Written Assignments

Applying the Qur'an


Web Resources for This Assignment

The Qur'an
A collection of selections from the Qur'an.

Applying the Qur'an   We are, over the next few assignments, going to experiment with cultural understanding. In the last few assignments, we tried to develop methods for understanding a non-Western world view by exploring a variety of narratives from a variety of perspectives and then comparing our results with our own world view. In the next few assignments, we're going to explore a variety of world views across cultures: Turkish, Iranian, Indian, and later African, but base our assessment of these world views on a common foundation: the Qur'an . Since the Islamic world shares this one text in common, learning this text in detail and learning how to apply it is the fundamental step in understanding Islamic history and culture.
   This assignment is a "go easy" assignment, meant to be brief after the heavy work you've done on Native Americans. I want you to give the Qur'an a trial run on some of the fundamental concepts that we've dealt with this semester: the nature of the individual, the fundamental bases of social organization, rights (autonomy) versus authority, democracy, science, freedom, and so on. You have found, of course, that none of these words really mean anything—they vary from culture to culture and from period to period.
   Choose one of the topics above and write a speculative, two paragraph essay in which you define what the Islamic definition of one of these concepts might be. What is the nature of the individual? On what is society built? Is there a place for rights? What is the nature of authority? What would Islamic democracy look like if it were possible? And so on.
   In order to make this argument, you have to base your entire speculation on the text of the Qur'an itself. You are to find a single verse in the Qur'an that you feel will help you answer the question. In one paragraph (after you've written your thesis), explain what the verse means. In the second paragraph, apply your explanation of the meaning of the verse to the general question that you're trying to answer (i.e., what would Islamic democracy look like? or, what is the nature of the individual in Islam?)

Grading   You will be graded on two things here. The first is the quality of your explanation of the verse of the Qur'an . I'd like to see that you can focus in on a detail and arrive at a throrough interpretation. The second is the application of your explanation. Are you applying all of your explanation? How inventively are you using your explanation? (At this stage in the course, I'm going to start evaluating the level of your intellectual inventiveness—if you take chances with your arguments, you will be partly rewarded.


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