Fall 2024

Islam and the Modern State

Listed in: Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-263


This course explores the relationship between Islam and the modern state from the nineteenth century to the present. Muslim jurists and intellectuals have long grappled with the role of Islam in the modern state. They have advocated for a great variety of legal arrangements, ranging from the strict separation of religion and state to the adoption of constitutional clauses establishing Islam as an official religion. In this course, students will explore the genealogy of these debates and engage with the questions they brought to the fore: what does it mean for Islam to be the religion of the state? Is there a place for Islamic law in the legal systems of these modern states? How have various actors (Islamist movements, Muslim jurists, state leaders, revolutionary activists, etc.) made sense of –and competed over– the meaning and implications of Islam’s relationship to the state?

Students will read primary sources written by individuals who lived in the Middle East in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: political essays, legal treatises, theological texts, constitutional articles, parliamentary debates, etc. All readings will be provided in English translation. There will be opportunities to engage with sources in their original language for students with reading skills in Arabic, Persian, or Turkish.

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Ben Ismail.

How to handle overenrollment: Priortiy given to LJST Majors

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Students will likely encounter and be expected to engage in written work (e.g. research paper, blog posts, book reviews) and short presentations

Course Materials


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2024