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`Ulamâ’ in the Modern Muslim World


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Asian Studies (research), to the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) or another relevant Research MA. Students should have had approximately 30 EC worth of courses in Islamic studies at BA level. Students who are interested in taking this course, but who do not fulfil these requirements are requested to contact Prof. Dr. Nico J.G. Kaptein or the student advisor.


This seminar will deal with the present day role of the class of scholars, who represent and continue traditional Islamic scholarship, called the ‘ulamâ’. The underlying question is what their position and relevance is in contemporary societies, which do no longer adhere to a purely religious worldview.
After a theoretical and thematic introduction, in the remainder of the seminar we will deal with the opinions of ‘ulamâ’, as expressed in fatwa’s. Three countries, each with their own social and political dynamics, will be dealt with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia.

Course objectives

The student will get insight into the religious authority and various roles of the ‘ulama’ in different societies, ranging from mere theocracies to more secular countries, and thus be able to assess their contribution to the complex processes of religious change in the modern Muslim world.

The objectives and achievement levels for the programme can be found in the OER of the programme.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Attendance is compulsory for all sessions. Students must prepare well and contribute to in-class discussion. If a student cannot attend because of illness or misadventure, they should promptly inform the convener. Extra assignments may be set to make up for missed class time, at the convener’s discretion. Absence without notification may result in lower grades or exclusion from assessment components and a failing grade for the course.

Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Attendance of the meetings and active participation in the discussions and oral introduction/presentation linked to one (or more) of the meetings (30-45 minutes) 20%
Preparation of meetings, which includes the writing of a brief reading report/summary on the literature for each meeting and the preparation of three written questions related to this literature. Together the report and the questions should be between and 1000 words. The assignment should be submitted via Brightspace ultimately on the day before the seminar takes place, not later than 13.30 h. 30%
Presentation of the outline of one’s paper in final meeting(s) and writing of a paper of approximately 5000 words on a particular fatwa which has been chosen in consultation with Prof. Kaptein (various languages possible, depending on the original language of the text) 50%

The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.

Final Paper
The final paper is written in two stages: a first version which will be commented on and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version. Late submissions of the final version will result in a deduction of paper grades as follows: 1-24 hrs late = -0.5; 24-48 hrs late = -1.0; 48-72 hrs late = -1.5; 72-96 hrs late = -2.0. Late papers will not be accepted more than four days after the deadline, including weekends and will be graded with 1.0.

All categories of assessment must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Only if the total weighted average is 5.49 or lower and this is the result of a paper graded 5.49 or lower, a re-sit of the paper is possible (50%). In that case the convener of the course may decide to assign a (new) topic. The deadline for this version will be determined by the course convener, after consultation with the student.
A resit for other course components is not possible.

Inspection and feedback

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

  • Selected books and articles indicated by the professor. All items used in the course will be available in the Leiden University Library on-line or on the course shelf.


  • MA Middle Eastern Studies students may enroll directly through uSis. The number of places is limited and the principle is first come, first served.

  • MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) students are strongly advised to opt for the Research MA version of the course. They may enroll directly through uSis. The number of places is limited and the principle is first come, first served. Students opting for the regular MA version should contact their Coordinator of Studies, dr. N.A.N.M. van Os for information on the enrollment procedure.

  • MA Asian Studies students should contact their Coordinator of Studies, Dr. M. Winkel for information on the enrollment procedure.

  • MA International Relations students should contact their Coordinator of Studies, Drs. E.J. Walstra for information on the enrollment procedure.

  • MA Religious Studies students should contact their Coordinator of Studies, Drs. L.E. van Swieten for information on the enrollment procedure.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.