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Modern Islam and Poetry

ENGL 262.401
also offered as: SAST 144, RELS 147
TR 3-4:30


This course focuses on a basic question: How and why a modern poem turns into a narrative device to debate contemporary Islamic discourses?

We begin exploring this question by taking note of how a 12th-century Persian poet Rumi became – as described by Time magazine— “the best-selling poet in the US today,” and then introduces students to poems and various social, cultural and religious moments that were key in the making of modern Islam. Although the course primarily emphasizes the study of poetry produced and circulated among various Muslim communities world-wide, it also covers a diverse set of secondary readings from the field of religious studies, anthropology and literature to outline more clearly the contours of contemporary Islam. Readings begin with internationally famous Rumi and then include poets emerging from Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and several vernacular literary cultures in both Muslim and non-Muslim countries.

Attendance Policy and Class Participation

Regrettably, excessive unexcused absences and persistent failure to prepare the assignments on time have deleterious effects on final grades for the class.  On the other hand, vigorous and informed participation in class discussions can help a grade. Other factors, such as student’s progress or effort in the course, may also affect final grades for the class.


All the readings will be available on the canvas.


1. One Weekly Reading response (200 Words): 15%

2. Class Presentation: 15 minutes (including 5 minutes Q & A): 25%
3.  Mid-term paper (1000 Words):25%
4. Final paper (2000 Words): 25%

5. In-class writing/ 10 minutes 2 assignments 10%


Students must meet me before their class presentations.

We will have an open brainstorming session to discuss mid-term and final paper. Students must share their thesis statement and outline with me before they start working on those assignments.

I will have two ten-minutes individual conferences with the students during the semester to discuss about the class.


Tentative Calendar

Week 1: Introduction

 Introducing the concepts related to Modern Islam and its interactions with poetic traditions

Reading: Zuberi, Nabeel. “Listening While Muslim,” Popular Music, Vol.36.

Week 2: Nationalism and the idea of Reconstructing Islam

Readings: Iqbal’s poetry and an essay on Reconstructing Islam by Iqbal

Kazi Nazrul Islam’s poetry


Week 3: Early Sufi Poetry in Modern Contexts

Readings: TBA


Week 4: Progressive Islam and Marxian Poets

Reading: Faiz Ahmed Faiz,

Week 3: Islam and Feminist Poetry


1.    Selections from Rukhsana Ahmed (ed), We Sinful Women: An Anthology of Feminist Poems from Pakistan.

2.    Anitha Antharam, Endangering the Nation:  Women, Islam, and Poetry in Pakistan, Journal of International Women’s Studies, 2009.


Week 5: Political Lives of Contemporary Muslim poets

Reading: Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry and few selections from his political writings


Week 6: The New Face of Contemporary Sufi Poetry

Reading: Adonis’s poetry and his essay from Sufism and Surrealism


Week 7: Sufism and New Identity Movements


1.    Selections from Martin van Bruinessen and Julia Day Howell, Sufism and the ‘Modern’ in Islam, 2013.

2.    Mohammad, Afsar. A Garden of Mirrors: Retelling the Muslim Past and contemporary Muslim Discourse, in Dandekar and Tschacher (eds), Islam, Sufism and Everyday Politics of Belonging in South Asia, 2016.




fulfills requirements