Introduction to Islamic Civilization


About the Course:

Introduction to Islamic civilization is a historical survey of Islamic institutions, communities, literature, arts, sciences, cultures, and practices since the 7th century. This course is for students with an interest in learning about the Islamic civilization, the religious practices and beliefs, and/or the history or the regions where Muslims are in the majority. We will examine the traditions and main social and legal institutions of Islam. Arguably, Islam, as a major system of beliefs and practices in the world, affects both Muslims and non-Muslims. Consequently, besides examining the basic tenets, texts, and ideas of the Islamic civilization, this course focuses on the variety of ways in which Muslims and non-Muslims have understood and interpreted Islam. We will review the discussions surrounding the life of the Prophet of Islam, Islamic pre-modern and modern history, the place and role of individuals and society, the legal and economic status of women, and Islamic governments and movements. As a survey course, we will examine these topics through an interdisciplinary approach: we will apply textual, legal/normative, anthropological, geographical, sociological, analytical, linguistic, and historical methodologies.

One of the aims of this course is to give voice to Islamic texts and provide a window into how Muslims, in varying socio-historical contexts, view themselves and how they view others. We will address specific topics such as Islamic doctrines and law, philosophy, Sufi mysticism, Islamic science and arts, gender issues, politics, the ongoing debate between modernism and traditionalism in contemporary Islamic societies, and Islam in West. The course is ultimately an attempt to understand Islam as an idea and as a process, never as a static and crystallized snapshot of the world through the eyes of any specific group inside or outside the Muslim community.

Minimally, students will learn basic definitions of key terms and concepts, identify major social and political trends, locate demographic and political centers within the Islamic world, understand legal and philosophical norms, contextualize historical events, expose hidden and public tensions within and without Muslim and/or non-Muslim communities, and acquire a basic understanding of the origins, developments, and limits of the Islamic civilization.

Required texts:

1.    Reading Packet: Collections of Articles and Chapters including, Critical Reading Guide + selections from Quran + selections from Hadith + selections from Tafsir + Modern Islamic Thought + Introduction to Islam (6 parts), all available online (ICON).

2.    The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Ballantine Books; ISBN: 0345350685, Price: $7.99.


1.    Online Dictionary of Key Arabic Words and Phrases in Islamic Studies

2.    Library: Islamic Studies Encyclopedia; Articles Database: JSTOR; Books: Books Catalog Search

3.    Online Islamic Studies Articles and Books

4.    The Qur’ān online

5.    Grade Conversion Tables, U of Iowa Teaching Resources…

Supplemental and Research Materials:

·        Islam, by Huston Smith

·        Islam, by Seyyed Hossein Nasr

·        Mystical Dimensions of Islam; Author: Annemarie Schimmel

·        Islam : A Short History (Modern Library Chronicles) , Author: KAREN ARMSTRONG

·        Contesting Justice: Women, Islam, Law, and Society, SUNY Press, 2009.

·        Islam, Author: Neal Robinson

·        Thomas Cleary (Translator), The Qur'an: A New Translation  (Starlatch Press, 2004).

·        THOMAS CLEARY, The Wisdom of the Prophet: The Sayings of Muhammad (Shambhala, 2001).

·        al-Nawawi's Forty hadith: An Anthology of the Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, translated by Ezzeddin Ibrahim and Denys Johnson-Davies, (Cambridge, UK: Islamic Texts Society, 1997).

·        Fazlur Rahman, Major Themes of the Qur’an (Minneapolis: Bibliotheca Islamica, 1994).

·        Michael Sells, Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations (Ashland: White Cloud Press, 1999).

·        Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur’an.

·        Sayyid Qutb, Social Justice in Islam

3.    Milestones, by Sayyid Qutb; CreateSpace, (2005), ISBN: 1450590640, Price, $9.99.

Students’ final assessment is neither based solely on the assigned readings nor exclusively on the in-class lectures and quiz sections with Teaching Assistants. Rather, it will be based on all activities associated with the course.  The reading materials are intended to provide an adequate background for the lectures whereby one complements the other. Subsequently, quizzes and tests’ questions will be more or less equally distributed between the reading assignments and the lecture materials.  It is imperative that students stay on schedule and do the readings as scheduled and before attending lectures and discussion sections.  Generally, if a student were to not attend 50% of lectures and not read the assigned materials, such a student will fail the course.


Students’ final grades are based on the accumulative grades in quizzes, tests, reactions to reading materials, and group projects according to the following distributions:

·        Quizzes: Short quizzes covering the lectures and the reading assignments. About 40% of final GPA.

·        Exams and test: A midterm and final examinations the format and details of which will be decided by the TA and Professor 2 week before they are proctored. 15% + 20% = 35%

·        Research paper (and/or group projects) and participation: 15% + 10% = 25%

Instructor and Teaching Assistants of this course will evaluate each student's work fairly and without bias and will assign grades based on valid academic criteria. Fairness to students also implies reasonably consistent grading among courses of the same level, other things being equal. For this course, the grades distribution—based on the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences historical data—will be roughly as follows:  

Course’s Level




























Students final grade will reflect the plus/minus grading.

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism Rules

Students must consult the University Handbook on academic integrity and plagiarism. For quick reference, I provide these simple rules:

1. A student could be considered in violation of academic integrity if he or she,

·       represents the work of others as his or her own,

·       obtains assistance in any academic work from another individual in a situation in which the student is expected to perform independently,

·       gives assistance to another individual in a situation in which that individual is expected to perform independently, and

·       offers false data in support of findings and conclusions.

2. By submitting work for evaluation or to meet a requirement, a student is seen as assurance that the work is the result of the student's own thought and study, produced without assistance, and stated in that student's own words, except as quotation marks, references, or footnotes acknowledge the use of other sources. Submission of work used previously must first be approved by the instructor.

3. By submitting a paper, a student is agreeing that he or she have read the above guidelines and agree to the terms and conditions as stated.

Reminders and Resources:

For each semester hour credit in this course, students are expected to spend 2 hours per week preparing for class sessions (e.g., three-credit-hour course requires 6 hours per week for preparation.

A tentative schedule and assignments will be made available online, but changes may occur; students must check regularly for updates that will be reflected in the online version.

The University of Iowa relies on email system to disseminate information and reach students regarding academic matters; it is the student’s responsibility to establish an email account and check his/her email regularly for updates relevant to this course.

Please contact me during my office hours if you are one who has a disability which may require some modification of seating, testing, or other class requirements so that appropriate arrangements may be made. 

Ahmed Souaiaia,
Dec 21, 2012, 2:48 PM