SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

MA Islamic Studies (2020 entry)

  • Structure
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Employment


The MA offers the students the opportunity to concentrate on the Qur'an, the Hadith and other Islamic texts, and so provides a unique training in the translation of Islamic religious material. The degree is designed to benefit academics, teachers of Islam in other institutions, translators of Islamic material into English in research centres, government departments and da'wa centres. It provides excellent research training and is a useful qualification for those who wish to progress to higher postgraduate degrees.

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings

Start of programme: September intake only

Mode of Attendance: Full-time or Part-time

Entry requirements

  • We will consider all applications with 2:ii (or international equivalent) or higher. In addition to degree classification we take into account other elements of the application including supporting statement and references.

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One calendar year (full-time), or two or three years (part-time, daytime only)



Students take 180 credits, 60 of which are a dissertation and a 120 from taught modules. From the taught modules, 60 credits are selected as a major from List A, a further 60 credits are selected as the minor from List A or List B or 30 credits from List A or List B and 30 credits of an approved open option.

Module Code Credits Term
Dissertation in the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East 15PNMC999 60 Full Year
Optional Modules

Students take 30 credits from List A or an approved open option.

List A
Module Code Credits Term
Qur'an and Hadith Studies 15PNMC006 30 Full Year
The Qur'an:Language,Style and Translation in English 15PNMC142 30 Full Year
Islamic Legal Texts in Arabic 15PNMC037 30 Full Year
Islamic Texts: Language and the Synthesis of Classical Scholarship 15PNMC144 30 Full Year
Translation of Islamic Texts (a project) 15PNMC145 30 Term 1
List B
Module Code Credits Term
Sufism 15PNMC036 30 Full Year
Modern Trends in Islam 15PNMC228 30 Full Year
Islamic Law (MA/LLM) 15PLAC121 30 Full Year


Programme Specification

Important notice

The information on the programme page reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session. If you are a current student you can find structure information on the previous year link at the top of the page or through your Department. Please read the important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.

Teaching and Learning

Teaching & Learning

Contact Hours

One-year Masters programmes consist of 180 credits. 120 credits are taught in modules of 30 credits (taught over 20 weeks) or 15 credits (taught over 10 weeks); the dissertation makes up the remaining 60 units. The programme structure shows which modules are compulsory and which optional.

As a rough guide, 1 credit equals approximately 10 hours of work. Most of this will be independent study, including reading and research, preparing coursework and revising for examinations. It will also include class time, which may include lectures, seminars and other classes. Some subjects, such as learning a language, have more class time than others. At SOAS, most postgraduate modules have a one hour lecture and a one hour seminar every week, but this does vary. 

More information is on the page for each module.

Learning Outcomes

  • How to assess data and evidence critically from manuscripts and digital sources, solve problems of conflicting sources and conflicting interpretations, locate materials, use research sources (particularly research library catalogues) and other relevant traditional sources.
  • Systematic understanding of Arabic material from the Qur'an and Hadith as well as representative texts in theology,
  • Islamic philosophy, law and mysticism.
  • Ability to identify and explain stylistic features of the Qur'an and Hadith and understand the methodologies used for their authentication, interpretation and translation into English.
  • Ability to understand technical terms and to place passages in their historical and intellectual context.
  • Ability to understand current issues in Islamic thought and movements, relating them to their historical origins and contemporary world situations.
Intellectual (thinking) skills
  • Students will learn to become precise and cautious in their assessment of evidence, and to understand through practice what documents can and cannot tell us.
  • Students will learn to question interpretations, however authoritative, and reassess evidence for themselves.
  • Students will acquire an ability to represent with intelligence, fairness and integrity views different from their own, show the basis on which they stand and discuss them.
  • Students will learn to demonstrate sophisticated understanding of religious issues and intellectual flexibility, using various methods of study, such as the linguistic, historical, hermeneutic and social sciences.
Subject-based practical skills
  • Communicate effectively in writing.
  • Retrieve, sift and select information from a variety of sources.
  • Present seminar papers.
  • Listen and discuss ideas introduced during seminars.
Transferrable skills
  • Write good essays and dissertations.
  • Structure and communicate ideas effectively both orally and in writing.
  • Understand unconventional ideas.
  • Study a variety of written and digital materials, in libraries and research institutes of a kind they will not have used as undergraduates.
  • Present (non-assessed) material orally.
  • Be able to manage time.


As a postgraduate student specialising in Islamic Studies, you will gain competency in language skills and intercultural awareness and understanding. Familiarity with the region will have been developed through a combination of the study of language, literature and culture (which can include literature, film, music, art and religion) of various parts of the Middle East.

Graduates leave SOAS not only with linguistic and cultural expertise, but also with a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek in many professional and management careers in both business and the public sector. These include written and oral communication skills, attention to detail, analytical and problem-solving skills, and the ability to research, amass and order information from a variety of sources.

For more information about Graduate Destinations from this department, please visit the Careers Service website.

A Student's Perspective

My training as a specialist in the Middle East and Subcontinent would be rather incomplete without these languages or a stay at SOAS!

Padraig Belton

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