Bachelor Degree Curriculum

Freshman Year: Fall

Intermediate Arabic 1

Please refer to the section on Arabic courses for a description.

Islamic Law 1 | Hanafi Fiqh: Purification and Prayer

The study of the pillars of faith (shahādah) and prayer (ṣalāh), which includes purification (ṭahārah) and ceremonial prayer, introduces Islamic theology and examines the most important and foundational ritual of Islam. Students engage relevant Islamic theological concepts and explore the meaning of jurisprudence (fiqh), the rulings related to ritual prayer, the etiquette of supplication, and the spiritual dimensions of worship. Students aspiring to join the Honors Program are also required to study and memorize a classical text (matn) in the first year to serve as a memory peg for the jurisprudence of their respective school.

Islamic Law 1 | Maliki Fiqh: Purification and Prayer

Islamic law forms the foundation for a life of devotion and servitude to God. The curriculum in Maliki fiqh, therefore, introduces Islamic theology and examines the most important and foundational rituals of Islam. Working systematically through the principles and rules of Muslim ceremonial practice, as envisioned in the school of Imam Mālik b. Anas (711–793) and explained in Al-Murshid al-mu¢īn (The helpful guide), students undertake a detailed study of the pillars of faith (shahādah) and prayer (ṣalāh), which includes purification (ṭahārah) and ceremonial prayer. The course explores the meaning of jurisprudence, the rulings on ritual prayer, obligatory and supererogatory prayers, the etiquette of supplication (du¢ā’), prerequisites for prayer, the status of the one who abandons prayer, apostasy, the status of the worship of non-Muslims, the manner of repairing ruptures in devotional acts, exemptions from compulsory worship, and the spiritual dimensions of worship.

Islamic Law 1 | Shafi‘i Fiqh: Purification and Prayer

As an introduction to Islamic positive law, this course equips students with the knowledge to navigate and fulfill lifelong religious duties, bringing knowledge and confidence to their worship of God. Instruction makes use of two classical texts and their respective commentary traditions: Matn al-ghāyah wa al-taqrīb by Abū Shujā¢al-Aśfahānī and ¢Umdat al-sālik by Aĥmad b. al-Naqīb al-Miśrī. Students learn detailed rulings on purification and daily prayer. They also examine some of the textual proofs for those rulings. Specifically, instruction treats the methods, instruments, and aims of purification, as well as the types of water, ablution, wiping on leather socks, purification while wearing casts, the ways of preparing for prayer, the requirements for valid prayer, the importance of correctly reciting al-Fātiĥah, Friday and Eid, funeral prayers, prayer while sick or while traveling, what may invalidate prayer, and exceptional situations. Key concepts, together with stipulative and declaratory rulings, receive special consideration. Throughout the semester students keep a journal, participate regularly in class discussions, and prepare written assignments. They also take midterm and final exams. The course strongly emphasizes students’ ability to memorize, recall, and apply key concepts related to purification and prayer.

Introduction to the Qur’an

Students undertake an introductory study of the Qur’an to familiarize themselves with its content, arrangement, and vocabulary. For each class, they prepare one part (juz’) of the Qur’an, both in Arabic and in translation. Surveying some of the finer points of language, style, and interpretation, class discussions focus nonetheless on the major themes and arguments of the Qur’an, its overall structure, and the order of its chapters. From a confessional perspective, increased familiarity with every aspect of the Qur’an justifies itself. Additionally, this course prepares students for deeper engagement with the sacred text in Qur’anic sciences during their sophomore year. Finally, as the course requires frequent writing, students refine their critical thinking and research skills.

Trivium Seminar 1: Grammar 

Grammar focuses students’ attention on the symbolic representation of thought in language. To frame grammar in metaphysics, students read Aristotle’s Categories, which lays the foundation for further study of logic and rhetoric. Thereafter, the seminar reviews (1) the prescriptive rules of language, (2) taxonomies of linguistic phenomena, and (3) the mechanics of prosody and syntax. As the cornerstone upon which the whole of a liberal arts curriculum rests, this course develops the analytical skills needed for the close reading of texts. Oedipus Tyrannus provides the paradigm students scrutinize in multiple readings, each through a distinct theoretical lens. Aristotle’s Poetics comments directly upon Sophocles and offers an analysis of mimesis and the elements of tragedy. Through Freud’s On the Interpretation of Dreams, students investigate the pathologies of pity and fear represented in Oedipus’ plight. Finally, Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy explores the Dionysian and Apollonian forces at work in ancient drama. While instruction places primary emphasis on clear writing and cogent argumentation in frequent, short essays on these great texts, the course also includes exercises in recitation, lexicography, and criticism.

Prophetic Biography

To express love, one must know the beloved. The Qur’an affirms that the path to learning divine love consists of following the footsteps of our beloved Prophet ﷺ. To accomplish this task, one must come to know the life, struggles, and moral character of the final Prophet ﷺ. Indeed, the Prophet Muĥammad ﷺ is the model for Muslims, as individuals and communities, and it is the highest purpose for every Muslim to follow his example. Students engage selections from original historical sources and such foundational texts as the Sīrah of Ibn Hishām (d. 218 AH/833 CE), compiled and synthesized in the work of contemporary scholar Martin Lings. Freshmen further examine the authenticated narratives related to the Prophet ﷺ and acquaint themselves with the normative biography Muslims across the globe have recognized. Class participation constitutes an important verification of the care students take to read and assess the arguments and themes in assigned materials. Socratic method quickly exposes incomplete, faulty, or haphazard preparation. The course further requires a critical review in writing of a contemporary monograph on prophetic biography and a final research paper.

Freshman Year: Spring

Intermediate Arabic 2

Please refer to the section on Arabic courses for a description.

Islamic Law 2 | Hanafi Fiqh: Fasting, Zakat, and Pilgrimage

Sophomores continue their examination of the pillars of Islam by focusing on fasting, zakat, and hajj. Students learn how the school of Imam Abū Ĥanīfah understands the principles and rules of fasting, of purifying one’s wealth, and of the rites of the hajj as the basis for a life of devotion and servitude to God. The course covers the linguistic and technical meanings of key terms, as well as the rulings concerning fasting, zakat, and hajj—their integrals, recommended acts, offensive acts, invalidators, ways of making up missed acts, and supererogatory forms. Students gain detailed knowledge of all three pillars of the religion, while also studying some of the pertinent scriptural sources. Lastly, students begin to read legal manuals of the tradition in the Arabic language.

Islamic Law 2 | Maliki Fiqh: Fasting, Zakat, and Pilgrimage

Sophomores continue their examination of the pillars of Islam by focusing on fasting, zakat, and hajj within the framework of the Maliki school. This class delves further into Al-Murshid al-mu¢īn, introduced in the first semester. In particular, students learn how the school of Imam Mālik b. Anas articulates (1) the principles and rules of Muslim financial practices in charity and business dealings, (2) the principles and rules regarding fasting, and (3) procedures to follow in performing hajj as the basis for a life of devotion and servitude to God. Special topics include zakat on monetary wealth, zakat on agriculture and livestock, zakat regarding merchandise and merchants’ inventory, and recipients of zakat. The students and instructor discuss fasting in detail, as well as the full procedure of hajj. The course also briefly touches on the diseases of the heart and their cures.

Islamic Law 2 | Shafi‘i Fiqh: Fasting, Zakat, and Pilgrimage

This second course on Islamic positive law in the Shafi‘i tradition builds upon the foundation of the previous semester and continues the students’ introduction to the Matn al-ghāyah wa al-taqrīb by Abū Shujā¢al-Aśfahānī and ¢Umdat al-sālik by Aĥmad b. al-Naqīb al-Miśrī. Students explore the methods, instruments, aims, and objectives of zakat, fasting, and hajj, along with an examination of some of the textual proofs for those rulings. The course treats such issues as the properties on which zakat is obligatory, livestock, currency, wealth, trade goods, inventory, gold and silver, zakāt al-fiţr, and the distribution of zakat. With regard to fasting, students examine the conditions obligating the fast, things that invalidate the fast, and matters regarding spiritual retreat. Lastly, with regard to hajj, students learn the full procedure of hajj, including the conditions obligating hajj, the integrals of hajj and ¢umrah, what to do and what not to do during hajj, and the question of expiation. Throughout the semester, students keep a journal, participate regularly in class discussions, and prepare written assignments. They also take midterm and final exams. The course strongly emphasizes the students’ ability to memorize, recall, and apply key concepts related to the pillars of Islam.

Trivium Seminar 2: Logic

Students learn Aristotle’s formal system of logic, as developed in the Organon, especially the Prior and Posterior Analytics and On Interpretation. Texts include ancient, medieval, and Renaissance commentaries on the Corpus Aristotelicum from Porphyry, Thomas Aquinas, and John of St. Thomas. Formal logic refers to the structure rather than the matter or content of arguments. It represents terms by symbols, which reveal the elements of a logical proposition and the construction of a syllogism. The metaphysical foundations of Aristotelian formal logic receive special emphasis. Developing core logical principles in light of the acts of the intellect to which they correspond, students’ learning centers upon (1) the concept, which is the product of the act of simple apprehension; (2) the proposition, which arises from the intellect’s combination and division of concepts; and (3) the syllogism, which constitutes the intellect’s act of demonstrative reasoning. The Trivium Seminar in Logic provides a complete set of concepts, rules, and methods by which students can recognize and construct sound arguments. In each class session, students work together to complete logical exercises. In the course of the semester, they take exams that emphasize each discrete act of the intellect. A comprehensive final exam concludes the semester. By the end of the course, students are able to analyze an argument into its premises and conclusion, recast it into proper syllogistic form, and identify formal fallacies. 

Trivium Seminar 3: Rhetoric

Rhetoric constitutes the third discipline of the trivium. Considered the master art, rhetoric presupposes a solid grasp of grammar and logic and draws constantly upon them. For Aristotle, rhetoric is “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.” As the influential modern rhetorician Kenneth Burke (1897–1993) put it, “Rhetoric is rooted in an essential function of language itself, a function that is wholly realistic and continually born anew: the use of language as a symbolic means of inducing cooperation in beings that by nature respond to symbols.” Students analyze important historical treatises in rhetorical theory. In the Gorgias and the Phædrus, they encounter Plato’s censure of the practice and purpose of rhetoric. In Aristotle’s Rhetoric, they find a new theoretical basis for the art. Cicero’s De oratore attempts to reconcile Greek views, and the Institutio oratoria of Quintilian concerns itself with method and application. Putting into practice their training in grammar and logic, students write and revise epideictic, forensic, and deliberative essays. They further practice common rhetorical progymnasmata to invest their academic writing with greater clarity, vigor, and persuasion.

Creedal Theology

Islamic creedal theology and its dialectical tradition, with special emphasis on normative Sunni doctrine, form the core of this material. Students learn about (1) the historical schisms that generate the theological diversity contemporary Muslims have inherited, (2) the rational and anti-rational tendencies that marked the struggle for determining orthodoxy, and (3) the teachings of surviving schools of thought on various doctrinal issues. Beginning with the Qur’an and branching into such classical sources as Al-¢Aqīdah al-Ţaĥāwiyyah and Al-Fiqh al-akbar, students examine the nature of divinity, prophethood, eschatology, revelation, indiscernible realities, destiny, free will, and theodicy. Class participation constitutes an important verification of the care students take to read and assess the arguments and themes in assigned materials. Socratic method quickly exposes incomplete, faulty, or haphazard preparation. Lexicography assignments assist students in developing the specialized Arabic nomenclature that expresses scholarly proficiency in the field. A final research paper, meant in part to exhibit students’ competence in deploying the technical lexicon, concludes the semester.