Academic year
2020/2021 Syllabus of previous years
Official course title
Course code
LM2200 (AF:344633 AR:183456)
On campus classes
ECTS credits
Degree level
Master's Degree Programme (DM270)
Educational sector code
2nd Semester
Course year
Go to Moodle page
Through a socio-anthropological approach, this course will deal with reformist and modernist movements in the contemporary Islamic world. In particular we will deal with the dialectic between tajdīd (renewal) and iṣlāḥ (reform) and the connection between religious discourses and social practices, showing how Quranic exegesis takes shape in daily life, linking, precisely, sacred scriptures to the construction of social ideals.

Reformism and modernism are generic categories that describe heterogeneous movements, often in opposition to each other. In these categories we can find values and practices that are pluralist, liberal and progressive, or monist and ultra-conservative. We will also see that these labels coined by European thought are often approximate.

If the world of research has dealt extensively with Salafi reformism, the Muslim Brotherhood and Wahhabism, less space has been devoted to other forms of reformism and modernism. In this course we will deal with lesser-known aspects, such as the “Nation of Islam” movement; the liberal philosophy of Fazlur Rahman and Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd; the Sufism of Mahmoud Mohammed Taha; the Islamic theology of liberation born in South Africa; and finally, feminist and LGBTQ activism in the Islamic world.

One of the objectives of this course is not only to study the normative dimension of the Islamic religion (sharīʿa and fiqh), but also to grasp other dimensions, often underestimated, such as spiritual, aesthetic, philosophical ones, linked to social class, gender and sexuality.

Another objective is to focus on other locations of contemporary Islam: Sudan, Pakistan, South Africa and the United States; expanding our horizon beyond Middle Eastern Islam. Finally, this course will allow us to deconstruct some stereotypical perceptions, which conceptualize a contemporary Islam as crushed by the weight of the legacy of tradition and / or by an unfinished modernity.

The following questions encompass the challenges that reformist and modernist movements pose and attempt to solve:
• How to interpret the Quran? (Exegetical dimension)
• How to relate to the Islamic theological and juridical tradition? Renew or reform Islam? (Doctrinal dimension)
• Who are the faithful and the infidels? Who are included in the Islamic umma? (Relation to otherness)
• What is injustice and how do you deal with it? (Political and social relationship)
• Change yourself or change society? Or both? (Ethical and spiritual dimension).
1. Knowledge and understanding:
- be familiar with the main currents of contemporary Islamic thought that cross reformism, modernism and neo-traditionalism
- understand the main contemporary approaches to Quranic exegesis
- understand how these exegetical approaches are linked to social values and practices in social movements discussed during the course.

2. Ability to apply knowledge and understanding:
- develop a socio-anthropological reading that allows an analysis of the social, political and cultural changes in the phenomena studied, which goes beyond the simple description.

3. Judgment skills:
- ability to critically and consciously evaluate different forms of thought, capturing the intersection between doctrinal-exegetical, political, cultural and social issues.

4. Communication skills and participation:
- ability to illustrate the various aspects addressed in the course in a clear and analytical way
- interaction and participation during the classes.
Basic knowledge of Islamology and the history of Islamic countries.
• Introduction to the course: intellectual and geographical map. Foundations of a socio-anthropology of Islam
• The spiritual dimension of Islam: Sufism and beyond, between reform and renewal
• The challenge of modernity: the origins of reformism with Abduh in Egypt
• Muhammad Taha's Sudanese Sufism, between religious doctrines and politics
• The philosophical reformism / modernism of Fazlur Rahman and Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd
• Nation of Islam and Malcom X
• Islam in South Africa, the struggle against apartheid and liberation theology
• Islamic Feminism: another reading of the Quran and social movements
• LGBTQ activism and Islam: another reading of the Quran and social movements.
The bibliographic material will be distributed during the course and uploaded to the Moodle platform.

Given the complexity and heterogeneity of the movements studied in this course, non-attending students are invited to contact the professor to establish a specific program, which will take into consideration their course of study, interests and language skills.

Preparatory readings:
Massimo Campanini. 2016. Il pensiero Islamico contemporaneo. Bologna: Il Mulino.
The oral exam will be aimed at verifying the learning of the topics dealt with through the documentation provided during the course. Furthermore, students will be evaluated for the presentation of an article/chapter during the course.
Frontal teaching. Each student attending the class will have to present an article or chapter chosen together with the professor at the beginning of the course.

This subject deals with topics related to the macro-area "Poverty and inequalities" and contributes to the achievement of one or more goals of U. N. Agenda for Sustainable Development

Definitive programme.
Last update of the programme: 09/12/2020