Bachelor Degree Curriculum

Sophomore Year: Fall

Arabic Grammar and Texts 1

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

Qur’anic Sciences

Known in Arabic as ¢ulūm al-Qur’ān, this course examines the sciences associated with the study of the Qur’an. 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 and engage with key contemporary reference works. The course revolves around the seminal Itqān fī ¢ulūm al-Qur’ān, by Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūţī (d. 911/1505), as presented by Ahmad von Denffer and Justice Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani. Students engage with Michel Cuypers’s Composition of the Qur’an: Rhetorical Analysis and Carl Ernst’s How to Read the Qur’an to gain familiarity with contemporary Western diachronic and synchronic approaches to the Qur’an and to critically respond to the challenges they may present; particular attention is also paid to the standard Geschichte des Qorans (History of the Qur’an), by Theodor Nöldeke (d. 1930).

Prophetic Tradition

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, and interact with excerpts from original Arabic hadith canons.

Logic in the Islamic Tradition

This course begins by examining the history of Arabic logic and its development in the classical period. Discussion focuses on the main topics in Arabic logic: terms, definitions, propositions, syllogisms, and fallacies. Students also examine the relationship between logic and the Arabic language and the influence of logic on jurisprudence (fiqh) and the principles of jurisprudence (uśūl al-fiqh). Finally, students explore the reception of Arabic logic by Muslim thinkers in the classical period. By the end of the course, students have a firm grasp of the essence of Arabic logic and the contribution of Muslim thinkers to the development of logic in terms of method and material. They also understand the method Muslim thinkers used in philosophy, theology, fiqh, and uśūl al-fiqh, and thus learn to more intelligently engage written materials in these fields of knowledge. 

Islamic History

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

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

Principles of Democracy

What do modern people mean when they speak of democracy? Is democracy always a government of the people, by the people, for the people? What are the historical roots of democracy? How do democratic institutions function in the modern world? Is pluralism truly represented in such constitutional structures as congresses, courts, and executive offices? The answers to these questions require a detailed investigation of foundational assumptions about democratic rule, the variety of political institutions that make it work, and the social impact that results therefrom. First, this course surveys historical critiques of democracy by Thucydides, Plato, Machiavelli, and Hobbes. Next, it considers the nascent liberalism of Locke and the new political taxonomy of Montesquieu, together with his theory of the separation of powers. Lastly, it focuses upon the United States specifically and the concept of democratic pluralism as it unfolds in the Federalists (Hamilton, Madison, Jay), the anti-Federalists (Jefferson, Henry, Mason), the US Constitution, and Alexis de Tocqueville’s classic Democracy in America.

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)—that is, 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 become familiar 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. 


Examining such thinkers as Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Mill, and Marx, seminar participants seek to understand how political philosophy shapes the institutions of government. The major texts of the history of political thought raise questions about the design of political and social orders. Students explore the ways in which these great thinkers have responded to the particular political problems of their day, and the ways in which they contribute 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. 


This course introduces economic thought from an Islamic perspective by examining the competing views of humanity and nature that are reflected in Islamic and secular approaches to production, consumption, and exchange. The course 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