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Research Analysis through Arabic Sources


Admission requirements

Modern Standard Arabic 4, Media Arabic, Teksten Arabisch 1: verhalen


This course asks how we can use Arabic sources in research, and how we can interpret Arabic writings with a critical, analytical and scholarly eye. Via a mixture of original Arabic texts and translations, students will encounter a range of classic stories of Arabic-Muslim civilisation, and critically analyse how the stories were composed, how they were converted into ‘classics’, how Muslims have used the material, and how modern academic research studies it. The class will also introduce students as how to apply modern academic theories of narrative, memory, gender and literary techniques to analyse primary texts.
The course is designed around one book, "Pasturing at the Wellsprings of Knowlegde", written in the fourtheenth century by the Egyptian Ibn Nubātah. The book contains summaries and stories that cover the basic elements which any learned Muslim ‘needed to know’ in order to appear educated in society, the book was frequently copied and reproduced into the 20th century as a student handbook to the basics of classical Arabic culture. Stories range from pre-Islamic Arabia to Greek philosophers to Persian kings to famous poets, and by following the book, students of course will become ‘well read’ in terms of Arabic culture, and well-acquianted with how we can understand that culture today.

Course objectives

The course objectives are:
1) To lean and practice methods of critical analysis on primary Arabic and secondary scholarly sources;
2) To learn and work with available tools to perform critical and analytical readings of classical Arabic primary sources;
3) To be introduced to core aspects of classical Arabic and Muslim civilisation.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The convenors need to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, family issues, problems with residence permits, the Dutch railways in winter, etc.). In these cases it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Being absent without notification and/or more than two times can result in exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Assessment method


the final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


Partial Assessment Weighing
Participation 10%
Presentation 5%
Assignments 25%
Final paper 60%


Students are entitled to resit the final paper. The Instructor will assign a new question to each re-sitting student, Students are not allowed to prepare the same essay question as used in their initial submission of the final paper.

Reading list

All relevant materials and selections from Ibn Nubātah’s Pasturing at the Wellsprings of Knowlegde will be avaialble on Brightspace. The following texts are helpful introductory background:

  • Allen, Roger, An Introduction to Arabic Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

  • Allen, Roger and Dwight Reynolds (eds), Arabic Literature in the Post-Classical Period. Cambridge: Cambridge Univeristy Press, 2008.

  • Hourani, Albert, A History of the Arab Peoples, London: Faber and Faber, 1991

  • Webb, Peter, Imagining the Arabs: Arab Identity and the Rise of Islam. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016 White, Hayden, “The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality”, Critical Inquiry 7 (1980), pp. 5-27


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.