SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Islam and Democracy

Module Code:
Year of study:
Year 3 of 3 or Year 4 of 4
Taught in:
Full Year

This final year course provides a philosophical and empirical introduction to contemporary debates regarding the compatibility of Islam and democracy. It also encourages a critical re-examination of these debates through:

  1. a discussion of Muslim scholarship (and practice) pertaining to the specification and interpretation of Islamic law, the role of religious and political opposition, and the status of the individual in political and social life, as well as
  2. a careful recapitulation of these debates in the context of well-known texts prepared by non-Muslim democratic theorists, all of whom have addressed the meaning of “law,” the role of “opposition,” and the political status of the “individual” (as well as the relationship between religion and politics in general) in some detail. 

The course concludes with a series of case studies drawn from South and Southeast Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe (including, for example, Turkey, Malaysia, Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, India and France).

The course is limited to third year Politics students.


153400020 - Government and Politics of South Asia OR 153400060 - Government and Politics of the Middle East

NB Students who have not taken one of the pre-requisites for this course, and who wish to apply directly to the course convenor for permission to enrol, should do so after the start of the first teaching week of term 1. As such you are strongly advised to enrol for a different course, and to wait until the first teaching week of term before enquiring as to whether last-minute enrolment might be possible.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

Through lectures, critical reading, and informed discussion, this course will enable students to evaluate and engage ongoing debates regarding Islam and democracy from a theoretical as well as an empirical standpoint. Their essays will develop their cognitive skills and prepare them to write analytically- as students and future professionals- about an issue with considerable significance in the study of comparative politics, political philosophy, public policy, and modern diplomacy.

Method of assessment

Assessment consists of four essays and one presentation:

  • one 1000 word essay which makes up 15% of the total mark
  • one 1500 word essay which makes up for 20% of the total mark
  • one 2000 word essay which makes up 25% of the total mark
  • one 2500 word essay which makes up 35% of the total mark
  • one ten-minute presentation is worth 5% of the total mark


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules