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Islam and South and Southeast Asia: The Basics


Admission requirements

Successful completion of the first years' course Introduction to the Study of Islam, or another academic introductory course to Islam. If you do not meet this requirement, but would still like to take the course, please mail both Verena Meyer and Coordinator of Studies well in advance of the start of the course, indicating the reasons for your interest, as well as the ground on which you think you can be admitted.


Muslim communities in Asia comprise a significant part of the world’s Islamic population, including major communities in South Asia such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India, as well as Southeast Asia, home to Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim majority country. Muslims of South and Southeast Asia understand themselves as part of the global umma, whose religious thought and practice has been shaped by spiritual, political, and economic ties to the broader Islamic world. No mere passive recipients of a Middle Eastern tradition, Asian Muslims have actively shaped Islamic thought and practice through media ranging from sacred tombs to social media.

While part of a global tradition, South and Southeast Asian Islam has shaped and been shaped by interactions with other major religious communities of the region, and has adapted itself to the specific environments in which it spread, thereby taking on unique characteristics. Colonial rule and imperialism had crucial impacts on many dimensions of Muslim life and thought, prompting a broad range of responses. Islamic life in South and Southeast Asia historically and today is diverse and multivocal.

This seminar course is designed to introduce students to this diversity of Islamic South and Southeast Asia. It broadly follows a historical trajectory, from the Islamization of the region to contemporary times. The course adopts a comparative perspective, tracing parallel trends across regions and situating similarities and differences in their specific context. In addition to academic texts, students in this class will work with a wide range of media (films, podcasts, websites, literary texts) as source materials.

Course objectives

In this class, students will gain

  • A broad grounding in the historically complex development and contemporary conditions of the Islamic world of South and Southeast Asia

  • A critical understanding of how central issues and debates in Islamic Studies have been discussed in the South and Southeast Asian context

  • Experience in the comparative study of Islam and in recognizing parallels while emphasizing the importance of studying individual regions on their own terms

  • An awareness of the interdisciplinary nature of Islamic Studies

  • Competence in reading, viewing, interpreting, and writing about a wide range of primary and secondary sources

  • Experience in leading and participating in discussions about scholarly topics


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Attendance and active participation are obligatory for lectures and seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The convenor needs to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (e.g. illness, family issues, problems with residence permits). In these cases, it is up to the discretion of the convener of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Being absent without notification and/or more than two times can result in exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Assessment method

Your final grade is made up of the following components:

• Attendance and participation, including leading of discussion (20%)
You are expected to be present in class, to arrive on time, and to participate in class activities. Each student will lead the discussion on class readings once, either alone or in groups of 2.

• Short weekly reading responses (30%)
Over the course of the semester, you will compose 10 short comments (ca. 500 words) on the weekly readings and upload it onto Brightspace. This does not have to be a polished piece of work, but should be more than just a summary of the texts. It should end in at least two questions you will wish to discuss in class. You are not required to submit a reading response in weeks when you lead class discussion.

• A final exam (50%)
This two-hour exam is cumulative (i.e., it covers the entire course).

To complete the final mark, please take notice of the following:
The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.
There will be a re-sit of the final exam. The grade for this re-sit will replace the grade of the first final examination and have a weight of 50%.
The course is an integrated whole. The final examination and the assignments must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.
How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Basic reading:
Formichi, Chiara. Islam and Asia: A History. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2020 (available online through the library).
A detailed list of all other course materials (including articles, films, podcasts, websites, etc.) will be made available through Brightspace before the beginning of the course.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website