Eastern Oregon University
College of Arts and Sciences
Number of Course:
Name of Course:
Instructor: David Komito, Ph.D.
This course will provide a general overview of the history, arts and basic tenets of Islam as well as a focused view of the early history of Islam in the Middle East, the medieval history of Islam in South Asia and contemporary movements in Islam as they impact the USA .
In this course students will explore some of the essential characteristics of traditional Islamic cultures. An articulation of some facets of the Islamic arts (particularly architecture) and sciences is intended to create a bridge of sentiment between modern westerners and Islam Then, upon the foundation of the arts and sciences, we turn our attention to core social values. In particular, Islam proposes that the ideal life is lived in a society which integrates Islamic values into all its elements, which contrasts radically with the contemporary western secular view that religion and state need to be kept separate. We look at the Mughal Empire of South Asia as an expression of traditional Muslim pluralism, and contrast that with the contemporary situation of the conflicts of values between Islam and the modern West, with the popular uprisings known as “the Muslim Spring” and Turkey as a modern Islamic secular state.
Credit Hours: 5
Time and place of the course: Entirely online
John Esposito, Ph.D.; What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam; Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-515713-3.
Benazir Bhutto: Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West; Harper Perennial; Reprint Edition (December 23, 2008), ISBN 0061567590.
Selections from Bentley and Ziegler, Traditions and Encounters, available as an e-book, for purchase on a link within the Blackboard course site. Cost is approximately $12.
All other resources and readings for this course are online, including lectures written by the instructor, instructional websites developed by PBS, visits to virtual art galleries, etc.
Means of Assessment and Grading:
Two on-line multiple choice exams -- 30% of course grade
Two essays -- 70% of course grade
Reading Assignments and Resources
tenets of Islam
- Introductory essay and perspective
for reading about the basic tenets of Islam
- Visit this PBS site designed to accompany the program Islam:
Empire of Faith (on YouTube). Surf through the various links on Faith,
Culture, Innovation and Profiles of important personalities for
a concise introduction to Islam and Islamic culture. You can also purchase a DVD of this program.
- The Quran may quite
reasonably be considered the heart of Islam. Here is a complete
of the Quran online.
- Many Muslims believe
that since the Quran was revealed in the Arabic language, a translation
into another language is an impossibility. Implicit in this view
is a corollary that the aural version of the Quran is even closer
to the Source than the written version. As the Angel Gabriel said
to the Prophet Muhammad, "Recite." Here is a website
of Quranic recitation,
along with English translations and Arabic script of the Quran.
I recommend you select under Translation, at the upper right,
the Eng-Pickthal-Audio. Select several Sura/Chapter in the upper
left. To listen to the recitation click on the right arrow button
at the bottom left. In this way you will be able to see the passages
from the Quran, hear them recited and see the English translation
all at the same time. If it interests you, change the name of
the Reciter while listening to the same Sura and you will hear
some differences in style of recitation. It is also informative
to read the alternate translations. The Eng-Dr. Mohsin translation
recites straight through, without English interjections.
- If the Quran is
the heart of Islam, Allah is the heart of the Quran. The enumeration
of the 99
names of Allah is a traditional attempt to point to the (otherwise
incomprehensible) attributes of God. Here is an artistic enumeration.
- On the one hand
religion is a matter of doctrine and its expression in literature,
arts, etc. Images and ideas can indeed convey beliefs and Truths.
But on the other hand, religion is most profoundly alive in people,
and Islam is about the human relationship with God. PBS Frontline
has produced this web site to accompany its program on the lives
around the world.
- You should be reading the Esposito book What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam this week and conclude reading it by the end of week 2.
The early Islamic state: the Caliphate.
- Read "The Expansive Realm of Islam" in your e-textbook.
- You should conclude reading the Esposito book What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam at the end of this week.
The foundations of Islamic culture, arts and sciences
- Read "India and the Indian Ocean Basin" in your e-textbook.
- Read "Nomadic Empires and Eurasian Integration" in your e-textbook.
- Read States and Societies of Sub-Saharan Africa" in your e-textbook.
- Introductory Essay and
Perspective: Islamic Arts and Sciences
Arts, Learning, and Knowledge (a tutorial from the University
science: its sources, development and influence on the west
is in general an excellent web site devoted to the first thousand
years of the Muslim Arts and Sciences, and their influence on global
civilization. From the hundreds of articles on the site, the following
articles on science and mathematics are most relevant to the goals
of this course. In several cases the authors of these articles
have a "point" to make and can get a bit polemical, but
in general the articles are based on fact. Each article listed here
is a summary of a longer article linked to it. If one of these summary
articles strikes your curiosity, you might wish to read the longer
article which it summarizes.
Scholars and Science
Hadith and Knowledge
Conflicting with religion? Not for Muslims!
between Islamic and Western Science
Verses on Science
as the Impetus of Scientific Advance
to Muslim Science
about Islamic and Greek Science
Islamic Origins of Modern Science
(780-850 CE) and the Muslim influence on western mathematics
of Muslim art and visits
to two Islamic art collections
- This BBC website
offers a good outline of the essentials in its Introduction
to Islamic Art
to Muslim Art and Ornaments is another good overview
of Islamic art.
- Explore in depth
this site, hosted by The
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The site is not only well
organized into periods of art and the cultural and historical
context of the art displayed, but provides a balanced introduction
to Muslim aesthetics. Be sure to read the text associated with
the museum's classification of the four main periods of Islamic
Metropolitan Museum of Art (in NYC) Islamic Art site is quite
comprehensive. In fact, it is probably much more detailed than
is relevant here, but is worth skimming through for its incredible
richness. Come back to it if you need resources for your research.
of the mosque and mausoleum/tomb architecture
More articles from MuslimHeritage.com.
From the hundreds of articles on the site, the following articles
on architecture are most relevant to the goals of this course and
expand on some themes introduced in the previous section, especially
in the virtual museums you will have visited. Remember, each
article is only a summary of a larger article which you may wish
to read if it interests you.
glossary of terms for Muslim Architecture
review of Mosque Architecture
under Umayyad Patronage (661-750)
Mosques and Palaces
- The Arch --
Seljuk Mausoleum (which
is the predecessor of Timurid and Mughal tombs).
The Great Muslim Empires after the Mongol Conquest
- Read "The Islamic Empires" in your e-textbook.
on the Mughal empire
essay and perspectives on pluralism and fundamentalism in the
Architecture: Diversity in Unity - or - Pluralism and Monism
- As a central message
of Islam is the the unity of God, it should come as no surprise
that all the Islamic arts are related. An obvious example is the
use of calligraphy to decorate public buildings. Begin this section
with a quick tour of notable
Muslim monuments around the world. Note the variety and consistency
of styles. You do not need to read analyses of the monuments,
I'll be doing an explanation of my main concerns in my lecture
on the Muslim Tomb, below.
- The city of Isfahan
in Iran has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site because
of its wealth of outstanding Islamic architecture. As the arts
and architecture of the Mughal empire were to a large extent derived
from medieval Turko-Iranian world (which includes not just the
current Iran but also regions to the north, such as the current
Uzbekistan) a virtual tour of the monuments of this city provides
an important background for appreciating and understanding the
arts and architecture of Muslim South Asia. This is a very imaginative
site. Wander around a little, be a tourist; nothing else required.
Just visit this site to familiarize yourself with a great Muslim
Taj Mahal. Like Humayan's tomb, which is discussed below, the
Taj is a "meeting place of heaven and earth," and also
signals the power of the ruler as divinely appointed to execute
the laws and world view of Islam in society. The perfection of
a building like the Taj, or Humayan's tomb, thus reflect the Muslim
view that all the multiplicity and complexity of existence is
united in the unity of God.
- PBS Taj
Mahal: Memorial to Love. In spite of its rather sentimental
title this is an excellent site -- be sure to explore it thoroughly,
visiting the text links at the bottom of the page as well
as those accessed by this button: .
multidimensional tour of the Taj Mahal If you place
your mouse pointer on the moving images, press the left key
and drag the mouse pointer you can move through 360 degrees
of the horizontal and vertical. The ceilings and floors are
as wonderful as the walls.
Like a gemstone set in a ring, Mughal
tombs were set in gardens, an environment symbolic of the
gardens of paradise mentioned in the Quran. This site discusses
Mughal gardens in Pakistan.
Muslim Tomb - The Meeting Place of Heaven and Earth
Weeks 8 & 9
The end of the muslim empires and conflict with the West
- Read "The End of Empire" in your e-textbook.
- While this PBS site
Connections: The Middle East focuses on the last hundred years
of Middle Eastern history, and Islam is more than just a Middle
Eastern religion, still the site offers a good foundation for
understanding the roots of many of the issues the USA will be
dealing with in its relationship with Islam in general and thus
is a good foundation for reading the articles in this section.
The last 20 years of the relationship of Muslim and Western states has been extremely complex, and a knowledgeable, comprehensive, open minded perspective difficult to attain. In this section we will read a number of articles and two book chapters addressing this relationship. The articles by Lewis and Huntington are important as they set the perspectives in place which have dominated American policy toward the Muslim world in this period. Alternatives were presented by Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im and by Benazir Bhutto. It is quite possible that the events of 2011 -- the so-called "Arab Spring" and its consequences -- cast some doubt on all the ideas presented in readings 1 through 8, especially those associated with jihad, or possibly current events will will confirm some ideas presented here. This is anything but clear as yet. This section of readings also can be considered foundational for the readings in week 10.
Liberty, and the Pursuit of Islam dates from December 2001.
Thus some of the comments in it are dated, such as "The fact
that, unlike Britain and France, the United States has never directly
ruled Arab peoples has...." Of course the invasions of Iraq
and Afghanistan have changed all of this. But the article summarizes
an important theme of this section of the course: can Islam adopt
western governmental principles, or is the Islamic tradition necessarily
opposed to western governmental arrangements and culture?
Roots of Muslim Rage. This is a very important article by
Bernard Lewis, which appeared in The Atlantic Monthly,
September 1990. Note that some of its political observations are
now dated because of rearrangements on the international scene.
Right, You're Wrong, Go to Hell: by Bernard Lewis in The
Atlantic Monthly, May 2003 is in some ways a follow-up on
the previous article.
Clash of Civilizations?, by Samuel P. Huntington in Foreign
Affairs, Summer 1993. (PDF file requires Acrobat). Huntington's
article generated considerable debate in the American international
affairs community, and a considerable number of people have been
persuaded of the correctness of his basic hypothesis, if not his
conclusions. The article was thus very influential on American foreign policy. For more about Huntington and some context for his
views, see Looking
the World in the Eye, The Atlantic Monthly, December
Went Wrong?, by Bernard Lewis in The Atlantic Monthly,
January 2002. Here Lewis proposes for the Islamic world precisely
what Huntington asserts is not only impossible, but possibly dangerous.
- Lewis and Huntington
paint a canvas full of conflict and seem dubious about alternatives.
Jihadism and terrorism would seem to confirm the gloomy view, although recent popular revolutions in the Muslim world suggest alternative forces are at work. Even before 2011 not everyone is entirely pessimistic. Cross
Meets Crescent: This interview with a former Anglican assistant
bishop of Jerusalem offers some insights on the possibility of
conversation between Muslims and the West. Pay particular attention
to his observations about fundamentalism and the literal reading
of the Quran. Also, his observations about the potential role
of Muslims who do not live in Islamic countries in sorting through
problems of Islam & Modernity and Islam & the West are
I think particularly important. Perhaps these Muslims in the West
could have an important role in mediating between the civilizations
which Huntington sees as necessarily being in conflict. Cragg
does not consider this conflict inevitable.
- Here Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, a Muslim scholar, offers
his thoughts about a potential internal development within Islam,
what he calls an Islamic
Counter Reformation, which might ultimately avert the most
violent potential manifestations of a clash of civilizations.
Dividing the Quran into the Mecca message and the Medina message,
he sees a way for Islam to incorporate the best elements of Modernity.
Note, however, that to do this one must consider the context of
the different Quranic passages and privilege some over others.
While Muslim scholars have engaged in such interpretations
for centuries, one must wonder whether contemporary fundamentalists,
who, following Cragg's definition, read the Quran literally,
will accept this procedure.
- Your second course text is Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West by Benazir Bhutto. I want you to read Chapters 5 and 6 in this book. In Chapter 5 Bhutto argues against Huntington's ideas about the clash of civilizations, and, in fact, is also critical of Lewis. In Chapter 6 she reviews the ideas of quite a number of Muslims who believe Islam and the West can live in peace (and with appreciation of each other). Bhutto's is a significant voice. She was a Harvard and Oxford educated Pakistani whose father later became Prime Minister of Pakistan, as did she herself. She was assassinated in 2007.
Revolution in the Muslim world
- In this week we will be reviewing "The Muslim Spring" of 2011 and its aftermath. Refer to the Blackboard course site, Week 10 for material on this subject.
Syllabus prepared: January 4, 2013