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`Ulamâ’ in the Modern Muslim World (ResMA)


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 well before registration.

Students from other programmes than those referred to above are kindly referred to the course description of the regular MA course.


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 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 presentation 20%
Preparation of meetings 30%
Paper 50%

Attendance and presentation
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)

Preparation of meetings
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 500 and 1,000 words. The assignment should be submitted via Brightspace ultimately on the day before the seminar takes place, not later than 13.30 h.

Paper (and presentation of its outline)
Presentation of the outline of one’s paper in final meeting(s) and writing of a paper of approximately 5,000 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)

In order to pass the course, students need a pass mark (“voldoende”, i.e. “5.50” or higher) for the course as a whole.

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 re-sit for other course components is not possible.

Inspection and feedback

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

All literature will be available on-line through the University Library or on the course shelf.

For the Research MA students additional reading will be determined by the convener at a later stage taking into account the students’ fields of interest. Extra sessions will be organized to discuss this extra literature.


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