Thursday, January 12, 2012

Medieval Islamic World Survey

Here is my syllabus for what is usually the first half of the Middle East survey sequence. I ditch the anachronistic "Middle East" framing mainly to get at India and highlight the fact that Islam isn't just or even primarily a Middle Eastern thing. The end date is also fairly arbitrary, but picking a couple of dates sounder better than "From Muhammad to the Gunpowder Empires."

HIS 390: The Central Islamic Lands, 500-1600
204 Dauphin Humanities Center, MWF 8:00 a.m.
Dr. Brian J. Ulrich

Office: 201 Dauphin Humanities Center, ex. 1736
Office Hours: 11-11:50 a.m. MWF, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. W, also by appointment

“For any branch of knowledge to exist, it must be derived from history. From it all wisdom is deduced, all jurisprudence is elicited, all eloquence is learnt. Those who reason by analogy build upon it. Those who have opinions to expound use it for argument. Popular knowledge is derived from it and the precepts of the wise are found in it. Noble and lofty morality is acquired from it and the rules of royal government and war are sought in it. All manner of strange events are found in it; in it, too, all kinds of entertaining stories may be enjoyed. It is a science which can be appreciated by both the educated and the ignorant, savoured by both fool and sage, and much desired comfort to elites and commoners. The superiority of history over all other branches of learning is obvious. The loftiness of its status is recognized by any person of intelligence.”

-al-Masudi, 10th century

Required Texts:

A History of Islamic Societies, 2nd Edition, Ira Lapidus
The Formation of Islam, Jonathan Berkey
Islam and the Muslim Community, Frederick Denny
Women in Islam and the Middle East: A Reader, Ruth Roded

Electronic reserves found on Blackboard

Course Overview:

This course will cover the regions where Islam was a significant presence either culturally or politically from its origins until the period of the “Gunpowder Empires” in the 16th and 17th centuries. Key themes will involve the origins of Islamic doctrines and institutions, the development of Islamic polities and high culture, the spread of Islam and diversity of Islamic societies, and the interaction of economics, politics, culture, geography and societies in history. Its contribution to an integrated history curriculum includes an awareness of issues in approaching premodern primary sources, the nature of premodern polities, and the way time periods and regions are often bounded in ways contingent on particular themes and questions.

This course will feature two exams combining IDs and essays. On February 6, students will take a map quiz. On March 30, groups will present posters on aspects of Islamic science in the Fishbowl. Students will also complete a study of an academic monograph as a project from conception to impact. Details on this assignment will be forthcoming; however, the final paper is due April 20 regardless of when you present. Pop quizzes will occasionally check reading, and short writing assignments will occasionally ask you to engage with readings, especially the primary sources found in Roded. Quizzes and some short writing assignments cannot be made up, but the lowest grade in that section will be dropped from the final calculation. Attendance in class is mandatory, and 5% will be deducted from students’ participation grades for each class missed over three. Missing 12 classes will result in a failure in the course. Participation, however, is more than just attendance, and will reflect your asking and answering of questions and participation in discussions.


Quizzes and Reading Thoughts: 10%
Participation: 10%
Map Quiz: 7%
Science Presentations: 10%
Book Study: 18%
Midterm Exam: 20%
Final Exam: 25%

Syllabus Changes:

Occasionally I find I want to make minor changes to the syllabus. These are usually substitutions of different readings or additional short news items, and will not result in much increased work or changes in the dates of exams and major assignments. These will be announced in class, and it is the student’s responsibility to learn of them.


Plagiarism is bad, and you should not do it. The minimum penalty for plagiarism is failure on the plagiarized assignment, along with a notice of your perfidy becoming part of your record.

Disability Accomodation:

If you feel you may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability, you should contact me privately to discuss your specific needs at least 72 hours prior to the activity which requires the accommodation. If you have not already done so, you must contact the Office of Disability Services. This office is responsible for determining reasonable and appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities on a case-by-case basis, and more generally, for ensuring that members of the community with disabilities have access to Shippensburg’s programs and services. They also assist students in identifying and managing the factors that may interfere with learning and in developing strategies to enhance learning. I cannot approve an accommodation without you registering.

Schedule of Readings and Major Assignments

January 18 – Course Intro
January 20 – Denny, pp. 5-17; Lapidus, pp. 3-9; Berkey, 3-9; Marshall Hodgson, “The Confessional Empires,” The Venture of Islam, Vol. I, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974), pp. 137-142. (Late Antiquity I)

January 23 – Berkey, pp. 10-39; Chronicle of Zuqnin, Part III, pp. 94-99. (Late Antiquity II)
January 25 – Lapidus, pp. 10-17; Berkey, pp. 39-53; James Lindsay, “Traditional Arabic Naming System,” Daily Life in the Medieval Islamic World, (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2005), pp. 173-178 (Pre-Islamic Arabia)
January 27 – Berkey, pp. 57-60; Denny, pp. 18-37; Chase F. Robinson, “The Emergence of Genre,” Islamic Historiography, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 18-30; Gregor Schoeler, “The Relationship of Literacy and Memory in the Second/Eighth Century,” The Development of Arabic as a Written Language, ed. M.C.A. Macdonald, (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2010), pp. 121-126. (Historiographical issues)

January 30 – Lapidus, pp. 18-30; Berkey, pp. 61-9; Roded, pp. 32-47 (Muhammad)
February 1 – Denny, pp. 40-64; Roded, pp. 27-31 (Islam I)
February 3 – Denny, pp. 77-88, 98-106; Asma Afsaruddin, “The Concept of Jihad,” The First Muslims: History and Memory, (Oxford: Oneworld, 2008), pp. 108-120; Ethar El- Katatney, “To Mecca and Back Again” (web link) (Islam II)

February 6 – Lapidus, pp. 31-47; Berkey, pp. 70-76 (Rashidun Caliphate) (map quiz)
February 8 – Lapidus, pp. 47-51; Berkey, pp. 76-90 (Early Umayyads)
February 10 – Roded, pp. 58-73; Tabari, Vol. 19, pp. 65-74 (Shi’ism)

February 13 – Berkey, pp. 91-101; Oleg Grabar, “The Symbolic Appropriation of the Land,” (web link) (Religious change)
February 15 – Lapidus, pp. 51-55; Berkey, pp. 102-110; Tabari, Vol. 27, pp. 61-70 (Abbasid Revolution)
February 17 –Lapidus, pp. 56-74; Berkey, pp. 113-123; Roded, pp. 84-91 (Abbasid Empire)

February 20 – Lapidus, pp. 99-102; Berkey, pp. 125-9; Ira M. Lapidus, “The Separation of State and Religion in the Development of Early Islamic Society,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 6 (1975): 363-85. (Religious authority)
February 22 – Denny, pp. 64-70; Lapidus, pp. 81-90; Berkey, pp. 141-151; Roded, pp. 48-57 (Sunnism and hadith)
February 24 – Wael Hallaq, “The Formation of Legal Schools,” The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 150-177. (Shari’a)

February 27 – Denny, pp. 71-76; Lapidus, pp. 90-94; Berkey, pp. 152-158; Roded, pp. 128-134 (Sufism)
February 29 – Berkey, pp. 159-175; Michael Morony, “The Age of Conversions: A Reassessment,” Conversion and Continuity: Indigenous Christian Communities in Islamic Lands Eighth to Eighteenth Centuries, ed. Michael Gervers and Ramzi Jibran Bikhazi, (Toronto: PIMS, 1990), pp. 135-150 (Non-Muslims and Conversion)
March 2 – Exam I ID Section

March 5 – Exam II Essay Section
March 7 – Lapidus, pp. 103-111, 125-132; Berkey, pp. 130-140 (Regional states and “Shi’ite Century”)
March 9 – Lapidus, pp. 112-125; Michael Chamberlain, “Military Patronage States and the Political Economy of the Frontier, 1000-1250,” A Companion to the History of the Middle East, ed. Youssef M. Choueiri, (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005), pp. 235-53 (Seljuqs)


March 19 – Berkey, pp. 179-202 (Characteristics of “High Middle Period”)
March 21 – Lapidus, pp. 142-146; Berkey, pp. 203-223 (Military patronage states and Islam)
March 23 – Berkey, pp. 224-230; Roded, pp. 131-134, 140-158 (ulama)

March 26 – Lapidus, pp. 156-166; Berkey, pp. 231-247 (Sufism)
March 28 – Lapidus, pp. 177-182; Berkey, pp. 248-257; Roded, pp. 168-180 (Muslim mass culture)
March 30 – Islamic Science Presentations

April 2 – Guest Speaker, Richard Bulliet
April 4 – Andre Wink, “The India Trade,” Al-Hind: The Making of the Indo-Islamic World, Vol. I, (Leiden: Brill, 1990), pp. 25-64. (Big picture time)
April 6 – Lapidus, pp. 356-368, 382-384; Richard M. Eaton, “Sufi Folk Literature and the Expansion of Indian Islam,” History of Religions 14 (1974), pp. 117-27 (JSTOR); Richard M. Eaton, “The Political and Religious Authority of the Shrine of Baba Farid,” Essays on Islam and Indian History, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000),
pp. 203-24. (South Asia)

April 9 – Lapidus, pp. 400-416, 432-438, 443-449 (Africa)
April 11 – Lapidus, pp. 226-247 (Ilkhans and Safavids)
April 13 - Lapidus, pp. 248-275 (Ottoman Empire)

April 16 – Berkey, pp. 261-269; Lapidus, pp. 368-381 (Mughals)
April 18 – Book Study Presentations
April 20 – Book Study Presentations (paper due)

April 23 – Book Study Presentations
April 25 – Book Study Presentations
April 27 – Book Study Presentations

Final Exam: Friday, May 4, 8 a.m.

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