course
History of Islamic Societies

Mar 2010

Professor Kamaly is the greatest professor I've had so far. These other reviews sound like people who were coasting by and then got suddenly upset when their grades weren't what they wanted them to be. Yeah, there's reading. We're at Columbia University! If you don't like to read, leave! Plenty will take your spot in a heartbeat! It is ridiculous to expect him to lower class expectations and standards because you can't keep up. A cop out excuse. That is not fair to him as a university professor. Also, class isn't even that freakin' hard. If you listen to what he's saying, you'll be fine. I got an A. Didn't fail the quiz like "everybody did" according to this other post. Maybe YOU failed? A on the midterm. A on the final. Just paid attention. I myself didn't read everything, still got an A. One brief mid-semester quiz (which we knew about two weeks ahead of time). One midterm. One final. You may write a paper to supplement your midterm grade if you're unhappy with it. Sounds good to me. The mini-quiz that someone on this listing said was "totally unrelated to what we had been taught" was, frankly, exactly what we had been taught (he also told us what was going to be on it: a map, matching historical concepts, etc.). I was never able to make it to Kamaly's office hours because they conflicted with my schedule. He arranged a time and a day for us to meet that worked for me, and I had a pleasant conversation about al-Gazzali and Sufism with him, something he clarified in great detail for me. He is the type of professor I was expecting when coming to Columbia. Again, a wise man devoted to his students and his work, Professor Kamaly is an excellent teacher for the novice and the advanced student alike.

Nov 2006

I would not take a class with him again. Hossein Kamaly is an intelligent person, but not so great at teaching. In my study group, which included a good number of people from class, we often had to rely on Wikipedia and Google in order to prepare for his exam because he was not good at conveying the information he wanted us to know. He was more concerned with telling stories and getting the students to like him than with concentrating on teaching. In addition, his grading is not truly fair. Though he wisely dropped the first quiz in which most people failed (what he quizzed us on was hardly covered in class or in the readings), his grading of the midterm and final exam caused me some concern. On my midterm, he took off 8 points on one of my essays without writing what was missing or incorrect. When I asked him about it, he acknowledged that I knew what I was talking about but assured me that I shouldn't worry because he was "giving the final grade." (Whatever that means). Those students who scored below a certain percentage on the midterm were required to write a paper in place of it, but he did not give that same option of writing a paper in place of our midterm score to those of us who scored above(the previous reviewer is incorrect in stating that everyone had that option). Further, he kept extending the date for when the papers were due, so those who scored low on the midterm not only got to write a paper to replace their score but also got more time to do so. He was also very sensitive to any perceived criticism. When a particularly vocal student asked him where he had found the pictures for a slideshow he had shown us, he defensively answered, "I DO prepare for this class." Although she wasn't my favorite classmate, I could tell she was just trying to give him a compliment, and yet he took it the wrong way. His sensitivity prohibited from being as effective a teacher. Also, I had to keep reminding him to hand back our midterms, which is suprising because a good professor should want to give feedback. I repeatedly asked him for my final exam as well, but only received it halfway through the next semester. Many of my classmates liked him because he wanted to be liked, and due to his full-time (non-professorial) job in the library, he was always available in his office, M-F. However, this full-time job which made it so easy to meet with him also precluded him, I feel, from devoting the time and attention to our class that we deserved.

Jul 2006

Professor Kamaly is unmatched in his desire to make sure every one of his students is challenged and learning. He entertains any and all questions and NEVER makes you feels stupid for asking something. Always accessible outside of class, he's a pleasure to speak with, about Islamic History or in general.

Apr 2006

A really interesting course, but fact-filled. Kamaly wanted you to learn not just the general history, but also how to view history, and how Islamic history has been and is viewed in general. He is a really engaging and insightful teacher and very willing to help students. We all did really poorly on the first quiz and so the midterm and final were subsequently a lot easier. Since it was his first semester teaching the course, he did a little bit of learning along the way, especially in the way of expectations from his students. He is not an unreasonable man, but seems to believe we read at break-neck speed. There is a lot of material to cover in the course so you fly through centuries, but Kamaly does a good job of giving a thorough but not too thorough overview of what's going on.He does like to call on people in class at first about the reading so having skimmed through the non-textbook pieces is important.

Dec 2004

It took me a few weeks to get used to Prof. Bulliet's teaching style (he tends not to approach history from a chronological standpoint and sometimes it was hard to fit everything he taught us together into a coherent narrative), but once I did I found class really interesting. He is VERY knowledgable and I learned a lot. Plus, he's funny.

Dec 2004

Alain is AWESOME!!!!! Not only is he a really nice guy, but he does a great job of clarifying lectures and answering questions. He really wants to make sure that everyone understands the lectures and his discussion section was not only helpful and beneficial but enjoyable. Take his section if you can!

Dec 2004

Bulliet is no doubt an intelligent man, and also funny (though his jokes are often dry and spread out). Over time you definitely warm up to the man, however, and come the end of the semester I began to realize I will miss him next semester. The workload is very manageable, as I didn't even fully read a book for the class an managed to sqeak by with a B+. Depending on the day, Bulliet will present either a very captivating lesson or a very dry one. Make sure you take notes, as all you have to do for the exam is spit the notes back verbatim to do well (and it doesn't hurt to quote Bulliet from his books, or any books for that matter). All in all, I learned a lot and was satisfied with the course and the grade.

Nov 2004

Professor Bulliet knows his stuff - he makes you read 3 or 4 of his books. Reading is a must, as the lectures make no sense without it. Knowledge of Arabic is helpful, as some classes there will be dozens of Arabic names and terms - terms that will be on the test. He goes off on a lot of tangents, but he likes it if you pretned you are interested in the tangent of use it in a midterm of final. There is a mandatory TA session offered with a very limited schedule. Also, there are often a lot og grad students in the class.