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Admission requirements



Shiism not only plays a large role in present-day Iran and Iraq, but also in many other regions of the world, in Asia and the Middle East: for example in Lebanon, India, Yemen, Pakistan, Bahrein, Syria and Turkey. In the history of Shi’i Islam North Africa and especially Egypt are of utmost importance. This course aims to cover various aspects and characteristics of Shi’i Islam. Emphasis will be on the historical development of the Shi’a, from the emergence of Islam until the present day. How did Iran become a Shi’ite state, and how can we understand the position of Shi’ism in present-day Iran? How did the Fatimids create a Shi’i caliphate in Egypt, by which Cairo turned into the centre of the world? Are the Alevis in Turkey also Shi’i, and what about the Druze community in Lebanon and Syria? What is at stake with the Houthis in Yemen, where Zaydi Shi’is have played a prominent role for a long period? Why is the month of Muharram so important for Shi’i muslims? Is there a specific Shi’i law? And can we speak of Shi’i art? These and many other topics and issues will be dealt with in this course, in which we will explore various forms of the Shi’a both in a contemporary and a historical perspective. Apart from the Twelver-Shi’a we will dwell on the other branches of Shi’i Islam in existence today, the Isma’iliyya and the Zaydiyya. We will also go into rituals and devotional practices specific for Shi’i Islam, such as the mourning rituals in the month of Muharram, such as expressed, for example in the Iranian passion play (ta’ziye).

Course objectives

At the end of the course students will have acquired knowledge on the basic tenets of Shi’i Islam and the history of Shi’ite communities, as well as insight into the present-day dynamics and diversity of Shi’ism in a global perspective. Also, this course aims at developing student’s writing skills, by way of the written assignment (the writing of a book review).


Time table on the BA Midden-Oosten Studies website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The convenors need to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, family issues, problems with residence permits, the Dutch railways in winter, etc.). In these cases it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) 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.

In case of absence (no more than 2 classes, with prior notification) the student will have to hand in an extra assignment.

Course Load

5 EC x 28 hours = 140 hours
Lectures (13 x 2) 26 hours
Study of compulsory literature 30 hours
Assignment(s), including paper 50 hours
Preparation exam 27 hours
Exam 2 hours
Oral presentation 5 hours

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Weekly assigments and participation 15%
Written examination with short open questions 40%
Paper (book review) 40%
Oral presentation 5%


There is no resit opportunity for the weekly assignments, participation, paper or oral presentation. Students who do not receive a passing final mark may take a resit of the exam which will count again for 40%.

Inspection and feedback

If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.

Reading list

  • Najam Haider, Shi’i Islam: An Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

  • Other readings to be announced during the course, via Blackboard.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable