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Rituals and Symbols of Islam


Admission requirements

This course is only open to students of the minor Islam: Religion and Society, who have successfully completed the propedeutic exam of an (Academic) Bachelor programme.


This course treats selected topics from the study of rituals and symbols of both Sunni and Shi’i Islam. It offers an overview of the rituals according to Islamic law and the ritual practice. Topics include: prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, sacrifice, Ashura, lifecycle rituals, spiritual practices, food and dress. A field trip to a mosque forms part of the course.

Course objectives

After successfully completing the course, the student is able:

  • to recognize how theoretical perspectives in the study of rituals shape our understanding of Islamic rituals and symbols;

  • to provide an in-depth overview of Islamic prescriptions and ritual practice of rituals and symbols discussed in class;

  • to conduct a critical literature review of a given ritual or symbol;

  • to report about it orally and in writing.


Timetable minor Islam: Religion and Society

Mode of instruction

Seminar with mandatory attendance.

Course Load

  • weekly meetings 11 × 2 hrs, 22 hrs

  • field trip to mosque, 4 hrs

  • weekly reading assignments, 30 hrs

  • 10 questions and comments on readings, 5 hrs

  • 4 profiles providing an overview of the Islamic prescriptions relating to the following four rituals: prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, and marriage (maximum of two pages per ritual), 12 hrs

  • field trip journal of maximum 750 words, 7 hrs

  • presentation and final paper on one of the themes or rituals discussed in class: extra reading on ritual of one’s choice, 30 hrs; preparation for presentation, 10 hrs; final paper of 2000 words, 20 hrs.

Total 140 hrs = 5 EC

Assessment method

  • 4 profiles providing an overview of the Islamic prescriptions relating to prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, and marriage (20%)

  • 10 Q&Cs: Questions and comments on readings (20%)

  • Field trip journal (10%)

  • Final paper (50%)

Reading list

Literature for the first two sessions includes:

  • Heiko Henkel, “‘Between Belief and Unbelief Lies the Performance of Salāt’: Meaning and Efficacy of a Muslim Ritual”, in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 11 (2005), 3, 487–507.

  • Daniel Winchester. “Embodying the Faith: Religious Practice and the Making of a Muslim Moral Habitus.” Social Forces 86 (2008), 4, 1753–1779.

A full list of weekly readings will be provided at the beginning of the course.


uSis### Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. N.M. Dessing