Instructor: Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus, x3694, (H): 401-273-0536

Knapton 102

Office Hours: MWF 11:30-12:20; MW 2-3; and by appointment

This course seeks to introduce the major religious and cultural dimensions of the Islamic world, both those that express its diversity and those that express its continuity. No previous work is presupposed. Emphasis will be given to the development of classical Islamic institutions and ideas as well as the diverse forms of Islamic religious and cultural life. The course has two major purposes: (1) to provide students with a better and deeper understanding of (1) the importance of the Islamic past upon the Islamic world today and (2) contemporary Muslims’ own self-understanding of their system(s) of religious faith and practices . While it is not a history course, anyone taking it should come away with a basic grasp of the larger historical framework within which Islamic civilization has developed. Moreover, students will learn from American Muslims themselves what it means to be a religious Muslim - particularly in the modern American context - by visiting the Islamic Center of New England in Sharon, MA and by conducting interviews ("oral histories") of members of the local Muslim community.

N.B.: This course in Islam has a significant community service learning component, in that we hope to (a) offer the Islamic Center a forum to educate others about Islam, especially to dispel prejudices about all Muslims being fundamentalist terrorists screaming for holy war, and (b) establish the personal relationships essential for mutual understanding and respect between Wheaton students and the Greater Boston Muslim community. I note here that I am proposing a somewhat different way of looking at service - the establishment of concrete opportunities for the development and encouragement of multi-cultural understanding is itself an important form of community service.

In addition, this year, the course has received a Hewlett grant to

  • focus its oral history component on issues of ethnicity, race, and gender
  • bring members of the local Muslim community to Wheaton College to educate the broader campus
  • organize 2-3 campus-wide programs on Muslim/non-Muslim relations
    involve representatives of the Muslim community more in the planning and evaluation process
  • coordinate with the Wheaton Office of Communications to publicize our activities,
  • target students minoring in education for special projects on curriculum development about Islam and Muslims


Frederick Denny, An Introduction to Islam

Kenneth Cragg, and Marston Speight eds. Islam From Within: Anthology of a Religion

Tayeb Saleh The Wedding of Zein


Ira Lapidus A History of Islamic Society

Amina Wadud-Muhsin, Qur'an and Woman

Additional required readings (the asterisked readings) have been assembled and are available on electronic reserve. These readings are also available in hard copies on reserve at Clark Library.


1. Class attendance (including film viewing) and full participation in class discussion.

An electronic discussion has been set up for this course to which students are required to subscribe. This on-line discussion group is intended to be forum for students to continue discussions begun in class, to raise questions prior to in-class discussion, and for general communications, syllabus updates, etc. between class members and the professor. Students are expected to make at least 10 contributions to the on-line discussion (@one per weekly topic) in order to receive full credit for class participation

2) 1-page response paper assignments (20%)

1. Ten 1- page written responses to readings or video due no later than the Sunday or Tuesday night before the class presentation. Send them by e-mail to our Rel 316 electronic discussion. These will count toward your "quota" of on-line contributions for your class participation grade, too. You are exempt from this paper the week of your presentation.

3) Class Presentation (5%)

Each of you will be responsible for leading a class discussion on the weekly reading (s) and/or one of the films we see. Thus, students will lead discussions on each Thursday from 9/22-12/1 You will need to choose your topic and date to present by Wednesday 9/15. To get full credit for your presentation you must:

a. Meet with me before your presentation to discuss it!

b. Read and comment on the other student response papers (as per guidelines I'll give you)

c. Make a 5-10 minute presentation (as per guidelines I'll give you) that

i. enumerates the main points of the book or movie

ii. discusses and gives specific examples of the the stylistic or cinematic means it uses to convey its main points

iii. relates the book or movie to its proper place in the historical context of Islam

iv. points out the important moral, theological, and/or philosophical issues raised by the reading or movie (pose at least 2 questions that you think your text, movie raises)

v. generates a dynamic class discussion

You may choose to use handouts, visual aids, or whatever else you think might help make your points. Your grade will be based on how well you meet the criteria in "c." and the guidelines I give you. Your final paper will be on the same topic/film you choose for your presentation.

N.B.: You do not have to hand in a response paper on the film (or book) you present.


2. Memorize short passage from the Qur'an and Arabic calligraphy assignment (10%)


Oct 4-Oct 8: Make appointment to recite Fatiha during office hours

Oct 29 Basmalah calligraphy, reflection paper

4. Midterm Exam (25%) [Study Guide]

The Midterm exam will be given to you in two parts. The multiple choice part consists of 20 questions and will be distributed on Thursday, 10/31 to be taken in class.

On Thursday October 31 I will also pass out the take-home part, which consists of 3 short answer and one 3-4 page essay. It is due on or before class Tuesday, 11/5. No extensions.

5. One essay (6-8 pp., typed, double-spaced) is to be based on the topic of your class presentation.(15%). All essays are due Tuesday, December 10. You may submit an optional first draft to me, but I must receive it no later than Monday, Nov. 29.

The purpose of this essay is to think about the source material at length, both in the light of one's own interests and ideas and in respect to the secondary readings, lectures or any other information that helps one elucidate a particular text or idea in the reading(s) under discussion. Attention will be given to form as well as content. Use a manual of style and be consistent. You must use at least two other bibliographical sources besides those assigned on the syllabus. One of your additional sources should be the Encyclopedia of Islam, which is in the Permanent Reference section of the Library. While subject entries are according to their Arabic (or Persian, or other indigenous) terms, there are indices that give the English equivalents and the volume and page number where they can be found.

*An an alternative to this final paper assignment is to design a lesson plan on your topic on Islam. Several of you are either minoring in education or doing significant coursework in it. I would like to exploit your interests and background to produce something concretely useful outside the class itself. You will design some curriculum on Islam appropriate to the age groups you plan to teach. It will be a great opportunity to for you to become familiar with the new and sometimes controversial resources for teaching Islam in elementary and secondary schools. Students who choose this option need to consult with me and a member of the education faculty before the Thanksgiving Break.

6. All students will be participate in an oral history project (25%), involving:

a. assigned preparatory readings in oral history, focusing on use of interviews for "thick" cultural description; arranging, preparing, and conducting the interview; asking questions; writing up transcripts; ethical and legal ramifications of oral history; and examples of oral histories of Muslims or Arabs living in America.

b. guest lecturer from Anthropology or History Departments (on doing oral history/field studies) or outside speaker

c. practice assignment interviewing a friend or family member

d. interview of member of the Islamic Center of New England

e. make transcript of the interview

f. 3-4 page reflection paper relating their experience to concepts or procedures covered in prior class readings,lectures, or discussions.

Students have the option of working in teams of 2 (or 3 if the class is larger); where labor could be divided - one student performing and recording the interview; the other transcribing it - if some students feel more comfortable with a behind-the-scenes role. Still, while steps (d) and (e) may be divided, all students will be responsible for (a)-(c) and (f).

N.B.: Students may opt to compose their final reflection paper in the form of a magazine-style or newspaper feature article. Jane Iafrate of the Office of Communications and advisor to the Wheaton Wire will talk to the students in class about what to look for and what to emphasize in this type of write-up. There is a possibility that outstanding examples of this assignment may be published in an appropriate venue.

The completed project will be 25% of the course grade. It is due no later than the last day of class, M Dec 13

The project requires 2 to 3 Sunday Morning visits to the Islamic Center of NE in Sharon or to the home of your interviewee on dates TBA.

7. In addition, thanks to the Hewlett Foundation, we have funds to bring Imam Talal Eid and other members of the Islamic Center of New England to campus on dates TBA. While all members of the course will be required to attend, the main point of these visits is to invite the broader Wheaton community to a dialogue with our Muslim neighbors. Potential topics would be "The Greater [internal spiritual] and Lesser [military] Jihad in Islam," by the Imam, and less formal panel discussions with two or three lay people from the ICNE on "Being a Muslim in America after 9/11," "Race Relations within the American Muslim community," "Muslim Perspectives on Inter-Religious Relations" and/or "Muslim Reflections on American Foreign Policy." The panel discussions would be geared more toward Muslims' reflections on their personal experiences of these issues, so as to provide the broader Wheaton community to interact with our guests as people rather than as just "talking heads." We can get that from the TV and other news media.

For Extra Credit: 2-4 interview teams will invite their interviewee to Wheaton campus. These students will be responsible for scheduling and moderating the panel discussions. These are only recommended topics, not yet set in stone, because we still need the suggestions of our Muslim community partners on what they 'd like to do.



[Short additions to this reading list are likely. Asterisked selections are on electronic reserve) Revisions of the syllabus are in bold print.

Sep 5: Th: Introduction to the Course

Reading: *"Formation of Islamic Civilization," from Craig, Graham, Kagan, Ozment, and Turner, The Heritage of World Civilizations pp. 361-383.

Sep 10: Tu: Muslims, Islam, the Islamic world and Civilization

Reading: Denny, Introduction to Islam [hereafter Introduction], "Pre-Islamic Arabia," pp. 43-55. Recommended: Lapidus, A History of Islamic Societies [hereafter History] "Arabia," pp. 1-20.

Sep 12: Th: The Pre Islamic: World and Fundamental Concepts of Islam

Reading Introduction, "Qur'an," pp. 138-156. God's Speech: The Qur’an

Sep 17: Tu: Discussion: The Qur’an

Reading: Michael Sells, Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations (Ashland, OR: White Cloud Press, 1999) pp. 1-76, 145-163 (to be handed out in class 9/12)

Sept 19: Th:Discussion: Qur'an and Tafsir

Readings: Cragg and Speight, Islam form Within, pp. 23-47. (Handout to be distributed 9/17)

Sept 24: Tu:

I. Muhammad: Person and Paradigm

Reading: Introduction, "Muhammad and the Early Community," pp. 59-81. Recommended: History, "The Life of the Prophet" pp. 21-36.

Reading: Introduction, "Arab Conquests," pp. 83-104, History, pp. 120-125. Recommended: History " The Caliphate," pp. 54-80, 120-125.

Sept 26: Th

II. Leadership and Authority After Muhammed: the Caliphate, Ulama’’ and the Imamate

Reading: Introduction, "Islamic Political Institutions," pp. 206-214, *Muhammad al-Tabataba’i, "The Shi'i Imamate"

Oct 1: Tu: September M: Sunni Piety and Practice, Shi’i Piety

Discussion: Tradition, Law, and Imamate

Reading: Introduction, "Basic Beliefs and Duties," pp. 107-136, 313-316, "Life Cycle and Family," pp. 269-292; anon.,*"The Miracle Play of Hasan and Husayn [Shi’i]"

Recommended Reading: Islam from Within, "Worship and Religion," pp. 48-65

Reading:*Graham, William A. "'An Arabic Reciting:' Qur'an as a Spoken Book, [etc.]" Beyond the Written Word, pp. 79-115

This week’s films: "Lion de Dieu" and "Saints and Spirits"[time/place TBA]

Oct 3: Th: Discussion: Devotional Texts

Reading: Introduction, Chapter 12 "Islamic Mysticism," pp. 219-243; Chapter 13 "Masters and Disciples, pp. 245-264.

Oct 6: Sunday: Required field trip to the Islamic Center of New England 11-2:30 (Quincy or Sharon, MA location TBA)

Oct 8: Tu: The Sufis: Origins and Classical Themes

Reading: Islam from Within, Chapter 7, "Mystics and Saints," pp. 173-207.

The Sufis: Expression in Literature, Music and Dance

Discussion Reading: *Attar, "Three Early Muslim Mystics"; *Rumi, "Stories from the Mathnawi. "

Oct 10: Th: Discussion: Sufi Texts

Reading: Islam from Within, Chapter 6 "Art and Architecture," pp. 152-172, R. Ettinghausen, "The Man-made Setting," pp. 57-72 in B. Lewis, ed., The World of Islam.

Oct 15: Tu: October Break: NO CLASS

Oct 17: Th: Islamic Space: Architecture of the Home, Mosque, and Madrasa (with an excursus on calligraphy)

Reading: History, pp., 162-180, Introduction, "Creeds and Theologies" pp. 172-193.

This week’s films: "Man and Nature" and "Islam and the Sciences. " [time/place TBA]

Oct 22: Tu: Theological Questioning Discussion Reading: *Al-Ghazali, "A Theologian's Mid-Life Crisis." Recommended: Islam from Within (theological writings), pp. 118- 144.

Oct 24: Th: Discussion of Ghazali

Reading: *Marshall Hodgson, The Venture of Islam Vol. 1, pp. 457-469 and 291-298, *Ibn Khaldun, pp. 441-459.



Poetry in Islamic Culture 1

Reading: *Linda Hess and Annemarie Schimmel, "Islamic Poetry," Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. M. Eliade, v.?: 386-88.

Review for Midterm

Evening Lecture 7:30 PM: "Islam and Pluralism after 9/11"

Guest Speaker: Imam Talal Eid, Imam of the Islamic Center of New England

The Lecture is open to the public and mandatory for class members !!!!!

Oct 31: Th: Midterm

Nov 5: Tu: Discussion of Islamic Poetry

*Poetry by Imru al-Qays, al-Mutanabbi, and Hafiz.

Discussion Reading: *Selections from the 1001 Nights ("King Shahryar and his Brother", "Tale of the Bull and the Ass," "Tale of the Three Apples," and "The Tale of Ghanim Bin Ayyub..." [pp. 1-23, 133-141, 193-221].

[Nov. 6 Evening - Ramadan begins]

Nov 7: Th: Discussion of 1001 Nights

Reading: History pp. 276-344.


Islam in Africa

Reading: The Wedding of Zein

Nov 14: Th

Reading: The Wedding of Zein

Nov 19: Tu: Islam in America/Black Muslims in America

Reading: *Selections from the Autobiography of Malcolm X pp. 1-38 and 318-342.

Nov 21:Th: Contemporary Women in Islam

Reading: Wadud-Muhsin, Qur'an and Woman

Nov 26: Tu -

Reading: Wadud-Muhsin, Qur'an and Woman

Nov 28: Th: NO CLASS Thanksgiving break

Dec 3: Tu: Library research

Dec 5:TBA

Dec 10: Final 6-8 page paper due

Dec 12: Th: LAST CLASS - Putting it all together

Dec 13: Interview project due in my office

Content by Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus, Associate Professor of Religion
Designed by
David Dudek, 2001
Last Update 11.19.02