Jonathan A.C. Brown

Syllabus Summer 2010 A Term

Introduction to Islam

Dr. Jonathan Brown

Tues/Wed/Thurs. 10:20-1:30
Smith 211

Course Description:
Islam is a world religion with approximately 1.3 billion adherents.  It has also served as the organizing theme of a world civilization, numerous massive empires and important geo-political resistance movements since the faith’s founding in seventh-century Arabia.  This class provides an introduction to the tenets, practice and historical development of the religion of Islam.  It also introduces students to the principal genres of scholarly and religious expression in Islamic civilization. 

Textbook and Readings for the course, available at UW Bookstore:

Assignments and Evaluation: grades will be based on…

  • Midterm: 40%
  • Final Exam: 40%
  • Class Participation: 10%
  • ‘1 minute’ essays in lectures (based on readings and lecture): 10%


Course Schedule and Assignments:
The following assignments are due on the date listed.

Tues. 6/22    Part 1: Introduction: Goals of the Course
                        Part 2: The Near East and Arabia on the Eve of Islam

  • Read: Brown, Intro to Islam, 3-34.

Wed. 6/23       Part 1: Near East & Eve of Islam cont.
Part 2: The Life of the Prophet Muhammad

  • Read: Brown, Intro to Islam, 53-96
  • Selection from Ibn Ishaq’s Sira (e-reserve)

Thurs. 6/24   Part 1: The Quran
                        Part 2: Islamic Conquests and Integration into the Near East

  • Read: Brown, Intro to Islam: 'Chapter 5: the Quran' and 'Chapter 7: The Conquests'
  • Qur’an, selections: Surat al-Najm, Surat al-Anfal, Surat al-Ahzab, Surat al-Duha, Surat al-Mudaththir (e-reserve) (nb: surat means ‘chapter’)
  • Muqatil b. Sulayman and Ibn Kathir (Quranic Commentaries) (e-reserve)

Tues. 6/29    Part 1: Islamic Conquests and Integration into the Near East cont.
                        Part 2: The Islamic State and the Rise of Sectarianism

  • Read: Brown, Intro to Islam, Chapter 8: Religion of Empire and Chapter 9: The Caliphate
  • Selection from al-Tabari’s History (e-reserve)
  • Herodotus on the Medean capital (e-reserve)

Wed. 6/30     Part 1: Hadith, Transmission and the Idiom of Islamic Law.
                        Part 2: Shiism

  • Read: Brown, Intro to Islam, Chapter 6: Tradition Literature, Chapter 10: Islamic Law
  • Selection from al-Shafi’i’s Risala (e-reserve)
  • ‘Treatise on the Occultation of the Hidden Imam (e-reserve)

Thurs. 7/1     Part 1: Shiism cont.
                        Part 2: Islamic Theology, Philosophy

  • Read: Brown, Intro to Islam, Chapter 11: Islamic Theology and Philosophy
  • Basri and Qudama (e-reserve): ‘The Letter of al-Hasan al-Basri on Free Will,’ ‘The Creed of Ibn Qudama’
  • The Martyrdom of al-Husayn’ (e-reserve)

Tues. 7/6        Part 1: Midterm

Wed. 7/7        Part 1: Sufism and Popular Islam
                        Part 2: Islam in the Middle Period

  • Read: Brown, Intro Islam, Chapter 12: Sufism, Chapter 13: Turks, Crusaders and Mongols
  • ‘Sufi Prayers and Catechisms’ (e-reserve)

Thurs. 7/8      Part 1: Islam in the Middle Period cont.
                        Part 2: Islam in World Civilization: Gunpowder Empires and Revival and Reform

  • Read: Brown, Intro to Islam, Chapter 14: Revival and Reform
  • God’s Unruly Friends (e-reserve)
  • Busbeq’s letter (e-reserve)

Tues. 7/13    Part 2: Islam and Modernity

  • Read: Seyyed H. Nasr, Islamic Art and Spirituality, (e-reserve), 3-59.

Wed. 7/14     Part 1: Islamic Art and Spirituality
                        Part 2: The Question of Jihad

  • Read: Brown, Intro to Islam, Chapter 15: Islam and the West
  • Keddie, An Islamic Response to Imperialism, 36-45 (e-reserve)
  • Selection from Reuven Firestone, Jihad pg. 47-97 (e-reserve)
  • Writings of Osama b. Laden, in Messages to the World (e-reserve)

Thurs. 7/15   Part 1: Gender and Islam
                        Part 2: Islam in a Global World

  • Chapters on Birth Control and Divorce, (e-reserve) 108-10, 113-15
  • Amina Wadud, “Qur’an and Woman,” Liberal Islam (1998), pp. 127-138;

Tues. 7/20      Review

Wed. 7/21       Final Exam


Administrative Issues and Grading:

This class is conducted by the professor and two teaching assistants, who will be responsible for the Friday discussion sessions and grading.

Questions concerning grading should be addressed to the TA’s, with any unresolved questions addressed to the professor.


Contact Information:

Dr. Jonathan Brown

  • Email:
  • Phone: 206-616-2390
  • Office Hours: Tuesday 1:30-3:00 pm in M-27 on the second floor of Denny above the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Office


Academic Honesty

            In case of academic misconduct, such as copying homework or cheating on quizzes or exams, the offending student will be penalized in accordance with the policy of the College of Arts & Sciences: ( ). Those students who allow others to copy their work will also be penalized.


Disability Accommodations

            If you would like to request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, (206) 543-8924. If you have a letter from Disabled Student Services indicating you have a disability that requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to the professor so we can discuss the accommodations you might need for the class. Their website is:  ( ), in 448 Schmitz, or 206-543-8924 (V/TTY).

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