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Interpreting Islam: contemporary ijtihad in economics and biomedical ethics


Admission requirements

This seminar is primarily intended for M.A. students of Islamic Theology and Religious Studies. However, the seminar is also accessible for students of other specializations such as law, medicine, economy and business administration. In addition to the general rules set for admission to the master’s programme students are expected to possess a basic knowledge of Islamic law.


This seminar tackles the issue of interpreting Islam in the modern time. The focus will be the practice of independent reasoning (ijtihad) among contemporary Muslim scholars. One of the most repeated and heated questions in contemporary Islamic discourse reads: Is it necessary for Muslim religious scholars in the modern time to practise a fresh independent reasoning in Islamic law as their early predecessors did in their own times or should they just stick to the conclusions of their early predecessors?
However, the complications of the 20th and 21st century made this question unfeasible. Contemporary Muslim scholars who aspired to evolve Islamic perspectives on the novel and knotty issues raised in these two centuries could not find all answers in the works of their early predecessors. They felt the necessity of practising a fresh independent reasoning (ijtihad) in order to keep Islam alive in this complicated world. This fresh ijtihad is most visible in two fields, namely, economics and bioethics which will be both discussed during this seminar.

Course objectives

  1. to further develop the students’ in-depth knowledge and understanding of the international academic studies in the field of Islamic law, with particular attention to their relevance for the issues of independent reasoning (ijtihad), Islamic economics and Islamic bioethics and how they relate to the contemporary Western context;
  2. to further develop academic skills, including the students’ experience and abilities in comprehension, analysis, reflection, critical thinking, oral and written communication;
  3. To integrate knowledge and handle complexity, formulate judgements with incomplete or limited information, offer suggestions for further research and arguments for solution of problems;



Mode of instruction

The Seminar will be divided into four main parts; I. Independent reasoning (Ijtihad), II. Islamic economics, III. Islamic bioethics and IV. research paper. During the sessions dedicated to the first three parts, a number of presentations based on the reading assignments will be given by the participating students. These presentations will be criticized and discussed by the staff and the students. The last 3 sessions will be dedicated to the fourth part. During these sessions attention will be paid to the outlines of the research papers to be prepared by the participants who are willing to upgrade their participation in the seminar to 10 ECTS.

Assessment method

Active participation in class, presentation and end-term paper


Will be used during the seminar for different purposes such as getting access to extra material, internal discussions, PowerPoint, presentations etc.

Reading list

The list of the compulsory readings will be available during the first session of the seminar.


Via uSis.
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Dr. Mohammed M. Ghaly
Faculty of Humanities
Leiden Institute for The Study of Religions
Matthias de Vrieshof 1,
Room no. 104C
Tel: +31 71 5273101


Class attendance is required. Absence more than three times will disqualify the student from obtaining a final grade.