MODM 3000: Religious Traditions of the Middle East

Religious Traditions of the Middle East
Course in Global Studies
Course Description:

Understanding the modern Middle East is almost impossible without first developing an appreciation for the importance of its diverse religious traditions, and the role that religion has played in the development of the region since antiquity. This course examines the many ways that religion has functioned in Middle Eastern societies, beginning with ancient, pre-Islamic practices, such as the Zoroastrian religion of the Persian Empire, the development of Judaism among the ancient Israelites, and the spread of Christianity in the eastern Roman Empire. Of special interest will be the rise of Islam in the seventh century, and the development of unique and localized Islamic traditions in the rapidly expanding Arab empires of the medieval period. The class will focus on such themes as the differences between Sunni and Shia Islam, the position of non-Muslim minorities in Islamic history and the different responses offered by Muslims to the challenge of western hegemony in predominantly Muslim lands. The class will conclude by looking closely at the many ways religion is practiced in the Middle East today, from the official secularism of states like Turkey, to the post-revolutionary religious politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran, to the complex relationship between Judaism and Zionism in Israel, to the special challenges faced by Christian and other minorities in places like Egypt or Lebanon.

Course Credits:
1 course unit (c.u.)*
Term Format:
Accelerated 8-Week Term
Course Availability:
This course may not be offered every academic year. Check this page or our course guide to see when upcoming terms are added.

*Academic credit is defined by the University of Pennsylvania as a course unit (c.u.). A course unit (c.u.) is a general measure of academic work over a period of time, typically a term (semester or summer). A c.u. (or a fraction of a c.u.) represents different types of academic work across different types of academic programs and is the basic unit of progress toward a degree. One c.u. is usually converted to a four-semester-hour course.


  • Instructor, Penn LPS Online

Dr. Yasemin Akis received her PhD in philosophy in 2014, at Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University in Turkey. Her first book, The Concept of Anxiety in Soren Kierkegaard, was published in 2015. She has more than seven years of experience teaching philosophy and theology. Dr. Akis recently created and taught a course titled Wisdom of Sufism at Villanova University. Her research interests focus on… Read more


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