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Sharia in the West


Please note: The course information for 2017-2018 will be updated later. Below you will find the course information from 2016-2017. As soon as we have an update we will immediately change this information.

Admission requirements

This is a 12 week pilot SPOC course (Small Private Online Course) that allows for a maximum of 50 students. This course can be taken by:

  • Leiden registered students
    The course is intended for students of the Master Theology and Religious Studies. It is also open for master students of Middle East Studies and International Relations, and master students of other faculties. In addition to the general rules set for admission to this Master course students are expected to possess a basic knowledge of the history of Islam and in particular Islam in the West.

  • Non-registered foreign students
    These students must have at least a BA level, either in study relevant to this Master course, or with corresponding academic knowledge and skills. Very good knowledge of English (reading, writing and speaking) is required. The applicant will be selected on his/her academic qualities as well as capabilities to follow and contribute to this course. Since this course encourages students to conducts research on sharia in the West, it is open only to applicants from Europe (including Russia and Ukraine), North and South America, and Australia. Geographical extension of the course is considered for the near future. (See further below, under “Registration” for registration requirements.) Participants who have been admitted on the basis of their application, may be removed from the course if they fail to reach the minimum required level. The instructor will give ample warning before doing so.


The notion and practice of Sharia in the West is entirely new and in continuous development. The topic is a complex interaction between, on the one hand, aspirations of Western Muslims to apply the rules of Islam (sharia) to their everyday lives and, on the other hand, the extent to which Western legal, political, societal and cultural systems allow for such applications.
This course combines instruction and research: it will provide the students with background information and academic tools needed to conduct their own independent research on sharia in the west, which will be completed during this course.
Active participation of the students is key to this course: they are invited to provide examples of sharia from their western countries, and to analyse them by means of discussion and essays.

Course objectives

The students will gain insight in how European policy makers as well as the Muslim communities have been struggling to accommodate an ‘Islamic’ presence in a mostly secular European environment. The students will acquire the skills to read and discuss the documents and articles in a critical fashion, and to develop their personal views on the various topics in a well-founded and coherent manner.
The course aims to provide the students with the necessary background information and theoretical and methodological outlines needed to conduct independent research and to present the results of such research in terms of policy briefs or oral advice to government officials or Muslim community officials.

Mode of instruction

On/offline lectures
Nine lectures that can be reviewed online.


Nine short essays and/or policy briefs (1-2 pages). These essays will be evaluated online by their fellow students, and graded by the instructor.
Multiple Choice tests
Online multiple choice tests are a means to test the student’s understanding of the assigned literature
Online discussion sessions (oral)
Chaired by the instructor, groups of students will engage in discussion based on specific cases or hypotheses, resulting in oral or written policy recommendations to be conveyed to imaginary officials.
Online discussion forum (written)
Students are invited to discuss any issue related to the course’s topic on the discussion forum. This may vary from questions regarding the literature or research projects, to personal experiences and observations, or opinions on issues discussed in class or noted in local news outlets.

Study load

App. 10-12 hrs per week.

Assessment method

Both the Leiden registered and foreign students will have successfully concluded this course when they have a) watched all lectures, b) made all assignments, c) made all MC tests, d) participated in all online discussion sessions, e) participated in at least three discussion forums.
Only the Leiden registered students will receive a grade. Grading of the course is based on: a) 10%, b) 30% c) 20%, d) 30%, e) 10%.


All Leiden registered students are requested to enroll on Blackboard. However, the course itself will make use of another platform that will be communicated to the students in due time.

Reading list

Required literature as well as a general reading list will be made available to the students.


Leiden resident students (including students from other Dutch universities, and foreign students registered at Leiden University) apply through Usis

The non-registered foreign students need to apply for admission by sending an application no later than 01 August 2016 to M.S.Berger

The application should contain:

  • Motivation letter, explaining background, qualifications and interests of candidate (no more than one A4 page);

  • Curriculum with email address, academic background, working experience (no more than two A4 pages);

  • Copies of diplomas and course list(s).

NB: Incomplete applications will not be considered.
The student will hear within a week after his/her application whether he or she is admitted to the course. Appeal to a rejection of the application is not possible.