Spring 2020 REL 173 Sunni & Shi’ite Islam

This course is primarily an overview of the doctrines, thought, spirituality, history and diversity of Shi’ite Islam. Our study will complement RELI 272 (“Introduction to Islam”) and various other Islam-related courses that focus primarily on the Sunni Islamic tradition. Although primarily an introduction to Shi’ite Islam, we will considerably touch upon the convergences and divergences between Sunni and Shi’ite interpretations of Islam. We will navigate the subject matter in FIVE SECTIONS. We will begin with origins of the Sunni-Shiite split in early Islamic history through a historical context that is indispensable to the appreciation of the Sunni and Shi’ite points of view and major points of contention (SECTION I). We will then proceed to explore Shiite worldview and theology (PART II), and theological and historical diversity within Shiism with special attention to Ismailism (PART III). We will turn then to geographical diversity especially Shiite minorities, and developments within Shiism during the “Modern Age” (PART IV). We will conclude our study with examination of Shiite spirituality, religious life, piety, material culture and ethics, and certain critical issues such as major themes in polemics between Sunnis and Shiites, the role of Sufism in mediating the Sunni-Shiite divide, and finally, the identity, function and theological significance of the messianic figure of Islam, titled The Mahdi. PART IV will involve extensive collaborative research that will be formally “taught/presented” to the classmates.