Fall 2024

Caliphate: History and Idea

Listed in: Asian Languages and Civilizations, as ASLC-257  |  History, as HIST-257


Monica M. Ringer (Section 01)


[ME/TC/TE/TS] What is the ‘Caliphate’? When did the term emerge? How should it expand our political dictionary? How does it challenge preconceptions about the relationship between ‘religious’ and ‘secular’? Why has the concept and symbol of the Caliphate remained potent to this day? How is the idea of the Caliphate tied to a vision of a ‘Golden Age’ of Islamic governance? This class deploys the central organizing idea of the caliphate to explore the diversity of Middle Eastern political thought in historical context, from the Iranian Sasanian empire to the present. 

Thematically, the course will address many of the following issues: ideas of the Rashidun Caliphate in the post-Prophetic period as precedent for later, ‘classical’ iterations; the influence of Iranian and Turkic ideas on the development of Islamic political institutions in the Abbasid period; the Caliphate as a rallying point against Western imperialism; European Orientalist constructions of “Islam” and ‘Islamic’ political thought; the abolishment of the Ottoman Caliphate following World War I; contemporary nostalgia for the Caliphate in South Asia, Turkey and Egypt. 

In addition to secondary sources, primary sources include: Hadith, tenth-century Islamic histories, advice literature for princes, diplomatic documents, political treatises, newspapers, and websites. Assignments: frequent response papers. 200-level course. No prerequisites. 

Fall semester. Professor Ringer.

Pending Faculty Approval

Course Materials


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2024