Available courses

The women of the Qur’an provide us with a colorful prism from which we can see femininity in its various manifestations — from the female partner of the prototypical human being (Hawwa), to the female relatives and companions of the prophet of Islam (peace be upon them), from the diplomacy of benevolent queens to the resistance of Hebrew women, from female paragons to female ingrates. Drawing on this rich trove of stories, this course will address several key questions: First, who are the women and girls found in the Qur’an? Second, what can be understood about women’s authority from the speech, acts, and descriptions of these females? Third, what does the Qur’an’s representation of female figures tell us about biological sex, sexuality, and gender?  We will study the Qur'anic verses that illuminate the lives of these women and consider how their lives hold lessons for us today. 

This course will undertake a critical investigation of the concept and place of “race” and “ethnicity” within the Islamic tradition from the early formation of the Muslim community down to the present. We will examine how Muslims approached issues of identity as it relates to “race” and “ethnicity” as well as how these two concepts were applied to or imposed upon Muslims by others. Another major theme to be covered will be the relationship of race to power, both politically and socially. Topics will include slavery and its abolition, understandings of “race,” the Black American Muslim experience, colonialism, and Muslim approaches to resistance.

The Holy Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) as a mercy and guidance for all of humanity until the end of time. This Divine Revelation serves as way for us to navigate our everyday lives in the best of manners. More particularly, the Qur'an contains in it a structured system that educates us on how to live a life full of integrity and ethics. In this class, we will explore exactly how we can achieve this state of excellence through Qur'anic Education. The overarching topic will be Islamic/Qur'anic Education, its definition, sources, features, and objectives. We will understand how the Qur'an equips us to make educated decisions about any circumstance we may encounter. Additionally, we will explore what role reason, emotion, and revelation play in shaping our lives. Students will learn how to apply the method of Qur'anic Education to the contemporary context by analyzing how it was applied throughout the life of The Prophet (Peace be upon him) and throughout Islamic history. The instructor will engage students with lectures, readings, discussions, case studies, videos and more to enable them to get the best out of this class. 

Narrations of the words and actions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), better known as Hadith, are only second to the Qur’an with respect to serving as a source of inspiration and guidance for Muslims throughout the centuries.  Unlike the Qur’an, however, they are not to be found in a single book nor are they all of equal weight and reliability.  This course will cover the history of Hadith, their transmission and interpretation, and approaches to authentication.  We will examine these topics in light of traditional Muslim scholarship as well as Western academia.  Important questions to be covered include: ‘Are the hadith synonymous with the Sunnah, the Prophetic example?’, ‘Is it mandatory for a believing Muslim to accept all Hadith?’, and ‘Is a reliable hadith considered to be just as authoritative as the Qur’an?’ 

As Wael Hallaq has insightfully remarked, Muslims today live in a world “not of their own making.” 

This acute observation should force us as Muslims to take a step back and observe what has gone into the making of our modern world. The main question that should be asked, then, is how did we get to where we are? This course attempts to answer that question by critically engage students with the historical and philosophical dimensions of Islam’s relationship to modernity. In the first four weeks, students will develop a foundation for thinking about Islam in modernity by working through the complicated notion of “tradition” and briefly covering the history of modernity and its impact on Muslims. 

Based on this foundation, students will spend the rest of the semester exploring specific issues that should challenge our very assumptions about Islam and modernity and force us to reexamine how we think and live as Muslims in the modern world. The structure of each of these latter classes will broadly follow the following three sets of inquiry: 

  1. A historical and philosophical examination of some aspect of Western modernity; 
  2. Putting it into conversation with the pre-modern tradition of Islam; and 
  3. Discussing the tensions and overlaps between the two in an attempt to negotiate our situation as Muslims living in the modern West. The class will be lecture-based, but the last third of each session will be devoted to student discussion. 

By the end of the course, students should be able to think critically about the claims of Western modernity and take a historically- and philosophically-informed approach to the difficult questions facing Muslims in the modern world.

Requirements

  • All students are expected to have completed the required readings before each meeting. This is crucial for developing the skill of critical reading, but also for ensuring a more productive discussion at the end of each class.
  • Students will be required to submit 4 reflection essays (2 pages or more double-spaced) on the week’s readings. These can be spaced out or completed at the beginning or end of the course (although the former is recommended). The response papers should include a brief paragraph or two summarizing your understanding of the texts, but the majority of the essay should be devoted to your reflections on the arguments and any questions you might have had during the course of your readings.
  • A final essay (8-10 pages double-spaced) should be turned in no later than one week after the last meeting. This essay should offer your reflections on any topic covered in the course of the semester. 
  • Students can give a general overview of various topics or they can concentrate on a single issue. The purpose of this exercise is to show one’s comprehension of the complex issues facing Islam in modernity and to provide an opportunity to engage these issues based on their readings during the course.


This course is a survey of Muslim life and religious movements connected to Islam in North America. The course is divided across two weekend intensive sessions. Weekend Session I, “Early Encounters and the American Imagination,” explores the early history of Islam beginning with slavery and the colonial period and ending with the early 20th century. We will investigate the many ways in which Islam, as both a religion and idea, has appeared on the American horizon and in the American imagination. Weekend Session II, “Historic Muslim Communities,” will revolve around examining the historic diversity of Muslim communities on the continent by exploring their respective beliefs, cultural and artistic expressions, and sense of identity. Special attention will be paid to the history of Muslims in the 20th century into the post-9/11 context of today.

Grading

  • 30%  Class Discussion & Participation
  • 30%   Field Report
  • 40%   Final Examination

Class Discussion & Participation (30%)

Students are expected to keep up with all course materials and to participate in in-class discussions.

  • Field Report & Presentation (30%)

Between Weekend Sessions I and II, each student is to conduct research into a person, place, or organization of significance for the history of Islam in America. Each student is encouraged to look into the histories of their localities and family. A brief report of 4-5 typed, double spaced pages that documents your findings and analysis should be submitted via email prior to Weekend Session II. Each student will also briefly present their field reports at the beginning of Weekend Session II for discussion with the rest of the class.

  • Final Examination (40%)

During the last hour of class of Weekend Session II, each student will complete a written final examination. The exam will consist of reflective essay questions on terms, persons, and ideas that we will have covered during the course of our time together.

Required Readings:

  • Edward E. Curtis IV, Muslim in America: A Short History, Oxford, 2009.
  • Edward E. Curtis IV, ed., Columbia Sourcebook of Muslims in the United States, Columbia, 2008.
  • Malcolm X with Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. 1964
  • Wajahat Ali, Domestic Crusaders, McSweeney, 2011.
  • [PDF] Diana Eck, A New Religious America, Ch. 2 “From Many One,” pp. 26-77.
  • [PDF] Zareena Grewal, Islam is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority, Ch. 7 “Muslim Reformers and the American Media: The Exceptional Umma and Its Emergent Moral Geography,” pp. 292-345.
  • NOTE: The Columbia Sourcebook of Muslims in the United States should be brought to class for both Weekend Sessions.

Recommended Readings After the Course:

  • Vivek Bald, Bengali Harlem and the List Histories of South Asian Americans, Harvard, 2013.
  • Sylviane A. Diouf, Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas, 15th Anniversary Edition, NYU, 2013.
  • Sally Howell, Old Islam in Detroit: Rediscovering the Muslim American Past, Oxford, 2014.
  • Denise A. Spellberg, Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders, Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.
  • [PDF] Wajahat Ali, Eli Clifton, Matthew Duss, Lee Fang, Scott Keyes, Faiz Shakir, Fear Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America. Center for American Progress, 2011.
  • [PDF] Ihsan Bagby, The American Mosque 2011: Basic Characteristics of the American Mosque, Attitudes of Mosque Leaders, Report Number 1. CAIR, 2011.

 


The Qur'an, as God's final direct revelation to mankind, has always been central to Muslim belief and devotional life, and has continued to influence Muslim society and civilization. This course discusses the history of the Qur'anic text, its transmission and interpretation, with reference to traditional Muslim scholarship, as well as Western academic research. Topics explored include the following: How and was the Qur'an collected and transmitted? How can we prove that the Qur'an has been reliably preserved over time? What is the nature and origin of the variant readings? What is abrogation, and were some verses of the Qur'an abrogated? What are the different approaches to exegesis (Tafsir) of the Qur'an, and what are the parameters of valid interpretation? What does it mean for the Qur'an to be a 'miracle' or decisive sign from Allah?

Textbooks

Required:

  • Ulum al-Quran, Ahmad von Denffer
  • An Introduction to the Principles of Tafseer, Ibn Taymiyyah
  • Some additional articles Recommended:
  • An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'aan, Yasir Qadhi
  • An Approach to the Qur'anic Sciences, Mufti Taqi Usmani
  • The History of the Quranic Text, M. M. Azami
  • Variant Readings of the Quran, Ahmad `Ali al-Imam
  • مناهل العرفان في علوم القرآن, للزرقاني
  • الإتقان في علوم القرآن , للسيوطي 

Evaluation:

  • Attendance and Participation: 25% 
  • Reflections posted to online forum: 15% 
  • Final exam: 60%