Spring 2023 Middle East UN3932 section 001

Islam and the Politics of Modernity

Islam & Politics of Moder

Call Number 16670
Day & Time
W 12:10pm-2:00pm
Points 3
Grading Mode Standard
Approvals Required None
Instructor Youssef Ben Ismail
Method of Instruction In-Person
Course Description

This course explores the relationship between Islam and politics from in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Muslim and Middle Eastern intellectuals have long grappled with the role of Islam in the modern polity. Their often-contested engagements with this question have deeply shaped the political life of the region. In this course, you will explore the genealogy of these debates by analyzing the issues they brought to the fore: the nature of the modern Islamic community, Islam’s relationship to Western imperialism, the challenges posed by the postcolonial nation-state, as well as the various political theologies at play in Islamist movements, in “liberal” conceptions of Islamic doctrines, and in Muslim states’ interpretations of religion.


The class follows the intellectual history of the “Islam and Politics” dyad. Students will mostly read primary sources produced by individuals who lived in the Middle East in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: political essays, theological writings, legal texts, constitutions, parliamentary debates, autobiographies. The aim of the course is to examine the thought of Muslim intellectuals who have written about the role of religion in politics and society. Students will learn about the politics of the Middle East by understanding the views, claims, and textual productions of Middle Easterners themselves. This exposure to primary texts will give them a deep understanding of the issues related to religion and politics in the Middle East today.


Please note that this course is for students who are interested in critically and academically engaging with the issue of Islam and politics. Discussions will be firmly rooted in history, the humanities and the social sciences. This is neither a course on Political Islam (Islamism) nor a survey of the history of religion and politics throughout the entire Middle East.


Secondary literature in English will be assigned, as well as primary sources in English translation. There will be opportunities to read and comment on Arabic primary sources as well, depending on students’ reading abilities.

Web Site Vergil
Department Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies
Enrollment 11 students (15 max) as of 9:07PM Friday, July 12, 2024
Subject Middle East
Number UN3932
Section 001
Division Interfaculty
Campus Morningside
Section key 20231MDES3932W001