Bachelor Degree Curriculum
Sophomore Year: Fall
Arabic Grammar and Texts 1
This course examines the sciences associated with the study of the sacred text, known in Arabic as ¢ulūm al-Qur’ān. Topics include types of revelation; books of revelation; history of the transmission, collection, arrangement, and standardization of the Qur’an; variant/multiple readings found in the ¢Uthmānic Codex as well as the pre-¢Uthmānic manuscripts; language; vocabulary; textual analysis/collation and translation theories; principles of exegesis and abrogation; virtues; and inimitability. Students focus on concepts embedded in the classical Islamic tradition but also explore key contemporary reference works. Instruction centers upon the seminal Itqān fī ¢ulūm al-Qur’ān by Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūţī (d. 911 AH/1505 CE), as presented by contemporary scholars Ahmad von Denffer and Justice Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani. To gain familiarity with contemporary Western diachronic and synchronic approaches to the Qur’an, and to respond critically to the challenges they may present, students engage with Michel Cuypers’ The Composition of the Qur’an: Rhetorical Analysis, along with Carl Ernst’s How to Read the Qur’an. The standard Geschichte des Qorans of Theodor Nöldeke (1836–1930) recurs prominently throughout the semester.
The prophetic tradition and the sciences associated with it form the core of this seminar. Topics include the history of hadith compilation; hadith structure and content; major hadith canons; criteria for hadith authentication; nomenclature; the importance and practical uses of hadith in law, theology, and ethics, and as historical and rhetorical resources; as well as Western criticism and Muslim responses to this criticism. Students must study, decipher, and memorize Al-Manżūmah al-Bayqūniyyah, the didactic poem of Imam al-Bayqūnī, and hadith from al-Nawawī’s Forty Hadith collection. Lastly, they interact with excerpts from original Arabic hadith canons.
Logic in the Islamic Tradition
The history of Arabic logic, its development in the classical period, and its reception in subsequent Muslim thought forms the core of this material. Instruction focuses on terms, definitions, propositions, syllogisms, and fallacies. Such historical texts as the sixteenth-century Al-Sullam al-munawraq fī ¢ilm al-manţiq, a versification of Imam al-Abharī’s medieval work the Kitāb al-Īsāghūjī, bring to light the place of logic in the other Islamic sciences. Students develop a firm grasp of Arabic logical terms and so acquire a vital toolkit for future scholarship in the Islamic tradition. The course also surveys the contributions of Muslim thinkers to the ongoing development of logic. While preparing weekly assignments, students see that assigned readings and class discussions provide a platform to identify and develop topics for their research paper on the history of logic in the Islamic tradition. A comprehensive exam concludes the semester.
This course is designed to provide students with a basic outline of Islamic history and introduce them to various methods employed in contemporary historical research about Muslim societies. Students learn how to distinguish between the study of Muslim peoples and the study of the history of Islam as a socio-political phenomenon. They are exposed to the unique spiritual and intellectual traditions of Islam, as distinct from the dynastic, or power-centric, model of Islamic historical study. Students also examine the global impact of Western European modernization, the ways in which Muslim societies responded, and how those responses inform the contemporary challenges and crises of the Muslim world.
Sophomore Year: Spring
Arabic Grammar and Texts 2
In thirteen books, the Elements works out the logic of plane and solid geometry, elementary number theory, and incommensurable lines. Starting from just five axioms, Euclid derives most of basic geometry in Book I. Although the conceptual framework of a mathematical proof and its necessity constitutes a difficulty even for advanced math majors, the Elements offers direct and accessible inferential argumentation expressed in ordinary language without dense theoretical preliminaries. Leading from axiom through deduction, the Elements builds mathematical structure from scratch. In this introductory course, students verify the propositions of Book One that yield the Pythagorean theorem and its converse (I.47 and I.84). In place of exams, students develop and present geometric proofs both orally in class and through written homework assignments. Well acquainted with the nomenclature of geometry, students learn to formulate a proof with an irrefutable argument and to grasp how a mathematical system unfolds.
Seminal Ancient Texts
History and literature provide the lens through which students examine the important ancient texts written before or during the Axial Age (Achsenzeit; the eighth to third centuries BCE). Using both descriptive and prescriptive approaches, students engage with these texts directly to analyze their themes, contents, literary styles/devices, and meanings. They also familiarize themselves with the lost world from which these texts emerged. Comparing and contrasting the texts, students seek to determine whether and how early texts might have influenced later ones. Most of all, they think about what these works may mean for the world today. Readings include the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Code of Hammurabi, the Pentateuch, and the Psalms of David from the ancient Near East; the Hymn to the Aten from ancient Egypt; the Theogony and Works and Days of Hesiod and the Histories of Herodotus from ancient Greece; the Analects of Confucius and Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu from ancient China; and the Bhagavad Gita and Dhammapada from ancient South Asia.
Directly examining the works of Plato (the Republic), Aristotle (the Politics), Thomas Aquinas (Questions on Law), Machiavelli (The Prince and the Discourses on Livy), Hobbes (Leviathan), Locke (Second Treatise on Government), Rousseau (On the Social Contract), Mill (On Liberty), and Marx (The Communist Manifesto and selections from Capital), seminar participants seek to understand how political philosophy shapes the institutions of government. These major texts from the history of political thought raise questions about the design of political and social orders. Students explore the ways in which these great thinkers responded to the particular political problems of their day, and the ways in which they contributed to a broader view of human goods and needs, the concepts of justice and democracy, and the proper relationship of the individual to the state. Throughout the semester, students build a lexicon of political thought and write weekly essays in response to prompts on the reading material.
A Muslim perspective on economic thought takes into account the competing views of humanity and nature reflected in Islamic and secular approaches to matters of production, consumption, and exchange. This course, therefore, begins with an analysis of the spiritual significance of production in traditional Islamic thought and its implications for the link between ethics and economics in consumption and exchange. Students then study the sequential secularization of the sciences of nature, production, and exchange in the West, which elevated economics as an independent discipline in the eighteenth century. Finally, students consider the effect of the secularization of neoclassical economics, particularly its theory of consumption, which replaces needs with wants and reduces values to tastes.