Spring 2015 REL 272 Introduction to Islam

Possibly, over 1.6 billion human beings identify with “Islam”, as their religion, their way of life, their path to God or/and sometimes as a revolutionary alternative to the western worldview and ways of life. An overview of its origins in history, doctrines, myths and core beliefs, rites and rituals, aesthetic and cultural expressions, lived Muslim experience, and various religious and intellectual, this course examines “Islam” as a “religion”. Our explorations will encompass various introductory texts on “Islam” written by both Western scholars and well-known Muslim intellectuals writing for the Western audience. This textual study will be complemented by a variety of weekly multimedia sources. While careful listening to these various “introductions to Islam” (and nuances that separate those from one another), our study will culminate in your working in groups and developing your own “introduction to Islam”. Your group “introduction to Islam” will then be contested and debated by other competing accounts presented by your classmates. Our study will conclude with theoretical considerations in defining Islam, and discussion about criteria for navigating and choosing or rejecting these varying and often competing interpretations of Islam. Obviously and inherently polyvalent and subject to various interpretations, our study this semester, hopefully, will also show that the term “Islam” is a potent and highly complex analytical category with serious political and social ramifications, for example, in debates such as “Islam and the West”, “Radical Islam”, “women and gender in Islam”, and in questions posed such as “is Islam compatible with democracy?” or “is Islam a peaceful religion?” In the process it is hoped that the students would appreciate the complicatedness of any serious attempt to “introduce Islam”, and the stakes that underlie it.