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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Divinity

Undergraduate Course: Conflicts and Controversies in Islam: Theology, Law and Politics (DIVI10098)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryIslamic religious and intellectual history has been marked by a series of controversies that have indelibly shaped the foundational aspects of the Islamic tradition: its theology, its law and its conception of political power. This course explores the disparate religious, cultural and political trends that shaped Islamic intellectual history and will do so through a variety of disciplinary approaches towards textual studies, the study of religion and history. The course provides an insight into the way religious argumentation was carried out in the Islamic religious tradition and how different groups within this tradition conceived of the relationship between reason and revelation in a variety of ways as they sought to articulate and develop a coherent account of reality.
Course description Academic Description:
This course surveys some of the major controversies in Islamic theology, law and politics. Through a survey of primary sources wherein Muslim authors are adopting particular positions on theological, legal and political controversies, as well as secondary sources wherein the primary readings are placed in their broader historical and cultural contexts, the course allows students to explore how and why religious controversies arose in Islam, the varieties of responses they generated amongst Muslim intellectuals affiliated with different schools of thought and the ways in which these controversies have shaped the Islamic religious tradition.

Syllabus/Outline Content:
The course begins by surveying intra-Muslim theological debates over the nature of God, exploring how Muslims entertained and debated different ideas about how God could be known and understood, what it might mean to claim that God speaks and whether reason and revelation yielded the same ideas about God. The second part of the course deals with intra-Muslim conflicts over Islamic law. Was Islamic law to be understood as a set of arbitrary divine commands that had to be followed or was it a set of rational obligations that could be deduced through reason, a question that in many ways was linked to the debate over whether or not God was a rational being. Finally, the third section of the course looks at intra-Muslim debates over Islamic politics, in light of the discussions on theology and law considered in the first two sections of the course, seeing how Muslims advanced a number of conflicting ideas on the nature and function of the Caliphate, the Islamic state and political violence, in the form of jihad.

Student Learning Experience Information:
The course is divided into 11 sessions, each of which meets for 110 minutes per week. Each session is devoted to discussions on a particular cluster of readings that focuses on a discrete religious controversy. Each session is designed to incorporate a lecture from the instructor, which will incorporate audio-visual and online content. In addition, students, whether individually or in groups, are involved in student-led discussions as well as class presentations based on the readings listed in the syllabus bibliography.

Students will demonstrate their attainment of the intended learning objectives through three distinct assessments: class presentations, short one page reflection papers / short quizzes and a final essay, thereby demonstrating their basic comprehension of the reading materials, their ability to utilize this material in class presentations and discussions and to construct an evidence based argument on the topics they have studied. In addition to these summative assessments, students will receive formative feedback throughout the course through oral feedback on their contributions to class discussion, their reflection papers and their essay plans.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Students MUST NOT also be taking Conflicts and Controversies in Islam: Theology, Law and Politics (THET10067)
Other requirements Students who have previously taken the following course MUST NOT enroll: Conflicts and Controversies in Islam: Theology, Law and Politics (THET10067)
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the major theological, legal and political ideas in Islamic thought.
  2. Acquire an ability to account for the various temporal, cultural and geographical variations in the Islamic theology, law and politics.
  3. Acquire the ability to cite and distinguish the views of some of the seminal figures and movements in Islamic intellectual thought, and to refer to these views in oral discussions and writing.
  4. Analyze discussions on Islam in a critical and informed manner, recognizing the unity and diversity of Islam.
  5. Develop transferable skills in constructing reasoned arguments, oral and written, based on critical reading of texts.
Reading List
Anjum, Ovamir, Politics, Law and Community in Islamic Thought: The Taymiyyan Moment (Cambridge: CUP, 2012), 228-265.

Bergesen, Albert. The Sayyid Qutb Reader: Selected Writings on Politics, Religion, and Society. (New York: Routledge, 2008).

Euben, Roxanne L. Comparative Political Theory: An Islamic Fundamentalist Critique of Rationalism The Journal of Politics, 59. 1. (1997), pp. 28-55.

al-Ghazl. Deliverance from Error: An Annotated Translation of Al-Munqidh Min Al Dalal and Other Relevant Works of Al-Ghazali. Tr. Richard Joseph McCarthty. (Louisville: Fons Vitae, 2002).

al-Ghazl The Incoherence of the Philosophers. Tr. Michael Marmura. (London: Brigham Young University Press, 2002).

Griffel, Frank Al-Ghazl at His Most Rationalist: The universal Rule for Allegorically Interpreting Revelation (al-Qnn al-Kull f t-Tawl). In Georges Tamer (ed.) Islam and Rationality: The Impact of al-Ghazl on His 900th Anniversary. (Leiden: Brill, 2015).

Gywnne, Rosalind Ward, Logic, Rhetoric and Legal Reasoning in the Qur'an: God's Arguments. (Oxford: Routledge, 2004).

Hallaq, Wael, Was the Gate of Ijtihad Closed Islamic Law. 3 (2011), pp. 3-47.

Ibn Qudmah, Censure of Speculative Theology, ed. and tr. George Makdisi, (London: Gibb Memorial Trust, 1985).

Ibn Rushd, The Book of the Decisive Treatise Determining the Connection between the Law and Wisdom & Epistle Dedicatory. Tr. Charles Butterworth. (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 2001).

Ibn Yusuf, Abdur-Rahman. Fiqh al-Imam: Key Proofs in Hanafi Fiqh on Taqlid and the Hanafi Interpretation of the Prophetic Statement "Pray as You Have Observed Me Pray. (White Thread Press, 2004).

Jackson, Sherman, Jihad and the Modern World." Islamic Law. 4 (2011): 233-254.

Jackson, Sherman, On the Boundaries of Theological Tolerance in Islam: Abu Hamid Al-Ghazalis Faysal Al-Tafriqa Bayna Al-Islam Wa Al-Zandaqa. Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Lawrence, Bruce B., Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden. (London: Verso, 2005).

McAuliffe, Jane Dammen, Ibn Taymiyyahss Muqaddimatun fi usul al-tafsir. In J. Renard (ed.), Windows on the House of Islam: Muslim Sources on Spirituality and Religious Life. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).

Michot, Yahya . The Image of God in Humanity from a Muslim Perspective. In Abraham's Children: Jews, Christians and Muslims in Conversation, eds. Norman Soloman, Richard Harries and Tim Winter, (London: T & T Clark, 2005).

Mustafa, Abdul Rahman, On Taqlid: Ibn AL-Qayyims Critique of Authority in Islamic Law. (Oxford: OUP, 2013).

Nettler, Ronald, A Modern Islamic Confession of Faith and Conception of Religion: Sayyid Qutb's Introduction to the Tafsir, fi Zilal al-Qur'an British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 21. 1. (1994), pp. 102-114

Opwis, Felicitas, Attributing Causality to Gods Law. In Dimitri Gutas, Felicitas Opwis et al (eds.) Islamic Philosophy, Science, Culture, and Religion: Studies in Honor of Dimitri Gutas. (Leiden: Brill, 2012), pp. 397-418.

Sabra, Adam, Ibn azms Literalism: A Critique of Islamic Legal Theory. In Camilla Fierro and Sabine Schmidtke. Ibn Hazm of Cordoba: The Life and Works of a Controversial Thinker. (Leiden: Brill, 2013), pp. 97-160.

Scheuer, Michael, Osama Bin Laden. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

Shah, Mustafa, (ed.) Tafsr Interpreting the Quran, (London: Routledge, 2013).

Swartz, Merlin, A Medieval Critique of Anthropomorphism : Ibn al-Jawz's Kitb Akhbr a-ift (Brill: Leiden, 2002).

K├╝gelgen, Anke von, The Poison of Philosophy: Ibn Taymiyyas Struggle for and against Reason. In Birgit Krawietz and Georges Tamer (eds.), Islamic Theology, Philosophy and Law: Debating Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya. (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2013).

Mustafa Shah (ed.) Tafsr Interpreting the Quran, (London: Routledge, 2013).

Wild, Stefan (ed.) the Quran as Text. (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996).

Zaman, Muhammad Qasim, The Caliphs, the Ulama, and the Law: Defining the Role and Function of the Caliph in the Early Abbasid Period, Islamic Law and Society, 4.1. (1997), pp. 1-36
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Increased knowledge and literacy in the area of religion in general and Islamic Studies in particular, alongside the ability to use this knowledge to construct effective arguments and counter-arguments in discussions on religion (oral discussions in class, reflection papers and final essays).
- Research and Critical Enquiry to write final essays, which will involve identifying relevant sources and approaching these sources with a critical attitude, analytical rigor, and an awareness of their potential limitations, a skill also developed through the reading of extracts from polemical texts and scholarly commentaries on the same throughout the course (reflection papers, oral discussions, final essay).
- Effective verbal and written communication, based on an evaluation of reading materials that offer multiple perspectives on a topic as well as the views of other students (class discussions, final essay).
Course organiser Course secretaryMiss Rachel Dutton
Tel: (0131 6)50 7227
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