Modern Trends in Islam

Key information

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Module code
FHEQ Level

Module overview

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module


The module aims to:

  • give students an understanding of the complexity and variety of expressions of Islam in the contemporary world, and how Muslims have responded to different modern challenges.
  • provide students with the theoretical and methodological tools to enable them to critically appraise these expressions
  • enable students to access and evaluate diverse types of (primary and secondary) texts and materials and to develop a critical viewpoint on the issues covered




The module is taught through a combination of lectures and tutorials. Class contact time is approximately three hours per week.


Scope and syllabus


This module will examine modern and contemporary expressions of Islamic (reformist) thought and practices. The module will draw on theory and methods from the study of religions in general (e.g. sociology, hermeneutics and phenomenology), as well as Islamic studies in particular (Quran, hadith and jurisprudence) in order to illuminate key areas of debate and discussion, while not excluding other approaches, such as anthropology, law, and gender studies, where appropriate.

In Term One, the module will examine the earliest Muslims’ engagement with modernity as well as general trends in contemporary Islamic thought (Islamist, Salafi, Sufi and Progressive). In term two, the module will examine Muslims’ engagement with a variety of themes and issues (gender and sexuality, violence and terrorism, democracy, human rights and neo-theology).

The module is structured as follows:

  • Religion, Modernity and the Modern Study of Religion: Source Criticism
  • General Review of Islam & the Modern Study of Islam: Orientalism
  • Premodern Revival and Reform: the Wahhabi Movement
  • Early Modern Reform: the Iṣlāḥi-Salafi Movement
  • Islamism and Political Islam: Sayyed Qutb and Ruhullah Khomeini
  • Neo-Traditional Salafism
  • Modern Sufism: the Khalwati and Naqshabandi Orders
  • Liberal and Progressive Islam
  • Modern Approaches to the Quran: Nasr Abu Zayd and Fazlur Rahman
  • Gender, Feminism and Homosexuality
  • Jihad, Violence and Terrorism: Al-Qaeda and ISIS
  • Democracy: Yusuf Al-Qaradawi
  • Human Rights: Mahmoud Mohammed Taha
  • The Shari‘ah and the Nation State: Islamic Law as State Law
  • Western Muslims (UK and France) & Converts (USA): The Nation of Islam
  • Secularisation: the Islamic Republic of Iran and Turkey
  • Neo-Theology: Abdulkarim Soroush


Method of assessment


  • One reaction paper (1,000 words) due March 2022 (10%)
  • One essay (3,000 words) due April 2022 (40%)
  • One written examination: May / June 2022 (50%)
  • The exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE page


Suggested reading

  • Donohue, John J., and John L. Esposito, eds. Islam in Transition: Muslim Perspectives . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Kamrava, Mehran, ed. The New Voices of Islam: Reforming Politics and Modernity - A Reader . London: I.B. Tauris, 2006.
  • Kenney, Jeffrey T., and Ebrahim Moosa, eds. Islam in the Modern World . London: Routledge, 2013.
  • Kersten, Carool. Contemporary Thought in the Muslim World: Trends, Themes, and Issues . London: Routledge, 2019.
  • Kramer, Gudrun, and Sabine Schmidtke, eds. Speaking for Islam: Religious Authorities in Muslim Societies . Leiden: Brill, 2014.
  • McCloud, Aminah Beverly, Scott W. Hibbard, and Laith Saud, eds. An Introduction to Islam in the 21st Century . Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.
  • Rahman, Fazlur. Islam and Modernity: Transformation of an Intellectual Tradition . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.
  • Taji-Farouki, Suha, ed. Modern Muslim Intellectuals and the Qur’an . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Taji-Farouki, Suha, and Basheer M. Nafi, eds. Islamic Thought in the Twentieth Century . London: I.B. Tauris, 2004.
  • Vogt, Kari, Lena Larsen, and Christian Moe. eds. New Directions in Islamic Thought: Exploring Reform and Muslim Tradition . 1 edition. London: I.B. Tauris, 2008.



Dr Husam Al-Mallak


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules