Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities

The Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities (GPISH) encourages a perspective which is not confined to the theological and religious heritage of Islam, but seeks to explore the relationship of religious ideas to broader dimensions of society and culture. It thus encourages an inter-disciplinary approach to the materials of Islamic history and thought. Particular attention is also given to issues of modernity that arise as Muslims seek to relate their heritage to contemporary circumstances.

Within the Islamic tradition, GPISH seeks to promote research on those areas which have had relatively lesser attention devoted to them in secondary scholarship to date. These include the intellectual and literary expressions of Shi‘isminfo-icon in general, and Ismailism in particular. In the context of Islamic societies, GPISH is informed by the full range and diversity of cultures in which Islam is practiced today, from the Middle East, Southern and Central Asia and Africa to the industrialised societies of the West, thus taking into consideration the variety of contexts which shape the ideals, beliefs and practices of the faith.

The three-year interdisciplinary programme acts as both preparation for a research degree and as a stepping stone to a variety of career opportunities around the world.

 

 

GPISH tabs

Programme Overview

 

 


 

The Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities (GPISH) is a three-year interdisciplinary programme offered by the Institute of Ismaili Studies and validated by SOAS University of London. Small cohorts of students enable lecturers and tutors to engage them in the in-depth discussion and critical exploration of subjects which range from material history from antiquity to the early Islamic period, to topics in religion, literature, art and identity in diverse historical and contemporary global contexts. Students on GPISH are supported by an inclusive team to help them work on engaging and innovative subjects and fulfil their academic and personal potential in a stimulating learning environment.  GPISH trains students to use the intellectual tools of the humanities and social sciences and to explore perspectives which relate religious ideas to broader dimensions of society and culture.

 

Islam’s civilisational achievements are studied at the same time as its theological and religious expressions across time. Taking an interdisciplinary approach to studying Islamic history and thought, special attention is paid to issues of modernity that arise as Muslims relate their heritage to contemporary circumstances, all of which contribute to an enriched academic curriculum.

In the context of Muslim societies, GPISH is informed by the full range and diversity of cultures in which Islam is practised today, from the Middle East, Southern and Central Asia, and Africa to the industrialised societies of the West, thus taking into consideration the variety of contexts which shape the beliefs, practices and ideals of the faith. Within the Islamic tradition, GPISH promotes research areas which have had relatively lesser attention devoted to them. These include the intellectual and literary expressions of Shi‘isminfo-icon in general and Ismailism in particular.

GPISH is a fully funded scholarship programme which covers the cost of tuition fees and includes a living allowance in line with the UK Visas and Immigration’s stated cost of living. For further information, please see the UK Visas and Immigration website

 

If you are new to the study of Islam and the humanities

GPISH welcomes high-achieving students from all academic backgrounds, and the study of Islam or the humanities is not a prerequisite for gaining admission. Working closely with experienced faculty members, students are supported during the IIS component of the programme to make the transition from previous study experiences to an analytical understanding of and ability to work competently with the new subject matter. It is essential to note, however, that as part of the admissions process applicants must demonstrate a genuine motivation for studying Islam and the humanities. This will involve being able to show understanding of key ideas in Islamic studies and the humanities, and the potential for Master’s-level study of these subjects in the UK.

If you have studied Islam or the humanities before

Having studied Islam or the humanities before will offer some advantage to students, as they are likely to have been introduced to ideas and subject matter covered by the first two years of the programme. The richness and unique synthesising and interdisciplinary approach of the IIS component, however, covers areas of research not studied elsewhere; as such, those students with a proven interest or academic record in studying Islam or the humanities will find themselves appropriately challenged and stimulated by the curriculum.

Please note that if you already have a Master’s degree in Islamic studies when you apply, you should enquire with programme staff to discuss your application.

 

 

Programme Structure

 

 

Successful graduates of GPISH emerge with two Master’s degrees: an MA in Islamic Studies and Humanities and a Master’s degree in a subject related to the aims and ethos of the programme.

The MA in Islamic Studies and Humanities is designed and delivered by the IIS and validated by SOAS University of London. Students study at the IIS for this over the first two years of the programme. The third-year Master’s is in a subject of the student’s choice at a UK university. To graduate from GPISH, students must successfully complete the two-year IIS component and gain their degree from the third-year university.

 

 

Pre-sessionals before Year 1

 

Based on language levels for English, some students attend pre-sessionals for academic English writing while others have a shorter in-house course before they start the first term. New students who are not native speakers of Arabic also have four weeks of Arabic-language classes before the start of the first term.

 

 

Years 1 and 2 ­– Studying for an MA in Islamic Studies and Humanities at the IIS

 

17 subject modules: 9 in Year 1 and 8 in Year 2: Year 1 lays the foundations with regard to knowledge and approach. Year 2 confronts broader thematic subjects and more demanding assessment criteria; particular attention is dedicated to cultivating research skills.

 

Intensive language training with language immersion in either an Arabic-speaking country or Iran*

 

Educational field trip to Spain*

 

Leadership Workshop and Careers Seminars

 

Field Research Project*

 

* All study abroad components are subject to travel advice by the UK Government and students’ obtaining the necessary visas.

 

 

Year 3 – Studying for a Master’s degree at an accredited UK university

 

Students spend Year 3 studying for a Master’s degree at a UK university in a subject area that resonates with the aims of GPISH. Guidance and support are provided to help students select their third-year programmes.** Degrees from UK universities are recognised around the world.

 

** Programme choices must be approved by the Department of Graduate Studies and students are responsible for their acceptance by the university. Students will continue to have access to IIS facilities in Year 3, although they will not be enrolled as students at the IIS.

 

 

Year 1

 

Language in Terms 1, 2 and 3 + three subject modules per term. All modules are compulsory.

 

Modules

Credits

Arabic or Persian Language

30

The Qur’aninfo-icon, Parts 1 and 2

30

Ritual, Worship and Practice

15

Muslims in History 1: Late Antiquity

15

Muslims in History 2: Middle Period

15

Muslims in History 3: Modern and Contemporary

15

Key Moments in Shi’i History, Thought and Society

15

Key Moments in Ismaili History

15

Religion, Literature and Identity in South Asian Muslim Contexts

15

Total

165

 

Further information is available on the Module Descriptions page.

 

 

Year 2

 

 

Language in Terms 1, 2 and 3 + two or three subject modules per term. All modules are compulsory.

 

Modules

Credits

Arabic or Persian Language

30

Research Design and Methods and Field Research Project

60

Ismailis in Modern Times

15

Law, Ethics and Society, Parts 1 and 2

30

Art, Literature and Religion, Parts 1 and 2

30

Intellectual Traditions in the History of Muslims

15

Prophet Muhammad and Imaminfo-icon Ali in the Discourse of Muslim Communities

15

Total

195

 

Further information is available on the Module Descriptions page.

Programme Specification

Please see below the programme specifications for the MA in Islamic Studies and Humanities taught by the IIS and validated by SOAS University of London.

 

Programme aims

 

There are four key areas in which you will develop:

 

Knowledge

 

  1. A civilisational understanding of Islam. Demonstrate a systematic advanced understanding and knowledge of Islam from a civilisational perspective.
  2. Critical awareness of key debates and thinkers. Demonstrate systematic knowledge and critical awareness of the key debates and thinkers (historical and contemporary) in the field of Islamic studies.
  3. Critical awareness of challenges in context. Demonstrate a critical awareness of challenges facing contemporary Muslim societies in their diverse historical, political and socio-economic contexts.
  4. Understanding methods. Demonstrate a systematic and comprehensive understanding of contemporary methodologies for the study of Islam in lived contexts.

 

 

Thinking skills

 

  1. Making critical sense of materials. Critically assess data and evidence from primary and secondary sources, and solve conflicts of facts and interpretations commensurably with the level expected of Master’s graduates.
  2. Understanding materials critically. Employ critical and at times original approaches and question established knowledge on the basis of reasoned interpretations of sources and evidence.
  3. Integrating materials. Integrate findings from multiple sources in order to demonstrate and advance a critical understanding of topics under discussion.
  4. Making and reflecting on conclusions. Make reasonable and substantiated conclusions independently in the light of research undertaken and evidence reviewed, and reflect on the implications of those and potential future directions.

 

Subject-based practical skills

 

  1. Finding materials. Locate relevant materials and gather research data and/or evidence responsibly and ethically for the purpose of exploring and understanding a topic and/or preparing for assessment.
  2. Interpreting materials. Summarise viewpoints and arguments from various sources of data and/or evidence, synthesising those where appropriate.
  3. Integrating interpretive approaches. Integrate skills and/or approaches from different disciplinary areas for the purpose of exploring and understanding a topic/subject area in comprehensive and, where possible, original ways.
  4. Self-assessment and refining work produced. Judging the merit of own work for the purpose of assessing its validity and appropriacy with regard to the subject matter, discipline and task at hand.

 

 

Transferrable skills

  1. Communication. Communicate knowledgeably and critically in writing and speaking for the purpose of disseminating and contributing to the production of knowledge and to enable active participation in events such as seminars, conferences, and symposia where current subject knowledge and approaches are being disseminated and debated.
  2. Working independently. Demonstrate skills of research (finding and working with materials) and managing one’s own learning in the service of working independently and responsibly.
  3. Working with others. Work with others for the purpose of gathering and interpreting information, showing due regard for ethical considerations.

Module Descriptions Year 1

Language Study: Arabic or Persian

The study of Arabic is central to the programme as it enables students to read and understand the Qur’aninfo-icon and other primary texts. The study of Arabic is compulsory in the first two years of the programme for all students not proficient in this language.* Three levels of Arabic are offered, and students are placed in a class based on their prior knowledge and experience. The overall aim is to equip students with the skills needed to read primary texts in Arabic. Students undertake a four-week intensive pre-sessional course at the IIS before the start of the first year. 
* Students who are already proficient in Arabic will be required to study Persian in order to read and understand core Persian texts. 

The Qur’an, Parts 1 and 2
These modules aim to acquaint students with the necessary conceptual tools to deal with the complexities related to the study of the Qur’an and its reception in Muslim intellectual history. They will be based on constant reflection on epistemological, methodological and historiographical issues. Students will be invited to analyse the concept of revelation, prophethood and scripture, and will need to examine the intellectual, religious and socio-political context in which the Qur’an came about. Attention will be paid to the interaction between Prophet Muhammad’s life, including his relations with his contemporaries, and the unfolding of the revelations. Focus will thus be given to the difficulties of contextualising the Qur’an. In addition, the module will cover the main concerns and issues found in the revelations and will devote some attention to the type of language and style deployed in Qur’anic suras and ayas. Later interpretive traditions will be explored; students will thus have the chance to delve into the various debates and controversies that theologians, philosophers and other thinkers generated around the Qur’an, its nature and its language. Finally, students will consider the discussions around the Qur’an in contemporary scholarship. The module aims first of all to position the Islamic notions of prophecy in the wider context of the modes of divinations found across many cultures and particularly in the ancient Near East. It shall then examine our knowledge of Prophet Muhammad and Imaminfo-icon Ali as historical personalities. In this regard, various historical interpretations by modern scholars, including debates about Muslim sources and revisionist versions of the history of the early Muslim period, will be explored. A study of the changing image of Prophet Muhammad in mainstream Muslim sources, and with it the changing theological doctrines will also be undertaken. The module will analyse the diverse ways in which the image of Prophet Muhammad and Imam Ali have become integral to Muslim and Shi‘i Muslim identity respectively. The module explores various ways in which their memory is celebrated, invoked and appropriated in rituals, poetry, everyday language and political symbolism. In addition to looking at the role of the Prophet and Imam Ali as an intercessor, their depiction in the hagiographic imagination, poetry and painting, and as a mystical paradigm. The module will then examine the ways in which the figure of the Prophet has come to be a central and sensitive element of Muslim identity in contemporary times, while exploring current psychological research on the notion of prophecy. At the end of the module, students should be able to revisit the current widespread understanding of prophethood and approach it in its shifting and contested historical context.


Ritual, Worship and Practice
Employing an interdisciplinary approach including anthropology, sociology, history and religious studies, this module aims to provide students with a framework to understand the role of ritual, practice and spaces of worship in human societies with a particular focus on the Ismaili community. The module will first explore sociological and anthropological theories on ritual and religious practice as categories of experience and analysis. Students will familiarise themselves with key academic figures in the study of such pivotal yet elusive concepts; and will become aware of the latest developments in this field. As a second step, through a series of case studies of specific ritual practices and forms of worship, students will engage in an in-depth understanding of various ideas and concepts associated with ritual and worship, such as continuity and change; communal vs. individual; essence vs. form; ritualisation; performance and meaning-making; emotion; the ritual body; negotiation between ‘local’ and ‘global’; authority, legitimation and social control through ritual; gender and ritual space. Last, focused case-studies will shed light on how rituals and forms of worships developed and evolved historically amongst Muslims; and particularly within the Ismaili community. 


The Muslims in History series, comprising:
  • Muslims in History 1: Late Antiquity
  • Muslims in History 2: Middle Period
  • Muslims in History 3: Modern and Contemporary
Combining a broadly chronological approach with thematic explorations and case-studies, these three modules aim to help students develop a sound scholarly narrative of the histories of Muslim cultures from their emergence in the seventh century to contemporary times. Starting with an exploration of historiography and philosophy of history, the first module will focus on understanding history as a form of knowledge, recognising the meaning and role of interpretation in any historical writing and reading. The modules situate the early history of Muslims in the socio-historical context of Late Antiquity, examining salient political, cultural and religious developments of the Near East in the first millennium. Modules two and three analyse key developments in Muslim history, including the exploration of how certain events were constructed and interpreted as key moments. The modules will approach Muslim history as part of broader world history and thus in a historical and comparative context. A key feature of the modules will be to bring out issues such as the diversity and historicity of norms, institutions and conceptions; the dialectic of thought and material forces; and the contested nature of authority, identity, symbols and legitimacy. The third module in particular will focus on the nature of modern philosophical, cultural and sociological developments in Muslim contexts through investigating case studies of selected movements and figures and the uses of history in religious, political and social discourses.


Key Moments in Shii History, Thought and Society
The aim of the module is to provide students with a basic grounding in the key moments and turning points in the history of Shii Islam, with special reference to Twelver Shii Islam. The module will start with an overview of the formative period of Shii Islam until the death of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq and then cover aspects of the subsequent history of the Twelver Shia, with some attention to Zaydi Shiism. Shii communities will be studied in the broader context of Islamic history, with due attention to the socio-economic factors that contributed to the articulation of Shii identity and sentiments in different regions and in different periods of Islamic history. 

Key Moments in Ismaili History
This module provides a survey of key moments and developments in Ismaili history, from the earliest times to early modern times. The module aims to integrate the perspectives of history, theology and social sciences to illuminate critical junctures and intellectual developments, also covering Ismaili contributions to Islamic thought and culture, and contextualising Ismailis within the broader framework of Islamic history. Following an introduction to Ismaili historiography and the general nature of the source materials on the Ismailis, the module will concentrate on the early history of the Ismailis from the 8th century to the foundation of the Fatimid caliphateinfo-icon in 909. The next part will be devoted to the history of the Nizari Ismailis during the Alamutinfo-icon period (1090-1256), while the final part will cover certain key patterns in the history of the post-Alamut Nizari Ismailis until the middle of the 19th century. The module will conclude with an investigation of the circumstances under which the Nizarisinfo-icon emerged in modern times as a progressive religious community under the leadership of their Imams, known internationally as the Aga Khans. 


Religion, Literature and Identity in South Asian Muslim contexts
South Asia is home to the largest concentration of Muslims in the world. This module surveys the historical development of Muslim communities in the region focusing on various articulations of their identities. Using the Satpanthi Khoja communities of Gujarat, Sindinfo-icon and Punjab and their ginaninfo-icon literature as a case study, the module considers issues and themes related to constructions of identity within religious and socio-political contexts, as well as the broader framework of South Asian cultures as expressed in language, literature and the arts. The module also examines the various ways in which the terms "Islamic" and "Muslim" have been defined in pre-modern and modern discourses in South Asia, particularly those of colonialism, nationalism and “Islamisation.”

Module Descriptions Year 2

 

Language Study: Arabic or Persian

The study of Arabic is central to the programme as it enables students to read and understand the Qur’aninfo-icon and other primary texts. The study of Arabic is compulsory in the first two years of the programme for all students not proficient in this language.* Three levels of Arabic are offered, and students are placed in a class based on their prior knowledge and experience. The overall aim is to equip students with the skills needed to read primary texts in Arabic. Students undertake a four-week intensive pre-sessional course at the IIS before the start of the first year.

 

* Students who are already proficient in Arabic will be required to study Persian in order to read and understand core Persian texts.

Research Design and Methods and Field Research Project

The Field Research Project is an integral part of the IIS component of the programme which can also serve as a basis for continued study or career development. Students conduct research during the summer of their second year and produce an original piece of research in the form of a report of 10,000 words.

 

The purpose of this module is to equip students with the necessary background knowledge and skills to proficiently plan and undertake research activity within the field of the Social Sciences. The module will begin with a short introduction to the intellectual history of the Social Sciences, including a critical overview of the debates and developments surrounding some of the disciplines involved. In the following phase, an in-depth examination of issues and approaches to qualitative research design will be undertaken, taking into account recent advances in the field. The module will then focus on the development of a number of key practical skills, including the design of research questions and proposals, literature reviews, surveys, fieldwork activities, data collection and analysis.

 

Students undertake a series of practical exercises during the three terms of Year 2 in which they are assisted by individually allocated Research Supervisors. Supervisors also guide each student in planning, preparing for and conducting their field research and in writing up their Field Research Report. Throughout the module, students examine techniques and approaches for writing a professional-level research paper, thus enabling them to proficiently translate their Field Research Project experience into an academic piece of an excellent standard.

 

The Field Research Project is designed to serve as a basis for continued postgraduate study or career development. Following approval by committee, students conduct research during the summer of their second academic year and produce an original piece of research. Approved projects are awarded modest funding to contribute to the cost of travel to and from the place of research and other project-related expenses.


Ismailis in Modern Times

This module explores the key events, personalities and texts that have shaped the history of Ismaili communities in the modern period (from the late modern period, roughly late eighteenth century until present day) and considers the continuing relevance, perception and impact of this legacy on today’s concerns. The emphasis will be on situating Ismailis within the larger framework of the ummahinfo-icon and other global communities. How do political and social theories related to transnational communities, global and local communities and minorities apply to Ismailis around the world? Particular attention will be paid to regional studies of Ismailis residing in different parts of the world, following diverse traditions. Adequate attention will also be paid to the Imamateinfo-icon of Aga Khaninfo-icon IV; the work of Imamatinfo-icon and Ismaili institutions and its subsequent impact on the social, economic and educational development of the community.


Law, Ethics and Society, Parts 1 and 2

This module aims to bring clarity to the use of notions such as ethics, morality, religious law, positive law and other similar widely used categories. It then offers an introduction to the emergence, during the so-called ‘Axial Age’, of important questions about the universe, the place of humanity in it, the meaning of life and the norms that should guide human behaviour. The ways those questions were addressed by various individuals and groups, some invoking the sole authority of reason, while others claiming some form of inspiration like religious revelation or mystical intuition, will be discussed. The processes by which some of these answers were institutionalised and gave birth to specific regulation systems and to the erection of particular social orders or political systems will also be examined. The module concludes by highlighting the idea of a sharp division between “is” and “ought” as it emerged in the 18th century, and how this idea brought an important shift to the discussions, in our time, about ethics, law and the social order.
 


Art, Literature and Religion, Parts 1 and 2

The course will explore the literary and artistic dimensions of the world's Muslim societies, focusing on the role that literary genres (scriptures, panegyrics, love lyrics, epic romances, folk songs and folk tales) and the arts (music, dance, drama, architecture, calligraphy, miniature painting) play as expressions of piety and socio-political critique. Broadly speaking, it will explore how works of literature and art function within a given society and ways in which culture is produced, interpreted, and disseminated. A primary objective is to examine the relationships between religion, literature, and the arts in a variety of historical and cultural contexts. Case studies will highlight ways in which Arabic and Persian literary and artistic traditions have profoundly influenced the frameworks within which Islam, its texts, its rituals and practices have been interpreted and expressed. It will also explore the manner in which Arabic and Persian literary and artistic traditions interacted with those beyond the Middle East as Islam became a global religious tradition. This will illustrate how a literary and artistic approach to studying a religious tradition allows access to voices and interpretations that are often unheard, rendered marginal or declared “heretical” by those who claim to represent “official” religious institutions.
 


Intellectual Traditions in the History of Muslims

This module aims to shed light on fundamental currents of thought which prospered in the History of Muslims, by taking stock of recent advances in scholarship. Traditional historians of Islam used to focus on religious learned traditions and their role in shaping the social order and in facing, supporting or opposing those who seize political power. However, recent historical studies – particularly some works which attempted to build a comprehensive understanding of the whole spectrum of cultural developments in Muslim contexts, such as those by Marshall Hodgson and Mohamed Abed Jabri – have highlighted the diversity of intellectual traditions which thrived in predominantly Muslim environments, their interactions and their role in shaping intellectual outlooks among the elites as well as key aspects of the everyday life within the population at large. The module will offer an understanding of the continuities that link those traditions with areas of interest and disciplines cultivated in the history of mankind across cultural and religious divides, as well as the diversity of forms and expressions these traditions have taken. Geographical and periodical classifications will be objects of close scrutiny in order to uncover assumptions that they may convey, and in order to help situate intellectual traditions which emerged in Muslim contexts within the wide framework of humanity’s intellectual development.
 


Prophet Muhammad and Imaminfo-icon Ali in the Discourse of Muslim Communities

The module aims first of all to position the Islamic notions of prophecy in the wider context of the modes of divinations found across many cultures and particularly in the ancient Near East. It shall then examine our knowledge of Prophet Muhammad and Imam Ali as historical personalities. In this regard, various historical interpretations by modern scholars, including debates about Muslim sources and revisionist versions of the history of the early Muslim period, will be explored. A study of the changing image of Prophet Muhammad in mainstream Muslim sources, and with it the changing theological doctrines will also be undertaken. The module will analyse the diverse ways in which the image of Prophet Muhammad and Imam Ali have become integral to Muslim and Shi‘i Muslim identity respectively. The module explores various ways in which their memory is celebrated, invoked and appropriated in rituals, poetry, everyday language and political symbolism. In addition to looking at the role of the Prophet and Imam Ali as an intercessor, their depiction in the hagiographic imagination, poetry and painting, and as a mystical paradigm. The module will then examine the ways in which the figure of the Prophet has come to be a central and sensitive element of Muslim identity in contemporary times, while exploring current psychological research on the notion of prophecy. At the end of the module, students should be able to revisit the current widespread understanding of prophethood and approach it in its shifting and contested historical context.

Additional Learning Opportunities

Language Immersion
Supplementing language training at the IIS is a four-week language immersion programme in an Arabic-speaking country or Iran at the end of Year 1. This is an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in the language and culture of an Arabic-/Persian-speaking country.
The language immersion programme is subject to UK Government travel advice and students’ obtaining the necessary visas.

Educational Field Trip to Spain
Whenever feasible, GPISH students are taken on a field trip to Spain in Year 2 (subject to the UK Government travel advisory guidelines). The trip is focused on visits to Muslim architectural monuments of Andalusia. The field trip also allows the students to witness the contemporary use of the architectural sites, developing their visual literacy and contributing to learning about the formation of political and religious identity as well as art and architecture. With the help of an academic lead, the field trip complements in-house academic modules, bringing to life in front of their eyes the places students have read about. Some of the primary sites that students visit during this trip are the Great Mosque of Cordoba, which is the only surviving monument of the Caliphateinfo-icon of Cordoba; the ruins of Madinat-al-Zahra, which was awarded an Aga Khaninfo-icon Award for Architecture in 2010; and the magnificent palaces, fountains and gardens of Alhambra, which exemplify the blending of Moorish and traditional Andalusian architecture.

The Spain field trip is subject to UK Government travel advice and students’ obtaining the necessary visas.

Leadership Skills Workshop and Careers Seminars
The objective of the Leadership Workshop in Year 2 is to start integrating learning with the development of leadership skills congruent with today’s globalised and highly mobile workplace. Practical leadership skills for communicating, influencing and motivating across cultures and deepening individual impact within society are linked with theoretical knowledge. The workshop is followed over the course of Year 2 by a series of Careers Seminars, arranged in line with the students’ interests and aspirations. The seminars are hosted by experts and professionals in a variety of fields, contributing overall to the programme’s employability focus.

Topics in the Philosophy of Religion
This lecture series, delivered by Dr Aziz Esmail, is intended to develop analytical thinking relevant to the concepts found in religious discourse. The relation between religious and secular culture is explored and the terms themselves analysed. Students read major philosophers whose ideas have had an explicit or tacit relationship to issues of importance in religion. These range from Plato and Aristotle, through representatives of the medieval philosophical tradition common to the scriptural faiths, to philosophers who have been influential in the shaping of the modern world, from Hume and Kant to Heidegger and Wittgenstein.

 

Employability & Progression Opportunities

Employability and progression opportunities
The three-year programme of study prepares graduates to pursue higher education in Islamic studies and related areas of the humanities and social sciences, or to seek careers in specific fields or in areas which aim to address issues faced by contemporary Muslim societies. These may include careers in: religious education or the management of religious education programmes of the Ismaili Tariqahinfo-icon and Religious Education Boards. Opportunities may also be available to GPISH graduates in the IIS and in Aga Khaninfo-icon Development Network agencies or other non-governmental organisations focusing on education, strengthening civil society, cultural preservation, poverty alleviation or sustainable development. Previous GPISH graduates have also found careers in the media which represent Muslims and Islam to a wider audience or as artists or writers who, through their work, represent individual perspectives towards their received Muslim heritage.

Leadership Workshop and Careers Seminars
GPISH aims to train graduates for pursuing leadership positions and runs enrichment activities including a Leadership Workshop and series of Careers Seminars. Interviews for internships following successful completion of all three years of the programme also form part of these, and appropriately qualified students will be offered short-term internship opportunities.

GPISH Extension
Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Boards (ITREBs) may sponsor some students to undertake GPISH. Sponsored students will be offered the GPISH Extension Programme, which aims to help them acquire specific knowledge, analytical tools and skills to contribute more effectively to the needs of ITREB; they will select their topic of field research and third-year Master’s degree in consultation with their sponsoring ITREBs. Following the successful completion of GPISH, the Extension Programme will involve a three-month residential module which builds on the GPISH curriculum, followed by a nine-month paid professional internship at sponsoring ITREBs, which will include a field assignment. They will return to the IIS for a two-week residential programme to consolidate their learning and field experience. Having completed the internship, sponsored graduates will be offered a range of continuing professional development opportunities by ITREB and the IIS to enable them to keep abreast of the emerging scholarship in their fields and to develop their competencies. GPISH students who opt for ITREB sponsorship and the Extension Programme will be committed to working with ITREBs for at least three years after the successful completion of the GPISH Extension Programme.

Doctoral Scholarships Programme
For those interested in deepening their analysis and contributing intellectually to the academic world, as well as to the IIS and the Ismaili community, the IIS offers a limited number of scholarships to pursue studies at doctoral level. There is a great need for research in Islamic Studies. Among these, the most relevant to the Institute’s research needs are education, Ismaili studies, the wider Shi‘i studies, Qur’anic studies and Islamic law. Scholarships are also open to any area in which Islam can be analysed in one of its various manifestations (historical, theological, philosophical, legal, educational, political, ritual or cultural). Research can be conducted from any of the various perspectives and disciplines related to the Humanities and Social Sciences.

 

GPISH Faculty

 

 

Meet our Faculty

Prof. Kamal Abu-Deeb – Arabic Literature

Mr Rafiq Ajani – (IIS) Islamic Law; Ethics, including bioethics; Philosophy

Dr Omar Alí-de-Unzaga – (IIS) Qur’anic Studies

Dr Nuha Al-Shaar – (IIS) Classical Arabic Literature and Thought

Dr Omar Anchassi – (Exeter) Islamic Law and Legal Theory

Prof. Ali Asani – (Harvard) Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures

Dr Karen Bauer – (IIS) Islamic Social and Intellectual History; Qur’anic Studies

Dr Stephen Burge – (IIS) Qur’anic Studies; Devotional Literature

Dr Alessandro Cancian – (IIS) Cultural Anthropology of Muslim Societies

Dr Valentino Cattelan – Islamic Law

Dr Farhad Daftary – (IIS) Ismaili Studies

Dr Maria De Cillis – (IIS) Islamic Philosophers and Shi’i Studies

Dr Aziz Esmail – (IIS) Topics in the Philosophy of Religion

Dr Janis Esots – (IIS) Shi’i Studies

Dr Elizabeth Fowden (Cambridge) Late Antiquity and Early Islam

Dr Laila Halani – (IIS) Anthropology of Muslim societies; Gender

Prof. Gerald Hawting (SOAS) – Early Development of Islam in the Middle East; Premodern Islamic and Middle Eastern History

Dr Shainool Jiwa – (IIS) Fatimid History

Dr Christie Johnson – (IIS) Arabic Verbal Arts; Theories of Literature and the Arts

Mr Zulfiqar Khimani – (IIS) Critical social theory; Contemporary Muslim communities; Media studies; Philosophy

Dr Tullio Lobetti – (IIS) Philosophy of Religion

Dr David Lunn – (SOAS) Hindi and Urdu Literature

Dr Sharmina Mawani – (IIS) Religion and Identity; the Ginanic Tradition

Dr Toby Mayer – (IIS) Qur’anic Studies

Dr Anna McSweeney – (Sussex) Islamic Arts and Architecture

Dr Werner Menski – Muslim Law; Laws of South Asia

Dr Orkhan Mir-Kasimov – (IIS) Intellectual history of Shi’i Islam; Islamic mysticism and messianism

Dr Qudsia Mirza – (Birkbeck) Islamic Law; Islamic Feminism

Dr Gurdofarid Miskinzoda – (IIS) Shi’i Heritage

Mr Luay Mohammed – (ISMC/IIS) Arabic Language

Dr Marodsilton Muborakshoeva – (IIS) Education; Research Methods

Mr Abdul Jalil Muhammad – (ISMC/IIS) Arabic Language

Dr Anjoom Mukadam – (IIS) Muslims in Contemporary Societies

Prof. Jorgen Nielsen – (Birmingham) Contemporary European Islam

Mr Wael Odeh – (ISMC/IIS) Arabic Language

Dr Daryoush Mohammad Poor – (IIS) Ismaili Philosophy

Dr Sham Qayyum – (SOAS) Islamic Law

Dr Maryam Rezaee – (IIS) Research Methods; Persian Language

Mr Riaz Rhemtulla – (IIS) Dance Traditions of India

Dr Farouk Topan – (ISMC) Swahili Literature; Islam in African Literature

Dr Saeed Zeydabadi-Nejad – (IIS) Media and Iranian Cinema

 

* Please note that some faculty members may not teach every year.


 

Academic Services

There are several ways in which students are given academic support throughout their studies at the IIS.

Pre-sessional and In-sessional Academic Skills Support

Each new cohort has students with varying levels of English language and academic skills proficiency. Based on the entry tests we conduct with students and the UKVI IELTS results at the time of admissions, some students attend a pre-sessional course at SOAS for development of their Academic English Skills. Some pre- and in-sessional Academic Skills classes will also be timetabled for all students at the start of the first term. This is to orient students to the academic conventions of the IIS and enhance students’ skills in this area prior to submission of the first assignments. Other sessions may be scheduled by the Academic Skills Support Team according to need and upon request (see below for details).

In-house Support

In-house support includes one-to-one sessions with individual Academic Advisers, lecturers and the Academic Skills Support Team at the IIS. All students are allocated an Academic Adviser at the IIS, who is available to provide students with constructive academic and personal development guidance and support across the programme of study that will guide them in their journey to become professional teachers. Academic Advisers also review students’ wider academic progress.

Students who need additional support will be able to meet regularly with the IIS’ Academic Skills Support Team, who will work with students to determine the type of support they need. This support is available for academic skills needs and some language needs. Students may request academic skills classes or workshops, or one-to-one tutorials and consultations where a member of the team will offer them support and guidance on their academic skills and language (where applicable). Alternatively, students may email their assignments for feedback on their writing. This service will be available to all students throughout their period of study at the IIS, subject to availability.

Students are encouraged to learn from the comments of the lecturers and to discuss their progress with their teachers and Academic Advisers as well as the Academic Skills Support Team and the Programme Leader.

The Aga Khaninfo-icon Library, London

The Aga Khaninfo-icon Library is a shared library between the Institute of Ismaili Studies and the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations - Aga Khan University, to support teaching and research in the Institutes.

The library is also committed to fostering knowledge of Islam, past and present, and to facilitating access to resources on the history, faith and cultures that comprise the Muslims in general and the Ismaili Shi’a community, in particular, to external researchers and students.

The Aga Khan Library occupies state-of-the-art facilities that offer a conducive research space supported by an extensive collection of modern works on subjects of interests to the Institutes, in a remarkable variety of Eastern and European languages. The Library is also the proud custodian of several collections of unique resources, precious manuscripts, and rare books, many of them donated by acclaimed scholars in the field of Islamic Studies.

SOAS Library

The SOAS Library is one of the world's most important academic libraries for the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The Library attracts scholars from all over the world to consult its holdings and further their research. The Library houses over 1.3 million volumes at the SOAS campus at Russell Square in central London, together with a major collection of archives, manuscripts, rare books and special collections, an expanding Digital Library and a growing network of electronic resources.

The SOAS Library is part of Library and Information Services, placing it at the heart of a comprehensive service which also supports Learning Resources, IT Support, ICT Infrastructure and the SOAS Information Systems suite (which includes an emerging cluster of innovative library- and research data management systems). A series of audio recordings have been created to help students make the most of their time at the SOAS Library.

Conference Fund

Students are actively encouraged to participate in conferences which the Department aims to facilitate through the dedicated Student Conference Fund.

 
 
 
 

Student Services

IIS Student Services

Student Services are responsible for overseeing non-academic matters relating to admissions, immigration, accommodation, student welfare, and graduation.  Student Services can offer advice, guidance and support to help students get the most out their time as a student in London

IT Facilities and Support

The IIS provides Mac and PC-based general computing facilities, including standard software and email applications and internet access. The Aga Khaninfo-icon Centre building is WiFi enabled. Students are provided with a monthly printing and photocopying allowance and are able to print remotely. In addition, the IIS offers an IT loan scheme, which enables students to purchase a laptop computer. 

Equal Opportunities

The IIS and its partners are firmly committed to equal opportunities for all students, regardless of gender, ethnicity, colour, disability, family responsibility, age, occupation, marital status, or trade union affiliation. If you have a disability that might have an impact on your studies, please do let us know so we can ensure reasonable adjustments, if needed, can be made. If you have not already disclosed your disability on the application form, please contact Student Services at admissions@iis.ac.uk.

Please see SOAS’ Equality and Diversity Policy: https://www.soas.ac.uk/admin/governance/policies/file37349.pdf.

Student Engagement

The IIS maintains a robust system whereby students participate in decision-making and academic governance processes pertaining to their educational experience. The approach goes beyond representation and feedback, constituting a continuing partnership whereby students are actively involved in decision-making. This is reflected in their representation on all decision making bodies, including governance committees either as student representatives or student nominated ‘student voices’.

In terms of academic governance, each cohort for both graduate programmes elects two student representatives to sit on the following committees:

  • GPISH Programme Board
  • Staff – Student Liaison Committee
  • Library Users Advisory Group
  • Health and Safety Committee
  • IIS-Victoria Housing Committee

In addition to formal student representation, one student, selected by their peers as ‘student voices’, participate in the Academic Management Committee (AMC) on a termly basis.  ‘Student voices’ also attend the DGS OSG and the Board of Governors meetings for specific student-agenda related items on a termly basis providing consultative input.

Students are regularly consulted on new initiatives and policy developments that are of relevance to their student experience.  Extensive feedback is sought from students, starting at orientation and running throughout their studies. These range from formal evaluation mechanisms, including Mid-term Reviews for GPISH, to the collection of verbal and written feedback from Student Representatives and Student Voice platforms.

Student representatives also receive specific induction training and briefing in addition to a Student Representatives Handbook, facilitating the effectiveness of their role.

This deliberate engagement ensures that relevant policies and procedures and ongoing enhancements at strategic and procedural levels are informed by student perspectives.

 

Physical Facilities

Academic Building The Aga Khaninfo-icon Centre

Classes led by IIS faculty will be held at the Aga Khan Centre. The academic building has been designed by Pritzker prize-winning Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki, who also designed the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamatinfo-icon (Ottawa, 2008) and the Aga Khan Museum (Toronto, 2014). This signature building features the Islamic Gardens of London, which are inspired by the rich heritage of gardens in Muslim contexts. Each green space within our complex of buildings corresponds to the landscape of a given country or region of the Muslim world.

The collection of gardens is a unique and distinctive feature of the development. The relationship with the natural world will resonate harmoniously with the landscaped gardens, leafy parks, squares and pathways already welcoming the public across the King’s Cross development.

The Aga Khan Centre is a place to learn and study, housing a two level library and state of the art lecture and classrooms. Level one through to four of the building house the teaching and learning spaces for IIS students. With large and smaller seminar rooms where students will have lectures and seminars as well as a student lounge for them to relax, they can spend time with colleagues and eat during their breaks between classes. The upper floors house offices for faculty members as well as members of staff for the other departments within the IIS. The building is shared with the Aga Khan Foundation and the Aga Khan University, Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations. The Aga Khan Centre is a short walk from student halls of residence.

Accommodation  Victoria Hall King's Cross

Designed by the multiple-award winning architects Stanton Williams, Victoria Hall King’s Cross is an extraordinary new building for students who are looking for a more enriching place to live and study. Built to the highest standards from limestone, oak, brick and metalwork, the accommodation was conceived with ergonomics, nature and well-being at the forefront of our thinking.

The ground and first floors are set aside for shared spaces. There is a large social lounge for relaxing, eating, watching TV and playing games, a breakout room for studying and meeting, a reading room, a courtyard garden and plenty of bicycle parking. Natural light is utilised throughout the building and as many rooms as possible face south. On the eighth floor there is a fitness room and a stunning garden terrace with views across London.

In each room, large desks let students spread out to facilitate different study habits; there is a double bed and plenty of storage space, an upholstered desk chair, and a lounge chair. Every room also features an en-suite bathroom. Wi-Fi is available throughout the building and each bedroom can access the high-speed broadband connection. The communal spaces are equally spacious with plenty of room in the shared dining area and kitchen areas to store their groceries and cook for themselves or with their flatmates.

 

GPISH Alumni

 

 

 

The IIS alumni body now consists of several hundred individuals dispersed across the world who are supported through the IIS’ Alumni Relations Unit. GPISH graduates are also SOAS alumni.

 

The IIS’ Alumni Association which offers them number of benefits, including:

 

· Opportunities to participate in academic seminars

· Access to research and conference participation grants of up to £500

· Networking opportunities at Annual Chapter Group meetings

· An annual Alumni Newsletter and regular bulletins advertising conferences and professional opportunities

· Access to the recently established online community portal which serves as a professional network

· Opportunities to share news and publish research via a dedicated domain on the IIS website.

 

Please see SOAS Alumni Network

 

U.K. Higher Education

 Overview of the UK Higher Education System

Higher Education in the UK involves the final and highest phase of education. Higher education providers are most frequently known as ‘universities’, but may also include private education providers and colleges, as well as other types of publicly-funded and privately-funded institutes.

Courses and degrees are usually aligned to two levels:

  • Undergraduate (Bachelor Awards, BA; Bachelor of Science, BSc – pitched at Level 6 of the National Qualifications Framework for England, Wales and Northern Ireland)
  • Postgraduate (e.g. Master of Art, MA; Master of Science, MSc; Master of Education, MEd; Master of Philosophy, MPhil – all pitched at Level 7).

The highest available award is the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), which is a research-based degree pitched at Level 8.

Most students start Higher Education at the age of 18, studying for an undergraduate degree. The average Bachelor’s Award  usually takes three years to complete, although some incorporate or have an option for a fourth year. Tuition fees are currently capped at £9,250 per year for British and EU students, whereas fees for international students are likely to be significantly higher, sometimes reaching £30,000 per year or more. Undergraduate courses are focused on the acquisition of knowledge, the development of critical thinking skills, and – particularly for technically-oriented programmes – work-related skills. On graduation from their first degree, many students continue their studies enrolling in a Postgraduate programme. The average postgraduate programme usually lasts one year, although longer courses are also on offer. Such programmes emphasise research and critical thinking: the student is considered an advanced learner, capable of pursuing their study and research interests independently and creatively. Postgraduate tuition fees for British and EU students are usually in the region of £6,000 per year, but they may also be significantly higher. Fees for international students usually exceed £10,000.

In 2016/17, more than 1.7 million students were enrolled on undergraduate courses, while more than half a million were studying for postgraduate qualifications (www.hesa.ac.uk/stats).

Additional Information

For further information on studying and international student recruitment in the U.K., please refer to the following sources:

Please note that according to UKVI regulations there is currently a five-year study cap on UK student visas. For further information, please refer to the UKVI website.

The Institute of Ismaili Studies is a UKVI licensed Tier 4 sponsor.