Intensive Courses

Intensive Course on Pre-Islamic Arabia

Princeton, New Jersey (USA) May 28 - June 1, 2018

Thanks to a number of generous grants from the David A. Gardner '69 Magic Project, the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University has organized a series of short, intensive courses for graduate students on a variety of subjects in the broad field of Islamic studies not normally covered in the Princeton curriculum. In each case, an internationally-recognized expert has been brought in to teach the course over a period of five weekdays.

This year, we plan to offer such a course on Pre-Islamic Arabia.

The course will take place from May 28 - June 1, 2018. The course is intended primarily for graduate students, both from Princeton and from other universities.

The instructor will be Professor Christian Robin, a leading expert in the study of pre-Islamic Arabia. The objective of the program is to present the state of knowledge about ancient Arabia until the time of Muḥammad. Archaeological excavations and innumerable epigraphic discoveries have profoundly renewed the question in recent decades.

The program will have three objectives:

  1. Give students access to the main source of information about Pre-Islamic Arabia, namely epigraphic texts. Two days will be devoted to the scriptures and languages used in ancient Arabia (especially those of Sabaʾ, Maʿīn, Qatabān, Ḥaḍramawt, Nagrān, Qaryat, Hagar, Dedān and Taymāʾ, plus those of the desert populations) and those of the 5th and 6th century of the Christian era (with the appearance of Arabic writing which can be interpreted as a rejection of Ḥimyar).
  2. Summarize what is known about the history and institutions of the main kingdoms of ancient Arabia, with a focus on dating issues and the emergence of so-called “Arab” populations from the beginning of the Christian era.

  3. Present the political, religious and cultural situation in Arabia of the 5th and 6th centuries, on the eve of Islam, with a kingdom of Ḥimyar (Jewish, then Christian) which dominates the whole of the peninsula, and to highlight certain continuities between antiquity and the first Islam.


Application process and deadlines

Applications must be emailed to Julia Gilbert ( at the Near Eastern Studies Department at Princeton University by March 16, 2018. The subject line of the email should read, "Application for Pre-Islamic Arabia Workshop."

 Applications should comprise the following:

  • Letter of application with statement of interest
  • CV
  • Names, positions, and email addresses of two referees

All items should be included in a single attachment, which may be a pdf.

Successful applicants will be notified in late March 2018 and students accepted for the course but coming from outside of Princeton will receive partial scholarships to help defray travel and accommodation costs. The course itself is free. 

Previous courses:

(12) 2017 (August 21–August 25)
      Topic: Arabic Papyrology
       Instructor: Petra Sijpesteijn
(11) 2016 (August 29–September 2)
      Topic: Greco-Arabic Tradition
       Instructor: Dimitri Gutas
(10) 2015 (May 11–15)
      Topic: Christian Arabic
       Instructor: Alexander Treiger (Dalhousie University)
(9) 2014 (June 9–13)
    Topic: Arabic Manuscripts and Early Qur’ans
    Instructor: François Déroche (École pratique des hautes études)
(8) 2012 (March 19–23):
    Topic: Islamic numismatics  
    Instructor: Professor Stefan Heidemann (University of Hamburg)
 (7) 2011 (June 6–24)
    Topic: Arabic dialectology
    Instructors: Professors Dr. Werner Arnold (Heidelberg) and Dr. Otto Jastrow (Tallinn) 
 (6) 2010 (March 15–19):
    Topic: Sayyids/sharifs: the kinsfolk of the Prophet in Muslim
    Instructor: Professor Kazuo Morimoto (Tokyo)
 (5) 2009 (March 16–20):
    Topic: Arabic dialectology
    Instructor: Professor Dr Otto Jastrow (Tallinn)
 (4) 2008 (March 17–21):
    Topic: Middle Iranian philology
    Instructor: Professor Nicholas Sims-Williams (SOAS, University of
 (3) 2007 (March 19–23):
    Topic: Arabic papyri
    Instructor: Professor Geoffrey Khan (Cambridge)
(2) 2006 (March 20–24):
    Topic: Islamic coins
    Instructor: Dr Lutz Ilisch (Tübingen)
 (1) 2004 (October 25–29):
    Topic: Arabic manuscripts
    Instructor: Dr Adam Gacek (McGill)