Islamist thought and practice in the Arab world

Theme for MES4500 spring 2019


Islamism is commonly defined as activism with the aim of establishing an Islamic state of some kind. However, Islamism is also a framework for understanding the world, or several related, but different such frameworks. In both senses, it has been an important part of the Arab social and political landscape since the early 20th century. However, it varies considerably from time to time and place to place on both the ideological and practical levels. This course is designed to give an understanding of what Islamism means in theory and practice. We will identify and discuss common traits as well as differences between ideologues, movement and countries in order to arrive at a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of what Islamism is.

Course content

This course focuses on the ideational aspect of Islamism: What are the foundational ideas that inform Islamist activism? How to make sense of the different forms of political and social activism informed by Islamist ideology? Is it at all possible to talk about Islamism as an ideology, or as a political theory? Through this course you will gain a bird’s-eye view of Islamism as an ideology, as you study the ideas of the major Islamist intellectuals across time and space and engage with critical analyses of their message. Islamist movements are often analysed in sociological terms, where the questions of mobilization and organization have been emphasized. These are important concerns, but in this course we take the central issue of thought and ideology seriously, developing an in-depth understanding of the Islamist world-view.

Learning outcome

  • To make sense of similarities and differences and how it is possible to talk about Islamism as one phenomenon despite the variety of movements and directions subsumed under this label.
  • Through engaging with original texts written by Islamists you will gain in-depth knowledge about specific movements and figures such as Hasan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb and Ayatollah Khomeini.
  • The course includes comparative approaches that view the thought system of Islamism as an inherent part of modernity, rather than as an Islamic “exception”.

Compulsory tuition activities spring 2019:

  • Oral presentation of about 15 minutes, to be presented as the introduction to one of the seminars.
  • A draft sketch of the term paper must be approved by the teacher in order to take the exam. The sketch should be approx. 2-3 pages long and include a working title, a clearly formulated problem/question/puzzle, and a brief, tentative outline of the argument, along with tentative literature list. The draft sketch is to be submitted in Canvas by 29 March.
Publisert 26. nov. 2015 12:38 - Sist endret 2. jan. 2019 10:24