Studies in Islamic and Arab Cultures Minor

SI banner

Studies in Islamic and Arab Cultures is an interdisciplinary academic minor that introduces students to the diversity of Islam and Arab Culture through courses that explore contemporary issues, Arabic language, Islamic civilization and culture, Islamic art, various aspects of Islamic thought and theology, Islamic history, and much more. 

The minor is designed to challenge students to see their own disciplines through the lens of Islamic civilization and to see Islam through their disciplines. It introduces students to a mosaic of Muslim cultures and civilizations.  The goal of this program is to help students discover the history and contributions of Islam as a crucial part of our shared, global heritage.  Students can thus engage Islam and Arab Culture in the fine arts, language and literature, drama, history, politics, science, anthropology, social development, gender and sex, and a myriad of other disciplines.

Studies in Islamic and Arab Cultures (SIAC) offers you the opportunity to:

  • enhance your understanding of Islam;
  • develop proficiency in Arabic
  • prepare for a career in foreign services or in languages. 

SIAC Course Offerings

SIAC Level 100 Courses

SI 121R - Islam in the World

An introduction to the caliphates, cities, and cultures of Islam, through film and selected texts, including the experience of Islam in Canada as revealed through its writers. This course provides a foundation for Studies in Islam, establishing a context for multidisciplinary approaches to a wide variety of topics.

SI 131R - Arab Culture

Integrating elements of Arab history, geography, language, literature (prose and poetry), art, music, theatre, cinema, politics, press, humour, dance, fashion, and food, this course explores varied expressions of Arab culture. Students will also study the phenomenon of Orientalism and the impact of European colonialism upon the Arabs.

SI 132R - Introduction to Modern Arab and Muslim Drama

The course explores contemporary Arab and Muslim drama in English (1940s-present) from multiple perspectives, including literary, social, economic, and political.

(Cross-listed with ENGL 132R)

SIAC Level 200 Courses

SI 221R - Islam, the West, and the Modern World

This course examines conceptions of East-West divide and confrontation as well as topics of interest, both geo-political and religious, that influence the relationships of Muslims and the Western world. The focus is on the history of Muslims in the West and the challenges of integration of Muslim communities in pluralistic, secular societies.

(Cross-listed with RS 221)

SI 230R - Islamic Visual Culture: Art, Architecture, and Aesthetics

This course explores Islamic visual culture by focusing on three main design elements in Islamic art and architecture: calligraphy, arabesque, and geometry. The course emphasizes the aesthetic, visual, and cultural importance of ornamentation in Islamic art and examines its manifestation in the work of contemporary Muslim artists.

SI 231R - Calligraphy to Conceptual Art: Text as an Image in Islamic and East Asian Visual Arts

Exploring the history of Islamic and East Asian calligraphic arts and the study of Eastern and Western artists, this course examines multiple ways in which writing and other forms of visible language are incorporated into visual arts. Through studio projects, students explore conceptual approaches to text-based image making.

(Cross-listed with EASIA 231R, FINE 275)

SI 232R - Decorative Arts in Islamic and East Asian Visual Cultures

From elaborate geometric patterns to sinuous dragon motifs, ornamentation is one of the most essential artistic modes in Islamic and East Asian cultures. This course examines the aesthetic, visual, and cultural importance of design elements in decorative works of the past and of contemporary artists.

(Cross-listed with EASIA 232R)

SI 233R - Contemporary Muslim and East Asian Visual Arts in Diaspora

This course investigates the notion of living between cultures brought about by the act of migration. Applying theories of cultural translation to the realm of visual arts, it focuses on Muslim and East Asian contemporary artists in diaspora.

(Cross-listed with EASIA 233R)

SI 240R - Migration, Diaspora, and Exile in Muslim Narratives

This course examines Muslim narratives written in the diaspora, such as from North America or the United Kingdom. It investigates the diversity of Islamic culture and expression in diasporic contexts, exploring an array of experiences and issues written from various sociocultural locations.

(Cross-listed with ENGL 240R)

SI 241R - Sacred Spaces and Human Geographies in Muslim Literary Expressions

Using the Muslim dimension as a central theme, this course explores the social, cultural, and political implications to be found in a range of postcolonial literatures from Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. Students investigate issues such as identities, nationalism and politics, cultural memory, and sacred space and place.

(Cross-listed with ENGL 241R)

SI 242R - Arabic Literature in Translation

This course is designed to examine major themes, schools, and genres in Arabic literature, covering the classical, postclassical, and modern eras. Students will read and analyze selected representative texts. The course will be delivered in English with assigned texts in English translation.

SI 250R - The History of Islamic Civilization from Late Antiquity to 1300

This course surveys the diverse history of Islamic societies from the seventh to the thirteenth century. The primary focus is on the central Islamic lands from Egypt to Iran. In addition to the standard narrative, the course also examines salient aspects of Islamic civilization on a thematic basis.

(SI 121R is recommended. Cross-listed with MEDVL 250R)

SI 251R - The History of Islamic Civilization from 1300-1800: The Islamic Gunpowder Empires

This course studies in comparative fashion the rise, consolidation, and decline of the three major Islamic empires of the early modern period (c. 1300-1800): the Ottomans in Anatolia, the Balkans, and the Middle East; the Safavids in Iran; and the Mughals in India.

(SI 121R is recommended​​​​​​​. Cross-listed with MEDVL 251R)

SIAC Level 300 Courses

SI 310R - Digital Spirituality: New Media Art in the Middle East/North Africa Diaspora

This course examines how Muslims and those influenced by Islam give spiritual expression to their lives through the digital arts. Using critical approaches, we will examine contemporary art of the Middle East/North Africa diaspora in the West to explore the relationship of Islam to the digital realm.

(Cross-listed with RS 310)

SI 315R - Islam, Women, and the Modern World

This course examines the lives and contributions of Muslim women in history - past and present - and political, social, and cultural influences that have affected the lives of Muslim women around the world. Challenging stereotypes of Muslim women and using religious, historical, and literary images, the course focuses on contributions of Muslim women as religious leaders, scholars, and politicians.

(Cross-listed with GSJ 315)

SI 375R - Special Topics in Islamic and Arab Cultures

This course allows for in-depth study of selected topics in Islam, Islamic cultures, or Arab cultures.

SI 390R - Understanding Islam

This course brings together the diverse strands that constitute the student's learning and experience in required as well as elective courses of Studies in Islam. Exploring Islam in a variety of contexts, the approach is interdisciplinary and integrative.

SIAC Level 400 Courses

SI 450R - Reading and Interpreting the Qur'an (in translation)

This course serves as a comprehensive introduction to the sacred text of Islam. Students engage the Qur'an using a wide array of interpretive approaches, from traditional forms of exegesis to new trends in the academic study of the Qur'an.

(Cross-listed with RS 450)

Academic Plans

SIAC Minor

SIAC Diploma

Students enrolled in non- or post-degree studies may pursue a Diploma in Studies in Islamic and Arab Cultures. The diploma requires successful completion of a minimum of two academic course units (four courses) with a minimum cumulative diploma average of 65%.

To graduate with the diploma, students must simply declare the diploma on their Application to Graduate form.