Spring 2021 - HIST 249 D100

Classical Islamic Civilization (3)

Class Number: 5625

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 11 – Apr 16, 2021: Thu, 11:30 a.m.–2:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 20, 2021
    Tue, 8:00–8:00 a.m.



This course offers a broad survey of the development of classical Islamic civilization. It begins with an examination of the origins of Islam in seventh century Arabia and concludes with the break-up of the Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad in the 13th century. Emphasis will be place on gaining an understanding of the doctrines of Islam, the significance of the rise and fall of the early Arab-Islamic empires, and the role of Islam in world history. Breadth-Humanities.


This course is an introduction to the major intellectual and religious traditions informing the civilization evolved by Muslims from the 7th to 10th centuries. The survey begins by reflecting on the legacy of orientalism; it then examines the pre-Islamic contexts of the emergence of Islam; the career of the prophet Muhammad in the Meccan and Medinan socio-religious modes; the realization of the Qur’an in spoken and written form; the expansion of the Arabs and the assimilation of the Byzantine and Persian traditions; the question of the explanation for and the consequence of conversion to Islam; the development of a consensus on the nature of authoritative political and religious action; the rise of Turkish slave-based authority and its theoretical justification; the socio-religious and cultural qualities of the Umayyad and ‘Abbasid caliphates and the causes and consequences of the decline of a central caliphate in the tenth century; the emergence and dominance of jurisprudence as a way of realizing Islam; the evolution of a mystical interpretation of Islam from personal piety to later mystical orders; competitive notions concerning sexuality and gender in Islam; and the formation and legacy of a classical Islamic cosmopolitanism in literature, art, architecture, science, and philosophy.


Please note that this course will be run synchronously: Our weekly lecture and tutorial will take place in real time using Zoom in conjunction with Hist. 249’s CANVAS page. However, all lectures will be recorded for those unable to attend live lectures.


  • Essay Proposal 5%
  • Essay 25%
  • Mid-term examination 20%
  • Final examination 40%
  • Tutorial participation 10%



  • M.G.S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam, vol. 1 (required)
  • Tales from 1,001 Nights, tr. Malcolm Lyons (required)
  • Additional weekly sources made available through Canvas

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in spring 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).