REL 231 Spring 2014 The Origins of Islam: God, Empire and Apocalypse

Cross Listed as HIST209, ARAB231
Both Muslim and non-Muslim historians usually see the rise of Islam in the seventh century C.E. as a total break with the past. This course will challenge that assumption by placing the rise of Islam in the context of the history of late antiquity (c. 250-700 C.E.). The first portion of the course will examine the impact of Judeo-Christian monotheism in the ancient world, the rise of confessional empires, articulation of new ideas about holiness and its relation to sexuality and the transformations undergone by Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism. We shall examine the conversation of these traditions with classical paganism and philosophy, the internal struggle within traditions to define rules of interpretation, the impact of ascetic, iconoclastic and apocalyptic ideas and, finally, polemics among the traditions. We will then examine the career of Muhammad (PBUH) in the context of Arabia, the spread of the Islamic empire into Christian and Iranian worlds, the impact of apocalyptic expectations, the fixation of religious decision making within the tradition, the process of conversion, the encounter with the Late Antique heritage and religious diversity within the commonwealth of Islam. The course will end with the end of the Abbasid Caliphate in 1258.
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Requirements/Evaluation: one 5-page paper, self-scheduled final, and a final research project
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Prerequisites: none; open to all
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Distribution Notes: meets Division 2 requirement if registration is under ARAB
Divisional Attributes: Division II
Other Attributes: ARAB Arabic Studies Electives, HIST Group E Electives - Middle East,HIST Group G Electives - Premodern,INST Middle Eastern Studies Electives,REL Islamic Tradition Courses
Enrollment Limit: 30
Expected Enrollment: 20
Class Number: 3572
REL231-01(S) LEC The Origins of Islam Division 2: Social Studies Cancelled 3572
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