Despite the fact that Islam is the religion of well over one billion adherents, many in the West still express ignorance or confusion about its basic facts, precepts, and historical developments. Nevertheless, Muslims are growing throughout the world and in places such as Europe and North America. At the same time, a number of countries, including the United States, find themselves increasingly in conflict with Muslim nations and groups. These demographic and political factors are but two reasons why the study and understanding of Islam, the faith and the civilisation, are becoming more and more important in the contemporary world. In this course, we will examine the birth and development of Islamic civilisation, a rich tradition spanning nearly fourteen hundred years that has seen the flourishing of diverse religious, political, cultural, and social currents, and which continues today. With a greater focus on historical developments, this is a companion course to Introduction to Islam, which emphasises religious and cultural trends. By the end of this class, students should have a keen appreciation for the genesis of Islam and early Islamic civilisation, the complex and varied composition of the ‘Islamic world’, and the still-ongoing processes resulting from the exchange of Islam and modernity, including political expression, radical Islam, and gender issues.
Regular attendance of this course’s lectures and thorough reading of the assigned texts are critical to success in this class. The readings consist of a selection from the textbook, supplemented by articles and chapters from other books that illuminate various aspects of the topic. Students are expected to have read the assigned readings in advance of each lecture and to be prepared to talk about them in the discussion sections. Students will be evaluated on the basis of four factors: (1) two essays of five to ten pages (25% each), (3) final exam (35%), and (4) participation (15%). Sporadic ‘pop’ quizzes delivered at the beginning of class will offer students a chance to earn extra credit. At the end of this course, it is hoped that students will have developed a better understanding of the complex and multi-faceted societies and cultures of the Islamic world.
Berkey, Jonathan Porter. The Formation of Islam: Religion and society in the Near East, 600–1800. New York City: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Kennedy, Hugh N. The Prophet and the age of the caliphates: The Islamic Near East from the Sixth to the Eleventh Century. A History of the Near East. 2nd ed. Harlow, England: Longman, 2004.