baraka assignment

Baraka extra credit assignment

You have until the due date for your final paper, 12 PM on Thurs, Dec 13th  to submit, for extra credit, a one-page reflection on baraka by experiencing some aspects of tahajjud. Tahajjud is the special non-required prayer made before dawn. Baraka is a sense of heightened goodness that is palpably felt when certain things are done in a certain manner at certain times, things that break the mold of self-centeredness and have no actual “use.” This could apply to something as mundane as sharing a meal rather than eating alone, of giving someone water to drink (remember that in many parts of the world today, by some counts for every 1 out of 9 people, there is no access to clean water), or getting up before dawn and concentrating on a precise bodily movement.

Without any intention to pray and without Qur’an recitation, you are not actually praying in the Muslim manner when you do any of the following. This exercise is only meant to help you experience the embodied aspect of practice.


Set your alarm clock for 4 am (the exercise only works if you get up from sleep, not if you have been awake till 4)

Lightly rinse your hands, arms, face, and feet with water

Ensure that your clothes are clean, lay down a “prayer mat” (a clean t-shirt will do), and stand on it barefoot

Make the motions you see in the video of Husain Abdullah, paying attention to gracefulness of movement and good form. Your knees, palms, nose, and forehead should touch the floor.

In your reflection, tell me what happened to your mind when you attempted the exercise.


Course description: This course will begin with an overview of the development and functions of the classical Islamic textual tradition, focusing on academic critiques of the historical evidence we use in order to understand this tradition. We will briefly look at the differences between Sunni, Shi’ite, and Sufi worldviews, and end with an investigation of how Islam as a religion exists beyond the tradition through a study of ethnographic works covering practice in Islamic societies around the world (including the US, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia). Throughout the course, we will focus on themes in modern scholarship on Islam, including women’s and gender issues, politics of “Islamic law,” reform movements, religious minorities, and popular practice. A prominent theme of the course is a critique of structures of power through investigating a history of law and theories of hermeneutics (the role of law and the role of text). This course is meant to deconstruct the notion of a definition or profile for a religion or adherent of a religion, by showing how such definitions and profiles tell us more about our own assumptions than about anyone else. Therefore, our first step is to prohibit statements, in class and in written assignments, by teacher and students, that “Islam does/says/means” or that “Islam is” something or the other.


Course objectives:

  1. Familiarity with the classical Islamic textual tradition
  2. Analysis of case studies that challenge a uniform view of the Islamic religious tradition
  3. Application in written assignments of critical and theoretical approaches


Grading Criteria:

2 homework and in-class group assignments (5 points each)

Weekly pop quizzes on the reading, 5 of which will be graded (10 points each)

Short paper-news item (15 points)

Short paper-response to King (25 points)

Midterm Paper: 6-8 pages (45 points)

Final paper: 10-12 pages (55 points)

Total:  200 points


An extra credit opportunity will be available toward the end of the course.


Required Texts:

1) Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an (Amana Publications, n.d.)

*this is the translation and commentary that we will refer to in class, but I encourage your reading and bringing in other translations of the Qur’anic text; several published translations are freely available on the internet: ISBN 9781590080269

2) Fadwa el Guindi, Veil: Modesty, Privacy, and Resistance (Berg, 2003): ISBN 9781859739297

3) Michael Sells, Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations (White Cloud, 2007): ISBN 9781883991692

All other readings will be available as pdf or through ebook links on Voices