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Modern Thinkers and Trends in Islam


Admission requirements

“Introduction to the study of Islam”, or any other equivalent introductory level or knowledge about Islam (in agreement with the lecturer)


The rise and fall of the Arab Spring, and the eruption of Islamic militancy in the Middle East raises many political and academic questions. Although these events seem revolutionary and new, this course will show that they are indebted to certain trends that have been going on for decades. Special reference will be given to Sunni and Shi’i Muslim thinkers within such trends as traditionalism, salafism, sufism, modernism, reformism and secularism. We will discuss issues of ‘Islamic’ militancy, economics, feminism, politics and law, and study the interaction between the social and political aspects of such religious ideas and institutions on the one hand, and the emergence and developments of the Islamist movements on the other. We will closely examine the interpretations given by modern Muslim thinkers regarding Islamic primary sources (the Qur’an, Sunna, Islamic law, etc.) as responses to contemporary religious, cultural, social and political changes and challenges of modernity.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge: The course offers students knowledge of a) the history of the most prominent and authoritative Muslim figures and movements and their idea developments in modern Islamic thinking, b) a typology of modern trends, and c) the main topics and concepts of Islamic thought.

  • Insight: students will gain insight in the diversity of thinkers and trends, and their views regarding the confrontation of Muslims with modernity on the basis of different subjects, such as reformation of Islam, the relationship with the West, the status of women in Islam, Islam and politics, etc.

  • Skills: upon the completion of the course students are expected to define and recognize the characteristics of such different typologies in Islam.


Timetable BA Midden-Oostenstudies Timetable minor Islam

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture
    Attendance is not obligatory for lectures. The conveners do not need to be informed in case of missed classes. Information and knowledge provided in the lectures greatly contribute to the subsequent courses of the programme. In order to pass the course, students are strongly advised to attend all sessions.

Course Load

  • Lectures: 13 weeks = 26 hours.

  • Preparation lectures and exams (studying the compulsory literature) = 114 hours

Assessment method


  • Midterm: written examination with closed questions (eg multiple choice)

  • Final: written examination with closed questions (eg multiple choice) and short open questions


The final mark is determined as follows:

  • first written exam (40%) and

  • final exam (60%).


There is only one resit opportunity (in June 2018) which will make up 100% of the mark.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results (in BB) at the latest.

Reading list

A literature list will be made available on Blackboard.



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.

Registration Contractonderwijs

Registration Contractonderwijs



Contact information M.S. Berger