Bachelor Degree Curriculum
Junior Year: Fall
Arabic Text Study 1
Islamic Family Law
Principally, this course teaches the laws that govern the formation, care, and dissolution of the family. Students study the Islamic codes of marriage (nikāḥ), divorce (ṭalāq), legitimacy (naṣab), suckling (raḍā¢ah), child custody (ḥaḍānah), and maintenance (nafaqah). In the process of this study, they become acquainted with the rights and obligations of spouses, fitness and suitability in marriage (kafā’ah), abortion (ijhāđ), polygyny (ta¢addud al-zawjāt), guardianship (wilāyah), child support, and other topics.
This course in Constitutional law treats both law and legal theory in the United States. Students examine the legal ramifications of the separation of powers between the legislative, judicial, and executive branches, and study individual liberties in our contemporary constitutional order. They also inquire into the relationships and interplay between federal, state, and local governments, and the roles and limits of those levels of government. Case study forms the core discipline that shapes the thinking and develops the analytical skills of the students.
This course examines the formation of the Ash¢arī and Māturīdī schools of Islamic theology, their synthesis of reason and revelation in dialectics and hermeneutics, their historical consolidation as Sunni orthodoxy, and the dogmatic theology of the Asharite response. Students undertake a careful examination of the Ash¢arī didactic poem Jawharat al-tawḥīd and its important modern commentary tradition. They further engage with the Māturīdī text Al-Bidāyah fī uṣūl al-dīn to discover the central theological issues that majoritarian Sunni Islam examined and the positions it embraced. Finally, students consider the relationship of theology with spirituality and ethics, how Muslim orthodoxy gives rise to social and political harmony, and the contemporary relevance of theology in dealing with atheism and scientistic reductionism. Weekly discussions probe students’ grasp of demanding texts. A major project requires the memorization, recitation, and explication of selections from Jawharat al-tawḥīd. A short research paper offers students the opportunity to demonstrate clear writing and cogent argumentation in the field.
The history of Western philosophy from c. 350 BCE through c. 1960 CE unfolds in three major epochs: Greek antiquity (Plato and Aristotle), late antiquity (Plotinus) and the Latin Middle Ages (Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham), and the modern and contemporary periods (Descartes, Nietzsche, Hume, Kant, and Ayer). Students also read contemporary philosophical texts that engage religious traditions with modern philosophical problems. The course furthers students’ development of philosophical reading and writing skills, with emphasis on careful analysis and exposition of arguments, clear definition of terms, consistent identification of fundamental principles, and the concise summarization of broad systems of thought.
Research Methods Seminar
This practicum in research and writing takes students step by step through the processes of (1) scholarly investigation; (2) the compilation and analysis of their findings; and (3) the production of a well-argued, properly documented research paper. Using A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, by Kate L. Turabian, and Garner’s Chicago Guide as reference works, class sessions consist of presentations on research methods and academic writing; research and note-taking exercises; and directed, practical, hands-on activities at the libraries of UC Berkeley and the GTU. Students formulate their senior thesis research question, articulate a clear thesis statement, prepare a preliminary outline, present an annotated bibliography, and submit their formal senior thesis proposal together with an abstract. The practicum director offers commentary and assesses each of these assignments and students’ performance in each of the class activities.
Junior Year: Spring
Arabic Text Study 2
Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence
The study of Islamic legal theory and the principles of Islamic jurisprudence (uṣūl al-fiqh) forms the core. Students learn the philosophical underpinnings of the primary and secondary legal sources; the indications of these sources; and the objective criteria that qualify a person to derive legal rulings directly from the sources of Islamic law (ijtihād), without being bound by legal precedent. Preconditions for the practice of this science include strong familiarity with positive law (furū¢), Arabic grammar and morphology, and logic. Students undertake a guided reading of a number of classical manuals, with a focus on the memorization of the key nomenclature of this science. The language of instruction for this class is English, with the requirement of reading texts in Arabic.
How does Islamic theology compare to or contrast with the defining elements in the dharmic faiths of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism; the ancient Far Eastern traditions of Taoism and Confucianism; and the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism and Christianity (Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant)? Answering this question requires a systematic presentation of the main themes, concepts, beliefs, and key figures of each religious tradition. Special attention is given to the most common trends in classical Jewish and Christian theologies and how they intersect with or diverge from traditional Muslim conceptions of God. Students also critically examine some of the beliefs, theories, and trends that dominate contemporary academic theological discourse, which may include such widely divergent perspectives as perennialism and new atheism.
Readings in Muslim Spirituality
Is there a normative Muslim view of the nature of the human soul and its relationship to the cosmos? Students study the evolution of Sufism, from the inception of Islam until its consolidation as an orthodox religious science, and the contribution it made in providing the theological and intellectual frameworks governing Muslim reflection on reality. Students also become familiar with the different genres of Sufi literature. The rich lexicon of terms in spirituality and related concepts provides students with extraordinary access to the history of the field and especially to textual traditions. Class participation constitutes an important verification of the care students take to read and assess the arguments and themes in assigned materials. A final project requires memorization, recitation, and explication of selected spiritual aphorisms.
Classical Muslim Texts and Commentaries
This advanced course introduces juniors to the most influential texts of the classical period’s greatest thinkers: al-Kindī, Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna), al-Ghazālī, and Ibn Rushd (Averroës). The semester begins with al-Kindī, the first Muslim philosopher to have engaged Greek philosophy with Islamic teachings. Afterwards, students study Ibn Sīnā’s Al-Ishārāt wa al-tanbīhāt (Remarks and admonitions) and examine its influence in shaping the curricula of the madrasa system, from its introduction to the present. Thirdly, students examine al-Ghazālī’s Mishkāt al-anwār (The niche of light), in which he establishes the grounds, both in the Qur’an and hadith, for his philosophical and theological work. Finally, students consider Ibn Rushd’s Faṣl al-maqāl (The decisive treatise), which presents a clear view of the relationship between philosophy and religion from the perspective of both philosopher and a jurist (qāđī). As students explore these texts, they discuss the central issues and concepts of Islamic philosophy and theology and the relationship between religion, theology, philosophy, and Sufism. By the end of the semester, students grasp the main principles and themes addressed by these texts and are able to describe their formative influence on Islamic thought.