SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

R430 Political Islam

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Full Year

This module integrates perspectives from our department’s three fields–history, religions, and philosophies–and beyond, for an interdisciplinary critical look at questions on ‘Political Islam.’ Grounded in historical chronology, and balancing geographical specificity with a transregional view, it begins by problematizing the categories of ‘religion’ and ‘politics’. At the same time it shows how these, and other, conceptual categories emerged across various sociopolitical settings from the early modern period to now.

The module has two parts:

(1) Empire and Epistemes (2) Nation-States & Neoliberalism, Social Movements & Selfhood
These are organized around changing dominant orderings of the world system, but we will place equal emphasis on describing continuity as well as rupture in our settings, and we trace histories that cut against and across imperial ones, just as much as empire influenced those histories.

Methodologically, we address historiography; political economy; critical theory; anthropology and sociology of Islam; precolonial and modern philosophy and metaphysics; critical gender studies; and anticolonial, decolonial, and border thinking. We will use these sometimes contradictory ways of thinking to explore the sociopolitical and conceptual histories of things like reformism, modernism and positivism, secularism, Salafism, state-centric Islamism, jihad, liberation theologies, women’s movements, and post-Islamism. Especially towards the end, we will ask how these operate on society-wide scales, but also within everyday life and individual subjective worlds.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

LO1) Compare the variety of Muslim engagement with colonialism and its aftermath since the 18th century in Asia and the Middle East
LO2) Distinguish the core political debates and ideologies in the studied Muslim movements
LO3) Appraise the complex relationship between religion and politics in discissions of political Islam
LO4) Compose well evidenced arguments about the main contextual and ideological factors shaping Muslim political engagement


  • Lectures: 1hr per week
  • Seminars: 1hr per week
  • Independent study: 83hrs (over 10 weeks)

Scope and syllabus

  1. What is Politics? What is Islam?
  2. Fragmented Globalities and Connected Localities Before European Empire
  3. Imperial Appropriations in the Long 19th c.
  4. South Asia to 1945: piety; reformism; Islamism; Islamic socialism
  5. The Indian Ocean; Persian Gulf; Arabian Peninsula
  6. Egypt through the early 20th century
  7. Iran and the Eastern Ottoman World
  8. Turkey: Tanzimat to Young Turks
  9. Decolonization and the Cold War
  10. Turkey and Saudi Arabia since 1930
  11. Libya: One Road to Islamic Socialism
  12. The Muslim Brothers in Sudan
  13. Somalia: from the “Mad Mullah” to al-Shabaab
  14. Nigeria since the Sokoto Caliphate
  15. Iranian Revolution: Al-i Ahmad, Shariati, Khomeini; transnational links; gender
  16. Late modes of Muslim Brotherhood: Hamas; women's piety; 'non-movements'
  17. South Asia 1: Tabligh, Dars, the Barelvi resurgence: piety, education, divergent global publics
  18. South Asia 2: sectarianism, violence, and territorialism from Afghanistan to Kashmir
  19. The Islamic State: new global-local formations
  20. Conclusion

Method of assessment

  • Book review, 500 words (20%)
  • Literature review, 1000 words (30%)
  • Essay, 2,500 words (50%)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules