Course description: This is an introduction to Islam which will give you a foundation in the classical Islamic textual tradition. You’ll become familiar with the basic concepts, their history, and the various ways in which they’re utilized. We’ll centralize two topics: the practice of law (both medieval and in modern states) and popular practices (with a focus on dress). A prominent theme of the course is a critique of structures of power; hence the focus on law, how it changes, and what it’s really about.


This course is meant to deconstruct the idea that we can define a religion or create a profile for the adherents of any religion. It will show you that such definitions and profiles tell us more about our own assumptions than about anyone else.


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