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Study information

Islamist Movements: From the Muslim Brothers to the Islamic State

Module titleIslamist Movements: From the Muslim Brothers to the Islamic State
Module codeARA2028
Academic year2022/3
Module staff

Dr Claire Beaugrand (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module covers the major Islamist movements in the contemporary Middle East and North Africa. In this module, you will explore the action rationale of these movements, get to understand their ideologies, and compare their similarities and differences in a cross-regional setting. You will learn to critically analyse the various debates surrounding the causes and the political consequences of the rise of Islamist movements in the Muslim-majority states before and after the Arab Spring and their subsequent setbacks. This module will help you assess the role of Islamist movements in major political transitions and changes in the Middle East, such as revolutions, civil wars, armed insurgencies, democratic transitions and civil resistance to authoritarianism.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims at presenting the major movements affiliated with both Shiite and Sunnite political Islam in the contemporary Middle East and North Africa. By familiarising you with the history, beliefs and practices of Islamist movements, it seeks to help you understand their action rationale and interactions, adopting a cross-regional comparative analysis.

You will also learn to engage critically with the historiographic debates surrounding the interpretations of the causes and the political consequences of the rise of Islamist movements in the Muslim-majority states – with a particular focus on the period ushered by the Arab uprisings.

Finally the module aims at having you reflect on the role of Islamist movements in the political dynamics of the Middle East, such as revolutions, civil wars, armed insurgencies, democratic transitions and civil resistance to authoritarianism.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Understand and present the major Islamist political forces and trends, their history, beliefs and the contexts in which they operate, as well as distinguish between them;
  • 2. Construct informed and nuanced arguments based on critical and comparative analysis relating to the topic of Islamist movements throughout history in the Middle East;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. Build an argument orally or in written handling recent Islamist terminology and engaging critically with contemporary debate relating to political Islam in the Middle East;
  • 4. Analyse and critique both primary and secondary sources on a contentious issue;
  • 5. Reflect on the terms of the debate as posed in the press, interrogate popular and political discourses, and question knowledge production within academia;

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 6. Demonstrate critical and argumentative skills and an ability to undertake comparative analysis through readings, class discussions and presentations;
  • 7. Effectively manage time and resources;

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: Historical and theoretical background
  • The Birth of Modern Islamism
  • The Muslim Brotherhood: from Egypt to the rest of the world
  • Saudi Arabia and the export of Salafism
  • Al Qaeda and the rise of global jihadism
  • Shiite political Islam
  • The post-Islamism debate
  • Islamists in the Arab Spring
  • Jihadism Reloaded: The Islamic State
  • Secular Islamism? The Case of Turkey
  • Islamism and Feminism

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 Activity22The 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 presentation15 minutes1-7Verbal feedback
Act as a discussant in one other presentation15 minutes1-6Verbal 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
Academic Policy Brief or Opinion ‘Op-Ed ‘ Article401,200 words1-7Written feedback
Analytical Essay552,000 words1-7Written feedback
Seminar Attendance (including presentation and participation in the discussions)511 seminars1-7Oral/written feedback (PTA)

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Academic Policy Brief or Opinion ‘Op-Ed ‘ ArticlePolicy Brief or Academic Opinion ‘Op-Ed ‘ article (1,200 words)1-7August/September reassessment period
Analytical EssayAnalytical Essay (2,000 words)1-7August/September reassessment period
Seminar AttendancePresentation material sent to the seminar teacher (800 words)1-7August/September reassessment period

Re-assessment notes

In case a student misses most of the seminars and is unable to present, they will be able to send the material they would have used in the class setting for the seminar teacher to evaluate.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  1. Mandaville, Peter Global Political Islam. London: Routledge, 2007.
  2. François Burgat, Understanding Political islam, University of Manchester Press, 2019.
  3. Kraetzschmar Hendrik and Paola Rivetti Islamists and the Politics of the Arab Uprisings: Governance, Pluralisation and Contention, Edinburgh University Press, 2018.
  4. Hamid, Shadi and William McCants, Rethinking Political Islam Oxford University Press, 2017. For the post-Arab Spring analysis (with chapters including discussions with members of Islamist movements)

For those with no prior knowledge of Islam, easy and accessible resource:

Brown, Daniel W. A New Introduction to Islam, Wiley-Blackwell, (2nd ed.) 2009.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

You are encouraged to look at:

The International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, MERIP (Middle East Research and Information project), POMEPS (Project on Middle East Political Science), as well as Jadaliyya website, Brookings and Carnegie Papers

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Abu Rabi’, Ibrahim (ed.). The Contemporary Arab Reader on Political Islam, London: Pluto Press, 2010.

Bayat, Asef Making Islam Democratic: Social Movements and the Post-Islamist Turn, Stanford University Press, 2007.

Bayat Asef (ed.) Post-Islamism: the Changing Face of political Islam, Oxford University Press 2013.

Beinin, Joel and Joe Stork (eds.) Political Islam: Essays from Middle East Report, University of California Press, 1996.

Brenner, Bjorn, Gaza under Hamas: from Islamic democracy to Islamist Governance, London: IB Tauris, 2016.

Bonney, Richard Jihad: From Qu'ran to Bin Laden, Basingstoke: Palgrave McMillan.=, 2004.

Brown, Nathan J. When Victory Is Not An Option: Islamist Movements in Arab Politics. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2012.

Byman, Daniel Al-Qaeda, The Islamic State and the Global Jihadist Movements, Oxford: Oxford University Press in 2015. 

Devji, Faisal The Terrorist in Search of Humanity: Militant Islam andGlobal Politics Columbia University Press, 2008.

Freer, Courtney, Rentier Islamism: The Role of Muslim Brotherhood in the Gulf, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

Filiu, Jean-Pierre From Deep State to Islamic State: The Arab Counter-Revolution and its Jihadi Legacy, Oxford University Press, 2015.

Gerges, Fawaz, ISIS: A History, Princeton University Press, 2012.

Gerges, Fawaz, The Rise and Fall of Al Qaeda, Oxford University Press, 2011.

Gleis, Joshua and Benedetta Berti Hezbollah and Hamas: A Comparative Study, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012

Hroub. Khaled, Hamas : A Beginner’s Guide, London: Pluto Press, 2006.

Lacroix, Stéphane, Awakening Islam: The Politics of Religious Dissent in Contemporary Saudi Arabia, Harvard University Press, 2011.

Lia, Brynjar, Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of al-Qaida strategist Abu Mus‘al-Suri.  London: Hurst, 2007.

Lister, Charles, The Syrian Jihad: Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Evolution of an Insurgency, London: Hurst, 2015.

Louër, Laurence Transnational Shia Politics: Religious and Political Networks in the Gulf, Hurst, 2008.

Mamdani, Mahmood, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror, Doubleday 2004.

McCants, Will, The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State, Saint Martin’s Press, 2015.

Meijer, Roel Global Salafism: Islam’s New Religious Movement, Columbia University Press, 2009.

Norton, Augustus Richard, Hezbollah: A Short History, Princeton University Press. 2007

Roy, Olivier, Globalizing Islam, Columbia University Press, 2004.

Volpi, Frédéric, Political Islam Observed, New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.

Wiktorowicz, Quintan, Islamic Activism: A Social Movement Theory Approach, Indiana University Press, 2003.

Wolf, Anne Political Islam in Tunisia: the History of Ennahda, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

Latest publications on the topic:

Brooke, Steven Winning Hearts and Votes: Social Services and the Islamist Political Advantage, Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2019.

Buehler, Matt, Why Alliances Fail: Islamist and Leftist Coalitions in North Africa, Syracuse University Press, 2019.

For original texts of Islamist thinkers:

Euben Roxanna L and Muhammad Qasim Zaman Princeton Readings in Islamist Thought: Texts and Contexts from al-Banna to Bin Laden Princeton: University Press 2009.

Key words search

Islamist Movement, Muslim Brothers, Al-Qaida, Islam and politics, political Islam, (post) Islamism, Islamic political thought, revolutions, opposition, insurgency, Salafism, Jihadism, the Islamic State

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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