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Islam, Reason and Science: Renewal of Islamic Thought


Admission requirements

Completion of the course: “Modern Thinkers and Trends in Islam,” or any other equivalent level or knowledge (in agreement with the lecturer)


The course builds upon the course “Modern Thinkers and Trends in Islam.” The course focuses on how Muslim scholars, both Sunni and Shi’i, have stressed the need for the renewal and reform of Islamic thought in the modern age in order to find answers to the contemporary pressing theological, philosophical and scientific issues, such as Darwinism, cosmology and causality. In this course, we shall deal with the renewal movements within modern Islamic theology and philosophy, which have emerged in the late nineteenth century until nowadays. Special attention will be given to their foundational texts and critical views in relation to the most significant characteristics of the traditional epistemology, religious authority of the past as well as philosophy and theology. We shall read the works and ideas of such thinkers as Sayyid Ahmad Khan, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Muhammad Abduh, Shibli al-Nu’mani, Isma’il Haqqi, Mohammed Iqbal, Fazul Rahman en Hasan Hanafi.

Course objectives

Knowledge: upon the completion of the course students are expected to have gained knowledge regarding the most important modern interpretations of the Islamic faith and dogma’s in the light of modern philosophy and sciences.
Insight: Students should get insight into the developments of the Islamic thought and the different re-interpretations and critical methods applied to science and reason.
Skills: students can 1) analytically deal with the reformist and modernist views and methods used in modern Islamic thought, 2) place the most important theological issues in a broader cultural and social context, and 3) deepen his/her critical knowledge of the most important sources in the field of modern Islam.



Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Research
    Students are expected to take active participation by carefully reading the given assignments (see below) and giving a brief presentation on the materials during the class. The student should make a critical analysis of the selected chapter or article in the light of at least one scientific work (book, chapter, article, etc.) cited by the author. The teacher’s task will be to give scientific supplements and detailed comments on the students’ presentations. Students are required to discuss an outline which will be a guideline for a research paper.

Course Load

– Attendance: 2 × 12 weeks = 24 hours.
– Mandatory literature: 80 hours
– Final Research Paper: 40 hours

Assessment method

Written exam: 60%
Active participation in class + paper: 40%


Yes, Blackboard

Reading list

A reader will be available to students in advance.
M. Sait Ozervarli, “Attempts to Revitalize Kalam in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries”, The Muslim World, 89: 1 (January 1999), 89–105
Christian W. Troll, Sayyid Ahmad Khan: A Reinterpretation of Muslim Theology, Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi, 1978
Nikki R. Keddie, An Islamic Response to Imperialism: Political and Religious Writings of Sayyid Jamāl Ad-Dīn “al-Afghānī, University of California Press, 1983


Via uSis
In addition to the registration in uSis, students are also expected to self-enroll in Blackboard a few weeks before the course starts.

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

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration à la carte via:

Registration Contractonderwijs via:

Contact information

Dr. Umar Ryad + 31 (0) 71 5272568


Course language: English (or in Dutch: when all participants have a working knowledge of Dutch)

Presence is obligatory; the student can be excluded from the exam with more than 3x absence