College Bulletin 2023-2024 
    Jul 15, 2024  
College Bulletin 2023-2024

Islamic Studies


TARIQ al-JAMIL (Religion), Coordinator
Kim Cahill (Administrative Assistant)

Khaled Al-Masri (Modern Languages and Literatures, Arabic)  
Farha Ghannam (Sociology and Anthropology)
Alexandra Gueydan-Turek (Modern Languages and Literatures, French)
Steven Hopkins (Religion)3


Swarthmore’s Islamic Studies Program focuses on the diverse experiences and textual traditions of Muslims in global contexts. As one of the world’s great religions and cultures, Islam has shaped human experience-both past and present-in every area of the world. The academic program explores the expressions of Islam as a religious tradition, the role of Muslims in shaping local cultures, Islamic civilization as a force of development in global history, and the significance of Islamic discourses in the contemporary world. The program offers an undergraduate minor, drawing from the academic disciplines of art history, dance, film and media studies, gender and sexuality studies, history, modern languages and literatures, political science, religion, and sociology and anthropology. The Islamic Studies Program challenges students to consider a wide range of social, cultural, literary, and religious phenomena in both the Arabic and non-Arabic speaking parts of the world. These include aspects of life in countries with Muslim majorities such as Egypt, Syria, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkey as well as those countries with vital minority communities such as France, Germany, and the United States. A sample of coursework includes The Qur’an and its Interpreters; Islamic Law and Society; Gender, Sexuality, and the Body in Islamic Discourses; Cultures of the Middle East; Culture, Power, Islam; Cultural History of the Modern Middle East; Cities of the Middle East; and Kathak Dance Performance.

The Academic Program

Course Minor

All students must take a minimum of 5 Islamic Studies Program credits. Students must follow the guidelines below regarding the required 5 courses.


  1. The 5 required courses must cross at least 3 different academic departments.
  2. Only 1 of the total 5 credits required by the Islamic studies minor may overlap with the student’s major.
  3. Students must successfully complete Arabic 004 (and its prerequisites) or the equivalent. This requirement is waived for native speakers of Arabic and for students who demonstrate sufficient competence by passing an equivalency exam. Alternate fulfillment of the language requirement may also be approved by the Islamic Studies Committee if a student demonstrates competence in another language that is relevant to the study of a Muslim society and is directly related to the student’s academic program. Only Arabic courses beginning at the level of Arabic 004 or its equivalent will count toward the total 5 credits in Islamic studies required for the minor.

To supplement classes offered at Swarthmore, students are encouraged to explore and take classes at other nearby colleges, especially Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and the University of Pennsylvania. Students are also strongly encouraged to spend a minimum of one semester abroad in a program approved by both Islamic studies and Swarthmore’s Off-Campus Study Office. In addition to furthering the student’s knowledge of Islam and Muslim societies, studying abroad is a unique opportunity for personal and intellectual growth.

Acceptance Criteria

Students interested in Islamic studies are invited to consult with members of the Islamic Studies Committee before developing a proposal for a minor. The proposal should outline and establish how a minor in Islamic studies relates to the student’s overall program of undergraduate study and should provide a list of the courses to be taken. The minor is open to students of all divisions.

Students will be admitted to the minor after having completed at least two Islamic studies courses at Swarthmore in different departments with grades of B or better. Applications to the program must be submitted by March 1st of the sophomore year, and all programs must be approved by the Islamic Studies Committee. Deferred students will be re-evaluated at the end of each semester until they are either accepted or they withdraw their application.

Honors Minor

To complete an honors minor in Islamic Studies, a student must have completed all the course requirements for the interdisciplinary minor listed above. Students are encouraged to take a 2-credit honors seminar in an Islamic studies topic in either their junior or senior year. Honors students are required to complete a 2-credit thesis under program supervision that will count toward the minimum of 5 credits required for the interdisciplinary minor or take a 2-credit Islamic Studies honors seminar. Students normally enroll for the thesis (ISLM 180) in the fall semester and in the spring semester of the senior year. The honors examination will address the themes explored in the 2-credit thesis or the 2-credit Islamic Studies honors seminar.

Special Major

Students are invited to consider a special major in Islamic studies in consultation with members of the Islamic Studies Committee. The proposal should include the above requirements and should provide a list of the courses.

The Following Courses

The following courses may be applied to an academic program in Islamic studies. See individual departments to determine specific offerings.

Modern Languages and Literatures, Russian