The death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 AD challenged an emerging Muslim society, forcing it to make some important decisions in the absence of a Prophet. Thereafter, each political, economic or social rupture presented new opportunities for Muslims to take stock of Islam and to rethink its meaning and message. Within this history, major reflections became symbols of an intellectual aggregation that we have called Islam. From the juridical treatises of al-Shafi’I to the philosophical reflections of Ibn Rush, these texts were collected, commented upon and passed on through generations. Contemporary intellectuals like Muhammad Iqbal, Fazlur Rahman and Amina Wadud continue that tradition.

This course will present the life and thought of a sample of intellectuals from the 8th to the 21st century, focussing on how they have lived and thought about Islam. It will highlight the key questions that they posed to the tradition, the new terms and insights that they introduced to this historical legacy, and their interaction with the major challenges of their times.

A basic understanding of Islam, its practices and its history are assumed in this course.


  1. Between reason and revelation in moral duties: Al-Shāfiʿī (d. 820) against rationalists
  2. How to regulate the medieval caliphal state: al-Mawardi (d. 1058) and others
  3. The limits of reason and theology: al-Ghazali (d.1111) and Ibn Rushd (d. 1198)
  4. Spirituality and individuality: from Rumi (d. 1273) to Iqbal (d. 1938)
  5. Rahman (d. 1988) and the fundamental values of Islam
Date:7–11 January        
Time:5.00 pm
COURSE FEES Full: R550,00     Staff & students: R275,00
Venue: LT1 Kramer Law Building UCT