Courses Taught at Carleton (2009-Present)
RELI 1710: Judaism, Christianity, Islam
After coming to terms with the nature of monotheism and its relationship to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, this course will then survey these faiths’ central doctrinal, ritualistic, and spiritual expressions.
RELI 1730: Interpretations of Religion
This course introduces the academic study of religion by drawing on the work of key theorists in the field of religious studies, as well as materials from a variety of world religions. Students will thus gain exposure to the discipline’s approaches to such phenomena as the sacred, myth and symbolism, religious experience, and religion and society.
RELI 2310: Introduction to Islam
Situating the study of Islam in the broader academic discipline of religious studies, we will begin this course with an inquiry into the life and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad and the revelation of the Quran. We will then go on to examine the most significant expressions of the classical and post-classical Islamic tradition: scriptural exegesis, Prophetic traditions, theology, philosophy, mysticism, law, art, music, and science. Due attention will also be given to developments in modern Islam, with particular emphasis on Western perceptions of Islam, Islam’ s encounter with the modern world, and Islam post 911.
RELI 2320: Islam in the Modern World
After developing a proper understanding of Islam’s pre-modern interaction with the West and the image of Islam in the eyes of medieval Europe, we will turn to the complex set of circumstances which gave rise to Islam’s encounter with the modern world, paying close attention to the key debates amongst Muslims in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries over the modernization of Islam and Muslim societies.
RELI 2330: Introduction to the Quran
Although the Quran is one of the world’s most widely read books, it is also one of its least understood books. In this course we will therefore attempt to come to terms with the Quran through a careful study of its content, form, style, central themes, and process of canonization. Emphasis will also be placed on the Quran’s vast interpretive tradition (tafsir), as well as the various theories and methods employed by modern scholars in understanding the Quran’s textual history, relationship to the Bible and Near Eastern culture, and its various stylistic and linguistic features.
RELI 2340: The Life and Image of Muhammad
The first part of this course will offer a survey of the life and times of the Prophet Muhammad, paying attention to his teachings and the manner in which they were preserved and transmitted in the two centuries following his death. In the second part of this course we will study the Prophet’s “image” as it has been articulated in a wide variety of doctrinal and devotional texts from the classical period of Islam to the present era.
RELI 2713: Mysticism
This course offers an investigation into the main historical expressions of mysticism, as well as the various debates in the academy surrounding its definition and interpretation. Drawing on the writings of the foremost past and present representatives of mysticism on the one hand, as well as the work of some major scholars engaged in its study on the other, we shall explore such key topics as mystical “experience”, PCEs or “Pure Consciousness Events”, and the relationship between empiricism and ineffability.
RELI 3320: Classical Islamic Thought I
This course offers a survey of the central ideas and schools of Islamic theology and philosophy from the middle of the eighth century to the end of the twelfth century. We will begin by situating the early debates in Islamic theology within their social and religious contexts, and will then study the main figures of early Islamic philosophy, from al-Kindi to Averroes.
RELI 3321: Classical Islamic Thought II
Here we will be concerned with the development of Islamic thought from the beginning of the thirteenth century to the middle of the nineteenth century CE. Particular attention will be paid to the ideas of such important figures of this phase of Islamic intellectual history as Suhrawardi, Ibn al-‘Arabi, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Nasir al-Din Tusi, and Mulla Sadra.
RELI 3322: Shi‘i Islam I
This course is an introduction to the doctrines and teachings of Shi‘i Islam. Situating the nascent development of Shi‘ism within its historical, theological, and political contexts, we will go on to study the emergence of the major branches of the Shi‘i tradition, paying particular attention to their distinctive approaches to questions of leadership, community, law, and scripture.
RELI 3333: Shi‘i Islam II
This course explores Shi‘ism’s central intellectual and spiritual expressions. Beginning with a close look at the role of Neoplatonism in Islamic thought, we will go on to study several key Ismaili philosophical doctrines. The course will then shift its focus to the main outlines of Twelver Shi‘i thought, investigating its initial encounter with Mu‘tazilism, developed scholastic theological traditions, and culmination during the reign of the Safavids. The remainder of the course will trace the development of Shi‘i thought from the Qajar period into the modern era.
RELI 3325: Contemporary Islamic Thought
After situating the development of Islamic thought in the twentieth century in its variegated contexts, will turn to the work of several leading contemporary Muslim intellectuals, investigating the manner in which they attempt to formulate Islamic responses to some of the most important problems which confront religion today: secularism as a social and political reality, the relationship between science and religion, the environmental crisis, and religious diversity.
RELI 3330: Sufism
This course offers a detailed exposition of the origins, development, and various expressions of Sufism, Islam’s mystical tradition. We will begin with an inquiry into the origins of the Sufi tradition, and will then turn our attention to its main theoretical and institutional manifestations over the centuries.
RELI 3843: Al-Ghazali’s Niche of Lights
This course introduces students to the thought of the famous Muslim theologian, mystic, philosopher, and jurist Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali (d. 1111). We will closely study (in translation) one of his last and most mature works, The Niche of Lights (Mishkat al-anwar). This text is particularly important because it concisely presents the main outlines of al-Ghazali’s worldview, bringing together a number of different disciplines ranging from ontology and cosmology to psychology and scriptural interpretation.
RELI 4740: Theory and Method
This seminar offers an in-depth look at the main theoretical and methodological problems which inform the academic study of religion. We will pay particular attention to the genesis of the modern discipline of religious studies, and will go on to examine the findings of the most influential theorists in the field, from Emile Durkheim and William James, to Mircea Eliade and Henry Corbin.
RELI 4851: The Thought and Poetry of Rumi
The famous mystic Jalal al-Din Rumi (d. 1273) has been hailed by many as the greatest love poet of human civilization. The work of this seminar will attempt to understand why that is the case. We will do so by engaging in an in-depth examination of Rumi’s metaphysics of love, cosmology, use of symbolism, theology, spiritual psychology, and poetic art through a detailed study of his writings (in translation), situating them in their appropriate religious, historical, and cultural contexts.
HUMS 4904: The Metaphysics of Ibn ‘Arabi
In this course we will study the thought of one of the medieval period’s most profound and controversial figures, the Andalusian Sufi Ibn ‘Arabi (d. 1240). We will first turn our attention to a detailed examination of Ibn ‘Arabi’s ontology and conception of imagination. This will then set the stage for a full-scale engagement with his theology, epistemology, hermeneutics, soteriology, and doctrine of human perfection.
HUMS 4904 The Philosophy of Avicenna
This seminar offers an in-depth investigation into the philosophy of Abu ‘Ali Husayn ibn Sina, more commonly known in the west as Avicenna (d. 1037 CE). Avicenna is widely recognized as one of the towering figures of medieval philosophy, his influence spanning not just the entire post-classical Islamic intellectual tradition but also Latin scholasticism. We will investigate the innovative ways in which Avicenna naturalizes materials from ancient Greek philosophy, the commentators of Late Antiquity, and Islam into his highly original, grand philosophical synthesis. Our weekly meetings will be devoted to a careful study of some key texts in the Avicennian corpus (in translation), covering topics ranging from metaphysics and psychology to eschatology and philosophy of religion.
RELI 4981: Islamic Cosmology (also a graduate course, RELI 5851)
This course offers an in-depth exploration of Islamic cosmological doctrines. Through close engagement with the work of both pre-modern and contemporary scholars, we will work to gain a better understanding of how the theoretical concerns of Islamic cosmology relate to such issues of global concern as the environmental crisis, animal rights, the nature of education and learning, and the relationship between religion and secularism.