Modern Islam: Liberal and Fundamentalist Thought - RSST6160

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


The primary aims of this module are to give you a critical grounding in Islamic sources, thinkers and theories relevant to the development of Islamic liberal and fundamentalist perspectives, and it also explores the ways in which these perspectives bear upon contemporary debates and events. It will equip you with the ability to situate current views within their historical and theological context, critically assess them, and constructively apply them to current phenomena. The module will introduce you to key Islamic debates such as those which address textual interpretation, the relation between revelation and human reason, and the nature of political authority. It will familiarise you with key sources such as the Qur'an, Hadith and treatises of key Islamic theologians and jurists, and it will introduce you to classical and modern theorists from Ibn Taymiyyah to Tariq Ramadan. A range of case studies will allow you to apply these sources and theories to contemporary situations. The module draws lessons for critical thinking about the way in which social context and religious premises affect both religious and political theories. These sources and skills will provide a basis for the analytical work that you undertake in your assessed work.


Contact hours

2-hour lecture per week, 1-hour seminar per week to 10 teaching weeks


Also available as TH615 (Level 5)

Method of assessment

50% Coursework
50% Exam

Indicative reading

Students will be provided with a course reading pack with selected readings relating to each of the sessions. More general introductory texts would be:

Ernest Gellner Muslim Society Cambridge University Press 1983
Seyyed Hossein Nasr Islamic Life and Thought State University of New York Press 1981
Charles Kurzman Liberal Islam: A Sourcebook Oxford University Press 1998
Judith Tucker Women, Family and Gender in Islamic Law Cambridge University Press 2008

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students should be able to:
i) understand critically the issues in identifying uniquely 'Islamic' forms of liberalism and fundamentalism
ii) understand the historical development and cultural context of different political philosophies in Islamic culture
iii) situate liberal and fundamentalist movements within the broader debates in Islamic culture (e.g. concerning interpretation of scripture and text, competing notions of leadership and polity, or of jurisprudence and individual rights)
iv) identify and analyse key sources of Islamic thought on liberalism and fundamentalism, situating them in relation to their interpretation by subsequent traditions
v) engage critically with key Islamic theologians and political thinkers, demonstrating a clear understanding of their work and its context, an ability to articulate a balanced and well-informed critique of it, and an ability to assess their concepts in relation to contemporary theories and events


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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