Spring 2014 REL 375 Islamic Eschatology
This course surveys death, afterlife, apocalypse, and messianic themes within the Islamic theology, history and culture; in other words, it deals with Islamic personal and cosmic eschatology. Part I surveys Personal and Cosmic eschatology: Personal eschatology will explore human death and the afterlife, the journey from the grave till the judgment, depictions of heaven and hell and purpose and meaning of life (and death); Cosmic eschatology will detail Islamic beliefs regarding the apocalypse and end of times, the messianic figure of the Mahdi and collective judgment of humanity. Then we will explore the impact of these eschatological ideas on intellectual, cultural and political currents in Islamic history, and in contemporary times. Our examination will begin with the scriptural sources of Islamic eschatology, i.e., the Qur’an and the hadith. We will then turn to how Muslim scholarship has elaborated and expanded on these scriptural themes, thus various theological and exegetical works on the themes of death, apocalypse and the afterlife. Part II then examines the influence of eschatological ideas in the realms of Muslim political, social and artistic spheres of life, and important debates on eschatological issues within Muslim intellectual life. In Part III we will examine Muslim spiritual interpretations on the eschatological themes of death, apocalypse, and messianism, and briefly, how Islamic eschatology compares with the eschatological views of other religious traditions. The course will conclude with reflections on the relevance of the study of Islamic eschatology for the modern world. Readings will include a combination of primary source material (in translation) and secondary scholarship on the subject.