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Islamic Civilization and Societies

morrissey college of arts and sciences

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  • Associate Director of the Islamic Civilization and Societies Program: Kathleen Bailey, Associate Professor of the Practice, Political Science, McGuinn 529, 617-552-4170,
  • Coordinator of the Islamic Civilization and Societies Program: Susan Leonard, Gasson 104, 617-552-9139,

Undergraduate Program Description

The interdisciplinary major in Islamic Civilization and Societies encompasses faculty and courses from across the university. The program prepares students for careers in diplomacy, journalism, business, government, social service, as well as graduate academic or professional study. Students who complete the major will attain proficiency in Arabic or another language related to the region, along with valuable skills and broader horizons that only an interdisciplinary major can provide.

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Major Requirements

The major consists of ten required courses (30 credits) plus language proficiency (four semesters of a relevant language or native speaking ability).

Islamic Civilization and Societies Core: One Course

Integrative and multidisciplinary, this course is designed as an introduction to the field. It explores rich culture produced in the regions where Islam was the predominant religion during the past 1,400 years. The course is offered in the fall semester, is open to non-majors, and fulfills the Cultural Diversity Core requirement.

Disciplinary Base: Four Courses

Choose a Disciplinary Base in History, Political Science, Theology, Art, Art History, and Film, or Near Eastern Languages and Literatures. Take all required departmental foundation courses and two additional courses in your primary department. Visit the department website at for the list of approved courses.

Departmental Foundation Courses: Two Courses
  • Political Science: POLI1041/1042 Fundamentals of Politics I and II
  • Art, Art History, and Film: ARTH1101/1102 Art from Prehistoric Times to High Middle Ages/Art: Renaissance to Modern Times
  • History: Two courses from the HIST1001–1094 sequence: HIST1059 Islam and Global Modernities preferred
  • Theology: Any of the two-semester University Core requirements: THEO1161 Religious Quest preferred
  • Near Eastern Languages and Literatures: Any two of the following: NELC2061 Language and Identity in the Middle East, NELC2062 States and Minorities in the Middle East, NELC2161 Modern Middle Eastern and Arabic Literature, NELC2063 Near Eastern Civilization
Base Discipline Electives: Two Courses
Political Science:

POLI2363 Muslims in U.S. Society and Politics
POLI2403 Rise and Rule of Islamic States
POLI2414 Politics and Society in Central Eurasia
POLI3444 Intellectuals and Politics in the Middle East
POLI/INTL2475 Kuwait: Politics and Oil in the Gulf
POLI2502 U.S.-Iran Relations since World War II
POLI3527 Terrorism and Political Violence
POLI2528 International Relations of The Middle East
POLI2615 Islam and Liberal Democracy
POLI2638 Islamic Political Philosophy
POLI7700 Muslims and American Institutions
POLI7806 Political Cultures of the Middle East
POLI7812 State-Church Relations in Modern Europe
POLI7813 Islam in Europe


HIST4140 Middle East in the Twentieth Century
HIST4150 Modern Iran
HIST4370 Byzantium and Islam
HIST4131 Rise and Fall of the Ottoman Empire
HIST4135 History and Historiography of Arab Israeli Conflict
HIST4122 Odysseys in the Western and Islamic Traditions
HIST4090 Modern South Asia
HIST4497 Terror and the American Century


THEO3116 Medieval Religions and Thought
THEO1225/ICSP2225 Exploring the Religious Worlds of Istanbul and Anatolia
THEO5351 Faith Elements in Conflict
THEO5352 Israelis and Palestinians
THEO5441 Ibn ’Arabi and The Islamic Humanities: Islamic Philosophy and Theology
THEO5544 Prophetic Tradition and Inspiration: Exploring the Hadith
THEO5554 Encountering the Qur'an: Contexts and Approaches
THEO5566 Mystical Poetry in the Islamic Humanities

Art, Art History, and Film:

ARTH2213 Introduction to Islamic Architecture
ARTH2226 Islamic Spain/al-Andalus: Word, Monument, and Image
ARTH2280 Masterpieces of Islamic Art
ARTH3350 The Art of the Object/Islamic Art
ARTH4409 The Art of the Islamic Book
ARTH4412 Cairo: City of 1001 Nights
FILM3314 Cinema of the Greater Middle East

Near Eastern Languages and Literatures:

NELC1211/1212 Modern Hebrew I and II
NELC1251/THEO5582 Biblical Hebrew
NELC1431/1432 Turkish for Scholars I and II
SLAV2069 Literature of the Other Europe in Translation
SLAV2067 Gender and War in Eastern Europe
SLAV2066 Conversion, Islam, and Politics in the Balkans
NELC4121/4122 Advanced Arabic I and II
SLAV2071 War and Peace in Yugoslavia
SLAV2065/SOCY2280 Society/National Identity in the Balkans
SLAV2062 Exile and Literature
NELC2063 Near Eastern Civilizations
NELC2331 Advanced Readings in Persian Texts
LING3359 The Structure of Biblical Hebrew
NELC3162 Business Arabic
NELC4190 Advanced Tutorial Arabic

Electives: Three Courses

Majors choose three elective courses from an approved list found on our website at Electives must be distributed among at least two other departments in addition to the disciplinary base.

Senior Seminar and Research Project/Honors Thesis: Two Courses

All majors will be required to enroll in a thesis seminar in the fall of their senior year. In the spring term of their senior year, students will complete a senior thesis under the supervision of a faculty member affiliated with the Program.

The Senior Seminar will allow ICS majors to integrate the knowledge, skills, and concepts of their diverse disciplinary bases and to share them in a genuinely cross-disciplinary manner. The course encourages students to make intellectual connections across disciplines and to engage in critical reflection. After exploring common themes, majors will develop a research design, select a methodology, engage in research, and begin writing the thesis.

Language Requirement: Four Courses

Students will be expected to attain proficiency (completion of intermediate level) in a relevant language such as Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, Persian, or Urdu. In some cases, French, Russian, Chinese or other languages relevant to specific research concerns may be accepted for students specializing in the study of Muslims in Africa, Central Asia, China, Europe, or the Americas, subject to approval by the program's director.

Boston College currently offers four years of Arabic language instruction, from Elementary Intensive through Advanced Arabic. Students studying abroad can enroll in even more intensive language programs offered in Morocco, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, and at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London (SOAS) during the regular academic year and in the summer. Our students have also studied during the summer months at Middlebury, Harvard and Columbia to accelerate their language skills, and several have won U.S. State Department Critical Language Scholarships and Flagship Fellowships to study Arabic in the summer.

Arabic and other relevant languages can be taken through the Boston Area Consortium. Our Consortium partners, B.U., Brandeis, and Tufts in particular, offer additional languages such as Persian, Turkish and advanced levels of Hebrew if majors wish to study a language other than, or in addition to, Arabic.

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Minor Requirements

Students seeking to earn an Islamic Civilization and Societies minor must submit a proposed plan of study to the Associate Director, listing the courses that will be taken to fulfill the requirements. In general, proposed plans of study for the minor should be submitted no later than the second semester of the sophomore year. The Associate Director will review the proposed plan of study, in consultation with the student and Program Director, and if accepted, the Committee will grant approval for the student.

Fill out and e-mail the proposed plan of study form before scheduling an appointment with the Associate Director. Whenever possible, the Associate Director will arrange for each student to receive continuing academic advisement from a faculty member in the student's academic major who is affiliated with the Islamic Civilization and Societies Program. Students will be expected to consult with the Associate Director at each semester registration period to update their plan of study.

Requirements for the Islamic Civilization and Societies Minor
  • Six courses from the approved course list
  • Selected courses must be from three different academic departments
  • Required multidisciplinary foundation course ICSP1199 (fall semester)
  • Two courses in Arabic or an equivalent language, at the intermediate level or above
Requirements for the Arabic Studies Minor

Near Eastern Languages and Literature offers a minor in Arabic Studies, which covers areas of Modern Standard Arabic and Modern Hebrew, Modern Middle Eastern Literature and Cultural History, and Near Eastern Civilizations.

  • Six approved one-semester courses
  • Two in Modern Standard Arabic, above the intermediate level
  • Four in Middle Eastern languages, cultures, literatures and civilizations. May include a language course in Modern (Israeli) Hebrew, courses taught in translation, and Near Eastern Civilizations

For additional information see Near Eastern Languages and Literatures.

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