15th January 2024
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The Institution of Marriage in Islam

The pillars of a legitimate marriage in Islam between two adult males and females are two: clear consent of the two parties themselves for marriage and binding an agreement so that they become husband and wife. ‘Non-verbal conventional marriage’ is a legitimate marriage because both pillars of marriage were observed in it. A written marriage contract and especially its submission in a legal center for marriage is closer to caution for a time of frequent disagreement. The Western style of partnership ‘cohabitation’ is not necessarily equivalent to non-verbal conventional marriage.
Shah Waliullah Dehlavi (1703-1762) was an Indian theologian, Sufi of the Naqshbandi order, and promulgator of modern Islamic thought who first attempted to reassess Islamic theology in the light of modern changes. This course explores his philosophy, including the philosophy of religion, theology, and mysticism. We focus on a critical analysis of three of his masterworks that were translated into English and discuss his major principles and key terms in theoretical mysticism: Ḥujjat Allāh al-Bāligha (The Conclusive Argument from God), and The Lamaḥāt (Flashes/Glimpses of Philosophy), and The Sataʿat (Illuminations).
Imam Ali recognized the mutual rights of the ruler and ruled, the sanctity of contracts, especially with the enemy, and freedom of speech as the cornerstones of Shite political philosophy. Understanding Shi’ite political thought is impossible without considering the doctrine of justice and its consequences such as the right to an uprising against unjust rulers, which is crystallized in Imam al-Hussein b. Ali’s maxims and teachings. Ayatollah Khomeini’s political theory is in the absolute minority not only in the history of Shi’ite fiqh but also in contemporary Shi’ite fiqh.
The Spring 2024 course explores the history of revelation or words of God in Islam; the formation of the Qur’an as a book; its interpretation from medieval to modern times; its major themes; how the Qur’an introduces itself: the book of guidance, and virtues; the question of translatability; teaching the Qur'an as religious literature from a neutral viewpoint that could be understood from a secular/non-theological perspective; the lessons one might apply from literary criticism, biblical studies, and historical methodology; and its message for human beings in the contemporary world.
The 2024 course explores the key concepts and major issues of the problem of evil and its three types of responses. ‘The problem of evil’ as the challenge of reconciling the existence of a perfect being (Omnipotent, Omniscient, and omnibenevolent God) with the existence of evil, suffering, and sin has been one of the greatest intellectual problems. The epistemic question posed by evil is whether the world contains undesirable states of affairs that provide the basis for an argument that makes it unreasonable to believe in the existence of God.
Crossroads: Islam and the Theological Origins of Modernity. Transformative Ideas: A Dialogue between Michael A. Gillespie (Professor of Political Science) and Mohsen Kadivar (Research Professor in the Department of Religious Studies): How did Western Europe arrive at modernity? Islam’s perspective on modernity, including what philosophical movements responded to nominalism and modernity on a theological level, and how Islamic societies and peoples have more broadly responded. How Western and Islamic perspectives are coming into closer contact, particularly with immigration to Western Europe and the global human rights framework that has arisen.
The atrocities we have witnessed on and after October 7th did not happen in a vacuum. We condemn the brutal and inhumane attacks against civilian lives and call for an immediate ceasefire. The situation is a crime against humanity and an ethnic cleansing. The Duke University Faculty for Justice stands in solidarity with those fighting for anti-colonial liberation, including the freedom struggle in Palestine. Over two million people, nearly half of whom are children, have been entrapped in an open-air prison, given very little freedom of movement in and out.
This course focuses on Sufi’s approach to philosophy, especially on the Philosophy of Illumination of Suhrawardi and The Transcendent Philosophy of Mulla Sadra. The course starts with an introduction to the philosophy of Suhrawardi, and Mulla Sadra as well as the mystical works of Avicenna, al-Gazali, and Ibn Tufail. The main body of the course is studying and analyzing symbolic and mystical recitals of Avicenna, Suhrawardi, Gazali, Ibn Tufail, and others. We try to examine the key themes of philosophy, Sufism, and philosophical Sufism through these symbolic and mystical recitals.
Understanding the shari‘a is key to understanding the Islamic tradition. The ethical debates impact policy questions ranging from gender, democratic citizenship, technology, and sexual violence to matters related to the ethics of war and peace. We will be attentive to the confluence of various discourses: history, politics, and anthropology in dialogue with the interpretative regimes of Islamic discourses. Ethics provide maps of the histories of interpretative communities and allow us to identify the various typologies as well as trajectories of the Muslim subject in the present and the past.
Beginning with a genealogy of religious freedom in contemporary Islam, this book presents a back-and-forth debate between modern two Shi’a jurists (one conservative, one reformist) that locates the exact points of controversy surrounding apostasy and blasphemy. The author explores the subject of blasphemy and apostasy from the perspective of Shi’a jurisprudence to articulate a polarization between secularism and extremist religious orthodoxy. In a series of online exchanges, he debates the case with the son of Grand Ayatollah Fazel Lankarānī who issued the fatwa pronouncing the death penalty on Rāfiq Taqī.
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