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Islamic Modern Thought



Islamic studies has generally been approached from either traditional faith-seeking perspectives or the so-called Orientalist perspectives. The uniqueness of the new course is the synthesis of the strengths of both approaches. The need for this course is therefore to encourage the expansion of the study of Islam as an academic discipline, to provide an educational context for the Western world to acquire deeper knowledge of Muslim civilisations and the changes affecting the Muslim world in terms of politics, economics, social structure and issues and to encourage critical thinking and analysis in the study of Islam and Muslims. Students will be introduced to concepts such as Islam and modernity, Islam and human rights, Islam and secularism, combating extremism, moderation in Islam (wasatiyyah) and political Islam.




This course aims to achieve the following among others:


  • To examine contemporary Muslims’ trends and their approaches to the challenges of modernity

  • To critically investigate some complex terms such as jihad and shariah

  • To explore the comprehensive concept of Jihad and  human rights,

  • To examine analytically pluralism in Islam in Islamic thought


 The course will critically examine the following:

  1. Understanding Islam

  2. Approaches to Islamic studies: Orientalism, traditionalism

  3. Islam and modernity

  4. Islamic responses to secularism

  5. Islam and humanism

  6. Islamic notion of human rights

  7. Combating extremism in Islam (al-Ghluww)

  8. Islamic notion of moderation (wasatiyyah)

  9. Reason and revelation in Islam 1

  10. Reason and revelation in Islam 2

  11.  Islam and Multiculturalism

  12. Concluding Remarks and reflections



By the end of the course, the students would be able to:

  • understand the theoretical  and conceptual issues related to Islamic thought

  • demonstrate a deep understanding of the main trends in modern Islamic thought

  • Study critically the important schools within Islam and modernity

  • Enable students to make critical comparative analysis

  • Demonstrate enhanced written and presentational skills


The course will examine the following topics:

  1. Understanding the Qur’an

  2. Compilation of the Qur’an

  3. Approaches to Qur’anic exegesis (manahij al-tafsir)

  4. Occasions of revelation (asbab al-Nuzul)

  5. Division of the Qur’an into Makki and Madani and their characteristics

  6. Content of the Qur’an 1

  7. Content of the Qur’an 2

  8. Content of the Qur’an 3

  9. Inimitability of the Qur’an (I’jaz al-Qur’an)

  10. Modern/contemporary approaches to the Qur’an 1

  11. Modern/contemporary approaches to the Qur’an 2

  12. Concluding Remarks and reflections 



Transferable skills


  1. structure and the ability to communicate ideas effectively both orally and in writing

  2. participate constructively in group discussions and work independently;

  3. Present sound written and oral argument and provide personal views on the  different themes of the course

  4. deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively,




The students will be assessed on one piece of written assignment around the topics of the course or in consultation with the Lecturer (3500-5000 words).


Guidelines to Academic Essay Writing


Explain why this question is important in your introduction (about 500 words). If you feel this question is not important, you may also express this and give explanations why. The introduction might also be the place to explain which topics you are focusing on and why.

Many students make the mistake of providing too many unnecessary details in the introduction or making the essay in general more a description of the topic, rather than answering the question. Bear in mind that essay questions are often phrased in an ambiguous way, not only to test the student’s understanding, but also to provide opportunities for a wide range of answers. Read the question carefully, and ask yourself what it is asking, or whether there is more than one way to read it. You may select one preferred way of reading the question, even there are other alternatives, although it is worth mentioning this in the introduction.

An excellent essay will draw on at least three papers and two books on relevant topics, while also bringing in some examples from primary sources in translation. The argument should be clearly articulated, and well-structured (introduction, interconnected main arguments, conclusion), well-referenced in accordance with the Chicago Humanities style system (footnotes), contain a bibliography, and contain minimal mistakes in spelling and grammar.




Waston, C.W. (2000) Multiculturalism. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Parekh, Bhikhu.  (2006) Rethinking Multiculturalism. New York and Houndsmills: Palgrave Macmillan

Moddod, Tariq. (2007) Multiculturalism. Cambridge: Polity

Naim, Abdullah and Baderin, Mashood A. (2010) Islam and Human Rights. Surrey: Ashgate

Mayer, Elizabeth. (1997) Islam Human Rights. Colorado and Oxford: Westview


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