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RST-401-20, Top: Women in Islam (SU14)

INSTRUCTOR: Laila Ghauri, Email: lghauri@ndm.edu   

SCHEDULE/DAY/TIME: T1/Saturday/12:00 – 2:45 pm, 05/31/2014-06/28/2014


Muslim women have been the focus of powerful and polemical debate across the globe. This class will explore how women are understood in the Qur’an, Hadith (the sayings of the Prophet Mohammad), and Shari’ah (Islamic) Law; and how such ideas about women are applied in historical and modern Muslim communities. This course approaches the very delicate topic through discussion of the legal and religious rights of women in Islam and discussion of roles they perform within the public and private spheres of their own societies. This course investigates how the Muslim world understands gender identity, relationships between men and women, historical and contemporary constructions of femininity and women’s religious agency within Islam. Lastly, students will engage the possibility and/or improbability of “Islamic feminism”.


Student must have taken RST 201. This course may fulfill the second credit necessary to complete a bachelor’s degree at Notre Dame of Maryland University.


There will be a single lecture/discussion session per week based on reading assignments.  Students are expected to come to class having done the readings and prepared to engage in thoughtful discussion. Drawing upon that preparation, the instructor will provide context and details for the theme being considered. Learning techniques will include lecture, media resources, small and large group discussion, research and reflective writing.


Upon completion of the course, the student will be do the following:

-Demonstrate basic understanding of foundational knowledge of Islam and the Muslim World

-Explain the basic roles of women in Islam according to schools of Islamic Law and the Qur’an.

-Analyze and critically engaged academic written and verbal dialogue on gender in Islam historically, religiously and politically.

-Successfully complete writing of two response papers in MLA (or Chicago) format, with adequate number of resources on prompts provided by the instructor.


-Ahmed, Leila. Women and Gender in Islam: historical Roots of a Modern Debate. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.

-Wadud, Amina. Qurʼan and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.


Here are some texts that may help you further understand the course material and in writing you response papers.

-Esposito, John L.. Women in Muslim Family Law. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1982.

-Mahmood, Saba. Politics of Piety: the Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005.

-Mernissi, Fatima, and Mary Jo. Lakeland. The Forgotten Queens of Islam. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

-Mernissi, Fatima. Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society. Rev. ed., 1st Midland Book ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.

-Murata, Sachiko. The Tao of Islam: a Sourcebook on Gender Relationships in Islamic Thought. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.

-Stowasser, Barbara Freyer. Women in the Qur'an, Traditions, and Interpretation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.


Grades will be out of 100 points.

The distribution is as follows:

Assignment                        /Points

Pop Quizzes (2)                 /10 (5 points each)

Response Papers (2)          /60 (30 points each)

Final Exam                        /20

Discussion and Attendance  /10

Total Possible Points             /100

An A = 90-100 points; B = 80-89 points; C = 70-79 points; and so forth.


Students will be given two 30-minute pop quizzes based on that week’s readings during the course of the semester. Each quiz will include a mix of multiple choice and short answer. Please note that these quizzes cannot be made up. If you are absent from the class without medical note or pre-excused absence, you will receive a zero.


Students will complete two response papers during the course of the semester. These papers will address a prompt. The instructor will distribute these prompts a week prior to their due date. The papers must be 4-5 pages double-spaced, with a maximum of 12-point font, and a maximum of 1.25’ margins.  Please include a bibliography, and use either MLA or Chicago format.


Final exam will be comprehensive. It will include a mix of multiple choice, short answer and essay questions. Students will be provided study guides for the final exam a week before the final.


Students are expected to come to every class, prepared to engage in discussion. Attendance is considered separately after the grades are calculated. I require attendance and will take roll. I reserve the right to reduce the grade one notch (e. g., from B- to C+ or from C+ to C) for each absence without prior excuse or emergency. Legitimate excuses include, doctor’s notes with letterhead and or hospital notes. Other excuses will be noted but not necessarily accepted, although they may be. If you have special circumstances or concerns on this, I urge you to discuss them with me right after the first class session for reassurance.