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Modern Thinkers and Trends in Islam


Admission requirements

Introduction to the Study of Islam.
If you do not have had some sort of introductory course, please contact the teacher for some additional readings you ought to complete before the start of the course.


Since the twentieth century the world witnesses Islamist militancy and politics in Africa,
Asia, and the Near East. In (post)colonial settings, there is the emergence of Salafism, and Islam has become the source of concern and debate in Europe and North America. Are these developments novel and unique to Islam, or can we discern trends that go back to the revivalism and reformism of the nineteenth and early twentieth century? In this course we will study the socio-political conditions and historic narratives which gave rise to these events, but we will also examine how Muslims are engaged socio-politically today. What are the contemporary trends notable within the community, and how do its adherents and thinkers engage with the challenges this era offers or with the opportunities it produces?Case studies will be drawn globally with topics like green Islam, (bio)ethics, migration, feminism, and Muslim Futurism. Special attention herein will be given to traditionalism, reformism, Salafism, and Sufism, with reference to liberation theology, secularization, and philosophical discourses. The representative thinkers of those trends are discussed. This course will demonstrate that most of these trends can be explained in the context of Islam as a living tradition – a vibrant faith that is dynamically and continuously practiced, developed, and challenged. Next to the required academic literature we will look at these trends and thinkers through a variety of creative means, including film, literature, music, and poetry.

Course objectives

Knowledge: the course offers knowledge of a) the history of the most prominent Muslim figures and movements in modern Islamic thinking, b) a typology of modern trends, and c) the main topics and concepts of contemporary Islamic thought.
Reasoning: Students will learn how to think through complex and political implications of linking theory and practice.
Creative Inquiry and Discovery: Students will gain insights into a) vernacular socio-cultural movements, and how Islam is a lived tradition, that is explored, understood, and shaped by its followers and b) . in the diversity of thinkers and trends. With these insights, they will be able think with and beyond categories, histories and identities. Global Consciousness: This course develops students’ senses of the interconnectivity and complexity of global systems and discourses, while attributing attention to how difference and locality impact modern projects.

  • Social Awareness and Cultural Understanding: Students will gain a working knowledge of the complexity of contemporary Islam and will come to understand how the notion of a Muslim is one that is configured, contested, and reimagined consistently throughout time.

  • Skills: The students will learn how to express their views and present complex issues by oral and written means.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Assessement and weighing

10% - Weekly Discussion Board Posts
Every week, you hand in a reflection on the readings by posting 3 annotated questions about noted interests, paradoxes, controversies, weaknesses, or strengths encountered while reading. The grading of these assignments is with one of three grades: 10 (meets all standards), 6 (ok, but not good enough), 0 (below standards, or not handed in). Of the twelve weeks, the ten highest grades will be calculated: this means that the student may miss, skip or fail a maximum of two assignments (NB: justified absences like sickness will also count as one of the two permitted missed assignments).

30%- Midterm Paper: Critical Reflection
You will be expected to write a critical reflection on the literature discussed in the first seven weeks. This assignment asks you to identify main themes/red threads throughout the sessions, to unpack them, and analyze them succinctly.

60% - Final Essay: Research Project
For the final essay, you choose one week on the syllabus and provide a deep-dive study by linking the literature to a case-study found within the Islamic world today. I expect you to strongly connect theory to practice (or practice to theory) by discussing how some of the main themes you found noteworthy throughout the course are manifested (or not) within Muslim contemporality today, showcasing your ability to engage, reflect, and grapple with the material in real life settings.


If the final grade is a failing grade, the resit consists of the final essay with a new topic, which will count for 60%, to be assigned by the lecturer. The resit deadline will be at least 10 working days after the failing grade has been issued.

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

All readings can be found through the Leiden Library.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Registration Contractonderwijs.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the information bar on the right.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Vrieshof


Please note that the additional course information is an integral part of this course description.