Understanding Islam and Contemporary Muslim Societies



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Culture and Belief 19/HDS 3628

Understanding Islam and Contemporary Muslim Societies

Spring Term 2010-11


Instructor: Ali S. Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures, Committee on the Study of Religion and Departments of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Sanskrit and Indian Studies and African and African American Studies

Office: Study of Religion, Rm. 305, Barker Center

Phone: 495-5755; 495-5781

E-mail: aliasani@fas.harvard.edu

Office Hours: Thursdays 3-5 or by appointment; see me after class.

Head Teaching Fellow: Zeyneb Hale Eroglu Sager

E-mail: eroglu@fas.harvard.edu


Course Description


The course is an introduction to the fundamental concepts of Islam and the role that religious ideas and institutions play in Muslim communities around the world. Its main concern is to develop an understanding of the manner in which diverse notions of religious and political authority have influenced Muslim societies politically, socially and culturally. Through specific case studies of countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, the course considers the role played by ideologies such as jihad, colonialism, nationalism, secularism, and globalization in shaping the ways in which Muslims interpret, practice and experience their faith today. The course also briefly considers the contemporary situation of Muslims as religious minorities in Europe and the United States.

The course assumes no prior knowledge of Islam and is appropriate for both those who wish to acquire a bird's-eye view of the Islamic tradition as well as those contemplating future specialization in the field of Islamic or Middle Eastern studies. Though the course is not primarily a history course, the overall progression of the coursework will be chronological, from Islamic origins through the development of "classical" institutions through to the present day. With the above aims in mind, the term's work will be divided into the following three segments:

I. Introductory: Introducing Islam and Islamic Culture

II. Development of notions of authority in post-Prophetic communities including the evolution of the shari'ah, the Sunni caliphate, the Shi'i Imamate, Sufism or Islamic mysticism and the Sufi shaykh or pir

III. Interpreting Islam in cultural, historical and political contexts: Exploring the diverse roles of religion and notions of authority in contemporary Muslim communities


Course Requirements


* weekly participation in section and calligraphic design (15%)

* mid-term examination (20%)

* weekly computer journal entry (15%)

* one short essay (4-6 pages for undergraduates; 10-12 pages for graduate students) on a designated primary text (15%)

* final take-home examination (35%)

The substance of the course will be centered on the lectures and discussions on primary source material in translation and movies. The discussions will usually take place on Thursdays or Fridays; participation in these discussions is required for successful completion of the course.

During the term, a calligraphic design (due February 17), a mid-term take-home exam (due March 10), one short essay (4-6 pp for undergraduates; 10-12 pp for graduate students), and a take-home final exam (due May 5) are required. Also required is a weekly computer journal.

The calligraphic design is intended to introduce you to an important Islamic religious art form and has proven to be quite enjoyable, even for those who think they have no artistic talent. For assistance in designing your calligraphy, check the course web-site.

The short essay is to be based on the primary text assigned for discussion in the week in which the essay is due. Students may choose one of seven topics; hence there are seven alternative due dates for this essay. Since everyone has the right to choose from alternative due dates and topics, there will be no extensions granted. On the appropriate due date, students will be expected to turn in a draft version of their essay for comments on content, organization and style. The corrected draft should then be revised and submitted for a final grade by April 27 (the day of the last class).

Please note that “hard” copies of the essays need to be submitted for grading. Electronic submissions will not be accepted.

To assist you with the reading material in the course and to prepare you for discussion section, you will keep a weekly computer journal (2 pages per week; approximately 500 words). The purpose of your journal is:

a) to think about concepts and ideas you learnt in class

b) to understand the concepts and issues from reading assignments, particularly those assigned for the discussion sections

Your journal entries may be informal in tone, but your writing should be coherent. The goal is to record your ideas and reactions with ease. Keep the following questions in mind: What new concepts and terms are you learning? What ideas, terms, issues have you not understood? What new questions have the lectures and readings raised for you? The journal will give you an opportunity to explore connections, assimilate and synthesize material, to improve your writing and articulation skills, and to help you prepare questions, and think about issues that you may want to raise for discussion in sections.

The computer journal constitutes 15% of your final grade. Each student begins with 100 points for this requirement. The weekly journal entry is due by 12 midnight on the day before your discussion section meets, that is, midnight Wednesday for Thursday sections or midnight Thursday for Friday sections. Your entry should comment on the discussion and/or required reading assigned for that week. Since late entries defeat the purpose of this exercise, you will automatically lose 5 points for every journal entry not finished on time. Unsatisfactory journal entries, which show evidence that the reading was not done or show little effort, will also be marked down. Students who are timely and write satisfactory journals stand to earn the full 15%. The determining factor for this requirement, therefore, is whether or not you have done your journal entries on time and deliberately.



Course Website: http://isites.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?keyword=k52022. For website access: All FAS students (Harvard College and GSAS) and HDS students will have access to the site with their Harvard ID and their password. If you have a Harvard ID, but are attending this course through another Harvard school (Law, Kennedy School, etc), you will be added to the class list as soon as your home school processes your cross-registration. If you need access to the website before your school has completed the cross-registration process, please send an email with your Harvard ID to guiney@fas.harvard.edu. If you are attending this course from another institution and do not have a Harvard ID (HUID) or an External ID (XID), you must apply for an XID at https://xid.harvard.edu/xid-apps/ As soon as you have your XID, please email it to guiney@fas.harvard.edu.

Details about the specific contents of the web-site, the logistics of posting a journal entry, etc., will be available to students officially enrolled in the course on a separate handout.

There is a final take-home examination due on the last day of reading period, May 5 2011

Schedule of Class Meetings, Discussions, Readings

Key to the Readings


All readings including those from the required and recommended texts are available on Reserve in the libraries (Lamont, Quad, and Andover–Divinity School)

Some readings are available electronically through the course website. They are marked as such in the syllabus.

(T) indicates readings available in the required textbooks.

(S) indicates readings available in the Sourcebook.

(W) indicates reading available through link on course website.

(R) indicates required reading available on Reserve or in the recommended books.



I. INTRODUCTORY: INTRODUCING ISLAM AND ISLAMIC CULTURE
WEEK 1

Tu Jan 25 Introduction to course; What is Islam? Approaches to understanding Islam

Thu Jan 27 Fundamental Concepts and Beliefs

Required Readings

(S) Ahmet Karamustafa, “Islam: A Civilizational Project in Progress,” Progressive Muslims, ed. Omid Safi, 98-110.

(W) Edward Said, “Impossible Histories: Why the many Islams cannot be simplified,” Harper’s Magazine, July 2002, 69-74.

(W) A. Asani, “Introduction” Infidel of Love: Exploring Muslim Understandings of Islam, 1-17.


On the Course Web-site (recommended)

  1. Recitations of the adhan, the Islamic call to prayer

WEEK 2

Tu Feb 1 God's Word: The Qur’an and the arts of oral recitation and calligraphy

Th Feb 3 God’s Word: Interpreting the Qur’an

Required Readings

Section Readings (refer to the Source Book for full reference)

Discussion I: Understanding Conceptions of Islam

(W) A. Asani “Who is a Muslim?” Infidel of Love: Exploring Muslim Understandings of Islam, 18-57.

(W) A. Asani, “Pluralism, Intolerance and the Quran,” American Scholar, vol. 71, no. 1, winter 2002, 52-60.

(W) Asma Afsaruddin, “Absolutism vs Pluralism in Islam Today” Review of Faith and International Affairs, Winter 2008, vol. 6, no. 4, 23-27



Lecture readings

(S) K. Nelson, ''The Sound of the Divine in Daily Life,'' Everyday Life in the Muslim Middle East, 257 - 261.

(T) K. Cragg, Readings in the Quran, 14-80.

On the Course Web-site (recommended)


  1. Recitations from the Qur'an: Surah (Chapter) Fateha (ch. 1) and Surah Ikhlas (ch. 112)

  2. Calligraphic designs of the word "Allah" (highly recommended for the calligraphy assignment)

  3. Styles of Arabic calligraphy

WEEK 3

Tu Feb 8 Tolerance, intolerance and the Qur’an: Contextual understandings of jihad

Th Feb 10 The “Pillars” of Islam: Defining Muslim devotional life through ritual and the mosque

Required Readings

Section Readings (refer to the Source Book for full reference)

Discussion II: The Joseph story in the Qur'an and Genesis

(S) Selections from Inquiring of Joseph; the Yusuf (Joseph)-Zulaykha legend in Swahili and Malay literature [1st option for short essay]



Lecture Readings

(T) Cragg, Readings in the Qur’an, 130-137 (Story of Joseph)

(T) Esposito, Islam the Straight Path, 1-35; “The Five Pillars” 106-115

(T) Schimmel, Islam, 1-50.



On t0he Course Web-site (recommended)

  1. Recitations from the Qur'an: Surah Yusuf (the chapter on Joseph), verses 19-21

  2. Genesis account of the story of Joseph and his brothers

  3. The Yusuf (Joseph)-Zulaykha epic in miniature paintings (Iran, Central Asia and South Asia)

  4. Masjids (mosques) around the world

WEEK 4

Tu Feb 15 Muhammad as a Religious and Mystical Paradigm

Th Feb 17 Prophet Muhammad as Paradigm (II) (calligraphy design due)

Required Readings

Section readings (refer to the Sourcebook for full reference)

Discussion III: Celebrating the Prophet Muhammad

(S) (i) In poetic traditions: Urdu, Sindhi, and Hausa ( (ii) visual traditions: illustrations from the Mirajnama, depicting the Prophet Muhammad’s celestial ascent; see course website (Central Asia) [2nd option for short essay]



Lecture Readings

(S) Asani et. al., Celebrating Muhammad, 1-45

(S) Jonathan Brown, Hadith Muhammad’s Legacy, 1-13

(T) Schimmel, Islam, 51-57.

(T) Leila Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam, 25-63.

Recommended for further reading

(R) Grunebaum, Muhammadan Festivals, 15-65.



On the Course Web-site (recommended)

  1. Recitations of formulaic blessings on the Prophet Muhammad (Singapore, Syria)

  2. Songs/poems in praise of the Prophet Muhammad (India, Pakistan)

  3. Illustrations from the Mirajnama, depicting the Prophet Muhammad’s celestial ascent (Central Asia)

II. NOTIONS OF AUTHORITY IN POST-PROPHETIC COMMUNITIES

WEEK 5

Tu Feb 22 Authority and Guidance: The Shari'ah and the Sunni 'Ulama

Th Feb 24 Authority and Guidance: The Sunni Caliphate

Required Readings

Section readings (refer to the Sourcebook for full reference)

Discussion IV: The Shari'ah: Interpreting the Word of God for societal norms (Case study on drinking alcohol; to be distributed in class)

Lecture Readings

(S) F. Daftary, “Communities of Interpretation,“ Muslim Almanac, 161-173

(W) K. Cragg. Islam from Within, Chapter 4, 99-117.

(T) Schimmel, Islam, 59-89

(T) Esposito, Islam the Straight Path, 36-61; 85-106

(T) Leila Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam, 64-101



WEEK 6

Tu Mar 1 Authority and Guidance: The Shi'i Imamate

Th Mar 3 Shi’i piety; authority in Shi’i communities (take-home exam distributed)

Required Readings

Section readings (refer to the Sourcebook for full reference)

Discussion V: Shi'i texts:

(S) Tabatabai. “On Knowledge of the Imam” Shiite Islam, 173-190, 210-214.

(W) Ismaili conceptions of Imamat: Readings from the Institute of Ismaili Studies (three PDF files available through course website)

[3rd option for short essay]

Lecture Readings

(T) Schimmel, Islam, 91-100

(T) Esposito, Islam The Straight Path, 134-140

(S) S. H. Nasr, "Sunnism and Shi'ism," Ideals and Realities of Islam, 147-178

(R) Grunebaum, Muhammadan Festivals, 85-94.
On the Course Web-site (recommended)


  1. A traditional song praising Ali, the first Shi'i Imam (Pakistan)

  2. Poems in praise of the Shi'i Imam (Central Asia, Iran)

  3. “O Ali, mercy, O Ali” Song in praise of Imam Ali from Bollywood movie

  4. Songs commemorating martyrdom of Imam Husayn

  5. Azadari: Lament poem in English recited during Muharram commemoration

WEEK 7

Tu Mar 8 Sufism: Mystical interpretations of Islam

Th Mar 10 Religious, social and political roles of the Sufi shaykh and Sufi shrines (take-home midterm due)

Required Readings

Section readings (refer to the Sourcebook for full reference)

Discussion VI: Sufi Texts: The Language of Mysticism:

(S) Williams, Alan, ''Introduction,'' Spiritual Verses: The First Book of the Masnavi-ye Ma’navi,  pp. xiii - xxxv.. Rumi: Spiritual Verses, 7-9; “Al-Hallaj: Stories of his Life and Excerpts from His Writings"; . "A Saint and His Fate,"; Al‑Suhrawardi, Abu al‑Najib, "Rules for the Novice,". W. Dalrymple, “India The Real Islam” Time Magazine, July 26-Aug 2, 2004/ vol. 164, no. 4/5. (available at http://www.time.com/time/asia/2004/journey/india.html)



[4th option for short essay]

Lecture Readings

Required

(T) Schimmel, Islam, 101-126.

(T) Esposito, Islam The Straight Path, 124-134.

(W) K. Cragg. Islam from Within, chapter 7, 173-207


On the Course Web-site (recommended)

  1. Examples of dhikr

  2. Video clips:

a) Halveti-Jerrahi order (Turkey)

b) Egyptian Sufi brotherhood performing dhikr

c) A qawwali performance at a Sufi shrine in India

3) “Listen to the reed flute” musical rendering of the beginning of

Jalaluddin Rumi’s famous mystical epic, The Mathnawi

III. MUSLIM SOCIETIES IN CULTURAL, HISTORICAL AND POLITICAL CONTEXTS: EXPLORING THE DIVERSITY OF THE ISLAMIC EXPERIENCE


WEEK 8

Tu Mar 22 Islamic Reform I: An overview of modern reform, revivalist and Islamist movements in diverse contexts

Th Mar 24 Islamic Reform II: Revival and Reform in the Eighteenth Century (The Fulani Jihads in West Africa)

Required Readings

Section readings (refer to the Sourcebook for full reference)

Discussion VII: The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid (Sudan)

(W) Tayyeb Salih’s “Doum Tree of Wad Hamid,” (available electronically through the website) [5th Option for short essay].

For background on Islam in sub-Saharan Africa see “Islam in sub-Saharan Africa” Muslim Almanac, ed. A. Nanji, 44-54 (available electronically through the course website)

Lecture Readings
(T) Esposito, Voices of Resurgent Islam, 32-47.
(R) Esposito, ed. The Oxford History of Islam, “Foundations for Renewal and Reform” 509-547

On the Course Web-site (recommended)


  1. Selections from the qasidah modern (Indonesia)



  1. A Swahili song welcoming the month of Ramadhan (Kenya)


WEEK 9

Tu Mar 29 Islamic Reform III: Revival and Reform in the Eighteenth Century (The Muwahiddun (Wahhabis) of Arabia and the rise of the Saudi state)

Th Mar 31 Islamic Reform IV: Muslim Responses to European Imperialism

Required Readings

Section readings (refer to the Sourcebook for full reference)

Discussion VIII: Wahhabi ideology and the Saudi State:

(W) Khaled Abou el-Fadl “The Ugly Modern and the Modern Ugly: Reclaiming the Beautiful in Islam” Progressive Muslims, ed. Omid Safi, 33-77. [6th Option for short essay]



Lecture Readings

(T) Esposito, Islam the Straight Path, 61-73; 141-175.

(T) Schimmel, Islam: An Introduction, 127-144.

WEEK 10

Tu Apr 5 Islamic Reform V: Experimentation with secularism in Turkey

Th Apr 7 Islamic Reform VI Muslim women, the veil and the war over cultural identity

Required Readings

Section readings (refer to the Sourcebook for full reference)

Discussion IX: Muslim women and patriarchal interpretations of Islam:


  1. Riffat Hassan, "Muslim Women and Post-Patriarchal Islam," in After Patriarchy, 39-64;

(W) Amina Wadud “Rights and Role of Woman: Some Controversies,” and “Conclusion,” in Quran and Women, 62-105 [available electronically through the website];

(W) Khaled Abou El-Fadl, “Corrupting God’s Book,” Conference of the Books, 289-301;

(S) Murtaza Mutahhari “On the Islamic Hijab,” 361-372. [7th Option for short essay]

Lecture Readings

(T) Leila Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam, 127-168.

(T) Esposito, Islam the Straight Path, 116-124.

Recommended for further reading

(T) Leila Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam, 169-188.



WEEK 11

Tu Apr 12 Islamic Reform VII: The Iranian Revolution

Th Apr 14 Islamic Reform VIII: “Fundamentalist”/Islamist movements in Egypt: The Muslim Brotherhood and Afghanistan: The Taliban

Required Readings

Section readings (refer to the Sourcebook for full reference)

Discussion X: Islam and the State: Sayyid Qutb, Mawdudi, Khomeini, Shariati

(T) Esposito, Voices of Resurgent Islam, 67-133; 150-174; 191-214.



Lecture Readings

(R) David Buchman, “Shiite Islam in Contemporary Iran” Islam in World Cultures ed. M. Feener, 75-101

( R) R. Loeffler, “The Effect of the Revolution” Islam in Practice, 225-265

(T) Esposito, Islam the Straight Path, 175-184; 187-226

(R) Esposito, ed. The Oxford History of Islam, V. Nasr, “European Colonialism and the Emergence of Modern Muslim States,” 549-599.

On the Course Web-Site (Recommended)


  1. Mohammad Reza Shajarian: Protest through Poetry

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130047062

WEEK 12

Tu Apr 19 Islamic Reform IX: Pakistan: What constitutes an “Islamic” state?

Th Apr 21 Islam in Europe: The Muslim as the “Other”

Required Readings

Section readings (refer to the Sourcebook for full reference)

Discussion XI: The Saint’s Lamp (Egypt)

(S) Yahya Haqqi’s “The Saint’s Lamp,” 1-38.



Lecture readings

(T) Esposito, Islam the Straight Path, 73-84; 226-249

(R) Giles Kepel, Allah in the West, 86-146

(R) T. Bringa. "Islam and the Quest for Identity in Post-Communist Bosnia,"



Islam and Bosnia: Conflict Resolution and Foreign Policy in Multi-Ethnic States ed. by Maya Shatzmille, 24-34.

On the Course Web-site (recommended)

1) Muslim rock! – Pakistani Rock band Junoon pop recites a Sufi dhikr

2) Bosnian video – “If I weren’t a Muslim”

WEEK 13

Tu Apr 26 Islam in America I: African American communities

Th Apr 27 Islam in America II: Being Muslim in America (final versions of essays due today; take home final exam distributed)

Required Readings

Section readings (refer to the Sourcebook for full reference)

Discussion XII: Islam in Europe and the United States:

(S) Two British Essays Hanif Kureishi's "The Rainbow Sign" and "My Son the Fanatic"

(W) An American biography The Autobiography of Malcolm X 318-342 (chapter on Mecca)

Lecture Readings

(T) Esposito, Islam the Straight Path, 250-295

(R) K. GhaneaBassiri, “African-American Muslims,” Competing Visions of Islam in the United States, 135-176.

(R) Edward Curtis, “Peril and Possibility: Muslim Life in the United States” Islam in World Cultures, 283-307



(R) Sulayman Nyang, "Convergence and Divergence in an emergent community," The Muslims of America, ed. Y. Haddad, 236-249.

On the Course Web-site (recommended)

  1. Malcolm X -- on the importance of Islam in his life

  2. Fundamental -- Islam in the compositions of a British rap group

  3. “Muslim Roots, U.S. Blues” – link to article on the connections between Muslim traditions and American blues music.

  4. Links to web-sites on Islam in America

  5. Links to the Pluralism Project web-site and profiles of Muslims in America


BOOK LIST


The following paperback books have been ordered in quantity at the Harvard Coop. All titles -- required and recommended -- have been placed on reserve at Lamont, Quad and Andover- Divinity School libraries. Note: A sourcebook with course readings will also be available for purchase in the Textbook section of the Harvard Coop.

Required

  • Ahmed, L. WOMEN AND GENDER IN ISLAM, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992.

  • Cragg, K. READINGS IN THE QUR’AN, San Francisco: Collins, 1988.

  • Esposito, J. ISLAM THE STRAIGHT PATH. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011 (fourth edition)

  • Esposito, J. ed. VOICES OF RESURGENT ISLAM. Oxford University Press, 1983

  • Schimmel, A. ISLAM: AN INTRODUCTION. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992

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