Islamic Heritage of Turkey

Class + Extended Study


Course Description:

This is a term long reading course, culminating in a three-week study tour in Turkey. The reading course focuses on medieval and contemporary understandings of Islam in Turkey, paying particularly close attention to the manifestations of Islamic Mysticism (Sufism) in Turkey. The study tour will focus on the city of Istanbul (ancient Constantinople), considered among the most impressive and beautiful of ancient cities, and a meeting place of East and West. During the time in Istanbul, prominent Turkish scholars of Islam and Islamic history will give lectures to the class. The tour will culminate in a visit to the sacred pilgrimage site of Konya, the burial place of the much-revered Rumi. No knowledge of Turkish is necessary.
Prerequisite: It is strongly suggested that the students have completed at least one course dealing with the Islamic tradition before taking this class. Permission of the instructor is required.

Course Requirement:

-The class will be run in a seminar format. Fully 35% of the students' grades will be determined from their participation in class discussions during the reading course and also their participation and respect for the parameters of the study tour while in Turkey.
-Every day for class, the students are expected to come with a 3-4 page typed reflection and analysis of the readings. The analysis is to raise critical questions about the readings, and make connections with earlier readings and class discussions. It is to culminate with a series of questions (referring specifically to the text) that can be raised in class for further discussions. These reflections will be gathered by the instructor and graded.
-Each student is also expected to write a reserach paper for the class. The topics will be worked out individually with the students. Each paper is to be 15-20 pages long, and should use scholarly sources recommended by the instructor. The paper will count for 50% of the grade for the course.
-In addition, upon returning from the trip, each student will write a paper that will weave together their readings, critical analysis, and personal reflections on the trip. This paper will count for 15% of the grade.


Grading Standards:

Here are the standards for each grade:

Superb, Excellent. An ability to offer original and insightful analysis of the facts.

Solid Work. The facts have been grasped, and significant moves have been made to interpret the material in an analytical fashion.

The student has made a reasonable attempt to attend the class, and has a fair grasp of the factual material presented. The analysis of these facts, and an attempt to contribute towards an original interpretation, however, is severely missing.

A simplistic familiarity with the subject mater can be gleamed through the assignments which have been turned in.

A disappointment—no attempt being shown on the behalf of the student to engage the material, to respect the parameters of the class and its schedule, or the turning in of assignment.


Directions for "Talking points"

A note on "Talking points" and Class participation:

This course can only be successful if we have daily, active discussions. That will only happen if you have spent time before coming to class pondering over the readings. To aid you in this, you are are asked to bring a focused "talking point" (around 3-4 pages) to every class. A talking point is a form of dialogue between you and the readings: that is to say, reflections and queries you are prepared to share with a classmate and/or with the instructor. Your daily "talking points" will play a considerable role in shaping the day's discussion. Every talking point must contain 2-3 written questions to be asked in class. The talking points, which will be first exchanged with your colleagues and then gathered by me, count for 20% of your final grade.

I leave it up to you to decide how you will engage the text in your talking point:

*reflect on an idea you found interesting or intriguing in the readings,
*discuss who the various readings complement or differ from one another,
*explore the implications of a particular idea,
*compare to another work we've studied,
*trace how the work speaks to a theme we encountered earlier.


Reading Schedule:


Wednesday, January 23rd:
Read handout on Sufism, "Key Features of Sufism", by Javad Nurbakhsh

January 30th:
Love is the Wine, by Sheikh Muzaffer Ozak.

February 6th:
All the King's Falcons, by John Renard (SUNY)

February 13th:
And Muhammad is His Messenger, by Annemarie Schimmel
For today's class, come to MERRILL house for dinner, at 7 pm. Dinner is on me. bring your books, reflections, and appetite.
You do NOT have to read chapter 12. Browse the other chapters.

February 20th:
Michael Sells, Approching the Qur'an

February 27th:
Way of Sufi Chivalry

March 6th:
Pleasantries of Mulla Nasreddin

March 13th:
The Drop that became a sea

March 20th:
Spring Break, no class.

March 27th:
Ottoman Lyric Poetry: An anthology, by Walter G Andrews, Najaat Black, and Mehmet Kalapakli

Mandatory Lecture:
Saturday March 30th, Ebrahim Moosa

April 3rd:
The Unreadable Shores of Love: Turkish Modernity and Mystic Romance, by Victoria Rowe Holbrook

April 10th:
people will present on their research progress.


Omid Talk on Jesus in Islam
Robert Ho Lecture Room, 105 Lawrence.

April 17th:
Rumi and Sufism:
Possibly, Jalaleddin Loras here.



April 18th, 8 pm: Bruce Lawrence Lecture, Persson Aud.
April 19th, 4 pm. Bruce Lawrence lecture, 105 Lawrence Hall

April 24th:
Institutional Sufism readings, handed out in class. (Translation of Awarif al-Ma'arif)
Selection of Readings from Ahmet Karamustafa, God's Unruly Friends


April 25th:
Film: Legacy of Taliban, 7 pm. place: TBA


May 1st:
Readings on Tekke, from Dervish Lodge, edited by Lifchez


Extended Study trip to Turkey:

After the extensive preparation above, those students who have successfully completed the reading section of the class will be invited for a three-week study tour of Turkey. Ideally, the number of students on the tour would be 10-15. The tour would begin about two weeks after graduation, and conclude three weeks after that. The study tour would begin from New York, where the instructor would accompany the students to Turkey. At the conclusion of the study tour, the students would be free to spend more time on their own (their own risk, reward, and budget) in Turkey or other European or Middle Eastern countries.

The study tour would be based primarily in Istanbul. What follows is a tentative itinerary for the trip:

Day One: Trip from New York to Istanbul
Day Two: Rest in Istanbul, intro. to Turkish culture by tour guide, Cem Williford.
Day Three: Visit Aya Sophia
Day Four: Visit to Suleymaniye Cami (mosque)
Day Five: Lecture by Sherif Catalkaya on foundations of Islamic mysticism
Day Six: Visit to Blue Mosque
Day Seven: Lecture by Sherif Catalkaya on practices of Islamic mysticism
Sherif Catalkaya is a Turkish scholar of Islamic Mysticism as well as a practicing Muslim mystic himself, who is very adept at giving lectures to university students.

Day Eight: Visit Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum
Day Nine: Visit the Sama-khaneh at Galata, see Whirling Dervishes performance.
Day Ten: Visit Topkapi palace
Day Eleven: Visit Topkapi museum
Observe women's spiritual gathering at the guidance of Cemalnur Sargut
Day Twelve: Visit Istanbul Bazaar.
Day Thirteen: Visit the Old Book bazaar, visit the descendants of Sheikh Muzaffer.
Arrange for Sufi music concert, led by Oruc Guvenc (Turkish musician, knowledgeable about theories of Turkish music and its connections to Islamic spirituality).
Day Fourteen: Arrange visit to Sufi house of the Jerahi order.

Day Fifteen: Travel to Konya
Day Sixteen: Visit to Tomb of Shams-e Tabriz and Sadreddin Qunawi
Lectures by Omid Safi and Bilal Kuspinar (Turkish scholar, expert on the shrine culture of Konya. Ph.D. from McGill University)
Day Seventeen: Visit to Mevlana Rumi shrine/museum
Lecture on Rumi by Omid Safi
Day Eighteen: Visit to Mevlana Rumi shrine/museum
Lecture on Rumi's Sufi order by Omid Safi
Day Nineteen: Return to Istanbul
Day Twenty: Free day in istanbul/shopping
Day Twenty-one : Return to New York