Academic Programs 

Understanding Islam: Rumor and Reality  IS-515-4  Fall 2002

An introductory course which does not assume prior knowledge or experience of Islam, this course will review the geography, demography and cultures of Muslim peoples and examine the historical development of Islamic religion and civilizational achievements, modern self-statement and inter-religious/inter-cultural issues. Participants will develop skills to distinguish the realities of Islam from the stereotypes that prevail in the United States. 


Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Tuesdays from 7:00 p.m. to 9:20 p.m.

Location: Room 206

Ibrahim Ozdemir
Adjunct Professor of Islamic Studies and Assistant Professor, Ankara University Divinity School, Ankara, Turkey

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9500

Course Syllabus
Class web site

Required Reading

The following books are required in full and are available in the Seminary bookstore. (Additional Xeroxed readings will be distributed for some class sessions.) 

1.  Bruce B. Lawrence, Shattering the Myth: Islam Beyond Violence, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1998. 
2.  Al-Ghazali, The Faith and Practice of, Translated by W.M. Watt, 1952. (Reserve) 3.  Fazlur Rahman, Major Themes of the Qur'an (Minneapolis: Bbliotheca Islamica, 19
4.  Karen Armstrong, Muhammad: A biography of the Prophet, Harper San Francisco, 1992.  

Topics and Readings: 

September 10: Introduction and Orientation

Syed Abul-Ala Maududi, Four Basic Qur'anic Terms, Islamic Publications, Lahore (Pakistan), 1996.  Introduction, (xerox)  
al-Ghazali, "BELIEF IN GOD: The Jerusalem Treatise". (xerox)

September 17: Who are these Muslims, anyway?

a. Bruce B. Lawrence, Shattering the Myth, pp.3-29.
b. Armstrong, pp. 1-15.
c. Al-Ghazali, The Beginning of Guidance, ch 1.

September 24: God's Revelations to Humanity

a. Rahman, Major Themes, pp. 1-16
b. The Beginning of Guidance, ch 2.  
c. Maurice Bucaille, The Bible, The Qur'an, and Science, pp. i-ix (xerox) d.    Collin Turner, "A Revolution of Belief". (Xerox)

October 1: God's Revelations to Humanity, cont

a. Rahman, Major Themes, pp. 80-105

b. Mahmoud Ayoub, "The House of Sorrows," from Redemptive Suffering in Islam,  pp. 23-52 (xerox)


October 8: Human Nature and Responsibility

 a.  Rahman, Major Themes, pp. 17-36
b.  Lawrence , Myth, pp. 109-156.
c.   Lois Lamya ' al-F'aruqi, "Women in a Qur'anic Society", Al-Tawhid , Vol I. (Xerox)
d.  Chisti. "Female Spirituality in Islam" (in Nasr, Islamic Spirituality I) (Xerox)


 March 8: Humans in Community

 a.    Rahman, Major Themes, ,pp. 37-64
e.  Lawrence , Myth, pp. 33-50.
b.    Sukran Vahide, "Jihad In The Modern Age: Bediuzzaman Said Nursi's Interpretation Of Jihad". (Xerox)


October 15: Nature and the Arts

 a.    Rahman, Major Themes, 65-79
b.    Said Nursi; Words, 33th Word, (xerox)
c.      Sayyed Hossein Nasr, Islamic Art and Spirituality, pp. 3-63, 105-202 (xerox)
d.    Sheikh Mohammed Shihabuddin Nadvi, "Holy Qur'an and the Natural World",
D:\QuranTefsir\Islamic Reference Books\default-44.htm (xerox)


October 22: Forces of Evil 

a.    Rahman, 'Satan and Evil", Major Themes, pp. 121-131. (Xerox)

b.    Mahmoud M. Ayoub, "The Problem of Suffering in Islam", (Xerox)

c.     Mehmet S. Aydin, "The Problem of Evil in the Risale-i Nur". (Xerox)

d.    Said Nursi, Why Devils created?, Letters, pp. 63-65. (Xerox)


October 29: Islamic Mystical Thought 

a.    Annemarie Schimmel, "What is Sufism?" and "The Feminine Element in         Sufism," from Mystical Dimensions of Islam, pp. 3-22, 426-435 (xerox)

b.    Abdal Hakim "Murad. Islamic Spirituality: The Forgotten Revolution"  (xerox)    

November 5: What is a Muslim Community? 

a.    Rahman, Major Themes, pp.132-149

b.    Faruqi, "The Principle of Ummah", pp.103-128. (xerox)


November 12: What is a Muslim Community, cont. 

a.    Faruqi, "The Principle of Family", 129-139(xerox)

b.    al-Ghazali, The Faith and Practice

c.     The Empire of Faith: A Documentary by PBS.


November 19: Eschatology 

a.    Rahman, Major Themes, pp.106-120 b.    Nursi, Words, pp.107-118. (Xerox)


December 3: Diversity and Dialogue


    Rahman, Major Themes, pp.162-170. Muzzamil Siddiqi, "Unity and Diversity: Islamic Perspective". (xerox) Thomas Michel `Muslim-Christian dialogue and cooperation in the thought of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi'. The Muslim World. 89:3-4, (1999). (xerox)


December 10: Conclusion

 Course Requirements:

1.    Reading the required selections for each week and participating in class discussions.

 2.    A written essay of approximately 5 pages indicating some of the things that you have found most surprising, interesting or useful in your study of Islam to that point. Due by October 15 - results to be shared with the class October 15 or October 22.

 3.    A written essay of approximately 15 pages, due by the last class session. You will be asked to share with the class sometime before the end of the semester what progress you are making on the development of your essay. The essay may be:


  1. A research paper on a topic of your choice, to be determined in consultation with the instructor, OR
  1. An exercise in inter-net detection. You may spend the semester collecting materials from the inter-net about Islam in as many different parts of the contemporary world as possible. For the essay you are asked to analyze these reports, suggesting where they are representative or not representative of what you have learned about Islam, namely, are they "rumor" or "reality," and according to what definition, OR
  1. A comparison of Muslim and Christian doctrines and religious practices, suggesting where you think there may be profitable areas for Muslim-Christian dialogue and/or cooperation.



Encyclopedia of Islam DS37 .E523 (REF)

(The best single source in the library on Islam and Islamic culture.)


The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World DS35.53 .O95 1995 (REF)

(Excellent resource on modern Islam -- e.g., women in the Islamic world)


"Islam and the West: A Survey." The Economist 332:7875 (August 6, 1994)

(Excellent overview of contemporary Islam and an assessment of its place on the world stage in relation to the interests of the United States and Western Europe .)


Ali, Abdullah Yusef. (1993). The Meaning of the Holy Quran. New ed. Brentwood , MD : Amana Corporation.

Beck. Women in the Muslim World HQ1170 .W59

  Denny. Introduction to Islam BP 161.2 D46 1985 (One of the finest surveys of Islam as a whole we have available; particularly good on Islamic family life, different varieties of Islam in different parts of the world, and Qur'anic recitation as a central religious rite.) Eaton. Islam and the Destiny of Man BP 161.2 .E27 1985

Esposito. Islam the Straight Path, 3rd ed. BP161.2 .E85 1998

(One of the better surveys of Islam as a whole. Particularly good on modern and contemporary social and political developments. Special chapter on issues of authority and interpretation.)

al-Faruqi. The Cultural Atlas of Islam DS36.85 .A39 1986 (REF)

(An excellent overview not only of the varieties of Islam throughout the Muslim world, but also of basic Muslim beliefs and practices. Contains a lot of good information not found elsewhere--e.g., about Muslim missionary activity.) al-Ghazzali. Worship in Islam BP184.3 .G513 1981 (A classic statement of the nature and meaning of worship in Islam, by one of the all time great figures in Islam, a theologian, a philosopher, and a mystic.) Smith, Jane. Islam in (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999) al-Qaradawi The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam BP188 .Q2913 1989

(A helpful survey of the content of Islamic morality and law in every aspect of life.)

Schimmel. Deciphering the Signs of God: A Phenomenological Approach to Islam BP 161.2 .S29 1994

(Excellent survey of Islam as a whole; one of the best. Particularly good on Islamic worship.)

Schimmel. And Muhammad Is His Messenger: The Veneration of the Prophet in Islamic Piety PJ827 .S3313

(The best survey of Muslim attitudes toward Muhammad to be found anywhere.)

Schimmel. Mystical Dimensions of Islam BP189.2 .S34

(One of the very best surveys of the Way of Mystical Quest in Islam, and of the varieties of Sufi traditions to be found.)

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