Jonathan A.C. Brown

Introduction to Islamic Civilization

Dr. Jonathan Brown

Tues/Thurs 3-4:50 pm
KNE 110

Course Description:

Islamic Civilization refers to the world civilization that grew out of the religion of Islam.  A set of shared institutions, intellectual traditions and artistic styles, it matured throughout the Middle Ages and Early Modern period.  Encounters with Europe and Modernity have presented crucial challenges to Islamic civilization, raising questions of whether such a civilization still exists or if today we only find distinct countries and peoples sharing what remains of an Islamic heritage.  This course will provide an introduction to Islamic Civilization and the status of the Islamic legacy today.

Required Readings: available at the UW Bookstore

  • The Oxford History of Islam, ed. John Esposito
  • Covering Islam, Edward Said
  • Homeboy, HM Naqvi


Assignments and Evaluation: grades will be based on…

  • Midterm: 30%
  • Final Exam: 35%
  • Class Participation/Attendance in the Friday Discussion Sessions: 25%
  • ‘1 minute’ essays in lectures (based on readings and lecture): 10%


Course Schedule and Assignments:

The following assignments are due on the date listed and are for the Tues/Thurs. lectures only.  Assignments for the Friday discussion sections will be given in class on Tuesday.

Week 1:

March 30       Introduction

April 1            Muhammad and the Foundation of the Islamic State

  • Read: Oxford History of Islam, Chap. 1 


Week 2:

April 6            Islamic Law and Society: Foundations and Development

  • Read: Oxford History of Islam, Chap. 2


April 8            Islamic Law and Society: Efflorescence in the Classical Period

  • Read: Oxford History of Islam, Chap. 3


Week 3:

April 13          Sciences in Classical Islam

  • Read: Oxford History of Islam, Chap. 4


April 15          Literature in Classical Islam

  • Read: see readings distributed by email (Ode of Tarafa, al-Jahiz, al-Ma'ari)


Week 4:

April 20         Islamic Theology and Philosophy

  • Read: Oxford History of Islam, Chap. 6


April 22          Midterm

Week 5:

April 27          Arts in Classical Islam

  • Read: Oxford History of Islam, Chap. 5


April 29          The Age of the Gunpowder Empires

  • Read: Oxford History of Islam, Chap. 8


Week 6:

May 4             Islam in India and China

  • Read: Oxford History of Islam, Chap. 9 & 10


May 6             Islam in Africa

  • Read: Oxford History of Islam, Chap. 11


Week 7

May 11            A Tour of Music

  • Read: Homeboy, 1-73


May 13           Revival and Reform

  • Read: Oxford History of Islam, Chap. 12
  • Read: Homeboy, 73-100


Week 8

May 18           Islam and the Colonial Experience

  • Read: Oxford History of Islam, Chap. 13
  • Read: Homeboy, 101-138


May 20           Gender and Sexuality in Islamic Civilization

  • Read: Covering Islam, Introduction to Vintage edition, Introduction
  • Read: Homeboy, 139-178


Week 9

May 25           Islam in the Global World

  • Read: Oxford History of Islam, Chaps. 14 & 15
  • Read: Homeboy 179-202


May 27           Jihad and Global Conflicts

  • Read:  Covering Islam, Chapter 1
  • Read: Homeboy, 203-274


Week 10

June 1                        Islam and the West

  • Read: Oxford History of Islam, Chap. 7
  • Read: Covering Islam, Chapter 2

June 3                        Final Discussion


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: Thursday 11-12:30pm in M-27 on the second floor of Denny above the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Office


Miloud Amin Tais, Teaching Assistant

  • Office Hours: Thursday 10:30-12 in Art 339 or by appointment

Brittany Clark, Teaching Assistant

  • Office hours: Wednesday 1-3 in Art 339 or by appointment

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: ( ).  Please familiarize yourself with the University’s definition of plagiarism as described on this site.  By receiving this syllabus you are agreeing to abide by those principles.  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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