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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies

Undergraduate Course: Islam in Modern Societies (IMES10077)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe contemporary Islamic revival has generated much discussion about the compatibility between Islam and modernity. In fact, this debate seems irrelevant in the light of the profound changes Islam (understood here as a set of evolving interpretations and practices, rather than as a stable essence) has undergone as a result of the last century's radical social transformations. The course addresses the most important of these changes, such as the exponential rise in religious literacy, the struggle over female modesty, the development of the mass media, the partial secularisation of law, the unprecedented growth of state control over religion, religious authority the emergence of Islamic movements, the redefinitions of orthodoxy, evolving patterns of Sunni-Shiite and Muslim-non-Muslim cooperation and conflict, attempts at Islamising economy, pan-Islamist projects, and the spread of Islam in the West.
Course description 1. Approaches to the sociology and anthropology of modern Islam
Over the last decades, social sciences have provided conflicting definitions of ¿Islam¿. Should it be approached from an essentialist and normative point of view, and equated with the notion of ¿orthodoxy¿? Or, in a relativist fashion, with whatever Muslims do and think? Social scientists have also disagreed over whether Islamic beliefs and practices determine the broader social order, or, conversely, are shaped by economic, social and political realities.
2. The rise of mass religious literacy and education
In the 20th century, Islam underwent a genuine revolution: whereas in the past only a minority of Muslims had been able to read, the advent of mass literacy created large audiences for text-based religious education. Combined with the establishment of new kinds of Islamic seminaries, this development entailed an unprecedented increase in the number of religious specialists, with the result that the most remote villages were now endowed with a mosque and an imam. These changes would radically transform the religious experience of most Muslims.
3. The Mass-media: New discourses, new authorities?
Mass literacy created a sizeable market for ¿print Islam¿, a phenomenon that did not only allow religious elites to reach wider audiences, but also entailed the emergence of new types of Islamic writings and writers. In addition to the traditional scholastic treaties of the ulama, Muslims now had the possibility to read Islamic newspapers, booklets, essays and textbooks written in a modern fashion by journalists, public intellectuals, and state officials. The appearance of other mass media (radio, television, audio-video recordings, and the internet) brought about a ¿post-modern¿ media sphere characterised by a proliferation of both highly formatted and rough, self-made contents. The combination of mass literacy and the new media has led some authors to speak of the ¿fragmentation of religious authority¿ in modern Islam: whereas in the past this authority was centralised in the hands of a relatively small group of religious scholars, it was now claimed by a much wider population of educated Muslims. However, recent studies on ¿traditional¿ Islamic authorities have demonstrated the latter¿s ability not only to withstand, but also to take advantage of social change.
4. (Dis)implementing sharia: Law and fiqh in the modern age
From the 19th century on, Muslim rulers and Western colonisers partially secularised legal systems, often leaving personal status as the only aspect of law that was still based on sharia. As a result, the reestablishment of Islamic law would become one of the core demands of Islamic movements. Nevertheless, sharia has continued to govern the lives of many Muslims in a non-biding way through fatwas. Because of social and technological change, the latter have had to address a growing number of previously unknown issues, while the ¿fatwa business¿ has expanded in unprecedented way with the foundation of specialised institutions and the use of the new media.
5. State Islam
The rulers of modern Muslim states, be they ¿conservative¿ or ¿progressive¿, have constantly manipulated religious symbols in order to buttress their legitimacy. Like their predecessors of the previous centuries, they have seen to it that the head of the religious establishment be a loyal figure that condones their decisions. Official policies also included a totally new feature, that is, the establishment of a vast religious bureaucracy through which some states have attempted to ¿nationalise Islam¿. At the same time, most modern states have tried to ¿secularise¿ Islam, that is, to make it a narrowly-defined ¿religion¿ with little practical implications for the broader social and political life.
6. Mobilising the faithful: Islamic activism
Although Sufi brotherhoods remained influential in the modern era as some of them managed to adapt to the challenges of the time, new organisational structures took hold in Muslim societies. Whereas brotherhoods relied on informal, charisma-based hierarchy, Western-inspired associations, societies and political parties introduced an alternative, bureaucratic model. Modern Islamic movements also took a variety of forms in order to address changing priorities: whereas in the colonial era they focused on grassroots activism (education, charity) and nationalist struggle, after independence they were faced with authoritarian secularist regimes.
7. Women: the quiet revolution
From the start of the modern era, women have been the subject of fierce controversies between the proponents of their ¿liberation¿ from the yoke of tradition, and the advocates of female modesty as a bulwark against Westernisation. At the same time, mass education and urbanisation gave rise to a quiet revolution in the role of women in religious life, as they were now attending mosques, participating in Islamic movements, and claiming the right to become religious scholars.
8. On the Umma¿s Borders
a. (Re)defining orthodoxy: the Salafi challenge
From the 19th century on, various brands of Salafi Islam have challenged both the ¿deviant¿ practices of popular religion and the theological, legal and mystical pillars of ¿traditional¿ Sunni orthodoxy. Although the conflict receded somewhat in the postcolonial era as rival Islamic trends united against secular ideologies, it grew fiercer after the Cold War as a result of the Salafis¿ success in securing a sizeable popular base.
b. Sunni-Shia Sectarianism
The Sunni-Shia divide is almost as old as Islam itself, but it has taken new forms in the 20th century, as mass literacy and the new media allowed to turn each group into a well defined ¿imagined community¿ (B. Anderson). Although the 20th century
witnessed several attempts at promoting Sunni-Shia cooperation, by the start of the next millennium, conflict had become an increasingly prominent pattern in countries such as Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Pakistan, and Bahrain.
9. From Islamic economy to market Islam
Caught in the middle of the struggle between capitalism and socialism, 20th century Muslims have reacted by providing both theories of ¿Islamic economy¿ and practical solutions to implement them. Regardless of revolutionary Iran¿s state-centred approach, the most significant steps have been the impressive development of charities, from neighbourhood associations to worldwide foundations, and the rise of Islamic finance. However, far from challenging the global economic order, the most visible proponents of Islamic economy in the early 21st century have displayed striking elective affinities with neo-liberalism, to the extent that several authors have spoken of the emergence of ¿market Islam¿.
10. Dreams and realities of a united Umma: Globalised Islam
On the eve of the First World War, Pan-Islamism was first and foremost a project promoted by political and religious elites. One century later, the same elites have to adapt to a radically different context, as new information technologies and cheap travel have made globalised Islam part of the daily religious experience of millions of pilgrims, migrants, militants, and internet users.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Before enrolling students on this course, you are asked to contact the IMES Secretary to ensure that a place is available (Tel: 504182, e-mail
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 courses in a suitable subject area at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Ability to formulate a critical analysis of the main transformations that have affected interpretations and practices of Islam over the last century.
  2. Ability to situate current events pertaining to Islam in the wider context of the transformations expounded in the course.
  3. Ability to relate these transformations and current events to the key relevant scholarly debates.
  4. Ability to evaluate and critique scholarly and other writings on the above topics.
  5. Developing presentational and organisational skills through team-prepared/team-delivered presentations
Reading List
1. Introduction

Ernest Gellner, Muslim society. (Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981).
Clifford Geertz, Islam observed; religious development in Morocco and Indonesia. (New Haven,: Yale University Press, 1968).
Michael Gilsenan, Recognizing Islam : religion and society in the modern Middle East (London ; New York: Tauris, 1990).
Talal Asad, The Idea of an Anthropology of Islam. (Washington: Georgetown University 1986).
Samuli Schielke, "Second thoughts about the anthropology of Islam," ZMO Working Papers 2 (2010).
Baudouin Dupret, Thomas Pierret, Paulo Pinto and Kathryn Spellman-Poots (ed.), Ethnographies of Islam. Ritual Performances and Everyday Practices (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012).

2. The Advent of mass religious literacy
Richard Antoun, Muslim Preacher in the Modern World. A Jordanian Case Study. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989).
Gregory Starrett, Putting Islam to work: education, politics, and religious transformation in Egypt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).
Eickelman, Dale, Knowledge and Power in Morocco (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985).
Robert W. Hefner and Muhammad Qasim Zaman, Schooling Islam: the Culture and Politics of Modern Muslim Education. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2007).

3. Modern media and new audiences
Francis Robinson, "Technology and Religious Change: Islam and the Impact of Print," Modern Asian Studies 27 (1993): 229-51.
Muhammad Qasim Zaman, "Print and Patronage: 'Hadith' and the Madrasas in Modern South Asia," Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 62 (1999), 60-81.
Dyala Hamaza, "From 'Ilm to Sihafa or the Politics of the Public Interest (Maslaha): Muhammad Rashîd Rida and his journal al-Manar (1898-1935)," in: Dyala Hamzah (Ed.), The Making of the Arab Intellectual (1880-1960: Empire, Public Sphere and the Colonial Coordinates of Selfhood (London: Routledge, 2012).
Dale F. Eickelman and Jon W. Anderson, New media in the Muslim world: the emerging public sphere. (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2003).
Skovgaard-Petersen, Jakob. 'The Global Mufti.' In Globalization and the Muslim World: Culture, Religion, and Modernity. Edited by Birgit Schäbler and Leif Stenberg (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2004), 153-65.
Charles Hirschkind, The Ethical Soundscape : Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006).
Gary R. Bunt, iMuslims: Rewiring the house of Islam. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009).

4. (Dis)implementing sharia: Law and fiqh in the modern age
Lawrence Rosen, The Justice of Islam : comparative perspectives on Islamic law and society. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).
Sami Zubaida, Law and power in the Islamic world (London ; New York: I.B. Tauris, 2003).
Baudouin Dupret, Barbara Drieskens and Annelies Moors, Narratives of truth in Islamic law. (London ; New York: I. B. Tauris, 2008).
Muhammad Khalid Masud, Brinkley Morris Messick and David Stephan Powers, Islamic Legal Interpretation: Muftis and their Fatwas. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996).
Nico Kaptein, "The voice of the `Ulamâ : fatwas and religious authority in Indonesia," Archives de sciences sociales des religions 49 (2004): 115-30.
Hussein Ali Agrama, "Ethics, authority, tradition: towards an anthropology of the fatwa," American Ethnologist 37 (2010), 2-18.

5. State Islam
Malika Zeghal, "Religion and Politics in Egypt: The Ulema of Al-Azhar, Radical Islam, and the State (1952¿94)," International Journal of Middle East Studies 31 (1999), 371-99
Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen, Defining Islam for the Egyptian State: Muftis and Fatwas of the Dar al-Ifta. (Leiden: Brill, 1997).
Jerry M. Long, Saddam's War of Words: Politics, Religion, and the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004).
Richard Antoun, "Fundamentalism, Bureaucratization and the State's Co-optation of Religion: A Jordanian Case Study," International Journal of Middle East Studies 38 (2006): 369-93.
Patrick Gaffney, "Conforming at a Distance: the Diffusion of Islamic Bureaucracy in Upper Egypt," in Upper Egypt Egypt: Identity and Change. R. Saad and N. Hopkins (ed.) (Cairo: American University of Cairo, 2004), 119-40.
Thomas Pierret, "The State Management of Religion in Syria: the End of 'Indirect Rule'?," in Steven Heydemann, Reinoud Leenders (dir.), Comparing Authoritarianisms: Reconfiguring Power and Regime Resilience in Syria and Iran (Stanford University Press ou Indiana University Press).

6. Mobilising the faithful: Islamic activism
Brynjar Lia, The Society of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt: the rise of an Islamic Mass Movement 1928-1942. (Reading: Ithaca, 1998).
Mazen Hashem, "Contemporary Islamic Activism: The Shades of Praxis," Sociology of Religion 67 (2006), 23-41.
Charles Hirschkind, "What is Political Islam?," Middle East Report (2007).
Jenny White, Islamist Mobilization in Turkey: A Study in Vernacular Politics (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002).
Carrie Rosefsky Wickham, Mobilizing Islam religion, activism, and political change in Egypt (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002).
Quintan Wiktorowicz, Islamic activism: a social movement theory approach. (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 2004).
Mohammed M. Hafez, Why Muslims rebel: repression and resistance in the Islamic world. (Boulder, Colo.; London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2003).
Thomas Hegghammer, Jihad in Saudi Arabia : violence and pan-Islamism since 1979. (Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010).
Stéphane Lacroix, Awakening Islam. Religious Dissent in Contemporary Saudi Arabia. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011).

7. Debating religious authority
Frédéric Volpi, Bryan Turner (ed.), Making Islamic Authority Matter (special issue of Theory, Politics & Society 24 (2007), 1-19.
Muhammad Qasim Zaman, The Ulama in Contemporary Islam: Custodians of Change. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002).
Gudrun Krämer and Sabine Schmidtke (ed.), Speaking for Islam: Religious Authorities in Muslim Societies. (Leiden ; Boston: Brill, 2006).
Malika Zeghal. "The 'Recentering' of Religious Knowledge and Discourse: The Case of Al-Azhar in Twentieth Century Egypt." In Schooling Islam: The Culture and Politics of Modern Muslim Education. Robert W Hefner and Muhammad Qasim Zaman, eds. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

8. Women: the quiet revolution
Margot Badran, Feminism in Islam: Secular and Religious Convergences. (Oxford: Oneworld, 2009).
Leila Ahmed, A Quiet Revolution: The Veil's Resurgence, from the Middle East to America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011).
Masooda Bano and Hilary Kalmbach (ed.), Women, Leadership, and Mosques. Changes in Contemporary Islamic Authority (Leiden: Brill, 2011).
Miriam Cooke, "Zaynab al-Ghazali: Saint or Subversive?," Die Welt des Islams 34 (1994): 1-20.
Lara Deeb, An Enchanted Modern: Gender and Public Piety in Shi'i Lebanon (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006).
Saba Mahmood, Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005).
Zakia Salime, Between Feminism and Islam: Human Rights and Sharia Law in Morocco (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011).
Maimuna Huq, "Reading the Qur¿an in Bangladesh: the politics of belief among Islamist women," Modern Asian Studies 42 (2008): 457-88.

9. (Re)defining orthodoxy
Brett Wilson, "The Failure of Nomenclature: The Concept of 'Orthodoxy' in the Study of Islam," Comparative Islamic Studies 3 (2007): 169-94.
Samuli Schielke, "On snacks and saints: when discourses of rationality and order enter the Egyptian mawlid," Archives de sciences sociales des religions (2006).
Katherine Ewing, "The Politics of Sufism: Redifining the Saints of Pakistan," Journal of Asian Studies 42 (1983), 251-68.
Julian Johansen, Sufism and Islamic Reform in Egypt. The Battle for Islamic Tradition. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996).
Matthijs van den Bos, Mystic regimes : Sufism and the state in Iran, from the late Qajar era to the Islamic Republic. (Leiden; Boston, MA: Brill, 2002).
Alexander Knysh, "Contextualizing the Salafi - Sufi conflict (from the Northern Caucasus to Hadramawt)," Middle Eastern Studies 43 (2007): 503-30.
Itzchak Weismann, "The Politics of Popular Religion: Sufis, Salafis, and Muslim Brothers in 20th-Century Hamah," International Journal of Middle East Studies 37 (2005): 39-58.
Mark J. Sedgwick, "Saudi Sufis: Compromise in the Hijaz, 1925-40," Die Welt des Islams 37 (1997): 349-68.
Sadia Saeed, "Pakistani Nationalism and the State Marginalisation of the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan," Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism 7 (2007): 132-52.
A. Nizar Hamzeh and R. Hrair Dekmejian, "A Sufi Response to Political Islamism: Al-Ahbash of Lebanon," International Journal of Middle East Studies 28 (1996): 217-29.

10. On the Umma's borders
Rainer Brunner, Islamic Ecumenism in the 20th Century: the Azhar and Shiism between Rapprochement and Restraint (Leiden ; Boston: Brill, 2004).
Brigitte Maréchal and Sami Zemni (ed.), The Dynamics of Sunni-Shia Relationships: Doctrine, Transnationalism, Intellectuals and the Media (London: Hurst, 2012).
Werner Ende, "Sunni Polemical Writings on the Shi'a and the Iranian Revolution," in The Iranian Revolution and the Muslim World, ed. David Menashri (Boulder: Westview Press, 1990), 219-32.
Guido Steinberg, "Jihadi-Salafism and the Shi'is," in Global Salafism. Islam's New Religious Movement, ed. Roel Meijer (London: Hurst, 2009), 107-25.
Nicolas Pelham, A new Muslim order : the Shia and the Middle East sectarian crisis. (London: I.B. Tauris, 2008).
Khaled Ahmed, Sectarian war : Pakistan's Sunni-Shia violence and its links to the Middle East. (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2011).
Max Weiss, In the shadow of sectarianism : law, Shi'ism, and the making of modern Lebanon. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2010). (Chapter 5)
Goddard, H., A History of Christian-Muslim Relations (Edinburgh University Press, 2000).
Peter Makari, Conflict and Cooperation: Christian-Muslim Relations in Contemporary Egypt (Syracuse University Press, 2007).

11. From Islamic economy to market Islam
Charles Tripp, Islam and the moral economy: the challenge of capitalism (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
Cihan Tu¿al, Passive Revolution: Absorbing the Islamic Challenge to Capitalism (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2009).
Clement Henry and Rodney Wilson (ed.), The Politics of Islamic Finance, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004), 17-36.
Special issues of ISIM Review on Islamic charity (20/2007).
Quintan Wiktorowicz and Suha Taji Farouki, "Islamic NGOs and Muslim Politics: a Case from Jordan " Third World Quarterly 21 (2000): 685-99.
Janine A. Clark, Islam, Charity and Activism: Middle-Class Networks and Social Welfare in Egypt, Jordan, and Yemen. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004).
Thomas Pierret and Kjetil Selvik, "Limits of 'Authoritarian Upgrading' in Syria. Welfare Privatization, Islamic Charities and the Rise of the Zayd Movement," International Journal of Middle East Studies 41 (2009): 595-614.
Thomas Pierret, "Merchant background, bourgeois ethics. The Syrian Ulama and economic liberalization," in Christa Salamandra and Leif Stenberg (ed.) (forthcoming edited volume at Syracuse University Press).
Rudnyckyj, Daromir, "Market Islam in Indonesia," The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 15 (2009): S183-S201.

12. Dreams of a united Umma
Olivier Roy. Globalised Islam: The Search for a New Ummah (London: Hurst, 2004).
Peter Mandaville, Global Political Islam (London: Routledge, 2007).
Engseng Ho. The Graves of Tarim: Genealogy and Mobility across the Indian Ocean. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.
Gillette, Maris. Between Mecca and Beijing: Modernization and Consumption among Urban Chinese Muslims (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2000).
John Bowen, "Beyond Migration: Islam as a Transnational Public Space," Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. Volume 30, Issue 5 (2004): 879-894.
Miriam Cook and Bruce B. Lawrence (eds.), Muslim Networks from Hajj to Hip Hop. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.
Leonard, Karen. ¿Transnational and Cosmopolitan Forms of Islam in the West. Harvard Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Review 8 (2007): 176-199.
Thomas Hegghammer, "The Rise of Muslim Foreign Fighters. Islam and the Globalization of Jihad," International Security 35 (2010).

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsIMES IsModSoc
Course organiserDr Thomas Pierret
Tel: (0131 6)50 4148
Course secretaryMrs Vivien MacNish Porter
Tel: (0131 6)50 3528
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