July 21-August 3, 2002

Course Aims

The aims and objectives of the IIS Summer Program on Islam are:


  1. To provide a social, cultural, and civilisational introduction to Islam;
  2. To situate Shi‘ism and Ismailism within the larger context of the intellectual and historical development of Islam;
  3. To raise questions, stimulate reflection, and encourage discussion on important contemporary issues and themes in Islam and its Ismaili tariqah.

Welcome Lecture

Islamic Studies in the WestGordon NewbyChair of the Institute for Comparative and International Studies, Emory University

Course Description

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


  • What is Islam? Who is a Muslim?
  • Sources of Islamic Tradition I: The Qur’an as Oral Scripture
  • Sources of Islamic Tradition II: The Qur’an in Muslim Piety
  • Sources of Islamic Tradition III: The Sacred Word as Design
  • What’s in a Name?
  • Sources of Islamic Tradition IV: The Qur’an – From Form to Meaning
    Azim Nanji, Director, The Institute of Ismaili Studies
  • The Qur’an and its Interpretation: Authority, Society and Gender
  • Sources of Islamic Tradition V: Prophet Muhammad and Muslim Piety
  • Prophet Muhammad as Mystical Paradigm
  • Spaces of Worship: The Mosque and the Durgah

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


  • Arab Influences on Muslim Identity in the Modern World and ‘Reform’ Islam
    Mahmoud al-Batal, Associate Professor of Arabic and Director, Center for Arabic Study Abroad, Emory University

  • Islamic Law
    Devin Stewart, Associate Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Emory University

  • Rumi
    Franklin Lewis, Assistant Professor, Persian Language, Literature and Culture, Emory University
  • The Rise of the West and the Roots of Colonialism
    Gordon Newby, Chair of the Institute for Comparative and International Studies, Emory University
  • Islam, the Media and the Modern World
    Bruce Lawrence, Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Humanities Professor of Religion and Chair, Department of Religion, Duke University
  • Understanding Fundamentalism in the Modern World
    Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Humanities Professor of Religion and Chair, Department of Religion, Duke University

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


  • What is Ismailism? Who is an Ismaili? Pluralism and Diversity in Islam
    Azim Nanji, Director, The Institute of Ismaili Studies

  • The Ismaili Vision of Islam
    Azim Nanji, Director, The Institute of Ismaili Studies

  • The Ismailis of Central Asia
    Sarfaroz Niyozov, Central Asian Studies Coordinator, The Institute of Ismaili Studies
  • The Ismailis of South Asia
    Azim Nanji, Director, The Institute of Ismaili Studies
  • Keynote Address
    Aziz Esmail, Governor, The Institute of Ismaili Studies