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Graduate Courses

Past Courses:

NES 516  Introduction to Shafi`i Law

Aron Zysow

This course provides an introduction to the terms and concepts of Islamic law through the reading of a popular short work (mukhtasar) of Shafi`i law.  The sources of the law in the Qur’an and hadith will be discussed, and some attention will be given to points of dispute (ikhtilaf) among the law schools (madhahib).  Further readings will address the structure of legal authority within Shafi`ism.   Prerequisite: a reading knowledge of Arabic.

NES 518  History and Society of Saudi Arabia

Bernard Haykel

This course examines the history, politics and society of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, perhaps the most important country in both the Arab and Islamic worlds today. Students will be exposed to the Kingdom's complex relationship with political Islam, the global oil market, other Arab and Muslim countries as well as the West. This course will give students a solid overview of its history, politics and society through a careful selection of published studies. The aim of the course is to get students acquainted with the history of the Kingdom and the main factors that have played a role in its unfolding.

NES 528  Readings in Modernist Islamic Law

Aron Zysow

This course traces the development of modernist Sunni law from Muhammad 'Abduh (d. 1905) and his follower Muhammad Rashid Rida (d. 1935) through such contemporary jurists as Yusuf al-Qaradawi (b. 1926). The readings will cover both legal theory (usul al- fiqh) and substantive law, including such areas as the rights of women and Islamic finance. Attention will be given to the legal argumentation deployed by the modernists as well as to their conclusions. Conservative critics of the modernists will also be read.

NES 530  Political Economy of Arab Gulf Countries

Eckart Woertz

An examination of the political economy of Arab Gulf countries, which are pivotal for international politics because of their energy resources, considered as political actors in their own right with specific development agendas. Course examines characteristics and challenges of countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in the fields of domestic politics, economics and international relations. Issues to be discussed range from domestic liberalization and economic diversification to petrodollar recycling and foreign policy stances.

NES 556  Introduction to Islamic Legal Theory

Aron Zysow

This course offers a systematic introduction to the key terms and concepts of classical Islamic legal theory (usul al-fiqh) through the close reading and analysis of several short elementary works as well as more advanced selections.   No previous study of Islamic law is required.

NES 561  Studies in Modern Arab History

Bernard Haykel

This course aims to survey a variety of historical and religious texts in Arabic that were produced by the Wahhabi scholars of Najd and the Zaydi scholars of Yemen between the 18th and 20th centuries. Treatises produced by the opponents of the Wahhabis and Zaydis will also be studied and read carefully. Students must have mastery of advanced Arabic. Some of the texts that will be studied have been edited and published, others remain in manuscript form. Among the treatises that will be assigned are some of the letters of the founder of the Wahhabiyya, Shaykh Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab.

NES 583 Readings in the Muwatta`

Selected readings from the Muwatta' of Malik ibn Anas in the version transmitted by Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Shaybani. The course aims at providing an introduction to debates in early Islamic law.

Undergraduate Courses

Current Course:

NES 312  Revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa

Asher Orkaby

Beginning with the violent street demonstrations in Tunisia in December 2010, popular protests, violent reprisals, and full scale civil war have brought down the autocratic regimes of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya aired on the screens of global news agencies. Only through the eyes of history can we can begin to understand the events of the past decade in a context that takes us beyond the nightly news. This course will cover the Ottoman Empire, North Africa, the Levant, and the Arabian Peninsula and will address themes of anti-Empire, nationalism, socialist, populist, and religious revolutions in the Arab World over the past 300 years.

Past Courses:

NES 206 Militant Islamism (2008)

Thomas Hegghammer

Violent Islamism has emerged as one of the most prominent issues in US security policy, and the US war on terrorism has deep implications for foreign policy and international politics. This course will examine the causes, manifestations and dynamics of violent Islamism from the early 1970s to the present. The perspective will be primarily empirical and actor-oriented, but we will also discuss key theoretical paradigms from the ever-increasing literature on this topic. Emphasis will be placed on the need for a depoliticized and dispassionate approach to the study of violent Islamism.

NES 241  Contemporary Religious Trends in Iran (2008)

Majid Mohammadi

This course will examine contemporary religious trends in Iran, with special attention given to the interaction between Shi`ism and contemporary social and economic processes in Iran and elsewhere. The social and political contexts of various approaches to religion will be explored. We will examine the ethnic, social and cultural patterns that dominate religious movements in Iran today.

NES 265  Political & Economic Development of the Middle East (2019)

Makio Yamada

This course offers an opportunity to study the political economy of the Middle East. This semester we focus on oil-exporting monarchical countries in the Gulf/Arabian Peninsula, which are under rapid transformation today. We discuss issues such as the reasons for the durability of monarchism in this region; the unsustainability of their oil-based economies; challenges facing the attempt to make a transition to a post-oil economy (both in terms of income and the source of energy – in light of the rise of renewables and the global climate change regime); the youth unemployment problem and challenges facing the creation and localization of jobs.

NES 266 / ENV 266  Oil, Energy and the Middle East

Eckart Woertz and Bernard Haykel

An overview of the issues surrounding global energy supplies, oil's unique economic properties, and its role in shaping the political economy of the Middle East and U.S. strategic interests in the region. We will begin by discussing the basic science and availability of energy sources, the state of technology, the functioning of energy markets, the challenges of coping with global climate change and the key role of the oil reserves in the Middle East. The second part of the course will focus on the history of oil in the Middle East and its impact on societies in the region.

WWS 594I  The Politics and Economics of Middle East Energy in the Global Context

Giacomo Luciani

Economic growth requires constantly growing use of energy, and the availability of sufficient sources of energy on a global scale is not to be taken for granted. In this context, the Middle East countries play a vital role as exporters of hydrocarbons to the rest of the world. The course aims at providing students with the critical knowledge and skills to avoid superficial generalizations and stereotypes – which unfortunately remain all too common. The following aspects will be discussed: 1) Global energy demand and supply scenarios and the role of the Middle East; 2) Economic development and diversification of the Gulf economies 3) The Gulf countries, oil price discovery and revenue volatility; 4) The Near East and energy security: oil wars?; 5) The global gas market and the role of Qatar; 6) Rational use of energy, renewable energy sources, nuclear energy and the Middle East.

NES 269 / POL 353  The Politics of Modern Islam

Bernard Haykel

This course examines the political dimensions of Islam. This will involve a study of the nature of Islamic political theory, the relationship between the religious and political establishments, the characteristics of an Islamic state, the radicalization of Sunni and Shi'i thought, and the compatibility of Islam and the nation-state, democracy, and constitutionalism, among other topics. Students will be introduced to the complex and polemical phenomenon of political Islam. The examples will be drawn mainly, though not exclusively, from cases and writings from the Middle East.

NES 352  Arabia in the 20th Century: from Oil Concessions to Osama bin Laden


Pascal Menoret

This lecture course is an introduction to the contemporary history of the Arabian Peninsula in the 20th century, from the last decades of the Ottoman presence in the region to the 9/11 bombings. Students will be introduced to state building in tribal societies, imperialism and hegemony, oil exploitation and workers’ unrest, leftist and Islamist movements, political economy and social change, women, migrants and urban unrest.

NES 371  The Doctrine of Jihad

Aron Zysow

This course surveys the development of the doctrine of jihad (war against non-Muslims) from the sacred sources, the Qur'an and hadith, through classical Islamic law to more recent debates. The contributions of contemporary ideologists of jihad will be examined against this background. The focus throughout will be on the questions of authority in Islam underlying this subject.

NES 392  Young Muslims in Europe: Integration or Radicalization?

Roger Hardy

A series of crises--ranging from the Madrid and London bombings to controversies over the Danish cartoons and the Muslim headscarf--have highlighted concerns about the presence of new and growing Muslim communities in Europe, and in particular, the danger of radicalization of Muslim youth. Using case studies drawn mainly from Britain, France, and the Netherlands, this course explores the social and political aspects of this new Muslim presence and considers whether different models of integration (multiculturalism in Britain, assimilationism in France) are succeeding or failing.

NES 393  Youth, Violence and Politics in the Middle East

Pascal Menoret

Violence in the contemporary Middle East may be seen as a rebellion of youth against aging political regimes and the foreign influences in the region. This course is intended to examine this generational hypothesis in the context of the social and political history of the Middle East and North Africa. Particular emphasis will be given to the study of social as well as political violence. Students will be introduced to such topics as the emergence of youth as a political concern, the way Islamist movements focus on youth issues (e.g., education and leisure), and the complex and diverse relationships between the body, violence, and politics.

NES 430 / REL 429  The Qur'an in English

Aron Zysow

This course will cover about two thirds of the Qur'anic text in the English translation of Kenneth Cragg, which has the advantage for an initial study of organizing the Qur'anic passages according to broad themes. The course aims at bringing the student as close as possible to the Arabic original and will draw extensively on traditional exegesis (tafsir) as well as critical Qur'anic scholarship.

NES 447  Qur'anic Commentary

Aron Zysow

This course looks at a sample of the vast literature of Qur'anic commentary through English translations of writings from the early, classical, and modern periods. The readings will include examples of the interpretation of particular Qur'anic passages as well as works on the nature and aims of Qur'anic exegesis. The readings represent a variety of genres produced by writers of radically different commitments.

WWS 594T  Political Change in the Gulf Monarchies

Steffen Hertog

This course will examine the political systems of Gulf monarchies from a comparative perspective, looking at drivers of change and reform in particular. Special emphasis is put on understanding the internal dynamics of regimes and state-society relations in the Gulf, as Western foreign policies towards the region are too often predicated on an insufficient understanding of what drives decision-making in the Gulf monarchies.