Ethics of Jihad

Course Syllabus

Ethics of Jihad. CompLit 38Q, 2014 - 2015

Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 to 10:45am in Building 260 Room 012

For more information:


Professor: Alexander Key (questions about content, grading, attendance)

Office hours in Building 240 Room 109: sign up at (Links to an external site.)

 or 650 723 9272


Course Goal:

To enable students to explore the competing claims of jihad.


Course Sections:

  • The Quran
    • What the Quran says about jihad
    • The Quran on jihad redux
  • Amina Wadud
  • Sherman Jackson
    • African American Muslims
  • Methodologies
    • American
    • Medieval
    • Reason and religion
  • Cases and Choices
    • Al-Qaida
    • ISIS
    • New World Order
    • The Former Yugoslavia: Zilka Siljak
    • #MyJihad




Basic Islam Resources:

Quick and good reads:

Malise Ruthven's Very Short Introduction and Historical Atlas. In the library.

Michael Cook's Very Short Introduction to the Quran. In the library.

Adam Silverstein's Very Short Introduction to Islamic History. In the library and online.

Big searchable database:

Oxford's Islamic Studies Online.

More technical and specialized:

The Encyclopedia of the Quran (Links to an external site.).

The Pew Research Center on:

Muslim Americans (Links to an external site.).

Global Religious Diversity (Links to an external site.)


Charlie Hebdo:

Chart: Are you a jihadist? The French government made this checklist
Washington Post.
Who is Charlie? France's national unity hides deeper divides
Stanford DLCL's Cécile Aluy
Was Charlie Hebdo attack about revenge – or recruiting European jihadis?
Including quotes from Stanford's Martha Crenshaw.
Satire Lives
Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker
Of Course it is Islam
Rich Lowry
The problem with “Je Suis Charlie”: That kind of solidarity comes with baggage
Stanford professor David Palumbo-Liu
Does the march of 4 million represent France?
Stanford Professor Cécile Alduy
Let's Not Fall for the Terrorists' Trap (Again)
John Esposito
Moral Clarity 
Adam Shatz 
London Review of Books - 9 January 2015 
Monday's Stanford Report from FSI
I Am Not Charlie Hebdo 
By David Brooks
The New York Times - January 9, 2015
This map shows every attack on French Muslims since Charlie Hebdo
By Max Fisher 
Vox - January 10, 2015
Why I am not Charlie
A Paper Bird - January 9, 2015
In Solidarity With a Free Press: Some More Blasphemous Cartoons 
By Glenn Greenwald 
The Intercept - January 9, 2015
Joe Sacco: On Satire – a response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks
By Joe Sacco
The Guardian - January 9, 2015
Who is Michel Houellebecq, the French novelist on the Charlie Hebdo cover?  
By Martin Pengelly
The Guardian - January 10, 2015
Charlie Hebdo: Paris attack brothers' campaign of terror can be traced back to Algeria in 1954  
Robert Fisk
The Independent - January 9, 2015
Do France’s Intellectuals Have a Muslim Problem? 
Foreign Policy - January 8, 2015
Marine Le Pen blames radical Islamism for Charlie Hebdo attack – video 
Kouachi Brothers' Radical Islam Began Long Before Charlie Hebdo Attack
French Premier Declares ‘War’ on Radical Islam as Paris Girds for Rally  By DAN BILEFSKY and MAÏA de la BAUME
The New York Times - JAN. 10, 2015


9 Points to Ponder on the Paris Shooting and Charlie Hebdo. Omid Safi (@ostadjaan). (Links to an external site.)

Hey, Media: Instead Of Lionizing Charlie Hebdo, Support The Artists You're Exploiting. Talking Points Memo - Jan. 8 2015. (Links to an external site.) 

What We Know About the Charlie Hebdo Attack, Day Two. Foreign Policy - Jan. 8 2015. (Links to an external site.)

Charlie Hebdo: This Attack Was Nothing To Do With Free Speech — It Was About War. Medium- Jan. 7 2015. (Links to an external site.) 

Europe’s Brutal Truth: Europeans are both too Islamophobic and too timid to face up to the roots of Islamic fundamentalism. Slate - Jan. 7 2015. (Links to an external site.)

‘Do you support ISIS?’: CNN’s Don Lemon stuns Muslim human rights attorney. Raw Story – Jan. 8, 2015. (Links to an external site.)

Islam in Europe. The Economist -  Jan 7th 2015. (Links to an external site.) 

In France, Prisons Filled With Muslims. The Washington Post - Tuesday, April 29, 2008. (Links to an external site.) 

3 Frenchmen Among Those U.S. Military Holds in Iraq. The New York Times - February 5, 2005. (Links to an external site.) 


Islamic State:

"How Islamic is Islamic State? (Links to an external site.)" by Mehdi Hasan in the New Statesman.

"They have their own jihad," he says. "We have our jihad. (Links to an external site.)" Borzou Daraghi in the FT on fighting ISIS in Iraq.

"The Question of Theodicy and Jihad (Links to an external site.)" by Ziya Meral.

"ISIS: What’s a Poor Religionist to Do? (Links to an external site.)" by Aaron Hughes at the Los Angeles Review of Books blog.

Muslim scholars worldwide write to ISIS: "Open letter to al-Baghdadi (Links to an external site.)".

The scholar quoted in the Atlantic article gives an interview about what  he thinks about ISIS (Links to an external site.) to ThinkProgress.

 (Links to an external site.)"What Muslims Really Want (Links to an external site.)" by Caner K. Dagli in response to Graeme Wood (Links to an external site.) - both at the Atlantic.

"Beyond Authenticity: ISIS and the Islamic Legal Tradition (Links to an external site.)" Feb 24 2015 by Sohaira Siddiqu.

"The ISIS shock doctrine" by Steve Niva at The Immanent Frame

"A Universal Enemy?: 'Foreign Fighters' and Legal Regimes of Exclusion and Exemption Under the 'Global War on Terror' (Links to an external site.)" by Darryl Li.

"Belgian jihadists in Syria: alienation, consumption, power (Links to an external site.)" by Jaafar Alloul.


Learning Outcomes:

  1. Introduction to the development of a selection of jihad discourses from the seventh century to the present day.
  2. Understanding of how ethical reasoning takes place in Islamic discourse.
  3. Development of the skills required to share your newly acquired knowledge of jihad with others:
    1. Talking about ideas and facts with which you are not familiar / talking about yourself (Presentation A).
    2. Explaining in writing ideas that you have talked about and that you are still thinking about (Writing Assignment A).
    3. Giving a formal talk about completed research (Presentation B).
    4. Presenting completed research in writing (Writing Assignment B).
    5. Revising your writing after external input (Revision of Written Assignment B).


Student responsibilities, for which you will be graded, are:

  • Attend every class and the two individual consultations with the professor.
  • Do all the reading.
  • Speak and participate in class. Participation involves asking questions of the professor and each other. We will be talking about how we do this.
  • Complete the in-class presentations and write the formal written reports (including the revision of Written Assignment B).



33% for class participation sessions #2 to #20 inclusive. 
33% for individual in-class presentation of research of which: 
Presentation A: 10% 
Presentation B: 23% 
33% for formal written report on research of which: 
Written Assignment A: 13% 
Written Assignment B: 23% of which 12% is for the initial version and 11% is for the revised version.


The Stanford Honor Code

The Honor Code is an undertaking of the students, individually and collectively:

that they will not give or receive aid in examinations; that they will not give or receive unpermitted aid in class work, in the preparation of reports, or in any other work that is to be used by the instructor as the basis of grading;

that they will do their share and take an active part in seeing to it that others as well as themselves uphold the spirit and letter of the Honor Code.

The faculty on its part manifests its confidence in the honor of its students by refraining from proctoring examinations and from taking unusual and unreasonable precautions to prevent the forms of dishonesty mentioned above. The faculty will also avoid, as far as practicable, academic procedures that create temptations to violate the Honor Code.

While the faculty alone has the right and obligation to set academic requirements, the students and faculty will work together to establish optimal conditions for honorable academic work.


The Fundamental Standard

Students at Stanford are expected to show both within and without the University such respect for order, morality, personal honor and the rights of others as is demanded of good citizens. Failure to do this will be sufficient cause for removal from the University.


Students with Documented Disabilities

Students who may need an academic accommodation based on the impact of a disability must initiate the request with the Office of Accessible Education (OAE).  Professional staff will evaluate the request with required documentation, recommend reasonable accommodations, and prepare an Accommodation Letter for faculty dated in the current quarter in which the request is being made. Students should contact the OAE as soon as possible since timely notice is needed to coordinate accommodations.

The OAE is located at 563 Salvatierra Walk / (650) 723-1066 /


University Affiliation: