MA Islamic Intellectual History


Program Description

Mode of Attendance: Full-time or part-time

The MA Islamic Intellectual History is a programme on historical Islamic studies, offering an in-depth study of the intellectual, religious and cultural history of the Islamic world, past and present, and of wider socio-political contexts.

It has broad thematic coverage, including philosophy, theology, political thought, law, historiography and palaeography, as well as a regional coverage that includes the Middle East, South Asia and Central Asia.

This programme suits students from different academic backgrounds and prospective personal objectives, from those interested in broadening their knowledge of Islam and the Muslim world and developing intellectual and transferable skills, to those planning to pursue further research in the field.


Students need not know a language other than English to apply for this programme. However, they will have the opportunity to take modules involving the study of primary texts in Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish or Syriac should they have the required language proficiency. The programme may also be taken in combination with the Intensive Language pathway.

Studying at SOAS

We offer access to unparalleled scholarly and cultural resources and activities relevant to the study of Islam and the Islamic world, both at the School and elsewhere in London. The SOAS Library and British Library have some of the best specialist collections in the world. Activities include conferences, lectures and seminars, exhibitions and reading groups. The annual international conferences of the British Association for Islamic Studies and the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies, which showcase current research, often take place in, or within easy reach of, London and offer postgraduate students excellent opportunities to connect with the wider field.


Graduates from the department have entered various professions after leaving School. Some have been able to pursue careers directly related to their study area while others have made use of the general intellectual training provided by the advanced study of cultures for involvement in analysing and solving many of the problems contemporary societies now face. Among a variety of professions, career paths may include academia, charity work, community, government, NGOs, media and publishing, UN agencies SOAS Careers Services The School has a careers service available to all SOAS students while they are at the school, free of charge. This office helps with job listings, interviews during "milk rounds", putting together CVs, and even organising postgraduate study.


Students must complete 180 credits as follows:

  • The core module and the dissertation must be completed.
  • The remaining 105 credits should be taken from List A, B or C.
  • The dissertation must be written on a topic related to either core module or a module from List A.
  • A minimum of 45 credits must be taken from List A.
  • A maximum of 30 credits may be taken from List C or from the Postgraduate Open Options List.


  • Dissertation in Islamic Intellectual History

Core Module

  • Approaches in Islamic Intellectual History

List of modules (subject to availability)

  • List A
    • Medieval Arabic Thought
    • Modern Trends in Islam
    • The Islamic Manuscript Tradition
    • Islamic Law (MA/LLM)
    • Islam in South Asia
    • Iran and the Persianate world, 1400 to 1800
    • Iran and the Persianate world, 1800 to 1979
    • The End of Empire in the Middle East and the Balkans II
    • The Early Development of Islam: Emerging Identities and Contending View
    • The Origin of Islam: Sources and Perspectives
  • List B
    • Islam and politics
    • Modernity and the Transformation of the Middle East I
    • Modernity and the Transformation of the Middle East II
    • Art and Architecture of the Fatimids
    • Islam and the West: Artistic and Cultural Contacts
    • Christians and Muslims in Syriac Texts
    • Islamic Legal Texts in Arabic
    • Zoroastrianism: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives
    • Muslim Britain: Perspectives and Realities
    • Reading Classical Arabic Historians: Themes and Trends in Islamic Historiography
  • List C: Languages
    Maximum from this list - 30 credits.
    • Persian for Readers of Arabic Script (PG)
    • Arabic 400 (PG)
    • Arabic 500 (PG)
    • Arabic 600 (PG)
    • Swahili 1 A (PG)
    • Swahili 1 B (PG)
    • Intermediate Swahili 2A (PG)
    • Swahili 3 (PG)
    • Urdu Language 1 A (PG)
    • Urdu Language 1 B (PG)
    • Urdu Language 2 (PG)
    • Indonesian Language 1 A (PG)
    • Indonesian Language 1 B (PG)
    • Indonesian Language 2 (PG)
    • Indonesian Language 3 (PG)
    • Indonesian Language 4 (PG)
    • Arabic 200 (PG)
    • Elementary Written Persian A (PG)
    • Elementary Written Persian B (PG)
    • Intermediate Persian Language (PG)
    • Persian 3 (PG)
    • Classical Persian Poetry: Texts and Traditions (PG)
    • Elementary Persian Texts (PG)
    • Pahlavi Language
    • Elementary Written Turkish A (PG)
    • Elementary Written Turkish B (PG)
    • Turkish 3 (PG)
    • Ottoman Turkish Language (PG)
    • Classical Ottoman Texts (PG)
    • Avestan I

Important notice

The information on the programme page reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session.

Admissions and Applications

You can apply for this course via the online application form.

We aim to assess a complete application and provide a decision within a 5-week time frame. Overseas students who require a Tier 4 visa and wish to join SOAS should bear in mind visa applications can take several weeks, so you should apply as soon as possible.

Consideration of Application

The whole application, including transcript and references, is considered before a decision is reached. You are therefore advised to submit a complete application including references and transcript (where required). An incomplete application will add considerable delays to the decision-making process.

Students will receive an acknowledgement of their application. Each application is carefully considered and although we try and respond as quickly as possible, we do ask that students should expect to receive a response within five weeks of receipt.

Candidates who are available in the United Kingdom may be called for an interview. The absence of academic members of staff (or instance on study leave) may affect the timing of decisions.

Entry Requirements

Minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent)

Subjects Preferred:

Applicants are not required to have previous academic experience of this subject, although a strong interest in Islamic societies and cultures is of course expected.

English Language Entry Requirements

You must be able to show that your English is of a high enough standard to successfully engage with and complete your course at SOAS. Please note that we take our English language requirements seriously and failure to meet them exactly may well result in your application to SOAS being rejected. It is not possible to negotiate if your scores are below our required levels, with the expectation that because they are 'close enough' they will be accepted. It is important that you plan appropriately, well in advance, so that your English language test comes in good time and so that you have time to retake the test if necessary. We do not accept reasons of inconvenience or financial hardship for not submitting or retaking an English test.

International students

For EU and International students who need a visa, if unconditional entry scores are achieved we accept qualifications from several countries, as well as a range of international qualifications and tests.

If a Tier 4 entry visa is required then a SELT, such as UKVI IELTS may be needed. For this reason, we recommend all Tier 4 visa students to choose the UKVI IELTS Academic test as the test of first resort.

Last updated October 2019

About the School

SOAS University of London welcomes the brightest minds to study on its central London campus with like-minded individuals who feel passionately about contemporary world issues.

SOAS University of London welcomes the brightest minds to study on its central London campus with like-minded individuals who feel passionately about contemporary world issues. Read less
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