Introduction to Islamic Civilization

Dec 2020

This course was interesting, but not because of Prof. Keegan at all. He is super smart but his powerpoints are super confusing and he rambles a lot. He also teaches a lot of philosophy, theology, and poetry without going over the basics of "Islamic civilization" so if you don't have any background, it can get super confusing. He is an extremely harsh grader and is agreeable enough, but super unkind when it came to COVID. A lot of my classmates were complaining about how they were working multiple jobs and couldn't keep up with discussion posts and there just wasn't a lot of understanding from the Professor? Synchronous lectures during COVID with exit tickets were also very inconsiderate. Overall, highly don't recommend it. This man should just stick to research.

Dec 2020

She is the only reason I got anything out of Mana Kia's course. One of the best TAs I've ever had; super committed (met with me in office hours anytime I wanted to go over the readings), really knowledgable, and just skilled at leading the weekly seminars and deepening our understanding of the readings. for the mod: she no longer TAs the course, but she's teaching her own course now (for the first time) and this review could be useful to people thinking of taking it

Oct 2020

Professor Keegan seems nice enough and the course material is definitely fascinating. However, I don't really like his lectures, powerpoints, and general teaching style. As someone who has never encountered any Islamic civilizations, I was truly looking for an intro course that would just give me a crash course on all the basics or at least walk us through the history. Which this course somewhat does. There would be upwards of 300 pages of reading a week that covered all of these things. But in lecture, he wouldn't really cover any of the topics in the readings but rather explore more abstract / philosophical viewpoints. For example, the reading might be about the basic structure of Islam, the different schools of thought, etc. Then lecture would be about whether or not we can/should trust historical sources. Another thing that I really disliked about his teaching style was the extreme focus on Islamic poetry. I think his specialization is in Islamic literature? So rather than spending time on learning customs, history, or other concrete knowledge, he would spent entire classes analyzing individual poems or pasting a variety of poems into slides. Nothing against poetry -- many pieces were extremely beautiful -- but I wish that I had more of a basis / hold on this world before analyzing random poems from its time. As for my TA, he was incredibly incompetent. Discussion section would literally just be lectures, among other complaints, that I won't get into. Overall, I enjoyed the course but it wasn't because of the teachers -- the course topic itself is just interesting.

Jan 2020

Class is very informative. Lectures can get kind of boring but the readings are very interesting. The class offers a great scope on philosophy, poetry and art in the early Islamic period. A lot of people tend to drop the class because the first reading was a bit challenging, but the class gets more interesting.

Jan 2018

Professor Kia very clearly knows what she's talking about, and has a deep knowledge of the subject. However, she's is one of the most dull lecturers I've ever had, and the course was really dense. If it weren't for my TA, I have no idea how I would have done as well as I did in her course.

Jan 2015

Kenan is by far the worst TA I've ever had. He did nothing to prepare us for the class, seemed to have no clue what Saliba was teaching, and had no idea what was on the exam. He never gave us our curved midterm grades and gave us no review material. The other TA's apparently expanded upon Saliba's lectures and gave study guides. But not Kenan. Kenan sent us two sentences with the format of the exam the night before. In class he mumbled at the board for half the semester until he realized that if he just had us discuss in groups, he wouldn't have to do any work. It was truly the most pointless hour of my week and the most productive thing I did in that class was write a paper for another class. Avoid Kenan if you can.

Dec 2013

I took the full year course of Saliba's sequence to fulfill my Global Core requirement. The classes are pretty similar, but I slightly preferred Contemporary Islamic Civilization (taught in the spring) because it had more interesting readings overall. Both classes are the same- boring lectures, interesting readings, and good TA's. Attendance is required but you can always have a friend sign you in if you guys make a schedule. That said, I always attended lecture because Saliba will basically give you a summary of the readings that are extremely useful for the tests. Essentially, show up and write down what is on the slideshow before going back to your reddit/facebook/whatever to ensure you don't fall asleep Saliba himself is adorable. Basically a silly Mr. Feeney that likes to do things like play Shakira when he is bored. The readings are way more interesting than lecture. They're a little biased but I still learned a ton! They're not super long for the most part. In CIC there were one or two novels we had to read (Mahmouz and a Said work) that were fascinating, take the time to read them! The exams are really straightforward. So long as you go over slide notes and the readings and interpret them in the same way Saliba did,expect to perform well. Overall, a good global core with a boring lecture, good TA's, and interesting readings that isn't too hard.

Feb 2011

Cheryl expects dedication and hard work from her students but in return for this she will treat you with great baked goodies and wonderful handouts and review sessions for the midterm and final. Be prepared to work hard but you will be prepared for the midterm and final better than those in other sections. I recommend taking a discussion section with her if you want to learn as much as possible and get a good grade. Just be ready to work, don't expect an assignment-free discussion section.

Jan 2011

Do everything you can to land Cheryl as your TA. She will prepare you for the exam better than anyone, and bake you delicious treats better than anyone. She will also learn your name and write nice things on the top of your homework. Most importantly, she will make the required weekly recitations worth your time. You. Need. Cheryl. If you do the required readings, it is more than enough for you to be able to participate in recitation (and that counts for 20% of your grade in the course).

Jan 2011

Note to future students: do not purchase every book the professor lists, because he scans all of the excerpts into Courseworks for you to print out; you really only need to purchase Islam by Fazlur, because you're expected to read the whole book. A lot of students enroll in this class expecting to receive an easy A minus, but I want to warn future students ahead of time that you will need to work for even a B+; I know a few people that made extremely poor grades in this class, so don't think you can just breeze through the semester. That said, I made an A. How did I make that A? I showed up for almost every single class, I spoke during discussion sections, I actually did all of the readings, and I made it known to both the professor and my TA that I wanted to learn the most that I could from the course. This is a large class and it's very easy to become invisible, and it's definitely impossible to speak up during class, so I suggest trying to go to at least one office visit with the professor, but make sure the visit is for a valid reason; for instance, perhaps you could ask the professor to clarify a point he made in class or ask for additional information on something you were interested in. Although the class covers a great deal of information, the midterm and finals are very doable if you keep detailed notes. I suggest writing small blurbs about each individual you cover in class, remembering the major battles and confrontations, know the publications of scientists that you cover toward the end of the class, and have something interesting to say in your essay that shows you can think outside of the box and do more than memorize. Also, as there are so many readings in this class, I suggest writing a few lines about every reading assignment so that you don't have to re-read anything while studying, and can just use your notes; big time saver! Common sense suggestions: attend class (attendance is counted), write as many notes as you can (information from the slides WILL appear on the midterms and finals), read the assignments, and attend your discussion section, because your discussion grade is worth 20% of your final grade; that means you need to actually not sleep through your discussion section, so be honest with yourself when you enroll in your section.

Jan 2011

Suzanne is soooo nice. She was a TA for Islamic Civilization and she made this class so much easier for me. She made a study guide for the midterm and went over a lot of the stuff we needed to know for the final. She didn't seem to care a lot about participation. She was one of the (few) dedicated TAs in this class since she came to class (even though she was pregnant with twins..aww). Also, it's okay if you didn't read the material, since she went over the main ideas anyway but it's very hard to do well in this class without doing the reading. She handled controversial questions in a wonderful way--she didn't put anyone down and opened it up to the class, saying, "What do we think about this?" She's probably the best TA for the class. TAKE HER!!

Dec 2010

There are hard TAs, there are cranky TAs, and there are dumb TAs, but there is only one Farbod. He shows up late to every class and asks what Saliba said in lecture because he never goes, thinking that no one notices. The class would then regurgitate Saliba's slides to his "hmms" and "ah-has," and the regurgitation was somewhat helpful, but this apparently bored Farbod and we spent the second half of the semester in our seminar listening to students give presentations for extra credit on completely irrelevant topics that would NOT appear anywhere in the coursework or material, from Moorish Architecture to Islamic Theater. Then he later told us that those who did the "extra credit" exercise (a good half of the class didn't) would get 20/20 on class participation and everyone who didn't would get a 17/20, regardless of their participation or interest (in fact, there were no real opportunities for participation after week 4 anyway). There was no value in this optional exercise that took up half of the semester and yet we all got randomly penalized. It was fun to space out for 50 minutes but I would have given my right arm to go over one reading or have him illuminate the stance of one author in this primary text-heavy class. I can't even do all of his insanity justice. Our whole class hated him, and for many legitimate reasons: Farbod did not respond to emails. Farbod did not go over any readings or class concepts. Farbod did not give out a review sheet for the final, even though he said he would. Worst of all, Farbod admitted his habit of giving 3/4 points for almost every short answer response on the midterm was completely arbitrary. He is not going to help you succeed, either in preparation or grading. You will do poorly. He will not care. In this class, your grade is 100% dependent upon your TA. Even Saliba says he doesn't care that X or Y TA is awful; their word is platinum in this class and he will not begin to question it. I was advised to switch out of Farbod by a friend and I didn't because his seminar fit the best into my schedule. Looking back, I would have rather signed up for the most inconvenient seminar ever because it would have been more convenient than going crazy with Farbod as my TA for the entire semester.

Dec 2010

Saliba is a wackjob. He rambles on and on and on and doesn't seem to understand the concept of a comma or a period when he talks. He's the kind of professor you will talk about to your friends while quoting the funny stuff he says. Write down everything on the slides and you will be fine. Three or four times a semester someone will ask him to go back to a slide they missed and Saliba will get pissed and turn off the powerpoint saying "Listen to me and not the slide!" Then when he puts the powerpoint back on, continue copying down the slides. On a side note, don't be the jerk that asks him to go back. Go to class and discussion, attendance is required. Bring a computer and go on the internet when you get bored. Read enough that you can participate in discussion section so your TA doesn't hate you. Use Wikipedia to help you study, especially with the authors in CIC. One thing I will say though, it's difficult to get a straight A because of the damn curve. I know people who have gotten 90+s on both the midterm and final and still got an A-. That said, it is pretty easy to get an A-/B+ provided you don't piss off your TA, and I'm guessing if you are looking to get in a class like the one I've described so far, an A- isn't exactly going to kill your GPA.

Jun 2010

Saliba is a good natured, white-bearded little man in a cowboy hat and quite approachable. As a person you will find his humor infectiously endearing (He has a phrase: "Holy Tabouli!"). As a scholar he's, like every other professor at this institution, very remarkable. As a lecturer you will, at at least occasionally, no matter how studious you are throughout, be reduced to 1) surfing Facebook/online poker/Netflicks, 2) doodling on your notebook margins. All in all if you're humanities-aversive and you want to get your history requirement out of the way either course, IIC/CIC is a good way to go and you inevitably get something out of it. Just go to class (Attendance counts.) Take his notes diligently and read them. I kid you not. From the midterm to the final of CIC I didn't read a half of the assignments. As long as you write what he says on the exams and you're specific and relevant in your evidence, you can get an A-/B+ easily enough. I thought CIC was more interesting the IIC; it's more up-to-date in the events and probes more questions that have more relevance in the going-ons of the Middle East today. But CIC is structured somewhat less of a history class than IIC; you'll read much about political movements in the Arab World (he tends to focus mostly on the AW, to his chagrin) and literature (he's a big literature buff in both courses). I thought it was interesting to pull from so many different sources, but personally I would've liked to stick to a historical lens. If you want to learn more about Islamic Civ in South or Central Asia or Africa, this isn't really the course. Disregard him in totality when he says, "Don't pay attention to my notes on the screen." Write them.

May 2010

Professor Saliba's class will be useful to you if you come to it with reasonable expectations and prepare adequately. To begin, as survey course it is pointless to expect any epoch to receive in-depth coverage. Saliba is a good lecturer, and I would describe him as a jolly Arabic Santa Claus wearing Indiana Jones' hat. His area of expertise is Arabic Islamic science from about the time of the Crusades until about the European Renaissance, so that's the most academically interesting epoch covered in the class. The biggest take home point from that part of the class is this: after the Roman empire's decline, Islamic civilization grew and developed. It assimilated Greek and Roman ideas and used these to develop novel ideas and approaches in fields like algebra, optics, medicine, and astronomy. This section fascinated me, since it filled in a lot of gaps left by Lit Hum and traditional intellectual histories taught in American schools. Apparently, civilization still developed during the thousand years between the decline of the Roman Empire and the European Renaissance. Saliba getting fired up as he explains the Arabic Islamic underpinnings of Copernicus' heliocentric theory of the solar system was the best lecture in the course. However, as the history approaches the colonial era near the end of the course, the politics of post-colonialism come out, and these will be jarring to a lot of students. It's useful to have read Edward Said's "Orientalism" (or to be familiar with its thesis) if you're taking any MESAAS (formerly MEALAC) courses, since these ideas saturate the department. Said writes that the West / Occident studies the East / Orient from a position of power. The enduring discourse about the Orient is that it is exotic, strange, depraved, despotic, static, and ultimately inferior. This discourse was developed in the West, by the West, and for the West. It is utilized economically and militarily to define the Orient and to control it. "Orientalism" has had a giant effect in the academic world, and has been taken up by a variety of academics and writers for various political purposes. Like any academic school of thought, the post-colonial discourse has its share of ridiculousness and excess, and some of these ideas creep into Saliba's class. He does not differentiate between valid cultural transmission of ideas and "the colonized mind." To listen to Saliba, it would seem every European idea or practice taken up in the non-European world is invariably the result of colonial domination, and therefore must be opposed and rejected. He opened up one of the last units talking about reformers in the Islamic world. One of the reformers mentioned is Sayid Qutb, an Egyptian writer whom Saliba compared to Martin Luther of the Protestant Reformation. What Saliba failed to mention is that after Qutb was hanged, his brother Muhammed continued teaching his works in Saudi Arabia. There he found an eager student in Ayman Zawahiri, who later mentored Osama bin Laden. Comparing Martin Luther to the intellectual forefather of al Qaeda in an Intro-level course without any qualification or explanation seems a little careless to me. So, overall, I'd recommend the course, but with a few qualifications. Do not raise your blood pressure by getting pissed off at post-colonial discursive excesses. You're a big kid going to an Ivy League school now: you are smart enough to filter out the bullshit while taking useful lessons from the class. The class is a good basic overview of Islamic history; if all you want to learn is the difference between Persians and Arabs, this class will be enough, and if you want to delve deeper, this class will whet your appetite. If you're taking it for a cultural diversity requirement, don't expect an A unless you are an overachiever. There are enough students taking the class for their major that the competition is pretty intense. Conversely, there are lots of kids who don't give a shit in the class. They surf Facebook and watch movies during lectures, and they pad the bottom of the curve, so if you are taking the class for your major, shop around early for a section full of Long Island Princesses and slack-jawed bros wearing Columbia jerseys.

Mar 2010

One of the best TAs I've had at Columbia. You want to be in her section. Although she does make you do more work than the other sections, this is a huge bonus for the exams. She makes sure that you know what you need to know to do well on Saliba's exams. She responds quickly to emails and goes the extra mile to make sure her students are prepared. A wonderful TA, she's the reason I got an A in the class. There are weekly papers to write for her section, but if you're attending her section and doing her work, you almost don't need to attend the lectures by Saliba.

Dec 2009

We had a ton of work for her section (3-5 page responses due every week) but it was well worth it - we were really prepared for both the midterm and final. I kind of wish she taught the course instead of Saliba - she made the info seem less random and more cohesive instead of just a bunch of random readings. Definitely aim to get into her section if you can. Still confused about the curve, because Saliba said that every recitation is curved individually so we all freaked out that if we all do well a 90 will be a B but in the end most people did fine.

Dec 2009

If you have the chance, take Cheryl's recitation group. You won't find a better and more knowledgeable TA for Islamic Civ. She will demand a lot of you but the work will most definitively reflect in your exam performance. She prepares her group members very thoroughly for the exams. Be on time and submit your assignments by the deadline and you will have no issues. Remember, the recitation performance counts toward the final grade. She knows about Saliba's randomness and will protect you from some of it by giving context and trying to predict his irregularities. She definitively works overtime to make sure that her group has all the information required to get an A.

Dec 2009

Professor Saliba is a decent professor. His class is entertaining and easy to follow along if you are interested in Islamic Culture. It is definitively NOT an easy A like some others have suggested. The issue with his class is that the curve is completely dubious. Students are curved only within their recitation class which means that the final grade is completely arbitrary and does not reflect the student's overall performance. This means a 80/100 student could get a better grade than a 90/100 student depending on their recitation group. Also, he likes to interject his own political opinions into an otherwise fact based class. This seems to be common procedure in the MEALAC department.

Dec 2009

Cheryl is definitely one of the best, most helpful TAs I've had at Columbia. She's such a cool person too- a graduate student studying Middle Eastern rap! She knows the information taught by Saliba really well and even finds great YouTube videos that complement your weekly readings. She's there for her students and checks her email often, so if you need to ask a question, you'll have your answer soon. Unlike other TAs, Cheryl actually cares and wants you to do well too, so she's easy to work with. In the end though, it's not about how well you do in her section- she makes you want to know anything and everything in the subject.

Sep 2009

Don't hate on Professor Saliba. He has clear expectations and a great sense of humor - unlike most Columbia professors. His class can be boring and attendance is bring other work to do! I wrote many papers while sitting in his class and you can totally absorb the information without taking notes. You will learn something in his class, I promise. It might not be the most enlightening hour and fifteen minutes of your life but it is an easy, 4 credit A that is completely worth the time. If you enjoy Princeton jokes and getting good grades, take this class.

Aug 2009

First off, I think professor Saliba is one of the most talented professors I came across at Columbia. Actually, he's one of those professors that will have a life-long effect on the way you think of the Middle East. I took both his classes and I admit that I learned much more in the Intro to Islamic Civilization course. However, as a student of Arab descent, when I took his contemporary Islamic Civilization class, I didn't learn much. Not that Saliba doesn't introduce interesting material, but his contemporary course is very focused on Arab heritage and culture. If you're an Arab student, it almost feels like your listening to your grandma in the Middle East talk about the good ole' days of Beirut or Cairo. I personally thought the contemporary course hardly emphasized anything relating to Islam; it was a great overview of secular Arab culture. In other words, you won't learn much about terrorist groups or their origins or any of the modern Islamic extremism. Saliba is actually a very funny man, but you will only understand his humor if you're of Arab descent. Believe me when I say this, but he will remind you of your grandparents back in the Middle East. Last word of advice, don't take the contemporary class if you're of Arab descent or very familiar with Arab culture/ heritage because you won't learn much. It's definitely an easy A class if you're familiar with Arab culture. For the intro class, you will actually need to do some extra work regardless of your familiarity with Islam or Muslim heritage.

Jun 2009

Possibly the worst class I've taken at Columbia. The lectures were incredibly boring and consisted of Saliba rambling about whatever topic he pleased, usually only tangentially related to the class. The readings he assigns in the textbooks and coursebook are not particularly well chosen either -- I would've appreciated more context and structure. Saliba considered himself a riot, but I felt that he was trying too hard with everything he said. For both the midterm and final, I studied off almost purely Wikipedia (the class has no central text and Saliba's lectures were not particularly helpful) and I got an A. If you're looking for an easy A class just to get your Major Cultures requirement over with and are willing to waste 150 minutes of your time each week for that, perhaps this is the class for you. But if you're looking to actually learn something and to stay awake in class, stay AWAY.

May 2009

This review is meant to cover both halves of the sequence, Introduction and Contemporary. Both classes are run in an identical manner, with only one small difference (scroll down to "workload section for more details). Professor Saliba is, simply, one of the finest professors I have had at this school. He is a kind yet quirky old man who has no problems talking one-on-one with you, despite what you may have heard about him. The courses he teaches deal with a region of the world that we hear about on the news all the time, yet have next to no "real" knowledge about - the Middle East and the Greater Islamic World. If you take these two classes you will learn a great deal about them, and many of your pre-conceived assumptions and stereotypes will be shattered. And Saliba's thought-provoking (yet hilarious) lectures and tangents only help you learn more. His occasional side comments will make you chuckle as well! Introduction to Islamic Civilization, the first half of the sequence, covers the rise of Islamic Civilization from its humble beginnings (~600 AD) to the early 20th century. Contemporary Islamic Civilization picks up where Intro left off, and goes up to present day. Please note that this course is NOT an Islam class. There is a separate class for that under the Religion department. The class focuses on the civilizations that were created as a result of Islam, not the religion itself. And what, may you ask, is Saliba's role in this class? Lectures consist of him going over the readings and analyzing them thoroughly, with the occasional tangent thrown in every now and then. During lecture Saliba uses a powerpoint with the main points of that day's lecture written on it. Now, here's a bit of advice - you don't necessarily have to write down anything. No notes, no nothing. What I did was take my laptop and scramble to write down every word written on the powerpoints. However, this is completely unnecessary and will only distract you from actually listening to what he has to say, which ironically will help you learn the material better than if you wrote down the notes. You should note that he is not the one who determines your final grade - that task falls to your TA, so pick a good one. Also, don't pay attention to some reviews here that paint Saliba as some pro-Islamic, anti-Israeli bigot... one of the things that makes Saliba a great professor is that even though he does favor one side, when he teaches he gives an objective analysis of the history and circumstances. In particular, his explanation of the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, the Kurdish question, and Kashmir were very informative and neutral. They could not have been done any better. Anyone who disliked the man obviously had a problem with his personal opinions and not with his abilities as a professor, so don't listen to them. All I have to say is, just give this guy a chance. You'll walk out both entertained and enlightened over a subject your fellow countrymen (assuming you are American) know nothing about. Personally, I will greatly miss having Saliba as a professor next year and would definitely take another class with him.

Dec 2008

The reviewers below must have been really incompetent. Nadia is extremely sweet, knowledgeable and willing to meet with anyone outside of class. The class itself is poorly organized and pretty random, but she takes the information and organizes it into a relatively cohesive class. She was nice to the students who actually took the time to speak with her after class, or to meet with her just once. She is not a difficult grader (see: midterm) and if you have problems with your grade you can go and speak with her about them. The midterm is not something that you need a FORTY page review sheet for -- it's something that you need to cram for the night before and do well on. She did not make any major mistakes that I took note of (what the Declaration of Independence has to do with the midterm or the topic at hand I don't know) but she had an extremely extensive knowledge of current streams of thought, and Islamic history. She also gave us the opportunity go get extra credit via really easy little quizzes (and if one "missed" class they were still able to take them) and just by sending her emails. She is one of the best TAs I've had at Columbia, and I am not really sure who wrote the reviews below but they obviously had an agenda.

Feb 2008

I signed up for Intro to Islamic Civ with Saliba having heard, as many do, that it is the easiest Major Cultures List A course. The readings were easy enough to cram into a few days of power-studying before the final, and there was minimal work during the semester. Enter Nadia. Nadia Latif made my life a nightmare for several months. My friends and I made a 40-page review sheet and studied it for several days leading up to the midterm. The average across all sections was a B+; the average in our class was a 60. The one friend who wasn't in the section got a 92 - we all got between 65 and 70. Nadia also refused to adjust her grading after the results came out, as she had given out three or four A's to the students who had participated most in section. It took Saliba intervening to make a separate curve for us before the situation was rectified. Along with her GPA-crushing grading policy, Nadia was poorly educated in the material. She routinely made mistakes that the class had to correct for her - it is hard to estimate how many of these mistakes slipped into the section notes (one relatively catchable example: Declaration of Independence signed in 1766). Choose any other TA, or you will be subject to intense grading pressure with less knowledge of the material than you would have under any other TA.

Dec 2007

I'm not sure if Nadia will TA again, but if she does, GET OUT. First half of the semester,I liked her-- she seemed nice enough; she was helpful, informative, and understanding about how much reading Saliba assigned; and she was all in all a typical decent TA. Then came the midterm. Islamic Civilizations is a List A intro Major Cultures course, and all the sudden I felt like I was expected to be a MEALAC PHd candidate. Despite the fair and lenient grading of every other TA (the typical grades were A-/B+), she decided to grade us incredibly harshly, with an average 10 to 15 points lower than the class average. A couple of her class favorites got As, and everyone else was screwed out of the grade they would have received from any other TA. The class when we got our exams back was a nightmare. A third to a half of our TA section complained to Professor Saliba. I'm told a curve will fix the problem, but still, save yourself the stress and get out now. You can learn from this class without it wreaking havoc on your GPA. Nadia isn't as nice and helpful as she first appears.

Nov 2007

Nadia constantly complains about the lack of class time, yet she spent the first two out of ten or so recitation sections defining the difference between religion and culture, while the other TAs were going over the lecture material. When she did cover the material in lecture, she barely scrapes the surface of the material. There is absolutely NO doubt in my mind that her recitation was absolutely useless. The worst part about Nadia is her grading of the midterms. My friends (in other sections) and I studied for twelve hours the day before the midterm exam, and together created a 36 page study guide with every single detail of the class in it. After the exam I was convinced that I had gotten an A, and at the worst a B. Nadia gave me a 58/100. A 58! The people who I studied with in the other sections all recieved As. Nadia not only punished people for not writing almost verbatim what she had on her answer key (for essay questions) but deducted FULL points for slight miswordings and insignificant geographical mistakes. If you want to fail this class, and have your life ruined by a TA, please sign up for Nadia's class.

Apr 2007

While he can be fun and funny, generally, the lectures are disjointed, repetitive and boring. The TA section was just as pointless. This class would have required a fair amount of work,and been more challengin, however, I bought the "blanknotes", which have notes on the class and the readings. Look for signs to buy these when the semester starts and you won't have to buy any books, do any readings or show up to lecture, and you will get that easy, beefy 4 point A.

Oct 2006

You have to give this guy a chance. Not only is he a great professor and does he genuinely care about every one of his students, but he is a pretty bright and interesting guy as well. (In addition to his expertise in the subject, which is extense, he holds a Masters in Mathematics and a Masters in the History of Science.) I personally find the classes tolerable to fascinating and the readings well-organized. He started off not following the readigs but has since started to discuss each one of the readings in detail. NOTE: This class is not on Islam...It is about Islamic Civilizations (stress the civilizations). Regarding the other [mostly negative] reviews...I would bet that most of these reviewers had problems with Saliba's opinions. ***[Check the "do you agree with this review" part under every review to see what the majority really thinks.] And on that note, I've heard that he's toned down his opinions drastically: I am currently halfway through the class and he hasn't said a single thing against Israel.

Jul 2006

Tsolin is a great TA. The other reviewers probably did not do as well as they expected and are taking it out on her. The work is quite minimal and easy you just have to make sure to send the questions every week. If you do even some of the readings, email your questions every week and participate in discussion, you'll have no problem. And you can talk to her anytime when you don't understand something. She also holds review sessions before the midterm and final, which I definitely recommend going to.

Apr 2006

THe class itself is really interesting but my discussion leader, Elizabeth, was AMAZING! She was so helpful, always ready to respond to questions, hear other ppl's points of views, answer emails. And she really helped me better understand the material because some of it was pretty obscure, to me at least. She's great!

Apr 2006

Noha Radwan is a strong, knowledgeable and amazing professor. Many students will complain about her accent, or her no B.S. approach, but this is for those who cannot take the education that an Ivy League has to offer. The course is a not a light one, but this is not because of the professor, it is because The History of the Islamic Civilization is not something small, so the long unfamiliar names and dates and places all over the world will seem overwhelming, but Professor Radwan always does her best to go through it all and answer questions. The class and the sections are more intimidating than the Midterms and the Finals. There will be a lot of students groaning and complaining about the bombardment of information, however, they fail to comprehend the vast, rich and extensive history that is in this course. Professor Noha Radwan is lively and brings fourth films, songs and poetry to spice things up. Her English is as strong as her Arabic. Her mysteriousness adds to her quite colorful character.

Jan 2006

I really enjoyed Noha's class. Admittedly, she was a weak lecturer during the beginning of the course, but she improved dramatically throughout the term. She is very kind and approachable. As far as I can tell, the only reason people took issue with her was because of the somewhat tough grading of the midterm. The test probably should have been curved, but plenty of people did fine on it and Noha was willing to meet with everyone who was concerned about their grade. She took the time to go over the test and even changed grades where she thought the TAs had been too picky. Radwan is really excited about teaching students about the Middle East and I would recommend this class to anyone who is remotely interested in the history of that part of the world. Everyone I spoke with did fine in the class, and to be honest, I thought the grading was almost too lenient. If you have ANY background in the area, you will not need to study for either of the tests, and if you don't, then you should approachthe professor before you get your grade back to discuss the issues and terms at hand. Noha is really nice and I think she was fair. Her class had its ups and downs, but all in all it was enjoyable.

Jan 2006

Due to Radwan's exceedingly unpleasant personality and voice, I attended a total of about 45 minutes of class throughout the semester. I attended about 3/4 of the discussion sections, participating not once, and submitted each of the obviously ungraded 250 word weekly response papers as a lump at the final session. For the midterm and final, for which she gave us a list of terms and essays from which the test questions would be chosen, I wikipediaed the terms (about 3% weren't on the site, so I checked the textbook's index), my friend wikipediaed the essays, and we exchanged them. I also spent about 3 hours wikipediaing the 3-page double spaced extra credit essay. Hence, the total time spent on the course outside of attendance, was 20 minutes times 10 = 3.3 hrs for the responses, 6 hrs for the midterm (pretty relaxed studying--just procrastinating, wikipediaing, and memorizing terms), 9 hrs for the final, and 3 hrs for the extra credit, for a total of 21.3 hours. I received an A+ for this 4 point class.

Jan 2006

This lady is very intelligent, and there is no doubt that she is passionate about her subject. She enjoys teaching, and I believe that she is good at it. She comes prepared and is, most of the time, very interesting. That being said, I believe that the course itself is more difficult than one may, at first, expect. I, as someone who had only minimally been exposed to Islamic history, had a much harder time remembering the details of the course than I had anticipated. Think about it, you take thousands of years of vast amounts of history and shove it into one semester... not so easy (at least for me). However, if you put a lot of time into the course, you can get an A. All in all, she's a good professor who teaches a relatively difficult intro. course.

Jan 2006

Noha is a no-BS, tough professor-- at least when it comes to her lecture performance. When it comes to grading, the TAs do most of the work. Noha's one big flaw is that she concentrates WAY TOO MUCH on the individual level of Islamic history, going into detail about so many scholars, scientists, artists, writers, and rulers that the class devolves into a jumbled mess of names by the time the midterm rolls around. The consequence is that the larger picture, ethnographic developments, political trends, etc are lost in the mix. Nonetheless, it's not hard to get a good grade, as long as you can deal with rote memorization.

Jan 2006

Stay away at all costs. Professor Radwan comes in on the first day yelling at people to sit down and be quiet and showing off the tattoo on her arm. You probably would think, this professor is going to be cool, but she's definitely not! No one could follow this woman's lectures. Half the time she'll talk about people with complicated arabic or persian names and when someone asks for her to spell it she will tell you not to worry, it wont be on the midterm/final. The only problem is, the midterm and final are so complictated, they expect you to know the entire history of Islam from when it originated to now. So basically it was impossible, so they gave us a list of 75 terms to study, 20 of which would be on the final. Needless to say that still wasn't really much help either. Avoid this class at all costs.

Dec 2005

Not the worst TA, by any means, but I would suggest avoiding her sections for related courses. She requests strenuous weekly postings/questions on the readings without really detailling what she is looking for. In section she is helpful in reviewing the lectures and sorting out the themes/topics of the course, but she is also mildly brash. She is extremely PC in a "careful with how you use that term" manner, and puts up the friendly screen while in reality being a bit aggressive and stand-offish.

Dec 2005

Professor Radwan is a great person, but not a great lecturer. I thoroughly enjoyed Professor Radwan outside of class; she is funny, energetic, and really cares for her students. Unfortunately, this was her first lecture and she had some difficulties communicating the entirety of Islamic Civilization to the class. Many times she would get flustered and just recite a bunch of information and details in a completely unorganized way leaving students scrambling and confused whether or not what she said was important to write down or was not. My T.A. was absolutely awful and incredibly mean so it didn't help in clearing up all of the information Professor Radwan threw at us. In short, I want to say I don't recommend this class simply because it was hard to follow her all the time (her accent is difficult but still understandable), mostly because lectures weren't structured in the best fashion. However, if you have the opportunity for a seminar (i.e. Lit Hum), you should definitely take it with Professor Radwan. She's young, fun, and totally passionate about her job.

Dec 2005

I'm sorry, but Radwan is easily one of the most awful professors at Columbia. Her lectures at incomprehensible. She seems to hate when students ask questions! She comes into class and reads directly from her notes. Her presentation is almost always inadequate. Even people in the first row cannot understand her, and she refused to do anything about it despite complaints! Further, she comes to class and read DIRECTLY from notes she has prepared. AWFUL. In short, she is just terrible as a lecturer for a large class.

Dec 2005

I totally disagree with the previous reviewer. I have found Tsolin to be a great TA - she is prepared with questions for discussion, has clearly read all the material and cares about it. It is true that she will call you out on bs and make you explain yourself - but this is not because she wants everyone to think as she does - rather she just wants the students TO THINK. I look forward to section with her. She also makes an immense amount of effort in grading - I think I've never been returned a paper (each student writes one short paper in response to the readings during the semester) with more feedback, and constructive feedback at that. I would definately recommend her to others as a fantastic TA - concerned, challenging and caring.

Nov 2005

Not the sharpest tool in the shed, but it could be worse. It would be unfair to call her completely dumb, but it was obvious to most of us that while she is unyielding in her views, either she didn't understand or doesn't listen to what people say a lot of the time. But she does speak English fluently, and she's not totally boring; she's just not that helpful. Not a born teacher, but not a total wreack either.

Nov 2005

It is hard to fall asleep in Professor Radwan's class. The woman's got spunk, and she's not too keen on bullshit, which is both refreshing & frustrating at the same time. As a person, I love Prof Radwan, but as a student trying to follow her lectures, life is not so grand. My personal assessment is that she is a fairly impatient person, and as such, she likes to speed through things and cut the crap; but when she does this during a lecture (as she often does), it's hard to figure out what's going on. Her disdain for what she sees as unneccesary will more than once lead to your confusion, especially when it comes to arabic names. She hates taking the time to write things down on the board, so as a result, you notetaking is a spelling free-for-all when it comes to names or titles. All this aside, I would love to have Prof Radwan in a seminar class. She's energetic and engaged and genuinely interested in teaching. Big lectures though, are not her style, and--as much as her persona shines through--you suffer for it.

Nov 2005

While the reviews from Professor Radwan on here seem very positive, I'm going to have to warn you all not to take this class with her. While the syllabus and readings are organized and manageable, her lectures have left me more frustrated and confused than any other class I've taken at Columbia. She refused to use a microphone in a huge lecture hall, and supplements her lectures occasionally with powerpoints or handouts with the names and places being discussed. If you have no previous experience with Islamic civilizations or the arabic language, it makes for very challenging note-taking when she doesn't come prepared with the list of terms. The only saving grace may be if you have a good t.a., but then again you are not saved...many people have complained about the inconsistencies in the midterm grading. Overall, I obviously don't recommend her at this point. More experience with the course and with a larger class size may help her improve.

Jan 2005

If you’re looking to build yourself a perspective on the Middle East, or on modern international political relations, or even an impartial understanding of the history of Islamic culture itself, then keep looking. Fine, Saliba’s a riot…but it seems like I tried to register for Islamic Civ and accidentally hit the Varsity Show. Some of the readings are OK, but neither he nor his TA’s spends nearly enough time discussing them meaningfully, especially given they are the only source of exam questions. Speaking of the exams, which together make up 80% of the grade, the short answer and essays are pretty obvious, as long as your TA is willing to grade you fairly on them, but the multiple choice is incredibly confusing. He says that they are meant to be clear-cut, but all his petty humor gets filtered into this section, and diverts attention from the “clear-cut” objective. But apparently this is the way the previous reviewer operates. Don’t take this class…if your interested, you’re better off just reading about it on your own.

Jan 2005

The easiest A+ I have ever gotten. All you have to do is show up to class (he takes attendance at every class) and do the reading and you're golden. I only studied for the midterm and final each for about 3 or 4 hours. But if you're interested in learning about Islam, take another course. I barely learned a thing. The lectures are rather boring, aside from the occasional joke that Saliba cracks. If you want an easy way to fulfill the Major cultures requirement and you don't care, take this class.

Dec 2004

Professor Saliba is the teacher you've always wanted! He's is definitely a character. He'll joke around during lectures because they'll wake you up from your "nap cats". All in all, the sweetest professor at Columbia and worth having a conversation with during his office hours...even if you're not in his class.

Dec 2004

Lectures are very boring. Weekly recitations are a waste of time. Midterm and final both were quite challenging. I don't know the way he structured previous classes but this is definitely not a class to get an easy A in.

May 2004

Hat's off to George Saliba, at his age he is sharp as ever with a great sense of humor. He adds some great perspective to the class which gives people an understanding of Middle Eastern politics. If you do not take this class for your major culture's requirement, you are missing out. it is professor like Saliba which keep the name of Columbia.

Apr 2004

Elizabeth is everything you'd want in a TA. The only thing that she didn't have was an extensive knowledge of the subject, which is not a comment on her, but the relegion dept. for assigning her to the class. They must be short on grad students. That aside, she's incredibly approachable, highly intelligent, very even handed, object and interprative in good doses. Big up to Miss Seth!

Jan 2004

The best course I've taken so far at college with the best teacher I've had so far at college. Do NOT miss McDermott. Not only is she a great lecturer (organized, straight to the point, engaging, versatile with teaching media, open to questions, conversation, and criticism) but she makes sure all the material is relevant. You will learn a lot, and you don't even have to do all the reading. Just get the gist of whatever, or even read it after she's lectured (she covers everything in there anyway). But you'll want to do the reading, maybe not in the beginning when its ancient and obscure, but as the course progresses so does its momentum. McDermott is interesting, knows her stuff (and if she doesn't she'll ask the TA's, the students, or look it up and admit she doesn't know). It's a moderate amount of work, and the final is hard but not impossible, and when you finish you feel like you really know some stuff and have real, applicable opinions about things. Take it, do half or more of the reading. Don't miss McDermott if this is a subject that interests you. And if you're good, you'll find a mentor.

May 2003

After glancing over the reviews I had to write something about prof. Saliba. I took intro Islamic Civ class with him and I found it very fascinating and at the same time challenging. The reading materials were really interesting. And to the best of my knowledge, Saliba is one of the best professors I have ever had at Columbia. In fact, my fellow reviewers are not revealing the fact that is true to the nature (shame!). Saliba knows his materials and his memory is sharper than any young professor at Columbia. His accent is quiet understansable. His lectures may get too intense or out of scope sometimes, but the exams are directly from the course pack and assigned readings. Just do the readings and take notes in class--you will get A. The slides he uses are excellent and absolutely relavent to the subject matter. In fact, we don't want to work rather do the 'word puzzle' in class when he mentions some of the important points. So how could you imagine to get most out of it while you don't work? We should also keep in mind that we are not here to criticize our instructors in the ugliest way. We should be respectful and convey the truth regardless of anything..

Dec 2002

Okay. Saliba was generally good though at times excellent—like the science lecture. I have no complaints about his lectures—people doing crossword puzzles in class get on my nerve. This was literally the first time I was in contact with this kind of material. I go to the only section I can make and here’s this TA talking about how we need to shape up and work hard etc. Many people who showed up the first two weeks saw that the TA was gonna be trouble and split. I couldn’t switch so I stayed. Here’s the deal: this guy worked us like crazy with all kinds of “voluntary” assignments and even in-class quizzes. It’s weird but somehow I had a crush on him. The most unlikely candidate for a crush, he was tough, made us work, but at the same time got us to think about the material and more importantly about life in completely new ways. I swear I was happy to do extra-credit stuff. I never did that in my life. I just got my grade and I didn’t get anywhere near an A but I feel so good about having started to think critically (his words). I can’t believe I’m writing this but this is the most intelligent and honest person at Columbia and he’s so cute! I don’t care if he’s married I never got as much pleasure from learning as I did with him. Unfortunately, he’s not gonna TA the Contemporary Islamic Civ class…Bravo Saliba for picking the best TA’s at Columbia!

Dec 2002

I really cant figure out why so many people have an axe to grind with Saliba. He didnt express many political views in class, and those he did werent very extreme. His lectures are definitely scattered, but very interesting. Sourcebook readings are long, but they are really good and the only ones you actually have to do. For the reviewer who disliked Jason: He is a kick ass TA and the most brilliant person I have ever met. Yes, he was outrageously offensive the first two classes, but that was the point and you obviously missed it. Sure, we never discussed anything relating to the class, but what we did talk about was fasicnating. He uses a really intense form of the Socratic method to teach, which is often bizzare and a little freaky, but it forces everyone to truly think, not just regurgitate randome facts and theories.

Nov 2002

I seriously cannot understand the problem many of you have with George Saliba, but then again the MEALAC dept is quite "controversial," no? All that aside, I took this class my first semester at Columbia (so long ago), and I can honestly say it was one of the best classes I have ever taken. Maybe some confuse his sense of humor for arrogance, I am not sure, but his lectures were completely engaging and yes, I agree with the reviewer who found his lecture on Islam and Science brilliant. His lectures are not that disorganized, and he's able to weave the lecture with a storylike quality. For those of you who "can't understand him" - get over it and listen a bit harder, or sit in the front row. His accent is not that bad, though his voice gets soft at times. And he's "old"? He's probably 60 or so, but he's sharper than some of the young professors I have had classes with. Get over whatever ideological barriers you have and take this course! The only thing that sucks is the ultra expensive reader - he's principled enough to pay the copyright fees.

Nov 2002

This class was such a huge disappointment. While it is very apparent that Saliba knows a great deal about the subject, he is completely inept at transmitting that knowledge to his students in any comprehensible or interesting form. His lectures were totally disorganized; I spent the class scribbling down every word because I had no idea what was actually relevant. One glance around the classroom will show you how incoherent and just plain boring his lectures are. Most people are asleep and the rest are gazing off into space. The readings were long and for the most part uninteresting. The TAs were ATROCIOUS. I jumped around from TA to TA trying to find a decent person. They were all just as disorganized as Saliba and in some cases cynical and mean. Saliba himself is a very nice guy and you cannot help but laugh at his broken-English and his love of the subject. But extensive knowledge does not make a good teacher. I learned some but I feel like I could have gotten a lot more out of such a culture filled history.

Nov 2002

Oh my god. This is the single worst class I have ever had at Columbia. Professor Saliba, if you can call him a professor, is barely understandable, unapproachable, and old. The lectures have nothing to do with anything. If he didn't take attendance, there would be four people in the class (out of 200) for every lecture. The tests ask some of the most ridiculous questions ever, the majority of which were never even mentioned in lecture. Discussion sections are worthless as not even the TA's can figure out what in God's name Saliba is blathering about. Worthless, worthless class. Absolutely worthless. My time would be better spent licking the inside of the study carrels in Butler. Avoid Saliba at all costs.

Aug 2002

[CULPA CENSOR: This review was not fit for publishing. Overall, the reviewer feels Saliba is pompous, and expresses his/her negative feelings towards the "liberal left." The word "ass" was used about 5 times.]

Mar 2002

Saliba may be amusing at times, but his lectures are disorganized and sometimes difficult to follow. This becomes unfortunate when the material from the reading becomes confusing. In addition, Saliba devotes way too much time trying to show the class how the stereotypes of Islam, Arabs, etc. are wrong. (Shouldn't merely teaching the material be enough to do that?) I certainly ended up taking the class during an unusual semester (Fall 2001), but too often the discussion sections (and occasionally the lectures) became a forum where liberals could rail against "evil America" and more conservative and moderate views seemed unwelcome. In the end, I left the class knowing more than when I had started but with the feeling that I ought to know more. The material was often interesting, but the class was just too disorganized and unfocused. I think my frustratation with certain elements just ended up outweighing everything else.

Jan 2000

Saliba is an old bore. He jokes are lame, outdated, and smell funny. For some reason he likes to use Yiddish words. Loves to repeat he knows Arabic, Hebrew, Syriac, Aramaic, French, German, Italian, Latin and whatnot. Secular Arab nationalist, reminded us often he was Christian. Superficially cares about students, but try getting a hold of him! Mainly because of the 'civ' issue but also because of the lecture, class is disorganized, readings unhelpful. Poor TAs tried to make sense but eventually gave up. Definitely take the class. In the confusion, you'll come out on top...if allah wants!!!

Jan 2000

Like a great jolly Lebanese (I think) Santa Claus...with a white beard and his ever-present red sweater, the comparison can't be avoided. Once you get past it, though, he's pretty much the man for his job; the lectures on science and mathematics are BRILLIANT. Course is scattered, and a bit of a bully pulpit, but in the end you've learned more than you thought. Saliba is very enthusiastic, which is kind of refreshing in a lecture class. Bravo!

Jan 2000

Although I used this class to fulfill the Major Cultures requirement, that was not my only reason for taking it. I genuinely wanted to gain an understanding of the history and culture of the Islamic World. Unfortunately, what I got instead was a lesson in the hypocrisy of the academic left, thanks to George Saliba. Saliba and the TAs in this class were constantly discussing stereotypes of Islam and of Middle Easterners, but they seemed to have never challenged their own stereotyped thinking. It is reprehensible that one TA (Jason) thought it was acceptable to tell me I must think certain things because I was white, middle class, and American. As far as work goes, this is an easy class. I managed a B with practically no effort, just studying for the midterm and the final. But in my humble opinion, the university ought to sanction Saliba for some of the comments he made in this class.

Jan 2000

Saliba is a dynamic lecturer who clearly cares a lot about his field and the class. Except some tiresome repetition, he makes class interesting. He's a genuintely nice guy who is very open to questions both during the lecture and outside of class. Although the first half of the class is very informative, the second half is a waste of time and he just repeats a few ideas over and over. You can get through this course without ever showing up at lecture, but attendance at the required discussion sections is a must.

Jan 2000

Always entertaining, though a bit light on content. Lectures are sprawling and sometimes feel a bit disconnected; readings are moderate to heavy. Structurally, the class is overambitious: hundreds of years of history are crammed together with 'civ' stuff--poetry, painting, film, science, math. It's can be bewildering, and makes studying difficult. Irresistable sense of humor, though, so while you may complain about the lectures, you probably won't sleep through them.