July 21-August 3, 2002
The aims and objectives of the IIS Summer Program on Islam are:
Islamic Studies in the WestGordon NewbyChair of the Institute for Comparative and International Studies, Emory University
The IIS Summer Programme on Islam is structured along three tracks.
Track I: A Social, Cultural and Civilisational Introduction to Islam
Track II: Islam and Modernity: Contemporary Themes and Issues
Track III: Ismaili Tariqah in the Context of Muslim History, Thought and Development
Consistent with the Institute’s overall approach, this track will encourage an interdisciplinary perspective, which is not confined to the theological or religious heritage of Islam, but will seek to explore the relationship of religious ideas to the broader dimensions of society and culture. The approach taken in this track will be informed by the full range and diversity of cultures in which Islam is practised today, such as the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and North America, thus taking into consideration the variety of contexts which shape the ideals, beliefs and practices of the faith. Religious developments will be seen as part of the wider development of thought and culture in Muslim societies. Aspects of culture like art, poetry, literature and architecture will be examined alongside doctrine, law and religious practice. Culture will be studied in relation to the social and political forces that help shape it. The importance of national, regional, or local vernaculars will be noted alongside “classical” languages like Arabic, Persian, and Turkish and the importance of “popular” and oral traditions and expressions of Islam will be noted alongside “learned” or textual ones.
Track I: Courses
All courses in Track I led by Ali Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim Culture and Practice, and Hussein Rashid, PhD candidate, Near Eastern Languages, Harvard University unless stated otherwise
This track will give particular attention to issues of modernity that arise as Muslims seek to relate their heritage to contemporary circumstances. The meaning that religious ideas have for their followers will be considered in relation to contemporary challenges and issues (e.g., identity, representations of Muslims in the media, gender and sexuality, biomedical ethics, practice of the faith, etc.). This track will, therefore, balance doctrinal and intellectual formulations of Islam with contemporary manifestations of lived practice. It will explore spiritual and existential issues relevant to contemporary Muslim societies, note the vast changes introduced in these societies in the modern period (e.g., colonialism, post-colonialism, the end of the Cold War, globalisation, civil wars, etc.), and explore the implications of social change for spiritual life. The polarity of “Islam” and the “West”, taken for granted in much contemporary discourse, will also be subjected to critical analysis.
Track II: Courses
This track will explore Ismaili history and institutional development, and foster a better understanding of the Ismaili tariqah within the broader historical context of Islam. The interrelationship of cultural factors to socio-political ones means that diverse definitions and schools of thought, which emerged in Islam, must be understood historically, and as categories with boundaries that change and fluctuate with time and place. Assumptions like “orthodoxy” and “heterodoxy”, which have a strong influence on the way Islam has been conventionally understood, will be seen as historically constructed rather than timeless and taken as given. This track will challenge descriptions of Islam as a monolithic phenomenon, and the diversity of expressions of Islam will be treated without normative preconceptions about their validity. This track will note the diverse features of Islamic culture around the world, including within the Ismaili jamat, and challenge such distinctions as that between “peripheral” and “central” Islamic lands and communities. This track will also explore the development of community institutions, including the Aga Khan Development Network, and relate these developments to notions of Islamic ethics.
Track III: Courses