INTRODUCTION TO RELIGION Fall 2009
Professor: A. Dole
Office: Chapin 208
Office Hours: Thursday, 1-3PM
Professor: T. Jaffer
Office: Chapin 209
Office Hours: Friday, 11AM - 1PM
Course Description This course introduces students to the academic and comparative study of religion through critical examination of two major religious traditions, Islam and Christianity. Over the course of the semester we will focus on four areas of investigation clustered around the theme of the relationship between religious piety and learning. Following an introduction to the academic study of religion and brief overviews of our two traditions, the first section of the course will be concerned with the contents and use of scriptures (authoritative texts) within Islam and Christianity. The second section will focus on accounts of spiritual journeys (religious autobiographies) that have been prominent within the two traditions. The third section will examine ways in which adherents of the traditions derive law or ethical precept (guidelines for individual and collective conduct) from traditional resources. And the fourth and final section will examine conceptions of education that have played important roles within the historical lives of the traditions.
With a few exceptions, two class sessions each week will be more lecture-based than discussion-based, and will be dedicated to the comprehension and contextualization of assigned readings. On Fridays the class will meet in smaller groups, each convened by either Prof. Dole or Prof. Jaffer, for discussion of the week’s material.
Requirements and Policies General: Students are expected to do all of the assigned readings before class, to attend all class meetings and to participate actively in discussion sessions.
Papers and exams: Formal work for the course will consist of one short paper (3-4 pages) due early in the semester; an in-class midterm exam on Oct. 16; a final paper (8-10 pages) due in class on Monday, December 14; and a final examination.
Paper assignments will ask you either to demonstrate an understanding of an assigned text or to examine themes that span multiple texts. Specific guidelines for the writing of academic papers will be distributed in advance of the first assignment.
The midterm and final examination will ask you to demonstrate familiarity with the corpus of assigned reading for the semester, to place important quotes or ideas into their proper historical and conceptual context, and to reflect on questions of importance for the concerns of the course. Examinations will be closed-book.
Evaluations: Students will be required to submit course evaluations at the end of the semester. Students will not be able to access their course grade until an evaluation has been submitted.
Absence policy: Repeated, unexcused absences will result in a final grade penalty of not less than one-third of a letter grade.
Extension policy: Paper extensions are likely to be granted if they are asked for well ahead of time. A good reason must be offered for any request for an extension. No extensions will be granted less than twenty-four hours in advance of a paper deadline except in cases of emergency. Papers received late without an extension will receive a grade penalty.
Grading policy: Final grades for the course will be calculated roughly as follows:
First paper: 15%
Midterm exam: 20%
Final paper: 35%
Final exam: 30%
Texts The following required books are available at Amherst Books (8 Main Street, Amherst):
Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
Roy Mottahedeh, The Mantle of the Prophet A course packet containing copies of additional required readings is available from the Religion department office in 108 Chapin Hall. Our first readings for the semester will be drawn from the course packet. Schedule of meetings and assignments
INTRODUCTORY MATERIAL Tuesday, Sept. 8: Introduction to the course
Wednesday, Sept. 9: Studying Religion,1
Reading: Rahman, Major Themes of the Qur’an, xv-xx, 1-16, 80-105, 150-170
Wednesday, Sept. 23: Q. Exegesis (Modern Egypt)
Reading: Qutb [d. 1966], Milestones, pp. 7-76; Qutb [d. 1966], In the Shade of the Qur’an, pp. xvii-xxv, 1-8 (packet); Bonner, Jihad in Islamic History: Doctrines and Practice, 1-19, 157-174 (packet)
Friday, Sept. 25: Discussion; first paper due
Monday, Sept. 28: Q. Exegesis (Medieval Islamic Spain)
Reading: Addas, C., Quest for the Red Sulphur, pp. 27-51, 153-168 (packet); Ibn ‘Arabi [d. 1240], The Bezels of Wisdom, pp. 269-284 (packet)
Wednesday, Sept. 30: Christian scriptures: overview
Reading: Confessions, pp. 111-178
Wednesday, Oct. 28: Introduction to Islamic Mysticism (Sufism)
Reading: Qushayri [d. 1074], Epistle, pp. 1-16, 75-138 (packet)
Friday, Oct. 30: Discussion
Monday, Nov. 2: Deliverance from Error, 2
Reading: Ghazali [d. 1111], Deliverance, pp. 19-54 (packet)
Wednesday, Nov. 4: Deliverance from Error, 3
Reading: Ghazali [d. 1111], Deliverance, pp. 54-85 (packet)
Friday, Nov. 6: Discussion
III. LAW AND ETHICS
Monday, Nov. 9: Islamic Law (Classical)
Reading: Shafi‘i [d. 820], Treatise on the Foundations of Islamic Jurisprudence, 146-172 (packet)
Wednesday, Nov. 11: Islamic Law (Modern)
Reading: Muhammad Baqir as-Sadr [d. 1980], Lessons in Islamic Jurisprudence, Preface, Introduction, and pp. 1-53 (packet)
Friday, Nov. 13: Discussion
Monday, Nov. 16: Christian social ethics: 1960s
Reading: Mehl, “The Basis of Christian Social Ethics”; Janssens, “The Christian Concern for Society– A Roman Catholic View”; Shinn, “The Church in an Affluent Society” (packet)
Wednesday, Nov. 18: American Evangelical ethics: 1980s
IV. EDUCATION Monday, Nov. 30: The Madrasas (Classical), 1
Reading: George Makdisi, “Muslim institutions of learning in eleventh-century Baghdad,” 1-56 (packet); Mottahedeh, The Mantle of the Prophet, 7-185
Wednesday, Dec. 2: The Madrasas (Modern), 2
Reading: R. Mottahedeh, “Traditional Shi‘ite Education in Qom,” pp. 451-457 (packet); Mottahedeh, The Mantle of the Prophet, 186-390
Friday, Dec. 4: Discussion
Monday, Dec. 7: A nineteenth-century Catholic view of higher education in the UK
Reading: Newman, The Idea of a University, pp. 3-11, 25-40, 147-164
Wednesday, Dec. 9: The contemporary home schooling movement in the US
Reading: Carpenter & Ray, “Religion, Schooling and Home Education” (packet); Beechick, A BiblicalHome Education, selections (packet)
Friday, Dec. 11: Discussion
Monday, Dec. 14: Catch-up and wrap-up; final paper due