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Religious Studies

Paul Powers

Associate Professor and Core Curriculum Director

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J.R. Howard Hall

Paul Powers teaches a range of courses about Islam and Religious Studies. His courses include “Islamic Origins,” “Islam in the Modern World,” “Religious Fundamentalism,” “Sufism: Islamic Mysticism,” and a seminar on Islamic law. Many of these courses explore theoretical and methodological questions about the nature and study of religion, as well as gender-related issues and questions about the nature of “modernity.”


Fall 2013 Courses:

RELS 273 Islamic Origins
This course will investigate the major religious and sociohistorical developments in the Islamic world from circa 600 to 1300 C.E. Focus is placed on the Qur’an, Muhammad, early Islamic expansions and dynasties, and interactions with non-Muslims. However, students will also examine the formation of orthodox beliefs and practices (e.g., theology, ritual, law), contestation over religious ideals and political power, and the emergence of Shi’ite and Sufi Islam.

RELS 453 Sex and Death in Islamic Law
This course explores the religio-legal traditions of Islam and the efforts to develop a comprehensive set of behavior guides derived from the Qur’an, the exemplary behavior of the Prophet, and other sources. Students will delve into diverse topics such as Islam’s legal history, efforts at modernization and reform, the formation of the major schools of law, legal theory and methods for deriving rules from sacred texts, the rules of ritual, civil, and criminal law, political theory, adjudication and court procedure, Islamic law and the colonial encounter, legal expressions of gender roles, and historical case studies.


Prof. Powers’ research interests focus on pre-modern Islam, especially Islamic law. He has published articles in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion and Islamic Law and Society, as well as a book, Intent in Islamic law: Motive and Meaning in Medieval Sunni Fiqh (Brill, 2006). A central question of his research has been how Islamic law deals with human subjective states. He is currently undertaking a new project examining Islamic law in its cultural contexts, both pre-modern and modern; this project seeks to improve our understanding of how Muslims not formally educated in Islamic law have understood Islamic legal ideas, institutions, and representative persons (such as judges and legal scholars). He has traveled extensively in the Muslim world, including Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, and India.

Academic Credentials

Ph.D. 2001 University of Chicago Divinity School, History of Religions/Islamic Studies

M.A. 1992 University of Chicago Divinity School, B.A. 1990 Carleton College

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Paul Powers’s office is located in room 222 of John R. Howard Hall.


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Paul Powers Associate Professor and Core Curriculum Director

Religious Studies Lewis & Clark 0615 S.W. Palatine Hill Road MSC 45 Portland OR 97219 USA

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