Masterseminar Political Islam: from the Muslim Brotherhood to the Islamic State
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleFTR-RSMAI100
Credits (ECTS)10
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies; Opleiding Religiestudies;
dr. M.A. Adraoui
Other course modules lecturer
dr. J. Al Korani
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
dr. J. Al Korani
Other course modules lecturer
dr. J. Al Korani
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2023
SEM1  (04/09/2023 to 28/01/2024)
Starting block
Course mode
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesNo
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-
Upon completing this course, students will be able to:
  • differentiate between various Islamic movements, understanding their similarities and divergences in doctrine and practice
  • understand how sociohistorical, political, and economic conditions shape Islamic social and political movements in distinctive ways
  • describe various scholarly analyses of the developments pertaining to the Arab Spring
  • access a range of primary sources which guide an array of contemporary Islamic movements, doing so in the original Arabic when possible
  • conduct a scholarly analysis of a specific theme related to Islamic movements and effectively communicating the results of this investigation to a wider audience
This course surveys the social and political dynamics that have animated Islamic movements, examining these movement’s origins and their afterlives. Although Islamic political movements like the Islamic State (IS), Salafism, or the Muslim Brotherhood are perceived as a “return” to “traditional” forms of society, scholars have demonstrated they are a quintessentially modern phenomenon. Their origins trace back to the 18th and 19th centuries, with their impact magnified by the advent of European colonialism in the region, the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and increased urbanization and mass literacy.

Part I of this course introduces the religious scholars and intellectuals of this foundational era, exploring primary sources and secondary scholarship to understand how these pioneers laid the groundwork for a variety of Islamic movements to come. It is mainly dedicated to a historical and political reflection of the authors, concepts and central works of this current of thoughts and mobilizations that we call "political Islam". Each week, the students, supervised by their professor, will present and discuss some of the major texts of political Islam by placing them in the broader history of past and contemporary Muslim societies, but also in the ideological and religious debate with other authors, Muslim or not. This first part of the seminar will thus see the participants taking an interdisciplinary and comparative interest in the doctrinal corpus that structures each of the many faces of political Islam. We will also see how these works and ideological concepts have evolved over the decades, and in what ways they are today taken up, reformulated or criticized by the actors of political Islam and beyond. This first part of the seminar will thus offer both the opportunity of a multidisciplinary history of Islamist ideas and a broader analysis of the events, debates and evolutions characterizing the Islamic fact past and contemporary.

Part II highlights how Islamic movements are not simply political, in the traditional sense of organizing parties and rallying votes, but also social, in prescribing how individuals ought to live their lives and relate to others. It situates Islamic movements in their sociohistorical, economic, and political context, analyzing how Islamic texts and principles are embodied and interpreted by Muslims towards very different ends, even within the same context. Taking an interdisciplinary approach to understanding Islamic social and political movements and the ways they are embraced and contested on the ground, we explore the manifold ways these movements organize society through Islamic sources and principles. We place a particular emphasis on investigating how the religious landscape of the Middle East has transformed in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, reflecting upon the consequences for present-day Islamic movements.

Though this course cannot comprehensively cover all Islamic movements in the Middle East (let alone in the world beyond), it provides a framework for examining how Muslims debate modern questions of the nation-state, democracy, civil society, and capitalism, among others. Overall, we gain insight into the origins of Islamic movements in the modern world, the ways the Arab Spring transformed their conditions of possibility, and the directions they might take in the decades to come.
This course is part of the Islam Studies MA program.
Presumed foreknowledge
This course presumes a foundational knowledge of the Islamic tradition and social theory.
Test information
Your final grade will be determined by two writing assignments and several in-class presentations:

Presentations (totaling 30%)
Writing Assignment 1 (35%)
Writing Assignment 2 (35%)

Further details on each of these activities will be provided in class.

Required materials
Students are required to read a variety of academic texts (journal articles, book chapters, selections from translated source documents). All required texts will be available on Brightspace.

Instructional modes
Attendance MandatoryYes

Test weight1
Test typePaper
OpportunitiesBlock SEM1, Block SEM2