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Islamist Movements: From the Muslim Brothers to Al-Qa'ida

Module titleIslamist Movements: From the Muslim Brothers to Al-Qa'ida
Module codeARA2160
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Claire Beaugrand (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module provides an introduction to the study of major Islamist movements in the Middle East and Central Asia. You will be introduced to Ikhwanism, and the story of the Muslim Brothers as manifested in movements in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The module will cover in detail the behaviour of these movements, their ideologies, and promote comparison of their similarities and differences in a cross-regional setting. You will compare and contrast Takfirism against 'Tablighism' in Egypt, Algeria, and Pakistan. Other key topics will include Jihad (holy war), Shiite Islam and Secular Islam. Your studies will address the causes and the political consequences of the rise of Islamist movements in Muslim-majority states.

This module is suitable for specialist and non-specialist alike. No prior knowledge is required.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module will introduce you to the major Islamist movements in the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa. It aims to promote student exploration of the behaviour of these movements, understanding of their ideologies, and comparison of their similarities and differences in a cross-regional setting. The module will also promote critical analysis and understanding of the causes and the political consequences of the rise of Islamist movements in the Muslim-majority states before and after the Arab Awakening. You will be encouraged to analyse the role of Islamist movements in major political transitions and changes, developing a good level of comparative and analytical skills, as well as an ability to analytically consider the contemporary manifestations of Islamist movements in their historical perspective. 

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate understanding of the major Islamist political forces and trends, and the contexts in which they operate;
  • 2. Construct informed and nuanced arguments based on critical and comparative analysis relating to the topic of Islamist movements throughout history;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Deliver oral presentations and write essays appropriate to the conventions of Arab and Islamic Studies;
  • 4. Comprehend and handle recent Islamist terminology;
  • 5. Analyse and critique a range of primary and secondary sources appropriate to the received conventions of the discipline;

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Demonstrate competent critical and analytical skills through readings, class discussions and presentations;
  • 7. Effectively organise time and resources;
  • 8. Undertake effective comparative analysis.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

Introduction to the Study of Islamist Movements

Islamists and the Arab Spring

The Story of Modern Islamism

The Society of the Muslim Brothers

Salafism in Saudi Arabia and Egypt

Jihadism and Post-Jihadism in Egypt

Shiite Islamism in Lebanon: The Case of Hizbullah

Global Jihadism: The Case of al-Qa‘ida

The Islamists of Libya and the Demise of the Colonel’s Republic

The Islamists of Algeria

The Tunisian al-Nahda Movement

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching activity 22The module will consist of two-hourly taught sessions across eleven weeks. Each one will commence with a lecture, followed by a seminar discussion about the assigned topic.
Guided Independent study38Weekly reading for seminars
Guided Independent study18Preparing seminar presentation
Guided Independent study64Researching and writing op-ed and essay
Guided Independent study8Web-based learning


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual oral presentation 10-15 minutes3-6Verbal feedback
Act as a discussant in one other presentation10-15 minutes3-6Verbal feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Policy Brief or Academic Opinion ‘Op-Ed ‘ Article 401,200 words1-8Written feedback
Analytical Essay602,000 words1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8Written feedback


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Policy Brief or Academic Opinion ‘Op-Ed ‘ article Policy Brief or Academic Opinion ‘Op-Ed ‘ article (1,200 words)1-8August/September reassessment period
Analytical EssayAnalytical Essay (2,000 words)1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8August/September reassessment period


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  1. Abu Rabi’, Ibrahim (ed.). The Contemporary Arab Reader on Political Islam. London: Pluto Press, 2010.
  2. Ashour, Omar. The De-Radicalization of Jihadists: Transforming Armed Islamist Movements. London; New York: Routledge, 2009.
  3. Atwan, Abdel Bari. The Secret History of al-Qaeda . Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.
  4. Bergan, Peter. The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and al-Qaida. London: Free Press, 2011.
  5. Benin, Joel and Joe Stork (eds.), Political Islam . University of California Press, 1996.
  6. Donohue, John and John L. Esposito. Islam in Transition: Muslim perspectives .Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.
  7. Esposito, John, Voice of Resurgent Islam . Oxford University Press, 1983.
  8. Hafez, Mohammed, Why Muslims Rebel: Repression and Resistance in the Islamic World . Boulder; London: Lynne Rienner, 2003.
  9. Kepel, Gilles. Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam. Harvard University Press , 2003.
  10. Lia, Brynjar. Artichetct of Global Jihad: The Life of the life of al-Qaida strategist Abu Mus‘al-Suri . London: Hurst & Co., 2007.
  11. Al-Tawil, Camille. Brothers in Arms: the Story of Arab Jihadists. London: Saqi Books, 2011.


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Students are encouraged to follow regional events via the BBC News ( and/or al-Jazeera ( and/or other news websites.

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Islamist Movement, Muslim Brothers, Al-Qaida, Islam and politics, political Islam, Islamism, Islamic political thought, revolutions, opposition, insurgency, terrorism, Islam and democracy. 

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


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Last revision date