiday. Your students have left for Bursa Summer School in Turkey. How efficient will the summer school be for your students?

- Totally 30 students, including 16 girls and 14 boys, joined Bursa Summer School organized in Turkey. We organized this program based on an agreement between the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Turkey and Directorate of Religious Affairs.
Bursa Summer School was conducted in two directions. Lectures covered various subjects such as Arabic, English and Islamic sciences. Moreover, meetings with various theologians and scholars were held. Special attention was paid to the efficient organization of students’ leisure time. Visits to the historical places of Bursa are organized. I would also like to note that the summer school was attended by not only students of our Institute, but also students of the faculties of theology from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. This has also contributed to the enrichment of our students’ world outlook and their familiarity with different cultures.
Our students have also promoted the tolerant and multicultural environment of the country in the summer school. They have informed other participants about the Wahdat prayers performed in various mosques in the country, especially in Heydar Mosque. This has been welcomed by other guests and participants.
I would also like to note that we are planning to organize regular summer schools. If you remember, Azerbaijan Institute of Theology had organized a winter school which gave an impetus to the development of our students.The purpose of these events is to provide our students with a deep knowledge of Islam and other world religions educate intellectual religious figures who are unbiased and tolerant of all confessions as well as prepare specialists with strong academic potential and competence.

- The first academic year at your Institute has come to an end. Are you satisfied with the results?

- Azerbaijan Institute of Theology has just finalized its first academic year. We have made every effort to give our students strong education. From the very first day, we started to implement various activities for the establishment of the Institute. Despite the lack of time, we solved many academic issues before the academic year started in September. Since June of this year, we carried out consistent activities in the direction of preparation of educational standards, organization of the structure, student admission, preparation for the first academic year and promotion of the Institute. Azerbaijan Institute of Theology established a very different, transparent, modern, clear and healthy foundation within three months.
Apart from academic ones, we started to involve our students in social projects and educational campaigns as well as made trips to the regions of the country. Each of these activities was carried out to give our students a deeper religious and secular knowledge, enrich their spiritual world outlook and develop them as speakers.
Throughout the year, we observed a considerable change in our students’ world outlook and public speaking skills. We have made every effort to maintain transparency in our classes and exams. We did our best to motivate our students to love the subjects and be prepared for them.

As Azerbaijan Institute of Theology, we treated our students as our own children. Because, each of them is our future. If we want our future to be on solid foundations, we must educate younger generation in a healthy environment as worthwhile citizens for their homeland and nation. We seek ways about what we can do more for our students to ensure their being more skilled and educated. I hope our graduates working in any organization will be able to demonstrate that they have profound religious and secular knowledge and excellent language skills.

- As you know, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Mr. Ilham Aliyev has signed an Order for the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Ahmad Bey Agaoglu. According to this Order, you will also hold a conference. What are the topics and research directions of the conference?

- Yes, we will hold a conference on the 150th anniversary of the prominent publicist, critic, well-known lawyer and scholar in oriental studies Ahmed bey Agaoglu, according to the Order signed by President Mr. Ilham Aliyev. The event will take place on September 19-20, 2019 under the title “Ahmed bey Agaoglu, Outstanding public and political figure of the Turkic world”. Our goal is to provide a platform for the study of the socio-political activity of the famous thinker Ahmad Bey Agaoglu, his literary, journalistic and scientific-theoretical heritage as well as the exchange of research, information and experience among scholars and experts working in this field. As to the directions of the conference, articles will mainly be devoted to the life and creative activity of Ahmed bey Agaoglu; “Ahmed bey Agaoglu as One of the Founders of Turkic Ideology”; “Ahmed bey Agaoglu's Activity in the Parliament of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic”; “Ahmad bey Agaoglu’s Role in the Socio-political Life of the Republic of Turkey”; “Representation of Multicultural Values in the Creative Activity of Ahmad bey Agaoglu”; “Ahmad bey Agaoglu’s Role in the Establishment of Difai Party”; Ahmad Bey Agaoglu’s Call to Women’s Liberty, Ahmed bey Agaoglu’s Socio-political Views in the Study of Various Researchers".

- You were one of the organizers of the recent International Symposium. Were you satisfied with the results of II International Symposium on Islamic Civilization in Caucasia?

- Azerbaijan Institute of Theology has been attaching particular attention to the establishment of international relations from the very first day of its inception. As a result of these relations, we held the 2nd International Symposium on Islamic Civilization in Caucasia. As you know, the first International Symposium was held on the initiative of National Leader Heydar Aliyev in 1998. In his speech at the Symposium, the National Leader touched upon many aspects of the spread of Islam in the Caucasus.The organization of the symposium was decided during our meeting with Halit Eren, Director General of Research Center for Islamic History, Arts and Culture (IRCICA) . I would like to note that the first International Symposium was also held with the organizational support of IRCICA.
The 2nd International Symposium on Islamic Civilization in Caucasia is a significant event not only for Azerbaijan, but also for the whole region. More than 100 lectures by scholars, researchers and experts on Islamic civilization in the Caucasus from foreign universities of Turkey, Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Moldova, USA, Australia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia were attended in 12 panel discussions.
The abstracts of these lectures and articles have been published in Azerbaijani, Russian and English. In the near future, articles of participants are expected to be published. I think each of the submitted articles can be a subject to further research.
The symposium aimed to study the period of the spread of Islamic civilization in the Caucasus, investigate relevant issues of this history objectively, as well as promote national-cultural diversity and ethnic-religious tolerance existing in our country throughout the history.

- It would be interesting to hear about your future goals and targets…

- Our primary goal is to create the necessary conditions for younger generation to become more educated, more competent and more skilled as well as obtain higher religious and secular knowledge. Our targets are based on this goal. We strive to establish partnerships with leading higher education institutions and give our students the opportunity to continue their education in the foremost higher education institutions of the world in the future.
The establishment of the Career Center at the Institute is a part of our future plans. Currently, the work in this direction is underway. The center aims to prepare students and graduates for career development by providing them with advice and special guidance. It also plans to build relations with a number of agencies and increase the employment opportunities for our graduates through volunteer programs. As for our academic activities, the instructors are working on new academic programs and textbooks. We want to have textbooks prepared by our own experts. Apart from this, we plan to publish ancient manuscripts. The Institute publishes a monthly newspaper Theologian and biannual Journal of Religious Studies. In the future, Theological Publications project which includes the publication of books by our teachers and professionals working in this field as well as the materials translated from various languages will be launched. Furtermore, we want to conduct researches that meet international requirements and publish them.

- Thank you for your precise and detailed interview.

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