Undergraduate Module Descriptor

ARA3195: Islam Contested: Faith, Thought and Politics in the Contemporary World

This module descriptor refers to the 2017/8 academic year.

Module Aims

The module aims to develop a balanced understanding of contemporary Islam and Muslim faith, thought and politics worldwide. It will tackle a series of key issues: Why is Islamic authority today contested and fragmented? What has happened to Muslim devotional life, Sufism, learned Islamic cultures and Islamic law in the shadow of ideology and politics? Are there viable new approaches to the Qur’an? Who wants an Islamic state, and what are the rival Islamic visions of society and state? Why did Islamism rise to prominence and where is it heading? Is jihadism here to stay? What are the defining stances of traditional and progressive Muslim trends? By studying such questions, different kinds of texts, and relevant contexts, you will gain the skills to discuss aspects of contemporary Islam and competing Islamic actors and agendas in current affairs in a balanced and analytical manner.

In addition to a wide range of academic literature, the module aims to integrate current media reports, audio-visual and web-based materials, and translated texts by contemporary Islamic thinkers and activists, providing you with opportunities to consolidate your generic skills of textual analysis and intellectual and critical enquiry. The module encourages discussion of future trends and possibilities, inviting you to anticipate unfolding trends in the world of Islam much as policy communities grapple with this, encouraging you to develop the skills to argue evidence-informed cases and to formulate strategic thinking. Learning and skills opportunities make the module relevant to a broad range of research and employment contexts, while the knowledge it imparts is relevant to contexts requiring expertise on the Middle East, the Muslim world, politics, security and religion in the modern world.

The module will also provide you with a level of knowledge that will enable you to discuss this not only in selected cases, but also in global terms. As a grasp of pertinent historical factors is indispensable to understanding contemporary Islamic realities the module aims to provide you with knowledge of the major historical developments that continue to drive contemporary Islam, from the experience of colonial modernity to the rise of nation-states, the decades of the Islamic ‘resurgence’, and the emergence of radical, anti- and post-Islamism in the global arena. This will equip you with the necessary perspective and understanding to critically assess media analyses of aspects of contemporary Islam. 

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

This module's assessment will evaluate your achievement of the ILOs listed here – you will see reference to these ILO numbers in the details of the assessment for this module.

On successfully completing the programme you will be able to:
Module-Specific Skills1. Demonstrate advanced knowledge and a nuanced understanding of contemporary Islam, encompassing its evolution and diversification, and its major constitutive and competing religious, ideological and intellectual trends;
2. Identify, analyse and account for the changed expressions of contemporary Islam compared with its antecedents;
3. Demonstrate an informed alertness to the central concerns and preoccupations of contemporary Islam, the changed credentials of its 20th century spokespersons and possible future challenges;
4. Make effective use of the relevant secondary scholarly literature and a representative selection of primary sources in translation to research aspects of contemporary Islam;
5. Critically engage with discussions of contemporary Islam in scholarly and other literatures and in mainstream media;
6. Understand and critically evaluate the challenges involved in the study of contemporary Islam whilst demonstrating critical self-awareness as a student of the subject;
Discipline-Specific Skills7. Demonstrate advanced knowledge of a range of religious, intellectual and ideological trends and their engagement in the contemporary world;
8. Appreciate the value of a historical-contextual approach to the study of Islamic thought and movements and alongside this demonstrate contextual analysis of trends, ideas and arguments;
9. Critically assess ideas, arguments, evidence and texts;
Personal and Key Skills10. Locate, select, digest and effectively organize, synthesise and analyse material from a wide range of sources and effectively time-manage all elements of this;
11. Prepare and effectively deliver an oral presentation and address audience questions related to it; and
12. Produce coherent, reasoned and supported argumentation in writing, in individual and group oral presentation and in debate, including the development of persuasive strategy- or policy-oriented cases;