This exam is present in the following Optional Group


This course aims at providing students with hands-on knowledge of the main thematic and stylistic features
of texts representative of classical Islamic intellectual tradition through a direct approach to sources, partly
in Arabic, partly in translation. Another objective is to provide a practical understanding of the peculiarities
and working principles of some specific research tools of Islamic studies.

This course aims at planting the following skills in the students’ minds:
- Using some research tools, developed either by Arabo-Islamic or Western scholars, in either paper
or digital format: Qur’an and hadith concordances, specialized encyclopedias, bibliographical
annuals, repertoires of works and authors, biographical dictionaries, etc.
- Dealing critically with open questions of religious historiography, taking the issues analyzed
throughout the course as a starting example.
- Recognizing some distinctive thematic and stylistic features of texts representative of different
religious and secular sciences of classical Islam, such as theology, philosophy, law, sufism, Qur’anic
exegesis; being able to distinguish the relevant elements within composite texts.
- Presenting and discussing a classical Islamic religious book before an audience (in this case, before
the class) based on precise directions, and relying on a translated edition with a few passages in the
original language.
- Reading, understanding and analyzing classical religious texts in Arabic (or, for those not studying
Arabic, in the Oriental language of their choice). The objective here is that students reach at least
an introductory level of knowledge, working on passages studied under the teacher’s direction, and
that they overcome that complex and that sense of awe that classical Islamic texts usually inspire
even in the most motivated and well-versed.
- Using in an appropriate way some more technical terms from religious studies, especially from
Islamic studies, in addition to the ones already learnt during their bachelor studies, including Arabic
terminology; all this, without neglecting more general propriety of language, as far as both lexicon
and syntax are concerned.
- Being able to pursue their study of this discipline independently (and feeling motivated to do it) at
a scientific research level, building both upon bibliographical suggestions provided throughout the
course, and upon some examples of open debates in Islamic studies which will have been shown by
the teacher.




This course is conceived as a hands-on introduction to the scientific study of Islamic classical thought adopting a direct approach to primary sources, and as training for the use of some specific research tools of Islamic studies. Part of the course will be organised as a seminar.
The first section of the course (ca. 8h) will be devoted to a practical demonstration of some printed and digital research tools, being the outcome of either Arab-Islamic pre-modern erudition or modern scientific Islamic studies: concordances of the Qur’an and the hadith, specialized encyclopedias, bibliographical reviews, biographical dictionaries, prosopographical databases, etc. Students will be guided to use them starting from practical questions, e.g.: how to identify a quotation from the Qur’an and find its references? How to identify a person mentioned in a source? Etc.
The core part of the course will explore the classical intellectual tradition of Islam through the prism of the work and personality of one of its most influential and versatile thinkers, namely Abû Hâmid al-Ghazzâlî (or al-Ghazâlî) (1058-1111). After a brief overview of the historical context as well as of the life and works of this celebrated medieval thinker, half of the remaining lessons will be devoted to reading, translating and analysing the original Arabic text of his alleged autobiography, al-Munqidh min al-dalâl (“The Rescuer from Error”). In this famous short treatise, al-Ghazzâlî retraces his itinerary through the main disciplines and intellectual trends of his age; he presents this itinerary as both an intellectual and a spiritual journey, indeed as an exemplary undertaking in quest of the foundation of certitude in faith.
During the second half of the term, this reading will alternate with oral presentations of other books by the same author (to be chosen preferably among the 40 volumes composing his major work Ihyâ’ ‘ulûm al-dîn or “Revival of Religious Sciences”), which will be given by students in turn. Such presentations will be based on translations into Italian or other Western languages (depending on the availability and language skills of each student), but also on selected passages in the original language (Arabic or Persian), following specific directions that will be provided during classes.
Through this first-hand approach to selected texts, students will have an insight into the encyclopedism and the effort to build a unitary system of knowledge which characterized Ghazali’s project of reform of religious sciences. They will also have a chance to familiarize themselves with the lexicon and debated issues of a variety of disciplines and trends of classical Islamic thought (theology, philosophy, law, mysticism, shi’i esotericism…). A further central theme of the course will be the construction of Ghazzali as a literary character and of his scholarly authority, which is mostly evident in some specific texts such as his alleged autobiography or his encyclopedia of religious sciences Ihyâ’ ‘ulûm al-dîn.

Adopted texts

Chosen textbooks
For attending students:
- Class notes (taken by the students). Students missing their classes are expected to obtain notes from their fellow-students. Students missing more than one third of the whole course should study the syllabus for non-attending students.

Primary sources (al-Ghazzali’s works):
1. al-Ghazâlî, Al-Munqid min adalâl [sic] (erreur et délivrance). Traduction française [and original Arabic text] avec introduction et notes par Farid Jabre, Beyrouth : Commission Libanaise pour la traduction des chefs-d’œuvre, 1969. Freely and fully available on line at the following links: ; Reference edition for the Arabic text; students will have to study only those sections that will have been explained in class.
2. Full text of a translation of the aforementioned book in a language of their choice, which can be freely downloaded from the following link: ; the recommended English translation is W. Montgomery Watt, The Faith and Practice of al-Ghazali, Being a translation of al-Munqidh min al-Dalal (Deliverance from Error), London: G. Allen and Unwin, 1967
3. An annotated list of other works by al-Ghazzâlî with details about their editions and translations into several European languages, from which every student will have to choose a text to be presented orally to the class, will be provided during lessons and made available, together with further didactic materials, on the e-learning platform. Some directions for preparing the oral presentations will also be provided with the list.

Secondary sources:
1. An academic monograph on al-Ghazzali, to be chosen between:
- Henri LAOUST, La politique de Gazâlî, Paris: Geuthner, 1970, 1st part (pp. 1-187) (recommended to French-reading students: clearer than Watt’s book). Freely and fully available on line at the following link:
- William Montgomery WATT, Muslim Intellectual: A Study of al-Ghazâlî, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1963. Freely and fully available on line at the following link:

2. Vincenzo M. POGGI, S. J., Un classico della spiritualità musulmana: saggio monografico sul Munqid di al-Gazâlî, Roma: Libreria dell'Università Gregoriana, 1967, pp. ix-xii, 3-36, 137-248 (since the book is out of print, a pdf copy will be provided by the teacher on request)
- Further readings and didactic materials will be shown in class and made available through the e-learning platform, in accordance with the norms on copyright. For any further integration and update to the present coursework list, please check the teacher’s electronic bulletin board at the following link:
- Kenneth GARDEN, The first Islamic reviver : Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī and his Revival of the religious sciences, New York, Oxford University Press, 2014 (for those who prefer a more recent overview)

For non-attending students:
Students unable to attend classes are expected to contact the teacher well before the date of the exam in order to agree upon (and submit) a written essay replacing the oral presentation delivered by attending students.

How to study for the exam:
Didactic materials uploaded on the e-learning platform will be grouped under different thematic headings. It is recommended, especially to non-attending students, to start from a monograph on al-Ghazzali, before delving into the reading of al-Munqidh to be combined with Poggi’s book. They are also advised to prepare their presentation of a book by al-Ghazzali (which will consist of a written essay for non-attending students) at a later stage, after carefully reading the directions. Further advice can be obtained by contacting the teacher.


Further, optional readings for motivated students will be suggested during classes. An invaluable mine of information and resources is the website (a virtual on-line library providing editions and translations of Ghazzali’s works, together with academic publications about his life, works and thought).


A prerequisite for the present course is some basic knowledge of Islamic studies and history of Islamic civilization: therefore, it is recommended to revise one’s notions of these disciplines before attending it. In addition, this course is targeted at students with a basic command of written Arabic, familiar with its grammatical rules and able to translate an average text from Modern Standard Arabic with the help of a bilingual dictionary. However, special arrangements will be made for students with no previous experience with Arabic.

Frequency modes

Since this course will function, at least in part, as a seminar, it is highly recommended (though not compulsory) to attend classes. Students unable to attend classes are expected to contact the teacher well before the date of the exam in order to agree upon (and submit) a written essay replacing the oral presentation delivered by attending students. They will also have extra material to study.

Exam modes

The students’ final evaluation will be partly based upon their oral presentations of Ghazzali’s books, partly on the final exam. The final oral exams will span the whole syllabus, and particularly what follows: the methodological tools illustrated at the beginning of the course; the original Arabic texts of those parts of Munqidh that will have been discussed in class and its integral text in translation; Ghazzali’s works, including, as far as possible, the ones that will have been illustrated in some detail by fellow-students; secondary sources focusing on the life, thought and works of al-Ghazzali and on al-Munqidh in particular. Students unable to attend classes must contact the teacher well before the date of the exam in order to agree upon (and submit) a written essay replacing the oral presentation delivered by attending students. They will also have extra material to study.
The final oral exam will take approximately 30-40 minutes per student. It is aimed at evaluating the achievement of the educational objectives in terms of both knowledge and skills (see above). Students will be encouraged to think and discuss with the teacher, rather than just rephrase the contents of a given lesson. An essential part of the exam will consist of reading aloud, translating literally and commenting upon one of the passages from the original Arabic text of al-Munqidh that will have been explained in class. Special arrangements will be made for students with no previous experience with Arabic.
Proving to have learnt and understood at least the basics of the course and being able to convey them with some propriety of language and some self-distancing are minimum requirements for obtaining a passing mark (18/30). A further requirement, limited to students with previous studies in Arabic, is to prove able to understand at least roughly the meaning of one of the passages from the original Arabic sources explained in class. In order to obtain full marks (30/30, possibly cum laude), students have to demonstrate a full command of the course subjects (within the limits of what they had to study), an excellent ability to think critically and to connect different notions, a flawless propriety of language and a mastery of newly learnt technical terms. They will also have to prove able to read, understand and analyze primary sources in the original language, and to approach religious issues in a historical perspective, putting aside as far as they can any partisanship or value judgement. “Cum laude” is added to full marks for students standing out for their personal appropriation of what they have learnt. Intermediate marks correspond to different degrees in the achievement of the educational objectives described above in terms of both knowledge and skills (see the relevant entry).

Exam reservation date start Exam reservation date end Exam date
01/01/2022 17/01/2022 24/01/2022
01/01/2022 31/01/2022 07/02/2022
01/01/2022 14/02/2022 21/02/2022
01/04/2022 26/04/2022 03/05/2022
18/05/2022 08/06/2022 15/06/2022
18/05/2022 23/06/2022 30/06/2022
18/05/2022 11/07/2022 18/07/2022
10/08/2022 31/08/2022 07/09/2022
10/08/2022 09/09/2022 16/09/2022
01/10/2022 11/11/2022 18/11/2022
Course sheet
  • Academic year: 2021/2022
  • Curriculum: Lingua araba
  • Year: First year
  • Semester: Yearly
  • SSD: L-OR/10
  • CFU: 6
  • Attività formative affini ed integrative
  • Ambito disciplinare: Attività formative affini o integrative
  • Lecture (Hours): 42
  • CFU: 6
  • SSD: L-OR/10