RELIGIOUS STUDIES 179, spring 2006
Readings in Islamicate Literatures
Topic: Arabic Texts from South Asia
Instructor: Carl W. Ernst
UNC-Chapel Hill

Carroll 338, Thursdays, 10:00 a.m.- 12:50 p.m. (map)


This course involves close and careful study of selected Arabic texts on the intellectual history of Muslim South Asia, with attention to the vocabulary and grammar of classical Arabic. Each week students prepare selected passages, read them aloud with correct vocalization, and translate orally into English.
An ongoing theme is current issues in modern scholarship on Islamic culture in South Asia, with attention to the religious sciences, philosophy, and Sufism, as well as the nature of research tools for the study of Arabic texts.


Advanced knowledge of Arabic, and permission of instructor.


The basic goals of the course are:

Gaining linguistic skill in reading and translating classical Arabic religious texts.

Understanding problems related to the study of Islam, and methods of the study of classical Arabic texts.

Developing analytical skills through a research paper on a subject of one's choice related to the intellectual history of Muslim South Asia.

Developing translation skills, including English translation of significant Arabic passages relating to one's research.


A research paper on some aspect of South Asian Islamic culture related to the major text we are reading (15 pages plus bibliography), accompanied by translations of Arabic texts that provide the basis for the paper (4-5 pages of Arabic text). 70% of grade.

Participation in weekly seminars with preparation. 30% of grade.



Azad al-Bilgrami, Ghulam `Ali. Subhat al-marjan fi athar Hindustan. Edited by Muhammad Fadl al-Rahman al-Nadwi al-Siwani. 2 vols., Aligarh: Jami`at `Aligarh al-Islamiyya, 1976-80 (cover). Part 2 has biographies of Indian `ulama', with selections from their own writings.  These texts are available for download here:
pp. 58-65
pp. 194-203
pp. 204-213
pp. 217-228
pp. 229-241
pp. 242-253
pp. 254-265
pp. 266-275
pp. 276-285
pp. 288-289, 298-309

Preliminary: "India as a Sacred Islamic Land," trans. Carl Ernst, in Religions of India in Practice, ed. Donald S. Lopez, Jr., Princeton Readings in Religions, 1 (Princeton University Press, 1995), pp. 556-64.

General Reference:

J. G. Hawa, Al-Fara'id Arabic-English Dictionary (Intl Book Centre, June 1982; some copies also at Useful especially for later part of the alphabet not covered by Lane.

E. W. Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon. This may be used in the library, or now in the CD-ROM version published by Fons Vitae Press.

W. Wright, A Grammar of the Arabic Language (two volumes, Cambridge University Press). Used copies are available from online booksellers like

Special topics:

Afnan, Soheil Muhsin. Philosophical terminology in Arabic and Persian. Leiden, E.J. Brill, 1964. UNC location: Storage--Use Request Form -- CALL NUMBER: 101.4 A257p. Also at Duke.

Jabre, Farid. Essai sur le lexique de Ghazali: Contribution ŕ l'étude de la terminologie de Ghazali dans ses principaux ouvrages ŕ l'exception du Tahafut. Beyrouth : Publications de l'Université libanaise, 1985.

Rosenthal, Franz. The technique and approach of Muslim scholarship. Roma, Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1947. LOCATION: Davis -- CALL NUMBER: 001 R815t

Resources on Persian and Arabic Scripts and Manuscripts, and Regional Islamic Cultures