Academic Programs 

Contemporary Islamic Ethics (ET-655)
Summer 2008

For Muslims committed to living Islam as a way of life, contemporary society offers many challenges. A commitment to the common good exists in tension with the need to protect individual rights. The desire to uphold family values may conflict with the need to defend pluralism and civil liberties. In a world threatened with violence from many sources, self-defense and security take on new meaning. In this class, we will examine these tensions and the Islamic principles that can help Muslims live ethically and with integrity in American society. Case studies will include debates about abortion, gay marriage, militarism and minimum wage.

Meeting Day, Time and Dates:
Monday – Thursday: 9am – 4pm; lunch break: 12:15 – 1:15.
Friday: 9am – 4pm; lunch and prayer break: 12pm – 2pm.

Ingrid Mattson
Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9531




Course Syllabus


  1. Read the articles indicated below with a ** before the start of class. Short written summary of readings or copies of personal notes (note can be informal, bullet points and should be no more than 300 words per article) to be submitted to professor at beginning of first day of class. I don’t expect you to understand all the content of the articles – we will discuss them in class. However, it is important to have this reading done ahead of time so we can begin on time. (20 points)
  2. Fully participate in all classes unless permission for absence is granted by instructor. (20 points)
  3. Prepare a 20-30 minute oral presentation for Thursday or Friday (time will be assigned by instructor). Topics must be selected from list below and approved by the professor before or by the first day of class. Written notes must be submitted to instructor on day of presentation. (20 points)
  4. Submit final paper or project by August 15, 2008 (40 points)

Class hours:

Monday – Thursday:  9am – 4pm; lunch break:  12:15 – 1:15.
Friday:  9am – 4pm; lunch and prayer break:  12pm – 2pm.

Historical Background

**A Kevin Reinhart, “The Origin of Islamic Ethics,” The Blackwell Companion to Religious Ethics, ed. William Schweicker (London: Blackwell, 2005): 244-253

**A Kevin Reinhart, “Islamic Law as Islamic Ethics,” Journal of Religious Ethics, v. 11/2 (Fall 1983): 186-203.

**Richard M. Frank, “Moral Obligation in Classical Muslim Theology,” Journal of Religious Ethics v. 11/2 (Fall 1983): 204 – 223.

**Charles E. Butterworth, “Ethics in Medieval Philosophy,” Journal of Religious Ethics v. 11/2 (Fall 1983): 224 – 249.

**Peter J. Awn, “The Ethical Concerns of Classical Sufism” Journal of Religious Ethics v. 11/2 (Fall 1983): 240-263.

Tools for Ethical Reasoning

**Umar Abd-Allah, “Living Islam with Purpose,” Nawawi Foundation Paper,

Mohammad Hashim Kamali, “al-Maqasid al-Shari`ah: the objectives of Islamic law,”

Anver M. Emon, “Natural Law and Natural Rights in Islamic Law,” Journal of Law and Religion, v. 20, no. 2 (2004-2005): 351-395.

Sherman A. Jackson, “Muslims, Islam and Public Policy in the United States,” published on the web-site of the International Strategy and Policy Institute:

Mohammad Fadel, "Public Reason as a Strategy for Principled Reconciliation: The Case of Islamic Law and International Human Rights" . U Toronto, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 981777 Available at SSRN: (forthcoming, Chicago Journal of International Law)

Mohammad Fadel, "The True, the Good and the Reasonable: The Theological and Ethical Roots of Public Reason in Islamic Law" (March 2007). U Toronto, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 977206 Available at SSRN: (forthcoming, Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence)

Why “Contemporary” Islamic Ethics?
Umar Abd-Allah, “Islam and the Cultural Imperative,” A Nawawi Foundatin Paper,

Umar Abd-Allah, “Innovation and Creativity in Islam,” A Nawawi Foundation Paper,

Presentation Topics (other topics can be suggested): 

1. Adoption
2. Marriage and the state (gay marriage, polygamy)
3. Animal rights
4. Environmentalism
5. Stem cell research
6. Weapons of Mass Destruction
7. Just/Unjust War
8. Civil disobedience
9. Torture/Prisoners of War
10. Freedom of religion/expression
11. Consumer ethics
12. Business ethics
13. Ethics of correctional system: rehabilitation/punishment, services
14. Death penalty
15. Sex offenders: punishment and treatment
16. Water access/distribution
17. Reparations
18. Affirmative action
19. Euthanasia
20. Misogyny
21. Religion and the state
22. Education
23. Minority rights
24. Education: private, public or parochial?


Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500