This assessment item is designed to assess your understanding of the course material, as well as your research, analytical and writing skills. It involves researching and writing a 2000-word paper on one of the following topics:
A) New perspectives on early Islam: implications for Islam-West relations
In light of contemporary research on early Islam by scholars such as Fred Donner, this essay should address the following:
o What are the key findings of contemporary research on early Islam?
o How does contemporary research on early Islam challenge our previous understanding of Islam and the first Muslim communities?
o What are the main critiques of this research?
o What are the major implications of this research for how Islam is perceived by Muslim and non-Muslims today and for Islam-West relations?
B) Potential impacts of the authentication of the Prophet's covenants with Christians and Jews
In light of recent research by scholars such as scholars as John Morrow and Ahmed El-Wakil on the Prophet Muhammad's covenants with Christian and Jewish communities of his time, this essay should address the following:
o How were the convenants of the Prophet Muhammad with Christians and Jews discovered and authenticated?
o What are the implications of their authentication in respect to the established sources/texts of Islam?
o What challenge do they pose for our understanding of the history of relations between Muslim and Christians/Jews?
o What are their implications for Islam in relation to Muslim relations with non-Muslims?
C) Perspectives on the relationship between Islam and politics
In light of research by scholars such as Ali Abdul Razek (Ali Abdel Raziq) and others, this essay should address the following:
o Do the Quran and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad advocate a particular political system?
o What is the evidence for and against the politicisation of Islam and notions of an Islamic state?
o What are the implications of this research for post-colonial and contemporary Islamist groups and movements seeking to establish a caliphate or Islamic state?
o What does this research convey in respect to the meaning and scope of Islam?
D) Evolution of "shariah"
In light of research by scholars such as Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Bassam Tibi and others, this essay should address the following:
o How is the term shariah used in the Quran and in the traditions at the time of the Prophet Muhammad?
o What was the meaning and use of the term shariah in the era of classical Islam (Abassid period 8-13th C)?
o How is shariah commonly defined in post-colonial and contemporary Islamist discourse?
o What are the implications of the evolution of how shariah is defined for Islam in the modern world?