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Assigned Reading:

Adam Silverstein, Islamic History: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2010). Read Chapter 1 *at least*.

While this module requires no prior study in Islamic history, you will need to develop a general background knowledge of the history of the Muslim world. Much of this will happen through the weekly readings and classes. You should also read around the general history of the different societies we study: suggestions are given on each week’s webpage. However, it is helpful to have a general idea of the broad sweep of Islamic history. Chapter 1 of Adam Silverstein’s book is the bare minimum: please try to read the whole book.

Primary Source:

Please examine this contents page of a typical work of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). It shows how the field of shari'a law was divided into categories by Muslim jurists. In what ways does this conform to, or differ from, your assumptions about what law is, what role it plays, and what aspects of life it regulates?


Before class, please also think about what ideas and pre-suppositions you already have about sharīʿa law. Write down two or three things you associate with sharīʿa law. There are no right or wrong answers – this is not intended to test you or catch you out! Everyone has pre-suppositions that are the product of how sharīʿa law is portrayed and discussed in our media. During class we are going to watch excerpts from two documentaries discussing the role of sharīʿa law in modern societies; these will form the basis of a general discussion about what sharīʿa law means.