Islamic History

Posted by sepoy on June 18, 2004 · 1 min read

I have to submit book orders for the Introduction to Islamic History course I will be teaching in the Fall. So far, I have:

Here are my thoughts on the course so far: A survey course such as this, in an enviornment such as this, should go for maximum coverage (thematically, geographically and chronologically). Sure, you will sacrifice indepth analysis and may go scattershot all over the globe but I think I would rather have the students get even a rough inkling of the diversity of Islamic societies and the tools to do further study. So, I would like to cover statecraft, law, gender, theology AND Middle East, India, N. Africa AND c. 600-1700.
With that in mind, I think Ibn Battuta's Travelogue, and Edward Said's Orientalism could be possible additions. Plus, a good selection of primary documents in translation - from the Qur'an, Hadith, Tabari, Nizam ul Mulk, Jahiz, Ibn Rushd, Abu Fazl etc.
Any suggestions would be greatly welcome. If you were taking this class, what would you like to learn? If you have taken this class, what worked? If you taught this class, help me.
update: So I spend some time in the Seminary Coop and I think that Waldman & McNeill's The Islamic World looks a good primary source compilation.


Nitin | June 19, 2004

Islamic science: specifically mathematics, astronomy and chemistry. Arab Muslim scholars played a very important role in teaching Europeans the discoveries made by Indian, Chinese and Arab scholars. You may shock and amaze many of your students though !

Andrew Reeves | June 19, 2004

If I were taking the course, I'd want to get an introduction to the tenets of Islam, but also something of an understanding of the main schools of Islam and the political effects that the divisions have had.

I'd second the above comment in that I'd like to be introduced to Arab Platonism and Aristotelianism as well as the Arabic traditions of mathematical and philosophical commentaries.

Jonathan Dresner | June 19, 2004

I think the most useful thing, aside from what you're already planning, would be something like an Ibn Battuta for the present (or as far up as you are going): a sense of the diversity of Islamic societies and classes (and the core issues/doctrines that bind them together), and the expanse of Islam in the modern world. A clear distinction (theoretical, of course, because it is nearly impossible in practice) between doctrine, tradition and local custom would be a useful trope in the class, I imagine. Remember to reserve some class time (not formally, but you better plan on it) for current events, contemporary questions, news stories. Don't be afraid to say "that's not an issue for this class" but don't be afraid to say "well that connects to what we're going to talk about next week/month" or "what do you think the answer is, based on what we've studied."

sepoy | June 19, 2004

nitin, andrew: thanks for the suggestion. I did overlook those aspects. So, I think instead of Berkey, I am going to go with Esposito's Oxford History of Islam which has nice section by Ahmad Dallal on Science and Technology (as well as the opening chapter by Fred Donner who is my advisor:). Jonathan: Current events will never leave that class room. I am amassing news-magazines, articles, cartoons etc. as I know from using them in my Pakistan class to great effect. Do i remember correctly that there was a derisive article on the qur'anic history in the atlantic monthly last year? Also, what do you suggest as a modern-day Ibn Battuta? Please don't say Naipaul's Among the Believers as it is Among My Pet Peeves.

Jonathan Dresner | June 23, 2004

Unfortunately, I didn't actually have something in mind for the "modern day Ibn Battuta": I was hoping it would inspire you to think of something. Sorry. Is there nothing out there? A textbook, even, that addresses the scope and depth of issues? I'm all for avoiding books that make you grit your teeth: I do the same thing, even when it requires replacing them with two other books to cover the same material.

sepoy | June 23, 2004

Jonathan: I did find this new travelogue called Desperately Seeking Paradise that looks excellent. Too bad, US market will not have it for a while. Similarly, I discover MUCH to my chagrin that the Penguin Classics 25th year edition of Orientalism was released in Britain last year but is not available in US. What gives/!?

ATUL J KANSAGARA | April 25, 2006

Hi, I want to send a book as a compliment "The Internal World Drama" written by BK Jagdis Chandra Hassija. This book explain the correct world view, correct meaning in history, correct identity of man etc. I am quite impressed with this book If you wish to receive Pl send me your mailing address I will send it as compliment. rgds Bk Dr. Atul j kansagara Aurangabad( India) 09822967460

manise | May 06, 2006

Do you have plans to cover Islam in Southeast Asia? The versions of Islam in that world region offer great examples of Islam's diversity and local adaptation, in particular the incorporation of SEAsian mysticism and magic. I am putting together a course on SEAsian Islam, so I too am interesting in suggestions for course themes etc.