MIDEAST 323 - The Prophet Muhammad in Islam
Winter 2023, Section 001
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: Middle East Studies (MIDEAST)
Department: LSA Middle East Studies
See additional student enrollment and course instructor information to guide you in your decision making.


Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:
Start/End Date:
Full Term 1/4/23 - 4/18/23 (see other Sections below)
NOTE: Drop/Add deadlines are dependent on the class meeting dates and will differ for full term versus partial term offerings.
For information on drop/add deadlines, see the Office of the Registrar and search Registration Deadlines.


The Prophet Muhammad has been remembered, celebrated, venerated, imagined, and reimagined throughout Islamic history and the Islamic world, as prophet, saint, cosmic principle, military leader and statesman, redeemer, model of beauty, father and family man, liberator, conqueror, and much more. Muslim authors are proud to notice that there is more literature written about Muhammad than about any other human being.

The goal of this course is to familiarize students with the Islamic tradition and social practice around the life and persona of the life of the Prophet Muhammad. We will go beyond the question “Who was Muhammad?”, and ask: “What can we know about him? How is he remembered in Muslim collective memory? How is he celebrated in art, poetry, and ritual? What is the importance of his persona in Islamic piety?” In short, we will study history, not of a person, but of a concept and a religion.

This course is, first of all, a course about Islam and a course about history. It will discuss the main traditions about the life and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad, together with the history of their emergence and their interpretation within the Islamic tradition and in the West. A central question will be how historians know what they know, and what it is they want to know. We will use methods of literary criticism, religious studies, and historical anthropology to look at some of the myriad ways in which Muslims have expressed their views, imagination, and love for the prophet in various parts of the world, and in different periods of history. Next to a continuing focus on the formative period of Islam, we will also look at later periods, and at 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 historical study of the religion of Islam.

Course Requirements:

Regular attendance and informed participation in discussions are essential to any form of academic learning (20% of your grade). More than two unexcused absences will negatively affect your grade. For every session, you will have readings to study; when these readings include primary sources, you might be required to bring a comment or question about a particular section to class. In other cases, you might be asked to do some basic background research. A self-directed inquiry is part of the goal. Fundamental facts and themes will be the topic of the midterm and final exams (25% each). A 3000-word research paper gives you the opportunity to pursue one topic in-depth, using additional material and sources (30% of your grade).

Intended Audience:

Students who are interested in history, religion, the Middle East, art history, medieval and early modern studies, anthropology, and beyond

Class Format:

Two 90-minute meetings weekly


MIDEAST 323 - The Prophet Muhammad in Islam
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
 In Person
MW 10:00AM - 11:30AM
1/4/23 - 4/18/23

Textbooks/Other Materials

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Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

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