Islamic Ethics: Philosophy, Politics, and Sharia Law
Throughout the West, Islam is frequently presented as a powerful monolith, a civilizational threat, or an infection in the body politic. However, even a cursory glance at historical and contemporary materials reveals a long historical evolution in Muslim ethical thought and practice, which prompts questions of urgent contemporary relevance and dizzying scope: What is Sharia? Is it a rigid, 7th-century-based law, or an ethical system promoting the well-being of its followers? What are the ethical principles of Islamic economics? What designates the beginning of life of a fetus, and can it be terminated according to Muslim legal scholars? How can we understand Islamic ethics today? And what can we (Muslim and non-Muslim alike) learn from the history, literature, and philosophies of Islamic ethics?
In this course, we will explore such issues by examining a rich variety of Islamic texts and schools of thought across time, addressing ethical questions embedded in philosophy and theology, law and economics, finance and bioethics, among other topics. Over four weeks, we will interrogate ethical theories from classical and modern Islamic perspectives, and analyze their place in the modern Muslim world and Islamic thought. We will ask: What is Islamic ethics as a field, and how closely tied is it with the Islamic foundational texts? What were the epistemological ruptures in Islamic law and society during the colonial period, and what repercussions did it have on Muslim-majority countries? Who speaks in the name of Sharia? Is a modern Islamic state feasible and what would that mean? What are the ethical foundations of Islamic economics and bioethics? And how have Muslims in Euro-America minority settings related to questions of ethics and representation? Employing a historical and critical approach, we will read primary and secondary literature by classical and contemporary Muslim and non-Muslim scholars, such as Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, Madjid Fakhry, George Hourani, Wael Hallaq, Ahmed Shahab, Mohammed Ghaly, Lena Salaymeh, Kecia Ali, and others.
Course ScheduleTuesday, 1:00-4:00pm ET / 7:00-10:00pm GMT +2
September 05 — September 26, 2023