Islam and society in the modern and contemporary world

Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt
Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt (Picture: Wikimedia Commons)

Making extensive use of our knowledge of the relevant languages, especially Arabic and Persian, this part of our research and teaching concentrates on the interaction of the theological, legal, literary, cultural and political traditions of Islam with the modern and contemporary world, both in Muslim-majority countries and beyond.

We focus on how and why classical or modern scriptural traditions are received, perceived, appropriated, transformed or renewed in modern and contemporary societies. As such, we not only underline the diversity of Islam, but also show how and why its mixture with contemporary politics or the contestation of history yields some new (or marginalises old) forms of the religion in ways that differ from the past.

More specifically, we employ an interdisciplinary approach based on both textual research as well as fieldwork to focus on the friction between scriptural traditions that are meaningful to Muslims, on the one hand, and the demands of modern and contemporary societies, on the other, and how Muslims – both scholars and lay people – have dealt with this. Such friction includes the confrontation with non-Muslim views, but also contemporary Muslim demands about issues such as women’s rights, sexual orientation and political participation. Additionally, our research involves the transformation or consolidation of concepts – both foundational and marginal to the meaning of Islam – through space and time, including in their transition from Muslim-majority to Muslim-minority contexts.