Description of the Course

This course will introduce students to the theological and cultural study of Islamic history and religious expression. Topics will include the life of Muhammad, teachings of the Qur’an, Islamic sectarianism, religious law, ethics, ritual practices and the presence of Islam in the contemporary world, with a focus on North America.

Required Reading

Barboza, Steven. (1995) American Jihad: Islam after Malcolm X. New York: Image Press.

The Essential Koran (1993), Thomas Cleary, trans. New York: HarperCollins Press.

Denny, Fredrick (2011). An Introduction to Islam, Fourth Edition. Upper Saddle Ridge, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Windows on the House of Islam: Muslim Sources on Spirituality and Religious Life (1998) John Renard, ed. Berkeley: University of California Press. Hereafter referred to as "Renard"

Muslim Communities in North America (1994) Yvonne Yazbeck Hadddad and Jane Idleman Smith, eds. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Articles embedded within the online syllabus


1. There will be four exams in this course, including the comprehensive final exam. Each test will be worth 20% of your grade. The format will include Fill-in-the-Blank, Identification of Terms or Concepts and short-answer essay questions. No “word bank” will be provided. Key transliterated Arabic terms should be memorized; both the Denny and Barboza texts possess glossaries. An online glossary can be found here. No make-up exams will be given unless you miss an exam period for a school-sanctioned event, the death of an immediate family member or a dire illness. In the case of a school-sanctioned event, plan on taking the exam prior to the scheduled date of the test.

2. “I Am” Oral presentation. After reading American Jihad, pick one person’s narrative. Conduct research on this individual. Be prepared to offer in class a well-researched and informed first-person presentation (10-15 minutes) on the individual you chose, describing their understanding and experience of Islam and the notion of jihad (struggle). No duplicates; I suggest you make your selection ASAP. These selections will be posted on our Announcements page web-site. This assignment will also require an accompanying paper of six-to-eight pages. Presentations start Monday, April 4; all papers due by the start of class on April 4. Submit your paper via email as a Word attachment. Be sure to use the Writer’s Cheat Sheet and the Paramedic Method to edit your work prior to submission. Worth 20% of final grade.


1. Attendance Policy: I expect you to attend and participate in every class. If you are hospitalized or have a family emergency, please contact me as soon as possible, so that we can discuss any scheduled assignments. You are responsible for keeping up with the reading and assignments due even if you miss class. Missing any classes will adversely affect your performance in the course; upon your third un-excused absence, I will reduce your course grade by a letter-grade for every further unexcused absence.

2. We will be reading and discussing some sensitive and provocative issues in this course. Your participation is expected and valued. We must all be willing to discuss what we think/feel and to do so comfortably. Therefore, you are expected to show respect and consideration for all participants; any mean spirited discussion or personal attacks will not be tolerated. Further, this course will be approached from a scholastic perspective (as opposed to confessional; you are not expected or required to adopt any religious convictions in this course).

3. Please schedule conferences to discuss work, problems, ideas or anything at all. I maintain an "open door" policy: if my door is open and you see a vacant chair, come on in. Of course, you can schedule an appointment as well.

4. The syllabus can change at my discretion. Videos, readings and/or guest speakers may also be added. Changes will be made to the online syllabus. For instance, we will have faculty candidates on campus this semester who may teach a class session.

5. Extra credit does not exist in the course. Make use of the credit available.

6. "Trying hard" is usually necessary, but not sufficient, to create good work. In short, I do not base a grade on "effort" but on the finished product.

7. Scholastic Dishonesty & the Honor Court. As a student at Centenary College you agree to adhere to the Centenary Honor Code. I will carefully explain the nature of plagiarism the first day of class and, for each assignment, explain what is and is not permissible in terms of collaboration. If you have any questions, please ask rather than risk a problem. Also, I would advise you to retain all note cards, drafts, final papers etc. for each assignment in your writing record in case asked to prove your case. As explained in the Student Handbook, every assignment you submit must have the following statement written in your own handwriting accompanied by your signature: "I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this paper (or examination), nor have I seen anyone else do so." If you have received unauthorized aid or witnessed an honor code violation, you must follow the statement with: "...except as I shall report immediately to the Honor Court." Please understand that I cannot grade any assignment lacking this honor code statement.

8. Disability Accommodation. It is the policy of Centenary College to accommodate students with disabilities, pursuant to federal law, state law, and the College's commitment to equal educational opportunities. Any student who has a disability and needs accommodations, should inform the instructor at the beginning of the course. Students with disabilities need to contact Disability Services (a division of Counseling Services), which is located in the ground floor of Rotary Hall to obtain services. The phone numbers for Counseling Services are 869-5466 and 869-5424. Please let me know if you have any disability that requires accommodation. I will work with you to ensure your needs are met. Students with disabilities should also contact Disability Services (a division of Counseling Services), which is located in the ground floor of Rotary Hall to obtain services. Telephone 318-869-5466/5424.

9. Please turn off all cell phones upon entering class. If your phone rings once in the semester, you will simply be reminded of our policy. If it rings a second time, you will be asked not to bring it back to this space. You may not leave class to answer a call; doing so will count as one of your allotted absences. Laptops may be used in class for the explicit purpose of taking notes. If you are caught surfing the Internet without permission (or playing games or checking Facebook) you will not be allowed to bring the laptop to class for the remainder of the course. Smart phones shall not be used any time during the class. During exam periods, all electronic devices must be shut down and stored away.

10. Yes, I am aware of the amount of reading for this course. Sadly, the topic of our investigation requires us to engage the subject with due diligence. Keep up with the readings and take notes.

Class Schedule

January 10 Review Course Syllabus and Assignments
What is Islam?
January 12 Leading to Islam: Middle Eastern History
Read Deny, Chapters One and Two
January 14 Muhammad and the Early Muslim Community (I)
Read Denny, Chapter Three
January 17 MLK DAY, NO CLASS
January 19 Muhammad and the Early Muslim Community (II)
Read Renard, pp. 119-129, 336-344 and 353
Explore this example of hadith; you will look at this source in greater depth next month.
January 21 Arab Conquests
Read Denny, Chapter Four
January 24 Basic Beliefs (I)
Read Denny, Chapter Five
January 26 Basic Beliefs (II)
Read Hassan Article (pdf)
January 28 The Nature and Function of the Qur’an (I)
Read Denny, Chapter 6
Use this digital online English Translation of the Qur’an. Change the sura by clicking in the top right box that currently states “Al Fâthah”
January 31 The Nature and Function of the Qur’an (II)
Read Cleary, Introduction to pg. 81
February 2 The Nature and Function of the Qur’an (III)
Read the rest of Cleary
Read this Atlantic Monthly Article and this Response
February 4 The Nature and Function of the Qur’an (IV)
Read Renard, pp.1-27, 35-58,144-148
February 9 Islamic History (I)
View Islam: Empire of Faith. Take careful, detailed notes all three days. This documentary is full of relevant historical data.
February 11 Islamic History (II)
View Islam: Empire of Faith
February 14 Islamic History (III)
View Islam: Empire of Faith
February 16 The Prophet’s Sunna as Preserved in the Hadith (I)
Read Denny, Chapter 7
Also look closely at the link from January 19 as well as the Sahih Muslim
February 18 False Hadith? How Would One Know?
February 21 Muslim Creeds and Theologies (I)
Read Denny, Chapter Eight
Read the Islamic Catechism: The Ajwiba online
February 23 Muslim Creeds and Theologies (II)
Read Al-Fiqh Al-Akbar online
Read Renard, pp. 269-277
February 25 Law and the State of Classical Islamic Formulations (I)
Read Denny, Chapter Nine
February 28 Law and the State of Classical Islamic Formulations (II)
Read Renard, pp. 95-106, 149-154
March 2 Law and the State of Classical Islamic Formulations (III)
Explore this web site in detail and come to class prepared to discuss your findings.
March 4 Sufi Way (I)
Read Denny, Chapter 10
March 16 Sufi Way (II)
Read Denny, Chapter 11
March 18 Sufi Way (III)
Read Renard, pp. 59-64, 139-143, 155-158, 162-184,194-207, 235-243, 296-324, 345-352, 355-375
March 21 The Islamic Life Cycle and Family
Read Denny, Chapter 12
Read Renard, pp. 85-91, 107-118
March 23 Ideals and Realities of Islamic Community Life
Read Denny, Chapter 13
March 25 Major Movements and Trends in Renewal and Reform
Read Denny, Chapter 14
March 28 Muslims in North America (I)
Read Haddad and Smith, Part One
March 30 Muslims in North America (II)
Read Haddad and Smith, Part Two
April 1 Muslims in North America (III)
Read Haddad and Smith, Part Three
April 13 Islamic Revivalism: Fundamentalism
Read Denny, Chapter 15
Read this article
April 15 Islamic Revivalism: Feminism
Read this article
April 18 Islamic Revivalism: the Umma in North America
Read Barboza
April 20 Whither Islam and the Muslims?
Read Denny, Chapter 16
April 27 Islam in the American Mind
Read this article
April 28 The Future of Islam