SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Islamic Intellectual Tradition

Module Code:
Year of study:
Year 3 of 3 or Year 4 of 4
Taught in:
Full Year

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The course aims to:

  • introduce students to the intellectual tradition of Islam– e.g.philosophy, theo-philosophy, ‘history of ideas’ of Islam
  • to relate this intellectual tradition to the religious tradition within Islam

By the end of the course the students:

  • should be able to understand that the study of Islam is broader in scope than the study of religious texts (e.g. Quran, Hadith), leading to an appreciation of the methodological problems related to scholarship within the discipline of Islamic Studies 
  • should be familiar with key ideas, terminology and debates from within the Islamic intellectual tradition.


This course is taught over 22 weeks with 2 hours classroom contact per week.

Scope and syllabus

The introductory part of the course will introduce the students to the key methodological problems within the discipline of Islamic Studies and will refer to scholarship in English.

The principal part of the course will introduce students to key texts from within the Islamic intellectual tradition in English translation (supported by secondary literature). These texts will be used to demonstrate the complexity and diversity of the Islamic intellectual tradition by:

  • covering a range of disciplines (e.g. philosophy, theology, politics, natural philosophy, geography
  • considering the language and terminology used for delineation – within and between disciplines
  • analysing the conceptual framework within which these texts were produced

This course is compulsory for Year 3 students on the degree BA Islamic Studies

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination to be taken in May/June (70%); one essay of 2,500 - 3,000 words to be submitted on the day the class is taught, week 1, term 2 (15%); one essay of 2,500 - 3,000 words to be submitted on the day the class is taught, week 1, term 3 (15%).

Suggested reading

  • Khalidi, M. A. (ed.) Medieval Islamic Philosophical Writings, Cambridge: CUP, 2005
  • Gutas, D. Greek Thought, Arabic Culture, NY: Routledge, 1998.
  • Sabra, A. I. “Science and Philosophy in Medieval Islamic Theology: The Evidence of the Fourteenth Century”, Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Arabishe-Islamishen Wissenshaften, 9: pp. 1-42, 1994.
  • Sabra, A. I. “The Appropriation and Subsequent Naturalization of Greek Science in Medieval Science: A Preliminary Statement”, Hist. Sc., xxv: pp. 223-243, 1987.
  • Turner, H. Science in Medieval Islam, Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1995.
  • Wisnovsky, R., “The nature and scope of Arabic philosophical commentary in post-classical Islamic intellectual history: some preliminary observations” in Philosophy, Science and Exegesis, eds. P. Adamson, H. Baltussen & M. W. F. Stone, London: Institute of Classical Studies, 2004.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules