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Early Islamic Thought and the World of Late Antiquity


Admission requirements

Admission to one of the following programmes is required:

  • MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialisation Global and Comparative Philosophy

    • BA students in Filosofie, who have successfully completed their first year, and also completed at least 10 EC’s of the mandatory components of their second year, including Comparative Philosophy, and Analytische filosofie or Philosophy of Mind. In addition, students must have completed the course World Philosophies: Middle East.
  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy in World Traditions


This course studies the major ideas and intellectual traditions in Late Antiquity focusing on the periods before and after Islam, roughly 200 – 900 AD. The aim of the course is to analyse the ideas that shaped early Islam and Muslim society, focusing on the Qurʾan, early hadith corpus, and the writings of early groups and traditions, before the rise of orthodoxy and period of canonisation.

Course objectives

The student will learn to examine and analyse ideas and beliefs both synchronically and diachronically, reading a range of texts and different genres of writings from the world of Late Antiquity (Greek pagan, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic milieus), and thus be able to understand the intellectual origins and foundational ideas of Islam before the emergence of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Moreover, the student will learn to integrate Islam and Islamic ideas into world history and global thought.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


  • 5,000 words midterm paper (options include textual analysis and commentary, or essay): 35%

  • 7,000 words final paper (options include textual analysis and commentary, or essay): 55%

  • 1,000 words weekly reflections: 10%


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of the subtests (see above).


The resit consists of one examination, consisting of a paper. The mark for the resit replaces all previously earned marks for subtests. Class participation and completion of practical assignments are required for taking the resit.

Students who have obtained a satisfactory overall grade for the first examination cannot take the resit.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

  • Garth Fowden, Before and After Muḥammad: The First Millennium Refocused (Princeton, New Jersey, 2014).

  • Peter Brown, The World of Late Antiquity (London, 1971).

  • Josef Van Ess, Theology and Society: A History of Religious Thought in Early Islam, I-IV (Leiden, 2016-2019).

  • Averil Cameron, The Mediterranean World in Late Antiquity, AD 395-600* (London, 1993).

  • Scott Fitzgerald Johnson (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Late Antiquity (Oxford, 2012.)


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the information bar at the right hand side of the page.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc., contact the Education Administration Office Huizinga


Not applicable.