1. Contact Information
  2. Prerequisites
  3. Course Description and Credit Hours
  4. Required Texts
  5. Course Objectives
  6. Student Learning Outcomes
  7. Other Course Materials
  8. Outline Of Topics
  9. Exams and Assignments
  10. Grading Policy
  11. Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework
  12. Attendance Policy
  13. Notification of Changes
  14. Custom Sections
  15. Statements on Academic Misconduct
  16. Statement On Disability Accommodations
  17. Severe Weather Protocol
  18. Pregnant Student Accommodations
  19. Religious Observances
  20. UAct Statement


REL 236-001Spring 2018 | 3 Credit Hours


Contact Information

UA Campus Directory:


UA Course Catalog Prerequisites:

No prereqs found

Course Description

Course Description and Credit Hours

An introduction to the traditions of Islam, including their history, texts, intellectual debates, and contemporary practices.

This course comprises a broad, interdisciplinary introduction to the practices and conceptions within Islam and the various ways they have been interpreted and represented.  Topics will include the narratives of Islamic origins, the literary, theological, and ritual nature of the Qur’an, contemporary practices within Islamic communities, historical developments, and Sufism.

Required Texts

Required Texts from UA Supply Store:
  • Lincoln, C. Eric / The Black Muslims in America (Required)

Course Objectives

1)       To gain familiarity with the history of diverse conceptions of Islam.

2)       To better understand Islamic identities in relation to contemporary politics.

Student Learning Outcomes

Recognize the complexities of Qur’an interpretation.

  • Distinguish Sunni and Shi’a varieties of Islam.

  • Critique simplistic understandings of Shari’a.

  • Discern the diversity within Islam.

Other Course Materials

The Qur’an is online: http://www.studyquran.org/Ahmed_Ali_Al_Quran.pdf.  The remaining readings are available on Blackboard. 

Outline of Topics

Reading Assignments

  1. Introduction

  2. Ruthven—Islam, ch. 1. (Jan. 16)


  1. Muhammad

  2. Ruthven—Islam, ch. 2. (Jan. 18)


  1. Qur’an

  2. Lester—“What is the Koran?” (Jan. 23)

  3. Brown—“The Apocalypse of Islam.” (Jan. 25)

  4. Qur’an: sūras 1, 2: 1-115, 4: 1-50, 7, 96: 1-5, 99 (Jan. 20, Feb. 1, 6, 8)

  5. Sunnis, Shi’as, Sufis

  6. Ruthven—Islam, ch. 3. (Feb. 13)

  7. Al-Hallaj—poems (Feb. 15)

  8. Shari’a

  9. Ruthven—Islam, ch. 4. (Feb. 22)

  10. Lee—“Creeping Sharia Legislation;” [optional: Reinhart—“Islamic Law as Islamic Ethics”] (Feb. 27)


  1. Practice

  2. Denny—An Introduction to Islam, ch. 6. (Mar. 1, 6)

  3. Islamicate Art and Science

  4. Sandler—“Islamic Art: variations on themes of arabesque” (Mar. 8)

  5. Wickens—“The Middle East as world centre of science and medicine (Mar. 20)

  6. Islam and Modernity

  7. Ruthven—Islam, ch. 6. (Mar. 22)

  8. Ruthven—“The Islamic Road to the Modern World.” (Mar. 27)

  9. Qutb—“The American I have Seen.” (Mar. 29)

  10. Gender and Family

  11. Ruthven—Islam, ch. 5. (Apr. 3)

  12. El-Naggar—“Practicing Islam in Short Shorts.” (Apr. 5)

  13. African American Muslims

  14. Muhammad—Message to the Blackman in America, chs. 55, 125, 132. (Apr. 10)

  15. Lincoln—Black Muslims in America (Apr. 12, 17, 19, 24, 26)


  • I expect you to bring the assigned reading to class. Please do not access the text from your iphone.

  • Responsibility for the success of our discussions rests on your shoulders. If you are not willing to ask questions or converse with one another, the discussions will fail.

  • You are responsible for announcements I make in class.

  • I use Blackboard as a file distribution system only. If you need to reach me, do not message me through Blackboard.  I will not see it.

  • You must bring a bluebook to the exams.

  • I have no attendance policy. From experience I know you will regret missing class come exam time.

Exams and Assignments

Course Requirements

  • An in-class midterm exam (Feb. 20). You will be asked to “identify” five quotations out of twelve taken from the readings.  You should have no difficulty recognizing the sources of the quotations.  Prepare to explain the import, ideas, and circumstances pertinent to each quotation as fully as you can.  In grading your responses I will look to see how much information you convey (the more the better).  This exercise is your opportunity to display what you have learned from the readings and from class.  You must bring a bluebook to the exam.  If you must miss the exam for a legitimate reason, you may take the exam at a time of mutual convenience. (25%)

  • One 4-page paper, hard copy due 3:30 PM April 27 in my mailbox in 212 Manly Hall. No electronic submissions.  I penalize late submissions ½ letter grade per day.  I will announce the topic.  The papers are your opportunity to argue for a position and/or apply some of the theoretical concepts to a new case.  You should feel free to argue for a position with which (you believe) I disagree.  Disagreement with me will NOT affect your grade (as long as you take account of the ideas and arguments we have studied).  I will grade the papers on a) the quality of your argument, and b) the quality of your prose.  If you do not feel confident in your ability to write this kind of paper, you should seek help from me during office hours.  (40%)

  • A final exam scheduled by the registrar (May 2, 8:00-10:30). I do not have authority to reschedule your exam in case of a conflict.  The final consists of two parts.  The first is identical to the midterm, except the quotations will be drawn (exclusively) from the texts that follow the midterm.  The second part will ask you to choose one essay topic from three choices.  These topics will force you to discuss texts and topics from the first half of the course in relation to texts and topics from the second half.  I grade the essays on two criteria: 1) how well-informed the response, and 2) how well-argued the response.  You must bring a bluebook to the exam. (25%)

Five very short exercises to help you improve your prose.  I have put “Writing Well: An Incomplete Set of Guidelines” on Blackboard for you to use as a reference text.  I will announce the assignment in class. 

Grading Policy

See Assignments.

Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework

Discuss with Instructor in advance.

Attendance Policy

I have no attendance policy.

Notification of Changes

The instructor will make every effort to follow the guidelines of this syllabus as listed; however, the instructor reserves the right to amend this document as the need arises. In such instances, the instructor will notify students in class and/or via email and will endeavor to provide reasonable time for students to adjust to any changes.

Statement on Academic Misconduct

Students are expected to be familiar with and adhere to the official Academic Misconduct Policy provided in the Online Catalog.

Statement On Disability Accommodations

Contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) as detailed in the Online Catalog.

Severe Weather Protocol

Please see the latest Severe Weather Guidelines in the Online Catalog.

Pregnant Student Accommodations

Title IX protects against discrimination related to pregnancy or parental status. If you are pregnant and will need accommodations for this class, please review the University’s FAQs on the UAct website.

Religious Observances

Under the Guidelines for Religious Holiday Observances, students should notify the instructor in writing or via email during the first two weeks of the semester of their intention to be absent from class for religious observance. The instructor will work to provide reasonable opportunity to complete academic responsibilities as long as that does not interfere with the academic integrity of the course. See full guidelines at Religious Holiday Observances Guidelines.

UAct Statement

The University of Alabama is committed to an ethical, inclusive community defined by respect and civility.  The UAct website (www.ua.edu/uact)  provides extensive information on how to report or obtain assistance with a variety of issues, including issues related to dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, sexual violence or other Title IX violations, illegal discrimination, harassment, hate or bias incidents, child abuse or neglect, hazing, threat assessment, retaliation, and ethical violations or fraud.