The Dutch accreditation authority has granted the Islamic University of Rotterdam (IUR) official recognition for its first postgraduate degree.
This is a major step towards the IUR gaining state approval for the university, and it means that students taking the Masters programme in "Islamic Spiritual Counselling" are now able to qualify with a state-recognised degree.
The university is now preparing accreditation applications for its other programmes, including the Bachelor of Islamic Sciences, Master of Islamic Sciences, and Master Imam Education.
"We are working on integrating a Muslim element into the Dutch social structure," explains the university"s administrative head, Tural Koc.
The university principal the 55- year-old Professor Ahmed Akgunduz, who has taught in both Turkish and American universities in the field of Islamic law, said "Islamic theology, art and spiritual counselling are best taught by Muslims".
The IUR is intended to be a university that is run by Muslims and for Muslims. Founded in 1997, it currently has around 200 students. The courses, taught in Dutch and Arabic, include Islamic theology, Islamic arts, Muslim spiritual counselling, Arabic, law, the history of Islam and comparative religion.
In addition to housing a library that includes an extensive collection of classical works on Islamic theology and law, the university also has a small studio where calligraphy and ebru, the Turkish art of paper marbling, are taught.
In contrast to the state universities, the IUR is a Muslim institution where members of various Islamic schools of thought from all over the world come together.