upcoming assignments

Homework assignment due Friday 9/6

You are handing in your notes on this assignment (5 points) on Friday 9/6 so that we can discuss your process and findings.

  1. Pose a question to the Qur’an, on anything. Frame it explicitly as a question, and note this question down.
  2. Now you’re going to try to use the book to answer it. Start with the index to Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation, to navigate to the places in the text that may answer your question. You may need to adjust your search and use the index several times, or re-frame your question (note this process down).
  3. Answer your question, based on what you find in the text.


Note that the first paper is now due Friday 9/13 (rubric in the syllabus)


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