Re: 140 Islam- A Week of Foundation
RE 140: Islam taught by Professor Peter Wright began the way most 100 level religion courses do, full. The 100 level courses in the department are mostly introductory courses in the major traditions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Indigenous Religious Traditions, and Islam. They seem to be increasingly popular these days as all of them that I have experienced this year fill up and create a hefty wait list as well. So, while students filled the room, sat at the tables, stood in the corners and eventually left, Peter, the professor got back in the groove of teaching again. Peter spent the past semester or more on sabbatical, which he later told us should be spoken of as the “Blessed Sabbatical” and only in whispers.
As a religion major and more so as a person who loves religion and its power for an individual, I’ve been looking forward to studying Islam, and so far this class hasn’t disappointed. After a week with Professor Peter Wright I am reminded why I love characters like Peter and like so many of the other professors at Colorado College. Below, my display name says “Ibn Yahya” which is the transliteration of the Arabic name that Peter bestowed upon me a few years ago. A translation of it would be “Son of John,” a pun on my last name. I received this name from Peter while I was taking his block of the Life After Death course. I would like to say that in mid-lecture Peter stopped, and pointed at me and said “Ibn Yahya… yes, you are Ibn Yahya,” and then proceeded to work that small tangent back into his lecture. It may not have happened that way, but I would like to say that it did because that type of event seems to happen a lot in his classes. Islam, so far has been a nice mix of good discussions, tough ideas, and some of these quirks. After a week, Peter helped the rather large class gather the tools and build a foundation so that we may start studying Islam.
Some of the major issues that we have run into this week: faith versus reason, orthopraxy versus orthodoxy, and, of course, how distorted our culture’s view of Islam is. Faith and reason seem to be very widely discussed throughout the history of Islam, and I am looking forward to seeing where our class conversations continue with that subject. As for orthopraxy and orthodoxy, or “right practice” and “right belief”, the distinction is important and yet new to me. The idea being that it is far more important how we live, than what we believe. An interesting distinction to be sure. And finally, I’m not sure if Peter can get away from all of misconceptions about Islam that are prevalent in our culture. Slowly but surely Peter is fighting these fires, and does so in every one of his classes.
So Islam so far has been a week of getting back to the grindstone; reading every night and discussing every day, and coalescing all of the information that has been thrown at us this week and seeing how much of it sticks to a blue book during the end of the week quiz. This may be what I think about the class so far, but as a Muslim would say, “but Allah knows best.”