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RELS324 The Religion of Islam

An examination of Muslim religious thought and practice, including the Shi’ite and Sufi traditions, with an analysis of the current debates regarding the Muslim identity among revivalists, conservatives and modernists.

This paper provides an introduction to the many dimensions of Muslim (religious) life, its historical origins as well as it present-day manifestations, its beliefs as well as its practices. With over a billion adherents and a geographical spread that stretches from Mali to Indonesia, from Birmingham to Dunedin, from the streets of Lahore to the hallowed halls of al-Azhar University in Cairo - the oldest college in the world - the religion of Islam today is a needed topic of study. Understanding Islam's historical richness allows one to appreciate its many manifestations today and the ways in which modern Muslim religious identity remains under negotiation.

Paper title The Religion of Islam
Paper code RELS324
Subject Religious Studies
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2018
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $868.95
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,656.70

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18 200-level RELS or RELX points
RELS 207, RELX 207, RELX 324
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Theology
Students who have not passed the normal prerequisite may be admitted with approval from the Head of Department.
Teaching Arrangements
Campus: Lectures are held twice weekly (50 minutes each). One out of four lectures is designated as a tutorial for added interaction and to allow students to reflect back what they have learned.

Distance - Students will conduct self-study with the course book's Study Guide providing guidance to approaching the assigned readings. In addition, twice-weekly tutorials will be conducted online through the free videoconferencing programme, Zoom.
Andrew Rippin, Muslims: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices (4th edition. London: Routledge, 2012).

A coursebook has also been developed for this paper.
Course outline
View sample course outline for RELS324
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Information literacy, Research.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
Students who successfully complete the paper will possess
  • A working familiarity with the traditional account concerning the historical formation of the Muslim religious tradition, along with an awareness of some of the complications to this picture
  • A familiarity with key Muslim religious concepts and the range of meanings traditionally associated with them
  • An acquaintance with Islam's most important codified practices
  • An appreciation for the intricacies of such practices through an in-depth exploration of one of them
  • An understanding of the many faces of present-day Islam through an exploration of Islam in one modern country
  • A heightened appreciation of the different kinds of analytical tools that can be brought to bear on religious pronouncements and practices - theological, philosophical, psychological, socio-economic, anthropological, etc - and the different results that come about through their application
Students who successfully complete the paper will furthermore have
  • The ability to research disparate types of material and bring them together in a unified presentation
  • The ability to develop creative and critical approaches by analysing texts and primary sources
  • The ability to present an extended analysis in essay form using appropriate literature on a chosen topic
  • The capacity to juxtapose two very different analyses of religious texts, take each on its merits and read one in light of the other.
Associate Professor Will Sweetman:
Teaching staff
Course Co-ordinator: Associate Professor Will Sweetman
Lecturer: Dr Majid Danesghar
Paper Structure
A brief introduction to the academic study of Islam is followed by an investigation into Islam's historical formation; an accounting of its most important beliefs and practices (the Qur'an, Muhammad, the Five Pillars, etc); and the divisions of the religious sciences and theological schools and the distinctive character of each. Finally, Islam's complex encounter with modernity is given consideration.

  • Essay outline (750 words) 10%
  • Essay (3,000 words) 40%
  • Exam (two hours) 50%

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Not offered in 2018

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system