iSyllabus Advanced Year One


A. Quran studies

1&2. Quranic Hermeneutical Axioms


A primer on Maxims used in Classical and Contemporary Tafsir


Aims & Objectives: It is generally acknowledged that Muslims have for a long time now fallen short of a meaningful and principled engagement with their primary religious scripture: The Quran. There are many reasons for this malaise, of which one is a lack of a systematic methodology in engaging with the universal themes and leitmotivs of the Quranic narrative.


One field of Quranic studies that has been unfairly overlooked in this regard is that of ‘al-Qawa’id al-Tafsir’. These are general maxims and rules through which one is able to extrapolate meanings from the Quranic text and which can be employed in situations where textual conflict appears in the religious sources. They allow a student to explore the various meanings contained within the Quran, giving preference to one meaning over another in cases where various conflicting explanations are mentioned in tafsir sources. Lastly, they provide a blueprint for a holistic and universalist reading of the text that asserts the relevance of the Quran for all times. These two modules together will cover topics such as:


The Ten basic introductory Principles to Quranic Maxims; General Maxims used in Quranic commentary; Quranic Maxims related to Language; Quranic Maxims related to individual words and phrases (Kulliyat fi al-alfadh); Maxims related to Quranic stylistic (Kulliyat fi al-Uslub); Adjudicating Quranic Maxims (Qawa’id al-Tarjih) as well as other topics related to contextual tafsir.


3&4 The Word of God - Tafsir of selected Suras


Aims & Objectives: Through a detailed study of the commentary and selected sections of the Quranic text, this module will provide the student with an insight into the divine nature of the quranic message and the themes that make up the quranic text. The student will also be introduced to the special form and style of the quranic text through a study of classical and modern works of tafsir as well as through the methodology used by the most famous authorities of tafsir.


Building on the courses delivered on Quranic Hermeneutical Axioms, special attention will be given to developing the students ability to make use of such universals maxims to form an understanding of the universal themes of the Quran as well as the thematic unity of individual chapters. The


module will also look at the relationship between translation and quranic exegesis and the degree to which translation may act as a vehicle to convey certain understandings of a section of the Quran over others (tarjih).


B. Hadith studies

5. Comparative fiqh & hadith studies (Family law)


Aims & Objectives: This module will cover comparative fiqh according to the four schools of law, looking at how the Maliki, Shafi’i, Hanbali and Hanafi schools utilize the prophetic sunnah to arrive at rulings of fiqh. Through a selection of pivotal hadith related to the fiqh of Family Law this module will allow student to understand the role of hadith literature in the science of fiqh, and how the same hadith sources sometimes lead to different legal rulings.


Topics covered:

The preliminaries to Nikah; Hadith on choosing one’s prospective spouse; The ruling of the sermon for Nikah; Publicising the marriage; Competing suitors for marriage; Issues related to the Dowry; Contested forms of Nikah [1]: Temporary marriage (al-Mut’ah); Fornication and the effect on the issue of Compatibility; The impermissibility of al-Muhalil marriage; The impermissibility of a permanently divorced women to marry her previous husband until she consumes the marriage with new husband; The affect of a change in religion on Nikah and the issue of Compatibility when a wife embraces Islam.


6. Comparative fiqh & hadith studies (Family law)


Aims & Objectives: This module will cover comparative fiqh according to the four schools of law, looking at how the Maliki, Shafi’i, Hanbali and Hanafi schools utilize the prophetic sunnah to arrive at rulings of fiqh. Through a selection of pivotal hadith related to the fiqh of Family Law this module will allow student to understand the role of hadith literature in the science of fiqh, and how the same hadith sources sometimes lead to different legal rulings.


Topics covered:

Contraception and the avoidance of pregnancy; Divorce at the behest of the wife: Khul’; The rulings for Talaq [1]; Talaq - The most hated of permitted acts; Method of Talaq - Talaq al- Sunnah and Bidah; On garnering witnesses for revoking a divorce pronouncement.


7. Hadith terminology


Aims & Objectives: Through this module, students will cover the main concepts and terms used by scholars in the context of their discussions of hadith text and isnad. In particular, the content serves as a revision and consolidation for the themes covered in the Textual hadith modules in the iSyllabus courses.


Students will review the major theme of Mustalah al- Hadith: Hidden defects and its impact on the gradation of a hadith as weak or otherwise. Conflicting hadith will be looked at in the chapter on Conflict in Hadith - Mukhtalif al-Hadith. There will also be a study of variant version of the same hadith, in particular where there is extra textual information provided in one of the variant texts by a upright narrator (Ziyadah al-Thiqah); Hadith classification will be reviewed, revisiting the issue of Sahih, Hassan and Daif hadith; Marfu’ - Mu’allaq; Fard, Mutawatir and Ahad; The module will conclude with a look at Confirmation and follow-up narrations.


C. Belief and Apologetics Approaches to the Philosophy of Religion [1]


8. Religion, Religious Pluralism and the Concept of God


This module, the first of four on the Philosophy of Religion, will explore three areas - The concept of Religion, Religious exclusivism, and The Idea of God - in a preliminary investigation central to understanding the zeitgeist of religious studies today.


The concept of Religion


What is meant by ‘religion’; When did distinct religious traditions appear in human history and what are the main expressions of religion in the modern world; What is the relationship between belief and practice as conceptualized by the major world religions; Can religion be deemed a human construct?


Religious exclusivism or relativism?


Can mutually exclusive claims made by different religious traditions be equally valid; What are the conflicting approaches with regard to claims to truth made by religious traditions and what methods can one use to evaluate the validity or otherwise of a religious teaching?


The Idea of God


In what sense can one speak about God; How do major faith traditions conceptualise Ultimate Reality and to what degree can this Reality be both abstract and personal at the same time; What are the specific attributes given to God by the Ibrahamic faiths and to what degree do they agree on these; To what degree can the attributes described as godly be seen as being logically consistent and coherent when taken as a whole?


Approaches to the philosophy of Religion [2]

9. The Cosmological and Teleological Arguments


Aims & Objectives: This module, the second in the series, will look at two of the most popular and oft- discussed proofs forwarded on the existence of God: The Cosmological and Teleological Arguments. The module will focus on the following areas of interest: The argument from Contingency; The Sufficient Reason argument; The Kalam Argument; The Design Argument; The Intelligent Design Argument; The Fine Tuning Argument.

10. Apologetics: Religious Violence


Evaluating the premises of the Religious Violence thesis


Religious violence as a concept has been pivotal in discussions on the relationship between state and society from the very onset of the Reformation in Europe in the 16th century and what were later to be called ‘The Religious Wars’ of Europe. With the turn of the 20th century, the specific coupling of religion with violence was made such that today a unique causal link is drawn between religious practice and the prevalence of and propensity towards violence in a given society.


In this framing of the discussion, religion has therefore been defined in contradistinction to more enlightened forms of ordering society, those based on human thought unshackled from the moorings of scriptural restraints. This secularised ordering of society is held by definition to now be more humanistic, pacifist and peaceful. The message throughout is clear, and is emphasised and regurgitated on every forum of public and private discourse: religion is inherently violent and intolerant and so the removal of religious ideas from the public sphere is the surest manner of ensuring a peaceful ordering of societies.


Islamic Just War theory


In the wake of de-colonisation there has been a resurgence of political actors in the Muslim world informed by a faith inspired worldview which has led to a more specific charge of inherent violence at the door of Islam as a faith. The events of 9/11 and the recent rise of violent groups claiming association with Islam have further emboldened the thesis that, though religions may be predisposed to violence, Islam is inherently so, with its theory of Jihad making it prone to vitriolic hate and vengeance.


To what degree does such a contention hold true in the light of the scriptural sources of Islam and the development of its ethical and legal tradition? What are some of the main examples used to promote the idea that though all religions are violent, Islam is particularly so?


This module looks at questions around religion, violence and Islam. Firstly, religious violence as articulated in Western academia and popular culture will be approached with a view to better understand its function in contemporary socio- political thinking. Is there a casual link between religion and violence? Who says there is and why? If there is no such causality between the two, why has it become such a pervasive point of view? Some of the most prominent advocates on both sides of the debate will be referenced and discussed.


Secondly, the module will make a pointed analysis of the concept of Jihad and investigate the degree to which it is justified to take Islam to be a doctrine that inherently promotes religious violence. The principle of Jihad will be investigated by way of comparison with Just war theory and its Islamic parallels. The issue of the punishment for Apostasy and Treason will also be detailed as case studies of this trend of focusing on religiously inspired violence. The module seeks to provide much needed scrutiny on a topic used by Islamophobes as a mainstay of their attacks on Islam. In particular the module will focus on the following issues:


Module topics: Conceptualising Religious violence: Introduction to the ‘Religious violence’ thesis; ‘The Mantra of Religious Violence’; A short history of violence: Studies on Secular violence; Islamic Just War theory; Classic & contemporary conceptions of Islamic Just War & International conventions on warfare; Case studies on specific cases of religious violence levied at the Islamic faith.

D. Law and Jurisprudence


11. Muslim Family Law [1]

Readings in the Muslim Family Law Code


Aims & Objectives: Building on the material covered in the iSyllabus course, this module will involve the reading and comprehension of the Muslim family code as applied in the Muslim world as well as detailed explanation on the day to day application of fiqh related to Marriage, Divorce and general Family Law.


The module will involve selected readings of a text that represents the end result of the codification and streamlining of the classical corpus of fiqh works on Muslim family law. In doing so, it will afford students an insight into the manner in which Islamic law adapted to the challenges inherent in the imposition of Western codes of law and how first the Ottoman empire and then the emerging Muslim majority nations incorporated Islamic law into their new legal structures.


The module will focus on the following areas of interest: Essentials and conditions of marriage; Guardianship; Equity and social parity (kafa’ah); The effects of Marriage; Maintenance; Dissolution of Marriage; Separation on grounds of illness, abuse, failure to provide maintenance and absence of the Husband.

12. Islamic jurisprudence [1] - Understanding the legal import of the Quran & Sunnah


The central place given in Islam to the science of the principles of Islamic law (usul al-fiqh) cannot be overstated. As a discipline, it has attracted the finest minds Islam has produced such as Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni, Al-Ghazzali and Ibn Rushd. It not only covers what sources, such as the Qur’an, sunnah and analogy, are to be utilized by scholars in providing answers to dilemmas facing Muslims, but also how these sources are used. The primary aim of usul al-fiqh, that of arriving at the detailed rules of fiqh through an informed understanding of the source of Islamic law, will be demonstrated with reference to the various schools of Islamic law.


This module will cover the discussions amongst legal theorist on the use of the Quran and Sunnah, and in particular the linguistic and hermeneutical rules that underlie extrapolating legal judgments from the religious source texts. Particular focus will be given to understanding the clarity and scope with which language can convey meaning and the affect this has on deducing legal rulings through Ijtihad in the major schools of Law.


The module will cover a general introduction to the topic as well as the main trends and development of the science. It will then move to detailed examples of Usul related to textual hermeneutics: Ta’wil & Classification I: Clear and Unclear Words; The 'Amm (General) and the Khass (Specific); The Absolute (Mutlaq) and the Qualified (Muqayyad); The Literal (Haqiqi) and the Metaphorical (Majazi).


13. Islamic jurisprudence [2]: Textual implications, Imperative logic, Abrogation, ‘Ijma and ‘Urf


This module will cover the discussions amongst legal theorists on the implied meanings that are derived from the wording of primary legal texts (Textual Implications), the Deontic nature of legal codes and the use of ‘Imperative Logic’ that informs a large part of religious source texts (Commands and Prohibitions); the function of the theory of Abrogation (Abrogation) as a principle for the derivation of detailed legal rulings of fiqh, the concept of Ijma’ (scholarly consensus), its basic function and required conditions (Consensus - Ijma’), and lastly the module will touch on Local Custom as a source of Juridical rulings.

14. Caliphate and Authority


This module will cover the theory and practice of ‘The Caliphate’, taking a multi-disciplinary approach, looking at areas of History, Law, Politics, Theology to shed light on a much commented upon but rarely studied area of Islamic research. Questions addressed include:

- What led to the decline of the Ummah and how is this decline measured? - The ruling on the establishment of the Caliphate - Sunni-Shia Split. The what and why of theological schisms on the issue of the caliphate

- The role of Caliphal/State-sponsorship in the advocacy of religious sects - Is the Shar’iah applied today in Muslim countries? - How has the call for an Islamic state evolved up to the present time?

- What are the main trends in the fiqh discussions on the removal of the leader/Caliph. (al-Khuruj ala al-Khalifah) - Does the nature of the Modern Nation state and the social contract that underlies it necessitate a re-assessment of the classical view of al-Khuruj ala al-Khalifah

- Citizenship and political representation of Muslims in the West and its relationship to the Islamic idea of authority


Module breakdown:

1. Giving context to the Islamic idea of Authority (al-Siyasah al-Shari'yyah): The decline of the Ummah & Abolition of the Caliphate. 2. Mapping competing conglomerations of Authority through Islamic History.

3. The Theory: The Caliphate between Theology and Fiqh. 4. The Practice: Ruling by the Law of God in History. 5. Righting wrongs. Revolt, rebellion and insurrection in Islamic Political theory: Historical and Legal vistas. 6. Whither Islamic authority? Discussing future paradigms

of Muslim authority in the East and West.


E. Spirituality


15. Understanding the Path - The Hikam of Ibn Ata Illah al-Iskandari [1]


In this module students will be taken through a careful study of one of the gems of Islamic spiritual literature, The Hikam of Ibn Ata Illah al-Iskandari. It will provide an outline of the path to gaining divine pleasure and the obstacles in that appear on the way to this. This study will be aided through one of the most accessible commentaries written on the Hikam, that of the Spanish scholar Ibn Abbad al-Rhondi as well as other commentaries.


16. Understanding the Path - The Hikam of Ibn Ata Illah al-Iskandari [2]


In this module students will be taken through a careful study of one of the gems of Islamic spiritual literature, The Hikam of Ibn Ata Illah al-Iskandari. It will provide an outline of the path to gaining divine pleasure and the obstacles in that appear on the way to this. It will provide an outline of the path to gaining divine pleasure and the obstacles in that appear on the way to this. This study will be aided through one of the most accessible commentaries written on the Hikam, that of the Spanish scholar Ibn Abbad al-Rhondi as well as other commentaries.

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