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The Islamic Book: from Manuscript to Modern Media


Admission requirements

Admission to MA Arabic, Persian and Turkish Languages and Cultures, MA Islamic Studies, MA Islamic Theology or the Research MA Area Studies: Asia and the Middle East, specialisation Middle Eastern Studies. Please, contact the student advisor, Nicole A.N.M. van Os or Prof. Dr. J.J. Witkam, if you are interested in taking this course, but NOT a student of the one of the above-mentioned MA programmes.


The course offers a first introduction to the importance of texts in Islamic civilization. Some of the ubjects treated: The importance of the book in Islam; How to handle God’s word? Images in prayer books; Infallibility and inimitability of the Koran; Taking Greek science from Islamic sources; An excursion to the obscure side (blasphemy, murder); Islam and European enlightenment; Genealogies of learning; The proliferation of Islamic texts, Ibn Khaldun and the Dutch; The illuminated title-page, etc.

Course objectives

At the end of the course students

  • understand the importance of the phenomenon book in Islam;

  • understand how Islamic booklore develops from the way God’s own word is handled in the material book;

  • have learnt how to use the internet for research on the islamic book;

  • understand the major historical developments of the islamic book by having become acquainted with a large number of specimens of Islamic books from the rich collections of Leiden University Library.


This course is scheduled to take place on Tuesdays, 9-11 hrs.
Dates in 2010: September 14, 28; October 12, 19, November 2, 23, 30,
Place: demonstration room, Leiden University Library, Witte Singel 27, Leiden
(2nd floor, North wing).


Mode of instruction

The course is given with an electronic textbook (as yet unpublished) written by Prof. Jan Just Witkam. Relevant chapters are distributed among the participants. During the course profuse use is made of the original manuscripts and printed books in the Leiden Islamic collections.

Assessment method

Requirements for the course: Attendance (seven Tuesday mornings), occasional assignments as homework, final essay on a self-chosen subject.


Reading list


Registration is required through uSis

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Contact information

Prof.dr. J.J. Witkam