Bachelor Degree Curriculum
Junior Year: Fall
Arabic Text Study 1
Islamic Law: Family
The aim of this course is to teach students the laws that govern the formation, care, and dissolution of the family. Students study the Islamic laws of marriage (nikāĥ), divorce (ţalāq), legitimacy (nasab), suckling (rađā¢ah), child custody (ĥađānah), 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 examines constitutional law and legal theory in modern democracies. Students learn about the separation of powers between the legislative, judicial, and executive branches, and study individual liberties in a contemporary constitutional order. Students also learn about the relationships and interplay between the federal, state, and local governments, and the roles and limits of those levels of government. The course also compares and contrasts Muslim constitutional theory with the constitutional theories of modern democracies in areas such as the qualifications for holding public office, principles of foreign relations, the legal and rational arguments for installing a head of state, offices of government, the caliphate, the social contract, the philosophical underpinnings of the relationship between the governor and the governed, and taxes.
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 Ash¢arī response. Through a study of the Ash¢arī didactic poem “Jawharat al-tawĥīd,” along with the Māturīdī text Al-Bidāyah fī uśūl al-dīn, students explore the central theological issues that majoritarian Sunni Islam examined and the positions it embraced. Students also 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.
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 and the Latin Middle Ages (Plotinus, St. Thomas Aquinas, William of Ockham), and the modern and contemporary periods (Descartes, Nietzsche, Hume, Kant, 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. 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. Students formulate their senior thesis research question, articulate a clear thesis statement, prepare a chapter outline, present an annotated bibliography, draft a chapter of the thesis, 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
This course introduces students to the study of Islamic legal theory and the principles of Islamic jurisprudence (uśūl al-fiqh). 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 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.
Classical Muslim Texts and Commentaries
This course explores the most influential texts of the greatest classical Muslim philosophers and theologians: al-Kindī, Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna), al-Ghazālī, and Ibn Rushd (Averroes). The course begins with al-Kindī, the first Muslim philosopher who engaged Greek philosophy with Islamic teachings. Next, students study Ibn Sīnā’s Al-Ishārāt wa al-Tanbīhāt (Remarks and Admonitions) and examine its influence in shaping the madrasa system’s curricula, from its introduction to the present. The third text is al-Ghazālī’s Mishkāt al-Anwār (The Niche of Light), in which he grounds his philosophy and theology in the Qur’an and hadith. Finally, students consider Ibn Rushd’s Faśl al-Maqāl (The Decisive Treatise), a clear view of the relationship between philosophy and religion, as seen by one who is both a 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 are expected to grasp the main principles and themes addressed by these texts and to be able to describe their formative influence on Islamic thought.