cover from Lawrence, New Faiths

Pedagogy and Methodology
in Islamic Studies


FALL 2005

UNC Reli 299/055                                    Presentations                    Links                 

Instructor: Carl Ernst

Wednesday, 10 A.M.-12:45 P.M., Hanes Art 117
Office hours: T 3, W 2, Saunders 107

Prerequisites/Permission: graduate standing and permission of instructor


1. Syllabus: the main written work will consist of the formulation of a syllabus for an introductory course about Islam, whether conceived as a course located in religious studies, area studies, or some other discipline.This should be fully detailed in terms of resources, schedules, assignments, and evaluation.  Each student is to make a short presentation of the syllabus towards the end of the semester  (60 percent of grade).

2.  Brief account of current scholarship in a particular subfield of Islamic studies, also to be presented in the seminar (20 percent).

3.  Participation: discussion and active engagement with the work of the seminar is also an essential factor (20 percent).


Carl W. Ernst, Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World (UNC Press, 2003).

Marshall Hodgson, The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization (University of Chicago Press, 1972), volumes 1 and 2.

Bruce B. Lawrence, New faiths, old fears: Muslims and other Asian immigrants in American religious life (Columbia University Press, 2002).

Brannon Wheeler, ed., Teaching Islam (Oxford University Press, 2002).

Additional recommended background and resources:

Marilyn Waldman, "Islamic World," Encyclopaedia Britannica (a great historical survey, which is essentially a digest of Hodgson)

articles on Islam in HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion, pp. 498-539

The Qur'an: Resources for Study (from Carl Ernst's Resources for Islamic Studies web page)

Film resources:

Course Description:

    This course is a distinctive outgrowth of the collaborative graduate program in Islamic studies at Duke and UNC. It is designed as a new "gateway" course for the field of Islamic studies in the UNC graduate program in Religious Studies. It will be a prerequisite for teaching assistants (from any department or specialization) in large introductory undergraduate course sequence on Islamic civilization (Reli 25, Reli 26) at UNC. It is also a required core course for the graduate field in Islamic Studies at Duke.

     At both Duke and UNC, this course is an important teacher training experience, to help qualify graduate students in Islamic studies for teaching in this field and to give them a competitive edge on the academic job market. This course will also provide background and ready-made syllabus preparation to graduate students in other fields of religious studies (or other disciplines) who wish to be prepared to teach a course on Islam. This has been offered previously as a "topics" course, but with the formal establishment in 2003 of an Islamic studies graduate field at UNC, in partnership with the Islamic studies concentration at Duke, and with a growing cadre of interested graduate students at both UNC and Duke, the need for a periodic offering of this course is evident.

    Principal topics will include: the history of Islamic studies, in relation to Orientalism, area studies, and religious studies; problems of anti-Islamic bias and stereotypes; use of textbooks, primary sources, novels, films, and the Internet; teaching the Qur'an; Muslim presence in Europe and America; contemporary reflection on "classical" sources; modern Muslim thinkers; gender studies; and other related subjects.  Using the classic work of Marshall Hodgson as a baseline, we will also take account of the most significant recent work in particular subfields of Islamic studies.


Tentative Schedule:

1. Aug. 31. Introduction to Islamic studies
Reading: Ernst, Following Muhammad
, chapters 1 and 2; Hodgson, Venture 1:viii-xii, 1:3-100
UNC Qur'an controversy (Summer Reading Program 2002)

2. Sept. 7Early Islamic civilization
Hodgson, 1:101-230; Following Muhammad, chapter 3
Websites with evangelical anti-Islamic material: or Jack Chick conversion comic Note that he regards Islam as not only a  false religion but also a Catholic plot.

3. Sept. 14. The High Caliphate, 1
Reading: Hodgson, 1:232-358
Web sites on Shi`ism


4. Sept. 21. The High Caliphate, 2
Reading: Hodgson, 1:359-495

5. Sept. 28. The Early Middle Period, 1
Reading: Hodgson, 2:1-151

6. Oct. 5. The Early Middle Period, 2
Reading: Hodgson, 2:152-292
Jonathan Z. Smith, ""Narratives into Problems': The College Introductory Course and the Study of Religion"

7. Oct. 12. The Post-Mongol Period, 1
Reading: Hodgson, 2:293-437

8. Oct. 19. The Post-Mongol Period, 2
Reading: Hodgson, 2:437-574
Subfield reports

9. Oct. 26. Pedagogy 1
Reading: Wheeler, Teaching Islam, chapters 1-4, pages 3-74
Subfield reports

10. Nov. 2. Pedagogy 2
Reading: Wheeler, chapters 5-8, pages 77-141; Following Muhammad, chapter 5
Subfield reports
11. Nov. 9. No class

12. Nov. 16. Islam in the contemporary world
Reading: Following Muhammad, chapters 4, 6
Bruce Lawrence, "Current Problematics in the Study of Islam," Religious Studies Review 16/4 (1990), pp. 293-300 (e-reserve)
Presentations of syllabi

13. Nov. 23. No class
Reading: Wheeler, chapters 9-12, pages 145-215

14. Nov. 30. Islam in the U.S.
Reading: Lawrence, New faiths, old fears (complete)
Presentations of syllabi

15. Dec. 7.  Revisiting modernity
Reading: Hodgson, The Venture of Islam, vol. 3, chapter on "The Great Western Transmutation"
Layla Hudson,"Beyond Culture: Teaching Histories of Islam," Radical History Review 86 (2003), pp. 175-81 (e-reserve)

Presentations of syllabi


This web page last updated October 17, 2005.