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Author: A. Rashied Omar
Weekly study questions concerning readings and course material for "Islamic Ethics of War and Peace".
Week Topic Study Questions
1 Islamic Worldview
  • What Islamic beliefs are similar to those found in other religions, notably Judaism and Christianity?
  • What are some of the similarities between Islamic ethico-moral values and those found in other religions, notably Judaism and Christianity?
  • Which of the two terms orthodoxy or orthopraxy more aptly describes the emphasis of Islam as a religious tradition?
  • Identify the eight (8) cultural zones of Islam? What is the heuristic value of such a typology.
  • What are the historical causes of the schism and key differences between Sunni and Shi`ite Islam?
2 Biography of Muhammad
  • What is the role of the life of Muhammad in Islamic ethical teachings and practices?
  • What significance did the society, into which Muhammad was born, have on the development of Islamic ethical teachings and practices?
  • Why did the Quraish, the noble tribe from which Muhammad was born, feel compelled to respond with such vehemence and persecution against his message? 
  • What finally led to Muhammad deciding to migrate to Madinah from Makkah and how did the leaders of Quraysh respond to his departure?
  • What significance does the division of the life of Muhammad between the Makkan and Madinan periods have for Islamic ethics of war and peace?
  • In the wake of the Battle of the Trench, Muhammad ordered his followers to put the Jewish tribe of Bani Qurayza on trial for the crime of treason. The judgment given by one of Muhammad’s companions resulted in the execution of 700 Jewish men and their women and men were enslaved. Some scholars have used this incident to claim that Muhammad was anti-semitic. Critically discuss the response of the Jewish scholar of Islam, Ruthen Firestone, to this accusation.
  • Name one of the scholarly experts on Islam interviewed in the CBS documentary who impressed you and why.
  • How do the four diverse American-Muslims depicted in the CBS documentary view Islam and Muhammad’s example as models for their own lives in modern conditions?
  • Critically assess the overall Muslim ethical perspectives on War and Peace as presented in the PBS documentary “Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet’.
3 Sources and Nature of Islamic Ethics
  • What is the difference between descriptive, normative, deontological, teleological and virtue ethics?
  • The word “ethics” have several synonymous nomenclatures in Muslim cultures. Discuss two of them.
  • According to Ebrahim Moosa the formation of Muslim Ethics occurred organically in the complex crucible of many different cultural and social settings. Which of these cultures according to Moosa had the most significant impact on the development of Muslim Ethics and what is the significance of this for our understanding of Islamic Ethics?
  • Distinguish between four contemporary approaches to Islamic Ethics and identify a Muslim scholar that you would associate with each of these schools. Justify your choice.
  • Identify three “general principles” that some contemporary Muslims start from in dealing with the ethical problems.
  • Identify the twofold contemporary challenges facing Muslim Ethics according to Ebrahim Moosa.
  •  What does the term ‘casuistry’ suggest about the nature of Islamic Ethics? To what extent do you think this assessment of Islamic Ethics by Western scholars, such as Kevin Reinhart, is accurate?
4 Relationship between Law (Shari’a) and Ethics in Islam
  • Why has the Shari’a been described as the “ghost” in the study of Islamic ethics?
  • Discuss the view advocated by Ebrahim Moosa and others it is not completely accurate to define Shari’ah narrowly as Islamic Law. It is much more!
  • Identify the five ethico-legal categories that classical Muslim scholars accorded to all human actions and provide one example of each.
  • In what ways does a focus on the ethical objectives of the Islam (maqasid al-shari’a) shape a more critical approach to Islamic Ethics?
5 Islam, Conflict, and Violence
  • What are the multiple meanings of jihad?
  • How do classical Muslim exegetes understand the context of the so-called “sword verse” of the Qur’an: 9:5?
  • Identify and describe the distinctive emphasis of the advocates of the three main tendencies/schools in the study of contemporary Islamic Ethics of War and Peace.
  • Provide an example of a contemporary Muslim ethicist whose views would represent the above school.
6 An Islamic Just War Theory
  • How do classical and contemporary Muslim scholars differ in their respective emphases on jus ad bellum and jus in bello and why?
  • What are the similarities and differences between the Islamic Ethics of warfare and that of ‘just war theory’?
  • How does Hashmi develop an Islamic response the assertion that humanity is prone to war?
7 Islamic Ethics on Suicide Bombing
  • What are the non-Islamic precedents and origins of suicide terrorism in other cultures and regions of the world?
  • What are the ideological, organizational and social contexts that contribute to emergence of suicide bombers?
  • How do Muslim extremist groups justify suicide tactics that are forbidden in Islam as being “martyrdom operations” (istish-had)?
8 Islamic Ethics on Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • What is the Islamic ethical position taken by Hashmi on the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction?
  • Critically assess the validity of the argument that countries develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent measure against threats from rogue states.
  • Do you think interreligious intiatives calling for the elimination of Nuclear Weapons and WMD’s are useful? And if so, why?
 9 Muslim Extremism and US Foreign Policy
  • What are some the causes given for Muslim extremism?
  • Is ‘terrorism’ an effect of radical religious tendencies, or is it born of a political encounter?
  • What are the key assumptions and positions of the two renowned scholars chiefly associated with two versions of the “Clash of Civilizations" thesis?
  • On what basis can the claim be made be that the United States foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere breeds radical extremism in the Muslim world?
  • What are the most effective ways of counteracting Muslim and other forms of religious extremisms?
 10 Islamic Ethics of Peace
  • How consonant or disparate is the Islamic definition of peace from that of other leading perspectives?
  • How does one balance between the two critical Islamic concepts of justice and compassion in constructing a viable project of Muslim peacebuilding?
  • What are the three main categories into which studies of peace and nonviolence in Islam can be divided? 
 11 Islamic Theologies of Nonviolence
  • What are the scriptural bases for the various Islamic theologies of nonviolence?
  • Evaluate Mohammed Abu-Nimer’s major recommendation for promoting nonviolence and peacebuilding in Islam.
  • How does Sohail Hashmi interpret the prospects of the emergence of a credible Islamic Theology of nonviolence and pacifism?
  • Critically evaluate the Islamic theology of nonviolence developed by a contemporary Muslim scholar.
 12 Interreligious Dialogue and Muslim Peacebuilding
  • How do we account for the “counter-intuitive” reality of interreligious solidarity in the midst of religiously sanctioned violence?
  • Distinguish between extrinsic and intrinsic motivations for interreligous dialogue?
  • What are the Islamic theological foundations for intrinsic motivations for interreligious dialogue?
  • Identify some of the key challenges facing the proliferating interreligious peacebuilding movement.
 13 Women and Muslim Peacebuilding
  •  “It would be anachronistic to claim that Muhammad was a feminist in the twenty-first century sense. Nevertheless, he improved the condition of the women of his time and society.” Critically discuss the above quotation from Karen Armstrong. 
  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of John Esposito and Dalai Mogahed’s chapter on Women in their book on Who Speaks for Islam.
  • Briefly describe Sabah Mahmood’s critique of Western Feminist positions on the crisis in Afghanistan. What do you think about the veracity of her critique?
 14 The Future of Islamic Ethics
  • Identify three “general principles” that some contemporary Muslims start from in dealing with the ethical problems.
  • What are the most important findings that a western schooled ethicist may be struck by when studying Islamic ethics?
  • How Does Islamic Ethics differ from and challenge Euro-American ethical reflections?
  • Who are the key produces of Islamic Ethical Treatises in contemporary times and why?
  • What are the reasons why contemporary Muslim ethical discussions draw only on a few of the classical Muslim thinkers and ignore many others?   
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