Political Islam: From Ibn Taymiyya to Osama bin Laden

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Kirsten Schulze E600


This course is available on the MSc in History of International Relations, MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University), MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia), MSc in Religion in the Contemporary World and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course has six objectives: i. To examine the evolution of political Islam as a set of ideas. ii. To compare and contrast different models of Islamic State. iii. To explore the strategies used by Islamist movements to Islamise a state as well as state strategies to prevent this. iv. To explore the phenomena of transnational Islamism and international jihadism. v. To analyse and evaluate the relationship between Islam and the West. vi. To familiarise the student with some of the primary sources (in translation) and the historiographical controversies. This course looks at the evolution of Islamist philosophy and movements from the late nineteenth century until the present day. It focuses on ideas as well as intellectual, religious and political leaders. The key areas covered are: the fundamentals of Sunni and Shi'a thought; modernist Islam - al-Afghani, Mohamed Abduh and Rashid Rida; Islamic Puritanism – Abdul Wahab and the Mahdi; Models of Islamic State - Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Malaysia and Sudan; Islamist Movements – the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic Jihad, Hizb'allah, Hamas, the Islamic Salvation Front, Darul Islam, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front; transnational Islam and international jihadism - Jama'at Islamiyya and al-Qaeda; and the Global War on Terror.


20 hours of seminars in the MT. 20 hours of seminars in the LT. 6 hours of seminars in the ST.

Formative coursework

Each student is required to write one 3,000 word essay in the Michaelmas Term, and a one-hour timed essay in the Summer Term. Students may write an optional second 3,000 word essay over the Christmas break.

Indicative reading

Mansoor Moaddel and Kamran Talattof (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Islam ( St.Martin's Press, 1999); Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: The Story of the Afghan Warlords (Pan Books, 2000); Gabriel Warburg, Islam, Sectarianism and Politics in Sudan since the Mahdiyya (Hurst, 2003); Sayyid Qutb, Milestones, (American Trust Publications, 1990); Gilles Kepel, The Roots of Radical Islam (Saqi, 2005) new version of Gilles Kepel, Muslim Extremism in Egypt: the prophet and pharaoh (1985); Oliver Roy, Globalised Islam: The Search for a New Umma (Hurst, 2004); Richard Bonney, Jihad: From Qur'an to bin Laden (Palgrave, 2004).


Exam (50%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (25%, 3000 words) in the LT.
Presentation (10%) and class participation (15%).

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2012/13: 30

Average class size 2012/13: 15

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information