Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)


Department: Government and International Affairs


Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Not available in 2020/21 Module Cap None.


  • Evidence of prior knowledge of issues in classical Muslim religious thought required


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To provide students with an advanced understanding of the how Muslim religious thought engages with contemporary sociopolitical issues such as modernity, governance, democracy, human rights and jihad.
  • To enable students to appreciate the diversity and complexity of Muslim religious engagement with contemporary sociopolitical issues.
  • To enable students to reach an in-depth understanding of the methodological assumptions underlying key trends in Muslim thought as it relates to the issues and challenges of modernity.
  • To provide students with an insight into the points of convergence and divergence between different trends in, and approaches to, contemporary sociopolitical issues among Muslim scholars.


  • 1. Introductory lecture: course overview; the breakdown of the Muslim empires.
  • 2. Islam and modernity. Themes: challenges posed by the rise of Europe, the Enlightenment project and the rise of secularism; the Muslim crisis of identity and post-colonialist discourse.
  • 3.Islam and Governance. Themes: the response of Muslim scholars to the dissolution of the Caliphate and the rise of nation states; revivalism and reformism; scriptural, ethical, philosophical and mystical foundations of Muslim political thought; the notion of ‘Islamic government.’
  • 4. Jihad. Themes: Jihad in the Qur’an; conceptions of jihad through history; jihad in the contemporary Muslim milieu.
  • 5. Islam and Democracy. Themes: Is there a Qur’anic basis for democratic governance?; are there historical precedents of democratic thinking in Muslim scholarship; contemporary approaches to the issue of the compatibility of Islam and democracy.
  • 6.Islam and Human Rights. Themes: the Muslim scriptural basis of human rights discourse; Muslim theology, philosophy and human rights; universality and relativism; contemporary approaches to the issue of the compatibility of Muslim religious thought with contemporary human rights discourse.
  • 7.Islam and Gender. Themes: Gender relationships in the Qur’an; gender relations in theory and practice; evolution of legal discourse with relation to the issue of gender; the Muslim mystical approach to gender.
  • 8.Islam and Diversity. Themes: Diversity and plurality in the Qur’an; religious pluralism; political pluralism.
  • 9.Islam and The Self. Themes: How does the Qur’an see the ‘self’; Islam between individual and society; the Muslim self in a secular environment.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • To understand how Muslim religious thought is engaging with the structural and cultural shifts in the contemporary world.
  • To understand the nature and diversity of Muslim approaches to key contemporary sociopolitical issues.
  • To understand the different methodological characteristics of the prominent Muslim religious approaches to contemporary sociopolitical discourse.
  • To develop insight into how classical Muslim religious thought is informing the contemporary Muslim responses to the sociopolitical issues of the day.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • To be able to identify the commonalities and points of divergence between the different Muslim approaches to contemporary sociopolitical issues.
  • To develop the intellectual tools which will allow them to appreciate and engage with the variety of assumptions which underpin the diversity of contemporary Muslim engagement with modern sociopolitical issues.
  • To be able to appreciate that contemporary Muslim religious thought is multi-faceted and non-monolithic in nature.
  • To be able to identify and critically appraise the different methodological assumptions underlying the various trends in contemporary Muslim religious thought, and to gauge the impact of these trends on wider Muslim socio-political and religious discourse.
Key Skills:
  • Independent learning within a defined framework of study at an advanced level.
  • Independent thought in analysing and critiquing existing scholarship on the subject area and in evaluating its contribution.
  • The ability to work to a deadline and complete written work within specified word limits.
  • Advanced essay-writing skills.
  • The ability to seek out and use relevant primary and secondary sources, including electronic and bibliographic sources.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching is by lecture and discussion-based seminar, which allows the students to debate the assigned topics. Guidelines will be given by the tutor. At MA level, seminars are appropriate for the students because they are from different academic backgrounds. Seminars also allow for a better exchange and flow of views and ideas.
  • Assessment is through one formative assignment and one summative assignment on a specific topic. Essay writing is an appropriate method with the maximum freedom for students to express their ideas and reflect what they have learnt.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 9 weekly 1 hour 9
Seminars 9 weekly 1 hour 9
Preparation and Reading 132
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative assignment - submitted at the beginning of Easter Term 4000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:


Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University