Islam in the Medieval Mediterranean


The Great Mosque of Cordoba; Begun 786 CE (Caliphate of Cordoba); Al-Andalus/Central Spain.

Islam in the Medieval Mediterranean - IST 2253

Online/Hybrid Course in "Comparative Religious Traditions"

Winter Term 2021 - 4 Credits

Start Date: Monday January 4th, 2021

End Date:   Friday March 12th, 2021

Instructor: Prof. Albert Hernández, Ph.D. Email:

Office Hours:--- By appointment on Zoom or on mobile-call.

Teaching Assistant: Ms. Mona Moayedi, Doctoral Student in I.S.T. and D.U. Joint Doctoral Program in Study of Religion. Email:

Map of the "Dar Al-Islam" - "The House of Islam" ca. 622 to ca. 750 CE


Course Description/Synopsis:

This is a comparative course examining the emergence of Islam in the social, religious, and historical context of the Medieval Mediterranean from the Arab conquest of Egypt to the rise of the Ottoman Empire and the fall of the Caliphate of Granada in Spain. We will examine tensions and collaborations between Islam and Christianity, like the region’s influential centers for the preservation, translation and dissemination of ancient books alongside the accomplishments of Islamic science and Sufi mysticism. This course also examines the importance of these comparative legacies for understanding today’s ongoing religious and political conflicts across the region.

Star_and_Crescent.jpg Jerusalem Cross_Medieval.jpg

Course Objectives & Degree Learning Goals: 

I.S.T. Masters Degree Learning Goals in Comparative Religious Traditions (CR):----

To demonstrate basic awareness of a range of religious traditions and an emerging capacity to engage in comparative analysis between traditions around a particular topic.

Course Objectives and Learning Goals for "Islam in the Medieval Mediterranean" (IST 2253):----

  1. Students will demonstrate a basic understanding of Islamic beliefs, sacred scriptures, practices and holy days, history and philosophy, and different Muslim sects or theological traditions.
  2. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the commonalities and differences among different Islamic religious and cultural traditions, or among different regional or sectarian groups.
  3. Students will be able to think critically about both medieval legacies and contemporary stereotypes about Islam and Muslims originating in the traditional theological and territorial conflicts between Islam and the nations/cultures of the Mediterranean region, particularly with an emphasis on Islamic relations with Christianity and European nations.
  4. Students will be able to discuss the position of women’s roles among the various Islamic religious traditions, cultures, and sectarian groups of the Mediterranean region.
  5. Students will be able to identify and discuss the existence of medieval dialogues of mutual edification within the theme or tradition known as “The Children of Abraham” across the medieval Mediterranean regions/cultures covered in the course, and then to apply these insights/resources to different potential scenarios of contemporary inter-religious dialogue and inter-faith collaboration.



 Evaluation, Required Assignments, & Grading Procedures


Students will participate in and complete FOUR separate on-line class discussions/open forums on different topics/themes selected by the instructor during the course.

Each one of the four class discussions/open forums will be worth approximately 10 points for a total of 40% of the Final Grade in this course.   

In order to earn full-credit on each of the Group Discussion Assignments, each student must log-on and post responses two separate times to each group discussion topic/theme by the respective deadlines.

Posting a late initial response to the week's discussion topic will result in a point deduction for that week's Group Discussion Forum. Be sure that your first posting arrives in a timely manner so as not to hold-up or delay the discussion forum for the rest of the class. 

Please remember to log back in to the Group Discussion/Open Forum to post your second required response to the respective week's theme or topic, and to extend the conversation by engaging your classmates before moving on to next week's course topics and reading materials.

Students will be expected to have read the assigned textbook sections, and the assigned primary or secondary source readings for each respective discussion topic/theme, and to have viewed the week’s recorded lecture(s) before participating in the respective class discussion assignment posted on Canvas. For further details see the Guidelines for Class/Group Discussion under the "Course Procedures & Expectations" section of the syllabus.



"Islam in the Medieval Mediterranean" (IST 2253) will be meeting on Zoom on the following Winter Term 2021 dates/times:

Thursday Week Two---January 14th---2:30 pm to 3:45 pm (MST)

Thursday Week Five---February 4th---2:30 pm to 3:45 pm (MST)

Thursday Week Eight--February 25th--2:30 pm to 3:45 pm(MST)  

Student attendance in these three synchronous class sessions is required, and participation in all three sessions accounts for 15% of the Final Grade in this course.    


MID-TERM ASSIGNMENT: 15 % (Book or Article Review on topic to be announced---DUE: Week Six of Winter Term).  

***Details about assignment and due date coming very soon***



Option 1 - Final Exam 30%:  Best option for all first-year students. Each student who chooses this option will complete and submit a take-home final exam by the due date comprised of comprehensive essay questions on the material covered in the course. Students will be allowed to choose several questions from a list of essay topics and then develop and discuss each answer separately.   Students will be expected to write a total of 9 to 12 pages for this final assignment option. The final exam will be distributed to students via Canvas by the instructor. The due date for submitting/uploading the final exam to Canvas is 11:59 PM (MST) on Saturday evening March 13th, 2021. 

Option 2 – Final Research or Reflection Paper 30%:  If you have already taken an advanced or survey/breadth course at I.S.T. in comparative religious traditions, or another advanced course with Prof. Hernandez at I.S.T., then this final assignment option might be the best choice for you this term.  Each student who chooses this option will write a Final Research Paper, or a Final Reflection Paper/Essay, based upon her/his proposed topic.  Papers should not exceed a total of 9 to 12 pages in length.   All final Research or Reflection Papers will be submitted/uploaded to Canvas by the assigned deadline. The due date for submitting/uploading the Final Papers to Canvas is 11:59 PM (MST) on Saturday evening March 13th, 2021. 

Required Textbook and Additional Course Readings:

Brian Catlos, Kingdoms of Faith: A New History of Islamic Spain. Basic Books, 2018. Available in both hardcover [ISBN: 978-0465055876] and Kindle formats as well as in audio book format.

Additional Required Readings:---- All other readings from primary or from secondary sources, will be made available to students as PDF's on the "Files" tab of our Canvas course site, and will be listed in the "Course Summary" section of the Syllabus for each week of the course in which the reading is due to be completed with full author, title, and page number information. Any relevant internal or external links to required readings available in the public domain will also be listed in the "Course Summary" of the Syllabus for each secondary source or for each excerpt from a primary source text.

Suggested Optional Readings:----(Not required to purchase)

Kevin Madigan, Medieval Christianity: A New History . Yale University Press, 2015.

Jacob Lassner and Michael Bonner, Islam in the Middle Ages: The Origins and Shaping of Classical Islamic Civilization. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2010.

Course Procedures and Expectations:

Accessing and Regularly Checking our Canvas Course Site:

Guidelines for Online Group Discussions/Open Forums:

Writing Lab:

Grammar and organization are important for all written assignments.  Additional help is available from the Iliff Writing Lab . , which is available for students of any level who need help beginning an assignment, organizing thoughts, or reviewing a final draft.

Academic Integrity and Core Values:

All students are expected to abide by Iliff's Policies & Statement on Academic Integrity as published in the Masters Student Handbook , or the D.U. & I.S.T. Joint Doctoral Program's Statement on Academic Honesty, as published in the Joint PhD Student Handbook and as appropriate.  All participants in this class are expected to be familiar with Iliff’s Core Values.

Incomplete Grades:

Incomplete Grade petitions will be granted only in the case of documented and verifiable medical circumstances or other personal or family related emergencies. In the event a student requires this option, the final grade for the course will be assigned as a "Pass" (P) or "Fail" (F) grade.

Additional Policies & Services:

For information about A.D.A. Accommodations , or for information about additional Iliff School of Theology "Policies & Services" go to this tab/section of our Canvas course page or go there by clicking on this Link.

Jan 05, 2021TueWelcome Message and Course Overview Videodue by 06:59AM
Jan 08, 2021FriWEEK ONE: Thinking/Seeing/Reading the "Middle Ages" in Mediterranean Ways. . . . . . . due by 06:59AM
Jan 10, 2021SunWEEK ONE: Group Discussion/Open Forum #1 - Due Saturday Jan. 9, 2021due by 06:59AM
Jan 11, 2021MonWEEK ONE: Group Discussion/Open Forum #1 Continued.... due by 06:59AM
Jan 17, 2021SunWEEK TWO: Muhammad & the Rise of Islam (ca. 570 to 732 CE)due by 06:59AM
Jan 23, 2021SatWEEK THREE: The Expansion of Early Islam and Understanding Conflict among Early Muslim Factions (632 to 1031 CE) due by 06:59AM
Jan 24, 2021SunWEEK THREE: Group Discussion/Open Forum #2 - Due Saturday Jan. 23rd, 2021due by 06:59AM
Jan 31, 2021SunWEEK FOUR: "La Convivencia" & The Historical Myths of so-called Golden Agesdue by 06:59AM
Feb 06, 2021SatWEEK FIVE: Book Collecting, Translation Centers, & the Transmission of Knowledge across the Medieval Mediterranean due by 06:59AM
Feb 16, 2021TueWEEK SIX: Mid-Term Assignment Details and Instructions. Due Date: No later than Monday Feb. 15th, 2021.due by 06:59AM
Feb 20, 2021SatParticipation Points for Attending the Weeks 2 & 5 Zoom Class Meetings due by 06:59AM
Feb 21, 2021SunWEEK SEVEN: The Crusades & Religious Relations across the Medieval Mediterraneandue by 06:59AM
Feb 22, 2021MonWEEK SEVEN: Group Discussion/Open Forum #3 - Due Sunday February 21st, 2021due by 06:59AM
Feb 28, 2021SunWEEK EIGHT: Dialogues of Mutual Edification across the Medieval Mediterranean due by 06:59AM
Mar 06, 2021SatWEEK NINE: The Events of 1492, The Post-Andalusian Age, and Closing Reflections on Islam in Medieval Iberia & Across the Medieval Mediterranean due by 06:59AM
Mar 08, 2021MonWEEK NINE: Group Discussion/Open Forum #4. Due Sunday March 7th, 2021due by 06:59AM
Mar 13, 2021SatParticipation Points for Attending the Week 8 Zoom Class Meeting on Thursday Feb. 25th, 2021due by 06:59AM
Mar 14, 2021SunWEEK TEN: FINAL EXAM ESSAYS OPTION: Instructions and List of Essay Questions. DUE DATE: Saturday March 13th, 2021 due by 06:59AM
Mar 14, 2021SunWEEK TEN: Final Research Paper or Final Reflection Paper OPTION with Instructions & Details. DUE DATE: Saturday March 13, 2021 due by 06:59AM