Islam In Morocco And North Africa (English-taught)

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Course Information
Religious Studies
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 
Contact Hours: 


Additional student cost: 



The main object of course is to give an academic analysis of what Islam is, and how it evolved from a simple spiritual mission in Arabia into a full-fledged system of life adopted by over a billion people worldwide. It aims to help the students explore the different bases of Islamic thinking, and develop a better understanding of the Muslim’s philosophy of life. Too westernized a view of a Muslim’s mentality seems to dispossess the researcher of balanced and sensible criteria to appraise it. This course aims to equip students from the west with the tools to see the Muslim’s character as well as the Muslim social structure from within.

Attendance policy: 

Class attendance is compulsory. Each student will be allowed only two unexcused absences throughout the course. For each unexcused absence beyond this there will be a reduction in the final grade. Students who are late to class on a regular basis will also receive a reduction in their final grade and/or disciplinary action.

Students should not exceed 2 absences in each (45 hours) content course.
Students should not exceed 4 absences in the (90 hours) Arabic language course.

Any additional absence would lower the grades as follows:
1 more absence = will lower the final grade by 5 %
2 more absences= will lower the final grade by 10 %
3 more absences = will lower the grade by 15 %
4 more absences = will lower the grade by 20 %

Any additional absences will continue to lower the final grade by 5% increments. 

Learning outcomes: 

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Clearly understand what it means to be a Muslim,
  • Objectively appraise the foundations of a Muslim society,
  • Fully understand the elements of legislation in the Islamic legal system.
Method of presentation: 

Lectures and Student Presentations followed by discussions, case studies, field visits to religious organizations and state institutions. 

Field study: 
  • Visits to highly prestigious institutions as Dar Al Hadith Al Hassania, the Majlis Al Ilmi and the Royal Library in Rabat, and once busy schools such as the Bou’naniya School of Sale and Shella.
  • A visit during the trip to the desert to an old Coranic school.
Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Completion of readings and active participation in class - 10%
  • 3 essays - 30% 
  • Midterm exam - 25% 
  • Final exam - 35%




The context of the New Mission: the socio-economic context of the Arabs at the advent of Islam. Please read: The History of the Quranic Text, from Revelation to Compilation, pp. 15-30


The five pillars of Islam, the six pillars of Faith, and the reaction of Quraish and other tribes. 


Pluralism in Islam: issues of cohabitation (particularly with Jews and Christians)


The sources of legislation in Islam: (1) The Quran, (2) the Sunna, and (3) Qiyas.


The rise and evolution of Jurisprudence schools (Madhhabs): an overview of the major schools of Fiqh.


Ijtihad vs. Jihad. An investigation of the apparatus of mainstream and non-mainstream interpretations of the Text.

Field Trip 1: Dar al Hadith Al Hassania


Philosophy, Kalam (and intellectual schools), and Sufism. 

Midterm Exam


The Sunnis and the Shiites: the roots of a dispute.


The rise of (Pan) Islamism and (Pan) Arabism: a survey of the main political trends in the Islamic world today (particularly in North Africa)


A brief history of Muslim Morocco.


Some basic components of the Muslim society: the Family (including marriage and divorce), celebrations, cuisine, clothing, architecture, etc.


Modernizing Islam: attempts of the governments in the Muslim world to adapt the Islamic religion to the new world order – the case of Morocco.


Sufism and saints in Morocco.


Field trip & Review: Islamic Art (with particular reference to architecture, calligraphy, and music).

Final Exam


Required readings: 
  • The History of the Quranic Text, from Revelation to Compilation, pp. 15-30
  • Al ‘Alwani, Taha J. Source Methodology in Islamic Jurisprudence (Usul al-Fiqh al-Islami): Methodology for Research and Knowledge. The International Institute of Islamic Thought, 1990.
  • Esposito, John L. Islam: The Straight Path. New York: Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005.
  • Esposito, John L. and Mogahed, Dalia. Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think. Gallup, Inc., 2007.