TTh 09:30-10:45, Business Administration 412


Dr. Khaleel Mohammed

Telephone: 619-594-3108


Office: Adams Humanities #4224

Office Hours: W: 10:30-12:00, 1:30-4:00, and by appointment.


Course Description and Objectives

This course introduces students to the basic teachings of the Qur’an. After exploring the cultural and religious background of pre-Islamic Arabia, and the place and role of Muhammad and his family, we will address the socio-economic and political changes of the time. Next, we will examine the compilation, canonization, structure, style, and interpretation of the Qur’an, noting, inter alia, the lines of convergence and divergence between that document and other Abrahamic religious texts. During the course of the semester, we will discuss major themes in the Qur’an including society and law, leadership and community, prophets and messengers, cosmology and eschatology, and gender relations.


Required Texts

·          Sells, Michael. Approaching the Qur’an  (White Cloud Press, 1999)

·          Von Denffer, Ahmad. ‘Ulum al-Qur’an (Islamic Foundation, 1994)

·          Wadud, Amina. The Qur’an and Woman (Oxford University Press, 1999)

·          Islam: CD-ROM


Course Requirements

·          Regular Attendance, completion of homework assignments and classroom participation. 25 points

·          Internet access; unless specifically directed otherwise, you must submit all answers electronically.

·          A research paper. 30 points

·          Quizzes. 20 points

·          A final examination. 25 points

·          Computer access. Please ensure within the first two days that you have updated BlackBoard regarding your correct address.


Recommended Reading

·          Ayoub, Mahmoud. The Qur’an and its Interpreters (SUNY, 1984)

·          Arkoun, Mohammed. Rethinking Islam (Westview Press, 1984)

·          Cook Michael. The Koran: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2000)

·          Goitein, S. D. Studies in Islamic History and Institutions (Brill, 1968)

·          Internet:


Recommended Translations of the Qur’an

There are several translations of the Qur’an available. Although there is no one translation that we regard as without error—and this is the consensus of the academic and faith-based community—we feel that the following translators have rendered versions, either complete or partial,  that are the most reliable. Please note that this list is by no means exhaustive, and if you find other translations, you may check with the Professor Mohammed for his assessment, or consult the Book Review Index to see how the work has been reviewed.

·          Muhammad Asad

·          Muhammad Ali

·          Yusuf Ali

·          N.J. Dawood

·          Ahmed Ali

·          Talim Ali

·          Michael Sells

·          Arther Arberry

·          Mahmoud Ayoub

·          Brannon Wheeler


Term Paper Requirements

By the end of the WEEK 4, you will have selected a subject/personality in the Qur’an to compare it with the Biblical (Hebrew Bible or Christian Testament) portrayal, or an alternate approved subject. You MUST meet with me to discuss your choice of topic, and you MUST bring an outline of how you intend to approach the subject.


This is aimed at making your term paper—which you MUST submit by Week 13—an exercise in academic excellence. During the course of the semester, the onus in on YOU to arrange interviews with me to chart your progress, read your draft, or to offer my comments on your work.


Do note that all drafts or submissions must be proofread before submission. In your final draft, you MUST show a MINIMUM of 10 textual references, following any major academic format (you can get these guidelines from the library). I will not accept hard copy versions of your paper—all submissions must be done electronically, unless authorized otherwise. Unless you receive e-mail from me acknowledging proper receipt of your work, assume that I have NOT received it.
General Policies

This course is structured to promote scholarly discourse through the Socratic method rather than be a one-way channel of information. This is why, on the first day of class, I will request that you answer a questionnaire that tells me about you and your research interests. With this information in hand, I will hopefully be able to further fine-tune the syllabus to meet the specific needs of the class. To fully harness the electronic facilities provided by SDSU I will try as much as possible to have reserve readings, class assignments and other required information placed on BlackBoard. Please note that BlackBoard allows you to have chat rooms, mail in assignments, and track your performance.


We have not found any single book that competently approaches the study of the Qur’an for undergraduates, particularly those who have little background in Islamic Studies. Much of the material that is needed for the course is to be found in a variety of books, in the form of specific chapters only, or the contributions of authors in joint works. Rather than require students to purchase several expensive books that would not be entirely used, we have selected three of the most authoritative, yet cost-effective works on the subject. Supplementary material has been scanned onto BlackBoard, or placed on reserve.


While no prerequisites are listed for this course, students who have completed REL 101 or REL 329 will definitely find themselves well prepared.  For students who do not have this background, we suggest that they make full use of the recommended readings. Please note that, although at the undergraduate level, this course aims to promote an understanding of the Qur’an that is objective, devoid of much of the current condescending and polemic biases that are so evident in news media, particularly after Sept 11, 2001.


The reading load is demanding and you will be tested in the form of regular quizzes and class discussion to see if you are following the course requirements. The reading assignments for Weeks 1 & 2 are designed for you to understand what is required of you. At the end of this time, based on your performance in the quiz, you should be able to decide if you want to remain in the class or enroll in another course.


You are required to attend each class fully prepared to participate in that day’s lecture. This means that you will have completed the assigned readings, and be ready for a quiz on the week’s work every Thursday. Although I do NOT take attendance, do note that I structure my lectures so that much material can only be gained by actually being in the class—the text book readings are merely guides.


Answers to answers to examination questions, research papers and any other assigned writing tasks must be handed in by the specified date. These must be carefully proofread—you will be penalized for grammatical and spelling mistakes. If your assignment is handwritten, do note that the same requirements apply.  For each day that an assignment is late, the grade that is actually earned will be reduced by one full letter grade. Plagiarism and any other forms of cheating will be seriously penalized. See the Student Handbook for the University’s policies on infractions of academic integrity.


To discourage plagiarism, as well as to conserve our natural resources, I require you, unless directed otherwise, to submit all written assignments via electronic mail. Do note that this allows me to access the software to check for plagiarism. Do also note that anything taken off the web and not cited may expose you to charges of plagiarism. For instructions on how to cite sources, see Kate Turabian’s Manual for Writers. Please note that syllabus usage of certain URLs does not indicate course endorsement of such sites either by myself, support teaching staff or SDSU. You will therefore be required to peruse URLs with a critical eye.


Examinations And Preparations Therefore

·          I do not structure examinations on the “multiple choice” format.

·          Examinations are in the form of questions requiring essay type answers.

·          In order to assist you in your study, I will clearly list the main outlines of the discussion on the board at the beginning of each lesson. You will use these to be your guides. At the university level, I assume that you are mature enough to structure your study habits so that you maintain a constant review schedule as well as keeping up with current material. One way to do this is as follows: If material for Week 1, with all your notes etc, is 30 pp. long, then once you have moved on to preparations for Week 2, on night one prior to doing your readings for Week 2, you read 10-15 pp. of Week 1. The second night, you read the remaining pages. And when you go to Week 3, you do the same with Wk. 1&2—this way, you will find that by the end of the semester you will have reread your notes several times, and only need (if at all) a brief review of your notes.

·          Please note that due to the class size and volume of material to be covered, there are no opportunities for rewriting and resubmission.


Grading Policy

Grades will be issued on a letter-ranking basis in assessing the following:

Participation in class, demonstrated awareness of class reading, recommended reading, material obtained on own initiative, writing skills, cogency of arguments, creativity.

A: Extraordinarily high quality work

B: Praiseworthy performance, definitely above average

C: Average, Satisfactory performance, but treatment of material lacks depth.

D: Minimally passing. Treatment of material below expected level

F: Does not meet minimum acceptable requirements. Usually indicates that work __done without due regard to requirements.


Do note too that if you are required to achieve a certain Grade Point Average (GPA) in order to qualify for special programs, the onus is on you alone to achieve that GPA. This means that you must carefully monitor your performance during the course of the semester and do what is necessary to maintain/achieve the requisite grade(s). If you have any concerns about your performance, then you should come arrange for an interview with me and/or a counselor. Students who, on receiving unsatisfactory grade, plead with the professor for an upgrade, insult the professor’s integrity, and are unfair to their peers in requesting preferential treatment.


Class Conduct

·          Turn off all cell phones before entering the class

·          If, in a class discussion, you disagree with someone, make sure that you conduct the discourse with respect.

·          Note that the professor serves as the moderator (you may interpret this to mean dictator) in class discussions, and decides when a discourse is to be terminated.


If you are a student with a documented disability on record at SDSU and wish to have a reasonable accommodation made for you in this class, please see me immediately.






Section One: Setting the Stage

Jan. 13, 15

Week 1

A brief introduction to the life of Muhammad and the religion of Islam.

Problems in the Study of Islam


·          Scanned Documents on BlackBoard: Ernst, Said and Wheeler.  You will be given an intensive quiz on the second day of week 2.

·          Possible viewing of CD-ROM: Life of Muhammad.

Jan. 20

Week 2

Discussion of Reading Material. The Difference between academic and faith-based approaches: compare class text.


·          Sells, pp. 1-31

·          Denffer, pp. 11-29

Jan. 22

Week 2

Differences between Qur’an and other scriptures: Incarnation vs. Inlibration.

Christian Testament as Hadith.


Section Two (A): Traditional Approaches to the Qur’an

Jan. 27

Week 3

First sura of the Qur’an (chronological).
First sura of the Qur’an (textual arrangement): Al-Fatiha.


·          Sells, pp. 96-99


·          Memorize this sura. Use the Yusuf Ali version on the CD-Rom

Jan. 29

Week 3

Problems of Periodization: Mecca and Medina. See Denffer 85-89;

Manner of Recitation (Tajwid): Tahqiq, Hadr, Tartil, Tadwir


·          Denffer, pp.  31-56; 163-177

Feb. 3, 5

Week 4

Traditional methods of approaching the Qur’an.


·          Denffer, pp. 121-156.

·          Asbab al-nuzul: Denffer, pp. 90-101.

Feb. 3, 5

Week 4

Class Discussion on format and programme.

Deadline for submissions on your research topic. By now you should all have completed or arranged meetings with Professor Mohammed on this issue.  



Section Two (B): Academic Approaches to the Qur’an

Feb. 10, 12

Week 5

Various Themes for Class Discussion based on material provided by Professor Mohammed


·          Scanned material, Michael Cook 23-48.

·          Khaleel Mohammed, Abrogation in the Qur’an.-

Section Three: Specific Personalities in the Qur’an

Feb. 17

Week 6

Prophets/Biblical Figures in the Qur’an.


·          Brannon Wheeler (scanned article), pp.5-10.

Feb. 19

Week 6

Focus on Abraham, Moses, Jesus. (Mary will be studied under our section gender studies, Week 12). The issue of the sacrificial son will be deferred to Week 9.


·          See the Encyclopedia of Islam entries on the personalities of the three above-mentioned prophets.

Feb. 24

Week 7

Prophets/Biblical Figures in the Qur’an (Continuation of Topic)

Discussion of Isra’iliyaat literature (see Encyclopedia of Islam)

The Other in the Qur’an.


Section Four: Events in the Qur’an

March 2

Week 8

The Exodus.


·          Your readings are to be located in the Qur’an by searches on the   CD-ROM under “Moses,” “Pharoah”

·          Muhammad’s Night Journey: See Sura 17 on your CD-Rom

March 4

Week 8

Qur’anic view of completion of Islam: No required reading. Topic will be introduced by Professor Mohammed and then opened for discussion, to include Muslim views of propagation, conversion, etc. vis a vis the Qur’an.

Section Five: Society and Law

March 9

Week 9

Islamic Law in the Qur’an.


·          See internet articles on law.

March 11

Week 9

How is a Muslim supposed to know what is allowable, what is forbidden?

How does the Qur’an deal with the ‘other’: Pluralism, Christians, Jews.

March 10-15: Spring Break. Happy Holiday.



Section Six: Leadership & Community/Politics/Foreign Policy

March 23, 25

Week 10

Leadership: Criteria for establishing leadership, and result of debates.


·          Scanned material: Afsaruddin: Introduction and Conclusion to her “Excellence and Precedence.”

Associated issues for discussion: Democracy, Socialism, Communism.  Issue of the sacrificial son.


·          Scanned material: Probing the identity of the Sacrificial Son, by Khaleel Mohammed.

The Qur’an and War/Jihad


·          Q5:20-26. Class discussion.

Section Seven: Selected Suras in the Qur’an

March 30

Week 11

The shorter suras of the Qur’an.


·          Sells, pp. 43-121

April 1

Week 11

Analyze for confluence/divergence with Bible.  Eschatology/Cosmogony.

April 6

Week 12

The shorter suras of the Qur’an.


·          Sells, pp. 122-182

April 8

Week 12

Analyze as for week 10 plus student-initiated issues.

Section Eight: The Qur’an and Women

April 13

Week 13

The Qur’an and Woman.
Class Discussion on her view of the Creation Story.


·          Wadud, pp.1-27

·          Scanned material: Michael Cook, pp. 37-41

Class Assignment: Consult the internet and report on various perspectives

April 16

Week 13

Mary in the Qur’an.


·          Sells, pp. 183-216

·          Also material extrapolated from CD-ROM, and internet. Discussion.




April 20

Week 14

This World and the Hereafter


·          Wadud, pp. 29-59

·          Consult

April 22

Week 14

Controversies on Rights and Roles of Women


·          Wadud, pp. 62-91

Section Nine: Modernity

April 27

Week 15

Contemporary Issues for Qur’an.


·          Wadud, pp. 94-104

·          Consult  Read section by Asra Nomani.

·          Also read internet material by and about Irshad Manji.

April 29

Week 15

Sexuality/Lesbianism: This discussion will be based on class vote, and evidence of completion of above reading requirements. Post 9/11 Islam Wrap up: Completion/Review of any problematic material.


·          Doubts and Puzzles: See scanned material by Michael Cook: pp. 127-45.



Questionnaire for Religion 310

Professor Mohammed

Information will be treated as confidential.







1.      What is your major?


2.      If you do have a minor, what is it?


3.      Have you spoken to Dr. Rebecca Moore about the minor in Religious Studies? (Her telephone number is 594-6252) If not, please strongly consider doing so.


4.      Why are you taking this course?




5.      What computer system are you using, IBM/PC or MAC?



6.      On a scale of 1-10, with10 denoting maximum importance, to what extent do you think in-class discussion, by group format, helps in learning?



7.      What are your present extracurricular interests?




8.      Are there any particular topics that you expect, or would like this course to cover?





9.      What would you absolutely NOT want the professor to do in this course?



10.   How do you wish to be addressed? (By your first name, or as Ms./Mr.)




11.   Is there anything else that you would like to tell me?