- Who was Muhammad?
- What can we know about him?
- How is he remembered in Muslim collective memory?
- How is he celebrated in writing and ritual?
- What is the importance of his persona in Islamic piety?
This course will discuss the main traditions about the life and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad, but will at the same time critically historicize both Islamic and Western approaches to Muhammad. It will provide students with an introduction to the most important scholarly approaches to this literature, emphasizing the shift from historical studies to methods of literary criticism, religious studies, and historical anthropology. While most recent studies still focus on the formative period of Islam, this course will also include studies on later periods, and on the importance assigned to the prophet in theology and “popular” Islam, in mysticism and ritual. How modern thinkers and authors have tried to imagine the life and times of Muhammad will concern us in the last section of the course. Most sessions will be based on a combination of primary source material in English and critical secondary literature.
In the end, the course offers both an introduction to Islam in general through the person of the Prophet, and an introduction to the the historical study of the religion of Islam.
Mandatory textbook: Jonathan Brockopp, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Muhammad. Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Recommended: Alfred Guillaume: The Life of the Prophet Muhammad. A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah. Oxford University Press, numerous printings available at Amazon and elsewhere.
Additional readings will be distributed through CTools.
Regular attendance and informed participation in discussions [20%], midterm and final exams [25% each], a 10-15 page research paper [30%].
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