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Interpreting Islam: contemporary ijtihad in economics and biomedical ethics


Admission requirements

This seminar is primarily intended for M.A. students of Islamic Theology and Religious Studies. However, the seminar is also accessible for students of other specializations such as law, medicine, economy and business administration. In addition to the general rules set for admission to the master’s programme students are expected to possess a basic knowledge of Islamic law.


This seminar tackles the intriguing issue of interpreting Islam in the modern time. The fields of economics and bioethics which considerably flourished in last decades in the West forced contemporary Muslim scholars to come up with a fresh, and usually critical, legal interpretations in order to keep Islam alive and feasible in the modern world.
In the first two meetings, the seminar will have a close look upon the heatedly debated concept of independent legal reasoning (ijtihad) in Islamic law. The rest of the seminar will be dedicated to studying the practice of this concept by contemporary Muslim religious scholars in order to come up with answers for the ethical and legal challenges posed by the Western financial and banking system (Islamic Finance) and by the biomedical advancements which have recently originated in the West (Islamic bioethics).

Course objectives

  1. to further develop the students’ in-depth knowledge and understanding of the international academic studies in the field of Islamic law, with particular attention to their relevance for the issues of independent reasoning (ijtihad), Islamic finance and Islamic bioethics and how they relate to the contemporary Western context;
    1. to further develop academic skills, including the students’ experience and abilities in comprehension, analysis, reflection, critical thinking, oral and written communication; and
    2. To integrate knowledge and handle complexity, formulate judgements with incomplete or limited information, offer suggestions for further research and arguments for solution of problems


See Time table.

Mode of instruction

The Seminar will be divided into four main parts; I. Independent reasoning (Ijtihad), II. Islamic economics, III. Islamic bioethics and IV. research paper. During the sessions dedicated to the first three parts, a number of presentations based on the reading assignments will be given by the participating students. These presentations will be criticized and discussed by the staff and the students. The last 3 sessions will be dedicated to the fourth part. During these sessions attention will be paid to the outlines of the research papers to be prepared by the participants who are willing to upgrade their participation in the seminar to 10 ECTS

Assessment method

Active participation in class, presentation and end-term paper


Yes, see Blackboard.

Reading list

The list of the compulsory readings will be available during the first session of the seminar.


Via uSis.
In addition to the registration in uSis, students are also expected to self-enroll in blackboard a few weeks before the course starts.

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

Contact information

Dr. M. Ghaly.