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Islam and Modernity


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Arabic, Persian and Turkish Languages and Cultures, the MA Islamic Studies, or the MA Islamic Theology. Please, contact the student advisor, Nicole A.N.M. van Os, or the instructor, Dr. E. Harmsen, if you are interested in taking this course, but NOT a student of the one of the above-mentioned MA programmes.


The course deals with the multiple ways in which modernizing developments since the end of the 18th century and up to the present, such as those in the realms of science, technology, bureaucratic state administration, urbanization, mass education, (new) mass media, mass consumption, the emergence of modern civil societies and public spheres and gender relations have impacted Islamic thought and practice in the Muslim world, and how this thought and these practices have impacted such developments in turn. Close attention is paid to the ways in which these processes in Islamic thought and practice relate to the external forces of colonialism, penetration of the capitalist world market, introduction of secular political and social ideologies and globalization in general, but also to local (traditional) habits, cultures and thought. Various theoretical approaches related to modernization, tradition, religion and secularity are dealt with. h3.

Course objectives

The course contributes to the students’ knowledge and deepens their insight in the interrelationship between modernizing developments and various forms of Islamic thought and practice. In particular, they get acquainted with the ways in which various Islamic thinkers and currents have dealt and/or are still dealing with these issues. In the process, they familiarize themselves with relevant academic theories and philosophical approaches, learn how they can be applied to empirical findings and also how these findings could be applied in turn to further develop (existing) theories.

Timetable Timetable

  • Week 1 (2 February): Introduction

  • Week 2 (9 February:
    Theoretical approaches in regard with religion and modernity.
    Max Weber
    Steve Bruce
    Talal Al-Asad

  • Week 3 (16 February):
    Theoretical approaches in regard with Islam and modernity.
    Ernest Gellner
    Talal Al-Asad
    John L. Esposito

  • Week 4 (23 February):
    Islam, the West and Modernity: the original encounter.
    Albert Hourani
    Muhammad Khaled Masud and Armando Salvatore Sami Zubaida

  • Week 5 (2 March):
    mid-19th century Muslim intellectuals on Islam and modernity: Rifat al-Tahtawi and Sayyid Ahmed Khan.
    Albert Hourani
    Christian Troll

  • Week 6 (9 March):
    Islamic modernism in the Middle East under the impact of colonialism: Al-Afghani, Mohammed ‘Abduh en Rashid Rida.
    Albert Hourani

  • Week 7 (16 March):
    20th century Islamism as a practical project: Hassan al-Banna.
    Gudrun Krämer

  • Week 8 (30 March):
    Modernism and Islamism in the Indian Subcontinent.
    Allama Muhammad Iqbal
    Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr

  • Week 9 (6 April): from Sayyid Qutb to Osama bin Laden: the ideology of Islamist militancy.
    Ibrahim Abu Rabi
    John L. Esposito

  • Week 10 (13 April):
    The Saudi salafist model in contrast to Islamism in Iran and Egypt.
    Giles Kepel
    Madawi Al-Rasheed
    Asef Bayat

  • Week 11 (20 April):
    Liberal Muslim intellectuals: Mahmoud Taha, Mohammad Arkoun, Nasr Abu Zayd and Fazlur Rahman.
    Mohamed Mahmoud
    Mohamed Arkoun
    Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid
    Fazlur Rahman

  • Week 12 (27 April):
    Islamic sociopolitical activity and democratic citizenship in Iran and Egypt
    Lit: Asef Bayat

  • Week 13 (18 May):
    Islamic sociopolitical activity and democratic citizenship in Europe

Mode of instruction

Lectures and seminars, occasionally with the aid of powerpoint and possibly some other audiovisual devises.

Assessment method

Oral exam and paper of at maximum 6000 words


The Blackboard Course is forthcoming.

Reading list

Week 2:
Max Weber,The Sociology of Religion, Beacon Press, Boston 1963, Chapter XI “Asceticism, Mysticism, and Salvation Religion”, pp. 166 – 183.

Bruce, Steve, Chapter 1,God is Dead,Secularization in the West, Blackwell Publishers LTD 2002, “the Secularization Paradigm”, pp. 1 – 43.

Talal Asad,Formations of the Secular, Stanford University Press, Stanford – California 2003, “Introduction, Thinking about Secularism”, pp. 1 – 17.

________,Genealogies of Religion, The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore 1993, Chapter 1 “The Construction of Religion as an Anthropological Category”, pp. 27 – 54

Week 3:
Ernest Gellner,Postmodernism, Reason and Religion, Routledge, London and New York 1992, pp. 1 – 22.

Khalid Masud, Armando Salvatore en Martin van Bruinessen eds.,Islam and Modernity,Key Issues and Debates, Edingburgh University Press, Edingburgh 2009, Armando Salvatore, Chapter 1 “Tradition and Modernity within Islamic Civilisation and the West”, pp. 3 – 35.

Talal Asad,Genealogies of Religion, Chapter 6 “the Limits of Religious Criticism in the Middle East, Notes on Islamic Public Argument”, pp. 200 – 236.

Week 4:
Albert Hourani,Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age 1798 – 1939, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1983, Chapter II “The Ottoman Empire” and Chapter III “First Views of Europe”, pp. 25 – 66.

Khalid Masud and Armando Salvatore in Islam and Modernity, Key Issues and Debates, Chapter 2 “Western Scholars of Islam on the Issue of Modernity”, pp. 36 – 53.
Sami Zubaida in Islam and Modernity, Key Issues and Debates, Chapter 3 “Political Modernity”, pp. 57 – 90.

Week 5:
Albert Hourani,Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age 1798 – 1939, Chapter IV “The First Generation, Tahtawi, Khayr Al-Din, and Bustani”, pp. 67 – 102.

Christian Troll,Sayyid Ahmed Khan, a Reinterpretation of Muslim Theology, Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi 1978, “Introduction”, pp. xv – xx, Chapter 1 “Sayyid Ahmed Khan in his Day and Later” pp. 3 – 27, Chapter 5 “Modern Natural Science and Tafsīr”, pp. 144 – 170 and “Epilogue”, pp. 223 – 230.

Week 6:
Albert Hourani,Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age 1798 – 1939, Chapter V “Jamal Al-Din Al-Afghani”, Chapter VI “Muhammad ‘Abduh”, pp. 103 – 160 and Chapter IX “Rashid Ridda”, pp.222 – 244.

Week 7:
Gudrun Krämer,Hassan al-Banna, Oneworld, Oxford 2010.

Week 8:
Allama Muhammad Iqbal,The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore 1989, Chapter VI “The Principle of Movement in the Structure of Islam”, pp. 116 – 142.

Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr,Mawdudi and the Making of Islamic Revivalism, Oxford University Press, New York and Oxford 1996, “Introduction”, pp. 3 – 6 and Chapter 3 “Faith and Ideology”, Chapter 4 “The Islamic Revolution”, Chapter 5 “The Islamic State” and “A New Islam?”, pp. 49 – 125.

Week 9:
Ibrahim Abu Rabi,Intellectual Origins of Islamic Resurgence in the Modern Arab World, State University of New York Press, Albany 1996, chapter 5 “Sayyid Qutb’s Thought between 1952 and 1962 – a Prelude to his Qur’anic Exegesis” and Chapter 6 “Qur’anic Contents of Sayyid Qutb’s Thought”, pp. 138 – 219.

John L. Esposito,The Future of Islam, Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York 2010, Chapter two “God in Politics”, pp. 56 – 79.

Week 10:
Giles Kepel,The War for Muslim Minds, Islam and the West, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London 2004, chapter 5 “Saudi Arabia in the Eyes of the Storm”, pp. 152 – 196.

Roel Meijer eds.,Global Salafism, Islam’s New Religious Movement, Hurst & Company, London 2008, Madawi Al-Rasheed, “The Local and the Global in Saudi Salafi Discourse”, pp. 301 – 320.

Asef Bayat,Making Islam Democratic, Social Movements and the Post-Islamist Turn”, Stanford University Press, Stanford – California 2007, Chapter 2 “Revolution without Movement, Movement without Revolution, Islamic Activism in Iran and Egypt 1960s – 1980s”, pp. 16 – 48.

Week 11
John Cooper, Ronald Nettles and Mohamed Mahmoud eds.,Islam and Modernity, Muslim Intellectuals Respond, I.B. Tauris Publishers, London and New York 2000, Chapter 5 by Mohamed Mahmoud: “Mahmud Muhammad Taha’s Second Message of Islam and his Modernist Project”, pp. 105 – 128, Chapter 8 by Mohammed Arkoun: “Islam, Europe, the West, Meaning at State and the Will to Power” and Chapter 9 by Nasr Abu Zayd: “Divine Attributes in the Qur’an, some Poetic Aspects”, pp. 172 – 211.

Fazlur Rahman,Islam and Modernity, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London 1984, pp. 130 – 162.

Week 12
Asef Bayat,Making Islam Democratic, Social Movements and the Post-Islamist Turn, Chapter 4 “A Post-Islamist Movement”, pp. 49 – 105 and Chapter 6 “Egypt’s Positive Revolution, the State and the Fragmentation of Islamism”, pp. 136 – 186.

Week 13
Tariq Ramadan,Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York 2004, Chapter 7 “Social Commitment and Political Participation”, pp. 144 – 173.

Aziz al-Azmeh and Effie Fohas eds.,Islam in Europe, Diversity, Identity and Influence, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2007, Jocelyne Cerari, “Muslim Identities in Europe: the Stake of Exceptionalism”, p. 49 – 67.

Jocelyne Cerari eds.,Muslims in the West after 9/11, Religion, Politics and Law, Routledge, Oxon 2010, Chapter 3 by Mahmood Monshipoori, pp. 45 – 66 and Chapter ? by Jocelyne Cerari, “Sharia and the Furture of Europe”, pp. 145 – 173.


Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Dr. E. Harmsen


That this information becomes available so lately has at least two reasons: one is that although this form was already send to the Studie Coӧrdinaat at the end of August 2010, it was apparently not received there. The second reason is that this course has remained officially registered as a first semester course for much too long