professor
Wael Hallaq

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

May 2021

Hallaq is undoubtedly a pioneer in his field, and he makes this known in his seminars and classes. While he is a very knowledgeable person, he is very intimidating and this is certainly off-putting, especially when it comes to participation in the class. He treats the course like law school, and cold calls on students for summaries of the texts, so make sure to read them!!! Regardless, you come out of the class with a very different view of what Islamic law entails.

Jan 2021

Took this class in Spring 2020 but reviewing now because I see that no one from my seminar left a review. For starters, Prof Hallaq is a brilliant scholar. He knows tons about the Islamic tradition. BUT he is very intimidating and at times cocky. He shoots down opinions that don't conform to his narrow worldview and doesn't encourage differing beliefs. Hallaq obviously doesn't know the difference between a fact and an opinion or that students are entitled to their own interpretation. There were times that he talked about his "brilliance" which undoubtedly true is super off-putting to students. He also did not provide any feedback whatsoever and regularly ignores emails. If you want to hear the same interpretation repeated over and over, and regurgitate that opinion, take this class. If not, find something else for the global core.

Dec 2018

Wael Hallaq really opened my eyes and made me see Islamic civilization in a completely different way. He forced me to redefine modernity and secularism, and see it through new lenses. The content of the class was extraordinary. That being said, Hallaq's way of teaching differs greatly from other Columbia professors. Hallaq doesn't really encourage discussion, even though participation makes up large portion of the grade. It was also pretty clear who his favorites in the class were by the third week. They were those individuals that took a class with him before, and obviously had more knowledge of his philosophies. He would give them more speaking time, and clearly just liked them more. Overall, this is a must-take class at Columbia and I don't regret taking the class in the slightest. But I wish Hallaq was a bit more fair with his students.

Dec 2012

All these reviews forget to address the crucial fact that Hallaq is a brilliant man, who will deconstruct your entire vision of the world. He explains the shortcomings of the state and of Enlightenment concept, presenting students with a mindblowing alternate world view. This class is as much about Islamic Law as it is about the Western Orientalist system, and you will leave class blown away every week. Your perception of the world will change entirely. He is also extremely available and kind to his students. And incredibly funny!

Dec 2012

All these reviews forget to address the crucial fact that Hallaq is a brilliant man, who will deconstruct your entire vision of the world. He explains the shortcomings of the state and of Enlightenment concept, presenting students with a mindblowing alternate world view. This class is as much about Islamic Law as it is about the Western Orientalist system, and you will leave class blown away every week. Your perception of the world will change entirely. He is also extremely available and kind to his students. And incredibly funny!

Apr 2012

Professor Hallaq's class was a pleasure. Instead of trying to teach Indian texts, which are outside his speciality, he taught only Islamic texts, which gave an appreciated focus to the class. Just imagine a professor talking about Indian epics when they've never studied a word of Sanskrit. In class discussions, he struck me as the most intellectually honest professor I've met at Columbia. He is himself from a Christian family, but is obviously very invested in the subject of Islamic law, and he did not sidestep, evade, or otherwise shut down students who came to the class with an anti-Islamic or atheist position. Some discussions began with comments like, "Do you think the Quranic injunctions against non-Muslims are barbaric and untenable in the modern world?" Hallaq's responses always had a definite ideological underpinning, but he was respectful of students and engaged with their often difficult questions in a way that impressed me. We were fortunate to have some genuine ideological diversity in the class, and the professor's moderation of the class discussions made it one of my two favorite classes so far at Columbia. My only significant issue with the class was the length of some of the readings. I was ready to do a lot of reading for the seminar, but on two different weeks we were assigned 500ish-page medieval Islamic scientific treatises (the Muqaddimah and Travels of ibn Batutta). These were murderous reads. I would have preferred to have read selections or have the books read over two weeks. If you take the class, expect an intense workload. Professor Hallaq is strict about deadlines and will read and critically evaluate everything you write for the class. He sent a number of weekly responses back to students as being inadequate. It's definitely worth it, but don't take the class if you're going to be overworked that semester and can't devote serious effort to the readings and essays.

Sep 2011

Before taking this class I was under the impression that it is super hard, but it was not. Prof. Hallaq is such a great Professor. So organized, knowledgeable, funny, and not intimidating. He was very friendly and ready to answer any questions. The class make-up was interesting. Not as many Muslims as an earlier review indicated, but there were definitely a lot of JTS kids. I precisely remember one kid who always asked questions very offensive to Muslim Americans in particular, but who gives a flying fig newton? Very great class. Grading of the final paper was very easy. I got an A and my friend got an A+-- we never read or did anything besides the presentation

Jan 2011

Like the review below said, Hallaq is excellent. Very engaging, very funny. However, it did bother me somewhat that the class (Central Questions in Islamic Law) wasn't tightly structured, but of course, that's a matter of personal preference. He does have a very clear narrative for the class, which sometimes could become overwhelming. Nonetheless, he's a very cool guy, and obviously, super knowledgeable and passionate about the subject—and full of funny stories and tidbits of information. As for the class make-up, it was largely a good group; there were bearly any people who were terribly annoying.

Dec 2010

Prof Hallaq is great. Super smart, super engaging, he's a great professor and a funny guy. Central Questions to Islamic Law is a good choice with not too much work. Weekly readings, one 5 min presentation on a reading and a big old research paper at the end. You can write about whatever you want which is nice. Though beware, he tends to call on people randomly to summarize readings...fear of his disapproval is enough encouragement for most to read, but many get away with not. Class draws an interesting crowd. About half Muslims, a quarter JTS, and a smattering of other interested parties. He loves engaged students and gets off on class participation. No prior knowledge of the subject matter is necessary, despite what one might think. He does offer suggestions for background reading for the uptight.