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 year long module will acquaint undergraduate students with a comprehensive overview of the most important political-religious movements in the Muslim world since 1750, with a view to equipping them to analyse and discuss some of the most contentious political developments of our present time with conceptual rigour, factual detail, and nuance. Combining strengths from both History and the Study of Religions as disciplines, the module devotes attention both to social history and to intellectual content. Participants will look at the roles of local and global spatiality in the forging of Islamic, and Islamist, networks and movements, as well as the many ways that ideas intersect with their social contexts and change as a result over time. The first term discusses the intertwined heritages of colonialism, empire, and Islam in a variety of core regions from Africa to South Asia, focusing on the rise of new, politically-engaged epistemological and social trends in Islam, and surveying the rise, amid debates over Islam's ideal shape, of Salafism and other related schools of thought and practice. The second term moves from macro-history to in-depth multidimensional studies of specific regions, and the varying ways that intellectual-political movements in Islam developed in their contexts. While the primary method remains historical, special emphasis is placed on subjectivity, intersectionality within movements, and gender, drawing from readings in anthropological and sociological literature as well.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

  1. give a broad overview of Islamic history since the 18th century in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East

  2. account for the variety of Muslim engagement with colonialism and its aftermath

  3. identify core political debates and ideologies in the studied Muslim movements

  4. reflect critically on the complex relationship between religion and politics

  5. critically assess the public debate about political Islam in multiple contexts

  6. conduct in-depth research on Islamic political movements that identifies the main contextual and ideological factors shaping Muslim political engagement

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, 1500 words (30%)
  • Essay, 2,500 words (50%)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules