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Syllabus

1. The Philosophy of Faith, Prophethood, and Certainty

Why do Muslims believe in God and the existence of prophets? What are “proofs of certainty” in the Islamic tradition? What is the role of “agency” in a faith tradition?

  • The four sources of certainty (in theology and legal theory).
  • The three principles of theology and debates therein.

 

2. Rationalism in the Islamic Tradition

How did rationalism shape law and theology in Islam? How did early rationalists read verses of the Qur’an considered anthropomorphic or antithetical to justice? How is rationalism relevant to Muslim practice today? What are common illogical proofs some thinkers have utilized in debates with their interlocutors?

  • A review of allegorical interpretations of Verses of the Qur’an
  • The four contributions of Umayyads and the Mu‘tazilī response
  • Rationality in Islamic law: legal maxims, six objectives of law, procedural principles

 

3. The Conflicts of Companions

What were the seven major conflicts from the death of the Prophet to the death of ‘Alī? Why did Companions go to war against each other and what are the ramifications today? How did various theological schools deal with this history?

  • The early civil wars and later rebellions
  • The Umayyads and ‘Abbāsids

 

4. What is “Islamic” government and who are the inheritors of the Prophet?

Are the inheritors of the Prophet the caliphs or the scholars? Is the Caliph the ‘Deputy of God’ [khalifat Allah] or the ‘Successor to the Prophet’  [khalifat rasūl Allah]? How was the “sunna” redefined over two centuries? Does Islamic law dictate that a ruler have full legislative and executive authority? What are the characteristics of a legitimate ruler or polity?

  • Prophetic practice and authority in the legal tradition
  • Islamic political theory and the caliphate
  • Democratic rule

 

5. Ḥadīth Skepticism

Why have some Muslim scholars in the twentieth century expressed doubts regarding the authenticity of ḥadīth in the canonical collections of Bukhari and Muslim? What are arguments they utilize to criticize such ḥadīth? What alternative methods do they use to derive law and theology?

  • Subjectivity, agency, and historicity
  • The sunna external to prophetic reports in various juridical methodologies

 

6. The Identity Spectrum

What were six major Muslim responses to imperialism in the early modern period? How have these movements manifested themselves in Muslim communities today?

  • Neo-Sufism, Puritanism, Islamism, Modernism, Messianism, & Traditionalism

 

7. Saudi Arabia and the globalization of puritan conservatism

What are the fundamental beliefs and methodologies that characterize Wahhabism? Why are terrorist organizations in the Muslim world, if inspired by religion, regularly linked to Wahhabism?

  • M. ‘Abd al-Wahhāb and M. ibn Sa‘ūd
  • Wahhābism, Salafism, Sufism

 

8. Sufism and Shi’ism

What is Sufism? What are general practices and beliefs associated with Sufism?  What are the principles and practices that distinguish Shi’ism from Sunnism? Did the Family of the Prophet associate with Shi’i Muslims?  How do Shī‘ī and Sufi thinkers respond to claims that their beliefs and practices have no basis in the sacred sources of Islamic law or theology?

  • Pro-‘Alid sentiment
  • Shī‘ī theology
  • Sufi practices

 

9. The Progressive Muslim Movement

How does the ‘progressive Muslim’ agenda differ from activism that promotes liberal, Western worldviews? Does the movement criticize liberal as well as conservative worldviews? Is there an over-emphasis of popular 7th century Arabian beliefs and culture in mosques today? Is there a conservative, anti-intellectual mosque culture that intimidates and excludes Muslims with different views? Does Islamic feminism necessitate a “difficult double commitment”? How do progressive theologians and jurists engage LGBT individuals who would like to convert to Islam or are born to Muslim families?

  • The Objectives of Islamic Law vs. Substantive Law.
  • Reform vs. Rejection of Tradition, Radical Activists vs. Liberal Jurists

 

10. Muslim citizens in the modern nation-state

In a post-9/11 era is there fear amongst Muslims in overtly criticizing US domestic and foreign policies? What are tensions that exist in Muslim communities living in Western countries? What are theories regarding authoritarianism and democratization relevant to Muslim-majority countries? What are non-theological factors that drive unrest in the Muslim world?

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