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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Divinity

Postgraduate Course: Major Themes in the Study of Islam (THET11057)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course provides an introduction to the postgraduate study of Islam, exposing students to its major texts, sources, and hermeneutical methods, and the key challenges and debates that have emerged in the modern period.
Course description Academic description:
The purpose of this course is twofold. First, it provides students with the foundational knowledge of Islam's key textual disciplines and ritual traditions. Second, the course equips students with the analytical tools and frameworks to engage in the critical study of Islam within the scholarly disciplines of Theology and Religious Studies. How does the study of 'Islam' differ from the study of 'Muslims', and why does this conceptual distinction matter? We will examine the major themes, debates, and contentions that have emerged within the field over the past few decades. In particular, we will explore how conceptions of hermeneutical method, religious authority, and the state have transformed in contemporary Islamic studies.

Syllabus/outline content:
Four overarching themes will be explored, and both course objectives (that is, foundations of Islam and conceptual issues in the critical study of Islam) will be engaged within each theme. While each bullet point does not necessarily represent a particular week, over the duration of the course, all of these areas will be addressed.

A) Scripture and Tradition

- Foundations: Introduction to the Qur'an, Hadith, and primary Islamic texts
- 'Confessional' and Western revisionist accounts of Islamic origins
- 'Traditional' hermeneutical approaches to Islamic texts

B) Ritual

- Foundations: Introduction to Muslim ritual and liturgy
- The intersections between the study of religion, anthropology, and ethnography: Muslim ritual as a case study

C) Authority and Gender

- Foundations: the 'ulama and the classical construction of sacred authority
- The fragmentation of religious authority, new hermeneutical methods, and emerging communities

D) Islam, Politics, and Cosmopolitanism

- Foundations: Classical conceptions of 'Muslim Politics'
- Contemporary Islamism, 'theocracy', and the nation state
- The de-centering of Arab(ic) and Middle East studies in Islamic studies

Student learning experience information:
The course will be delivered in the form of eleven weekly two-hour seminar sessions. Students will be expected to complete the assigned readings for each week and to come prepared to discuss the issues, questions, and perspectives raised in the readings. Segments of lecturing will be integrated in the two hour session in order to provide critical background knowledge. As noted in the assessment section, each student will present on a topic of interest directly related to the course and submit a 500 word summary of their presentation. Students will also be assessed on their research essay, and, early in the semester, the instructor will meet with students to give formative oral feedback on their essay topics. Through these activities and class participation, students will demonstrate their achievement of the intended learning outcomes.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students welcome.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Acquire a critical understanding of the historical formation of the study of Islam
  2. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of different methods and (cross)disciplinary approaches in the study of Islam and/or Muslims
  3. Appreciate the impact and significance of contemporary contexts ¿ political, social, and ideological ¿ on the state of Islamic studies
  4. Demonstrate a command of the various debates and contentions that have emerged within the field over the past few decades
  5. Develop oral and written skills in communicating complex ideas in clear but nuanced ways
Reading List
Introductory Readings:

Eickelman, Dale F. and James Piscatori. Muslim Politics. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Ernst, Carl W. and Richard C. Martin eds. Rethinking Islamic Studies: From Orientalism to Cosmopolitanism. Columbia, South Caroline: University of South Carolina Press, 2010.

Esack, Farid. The Qur¿an: A User¿s Guide. Oxford: Oneworld, 2005.

Kreinath, Jens. The Anthropology of Islam Reader. London: Routledge, 2012.

Martin, Richard C. ed. Approaches to Islam in Religious Studies. Tucson:
University of Arizona Press, 1985.

Further Readings:

Ahmad, Mumtaz, Zahid Bukhari, and Sulayman Nyang eds. Observing the Observer: The State of Islamic Studies in American Universities. Washington: The International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2012.

Ahmed, Shahab. What is Islam? The Importance of being Islamic. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016.

Ali, Kecia. Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur¿an, Hadith, and Jurisprudence. Oxford: Oneworld, 2006.

Asad, Talal. Geneaologies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993.

Awde, Nicholas ed. Women in Islam: An Anthology from the Qur¿an and Hadiths. New York: Hippocrene Books, 2005.

Berkey, Jonathan. The Transmission of Knowledge in Medieval Cairo: A Social History of Islamic Education. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992.

Brown, Daniel W. Rethinking Tradition in Modern Islamic Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Brown, Jonathan. Hadith: Muhammad¿s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2009.

Crone, Patricia and Michael Cook. Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

Esack, Farid. ¿In Search of Progressive Islam beyond 9/11.¿ In Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism, edited by Omid Safi. Oxford: Oneworld, 2003.

Guillaume, A. The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq¿s Sirat Rasul Allah. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Kane, Ousmane. Beyond Timbuktu: An Intellectual History of Muslim West Africa. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016.

Lamptey, Jerusha T. Divine Words, Female Voices: Explorations in Comparative Feminist Theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

Browers, Michaelle and Charles Kurzman eds. An Islamic Reformation? Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2004.

Hallaq, Wael. The Impossible State: Islam, Politics, and Modernity¿s Moral Predicament. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014.

Hodgson, Marshall. The Venture of Islam: Conscious and History in a World Civilization (3 vols). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974.

Hughes, Aaron. Muslim Identities: An Introduction to Islam. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013.

Lockman, Zachary. Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Mahmood, Saba. ¿Secularism, Hermeneutics, and Empire: The Politics of Islamic Reformation¿ Public Culture 18 (2006), 323-347.

Mahmood, Saba. The Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011.

Mandaville, Peter. Islam and Politics (2nd ed.). London: Routledge, 2014.

Marranci, Gabrielle. The Anthropology of Islam. New York: Berg, 2008.

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein et al. The Study Qur¿an: A New Translation and Commentary. New York: HarperOne, 2015.

Renard, John ed. Islamic Theological Themes: A Primary Source Reader. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014.

Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978.

Salomon, Noah. For the Love of the Prophet: An Ethnography of Sudan¿s Islamic State. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016.

Sells, Michael. Approaching the Qur¿an: The Early Revelations. Ashland, Oregon: White Cloud Press, 1999.

Taji-Farouki, Suha ed. Modern Muslim Intellectuals and the Qur¿an. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Thiselton, Anthony. Hermeneutics: An Introduction. Grand Rapids, Michigan: W.B. Eerdamns Pub. Co., 2009.

Von Denffer, Ahmad. ¿Ulum al-Qur¿an: An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur¿an. Leicstershire, UK: The Islamic Foundation, 2007.

Wansbrough, John. Qur¿anic Studies: Sources and Methods of Scriptural Interpretation. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2004.

Wielandt, Rotraud. ¿Exegesis of the Qur¿an: Early Modern and Contemporary.¿ In Encyclopaedia of the Qur¿an, ed. Jane D. McAuliffe. Leiden: Brill, 2002.

Zaman, Muhammad Qasim. The Ulama in Contemporary Islam: Custodians of Change. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002.

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Curiosity for learning and openness to different debates and perspectives
- Willingness to think across disciplinary boundaries and to approach texts and traditions in new ways
- Finely-tuned skills of close reading and critical analysis
- Ability to communicate effectively with others, both orally and in writing
KeywordsIslam,Theology and Religious Studies,Hermeneutics
Course organiserDr Shadaab Rahemtulla
Tel: (0131 6)50 8954
Course secretaryMiss Rachel Dutton
Tel: (0131 6)50 7227
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