SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Islam and politics

Module Code:
Taught in:
Term 2

The module examines the interaction between politics and the various expressions of Islam in the modern period. It is organised around three main themes:

  1. Islam in Western scholarship, with a focus on theories, concepts and methodologies used to study Islam and Muslim societies.
  2. Islam as a social and political force in the contemporary period. Here, we will focus on those social and political movements and parties that actively affirm and promote prescriptions, laws, or policies that are held to be Islamic in character, often, though not necessarily, organised around the idea of establishing the Islamic state. We will examine the emergence of these movements as well as their ideologies, political philosophies, discourses, normative frameworks, and modes of action.
  3. An exploration of alternative readings of the interaction between Islam and politics.  We will explore recent scholarship and research from the disciplines of Anthropology, Sociology, Comparative Political Theory, Islamic Studies, International Relations and Cultural Studies to come to a more dynamic understanding of Islamic/ist discourses and practices in their diversity.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  1. Gain knowledge of the main theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of the interplay of Islamic traditions and politics.
  2. Gain knowledge of key conceptual issues in the study of Islamist politics.
  3. Acquire analytical tools to rethink the concepts and approaches used to understand Islamist politics.


This module is taught in the form of one weekly 2-hour seminar.

Scope and syllabus

Syllabus Plan

Week 1: Methodological and Theoretical Issues in the Study of Muslim Societies
Week 2: Islamist Movements: Frameworks for Understanding
Week 3: Islamist Ideologies
Week 4: Islamic Governments
Week 5: Islamist Movements in Comparative Perspective
Week 6: Reading week
Week 7: Islam, Modernity and Globalisation
Week 8: New Religious Movements: Salafism and ‘Pop Islam’
Week 9: Transnational Islam
Week 10: Islam and Gender Politics
Week 11: The Fortunes of Islamism



Method of assessment

Assessment is 100% coursework in the form of one 5000 word essay. All coursework is resubmissible.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules