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Remember my professor from last year? He was great, 100% responsible for getting me through that horrible course. He tutored me every week, going over and over stuff until it stuck in my head (even if only for a few minutes). He’s a really good teacher. He once explained the precise meaning of a verb. It means not only to shut a door, but to really shut it… He illustrated this by slamming the classroom door shut numerous times, banging a chair against it, throwing himself at it. I will never forget the meaning of that verb.

Today he agreed to be my dissertation supervisor. This is a Very Good Thing. At first he was dubious, not about me but about my topic. I want to develop an essay I wrote for him a year ago. Loved that essay. It was on the language the Qur’an uses to describe paradise and hell. Utterly fascinating and I got a bloody good grade for it. There are of course regulations surrounding that issue – namely, you cannot be marked twice for the same work. So first I had to check with The Rules Man, then get back to Prof, then he was ill, and we eventually met today. I was kind of nervous that he would say no, for the procedure is quite complicated.

But no! He was amazing. He said I have to narrow the topic considerably as the original essay was quite broad, and ensure I don’t stray into the same area as the original. But he suggested a direction I could go in, which is my favourite topic anyway. This is, in Arabic, tarhib wa targhib, or persuasion and dissuasion. It’s wonderful and seems to me to be at the heart of Islam. Paradise and hell are strong tools to persuade humans to do right and avoid wrong. So I could dig deep and see what this tells us about the nature of the Islamic God and the ways he communicates with humanity.

Yeah, baby.

Prof said he will not contribute to the dissertation, because then I would have to state that he had done so and it would lover my grade. He will help define the scope, point me in the direction of various primary sources and ensure I stick to my strengths. He told me that I have a keen analytical mind and should stick primarily to analysing Arabic texts, rather than delving too deeply into theory. He praised my skills in Arabic, which was pleasing to hear because I’m struggling with the texts I’m studying right now. The whole conversation was pleasing to me. He made me feel really good about myself.

He also brings to mind a person barely suppressing hypomania. The guy looks like he should be buzzing around on the ceiling. He’s always like that, I don’t know how he finds that much energy. Not all the time. Every now and then he rubs his eyes but it doesn’t stop him leaping around the room. That’s pure passion. Passion for his subject lights him up. And he lights me up, I always leave his office buzzing. I felt the urge to bounce up and down this afternoon, had just too much energy, thoughts racing, mouth on overdrive. It’s been a while since I felt like that. As Bippidee said to me today, it’s like he brings out the Bipolar in me, albeit only briefly. Happy days.

This man is very experienced and clearly knows what he’s doing with MA dissertation students. He knows exactly how to get the best out of me, and to inspire me enough to get me to hit the books. I feel quite positive about this now. He was completely on my wavelength today. I have this stupid form to fill out now, with a title for the dissertation, his signature and the programme convenor’s signature. Prof signed it today before I even had a title. I’m to email him with a proposed title for him to agree, because I couldn’t think of one on the spot.

  • What do Qur’anic accounts of the afterlife tell us about the nature of God and his communication with humanity?

Or should I avoid the mention of the afterlife entirely, to steer clear of my essay topic?

  • How does God use tarhib wa targhib to communicate his message to humanity?
  • What does the concept of tarhib and targhib tell us about the nature of Islam and the nature of God?
  • What does the persuasive nature of the Qur’an tell us about God’s relationship with and expectations of humanity?

That’s all I can come up with tonight. None of them seems entirely right. Not that it really matters, the title always changes. But I do want to impress Prof, if possible. Show him I’m taking this seriously, because he’s taking me seriously.

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