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Thematic Guides

Welcome to Oxford Islamic Studies Online’s thematic guides to the Islamic world. These guides have been designed to provide a general introduction on popular topics in Islamic studies including historical conflicts, movements, philosophy, current events, people and places, and more.

Each thematic guide walks users through a topic by providing background information and links to supporting material, such as entries, maps, images, and primary source documents, which will give users an even deeper understanding of the topic. These guides are not meant to provide comprehensive coverage of a topic, rather they are meant to highlight the wealth of content available on Oxford Islamic Studies Online in these subject areas. They are useful both to users looking for an in-depth, multi-faceted exploration of a topic, and also to educators who are looking to cover topics in a comprehensive manner. New thematic guides on popular topics will be added as they become available.

A Brief Overview of Jammu and Kashmir

Indian and Pakistani-administered Jammu and Kashmir is a space in which conflicting discourses have emerged. Guest editor Nyla Ali Khan places this story into context, from the emergence of Islam in the region to the current political situation. More

Islam in Algeria

With the arrival of Islam dating back to the mid-to-late seventh century, a consequence of Arab expansion along the North African littoral, Algeria offers students and scholars an opportunity to study a multifaceted Islamic history, which correlates closely with the country’s political and social development. Here, Phillip C. Naylor of Marquette University offers a guide to this history. More

History of Islam in North Africa

Russell Hopley (Lecturer in Arabic, Bowdoin College) provides an introduction to the main trends in North African history during the Islamic era, from the late-seventh century CE to the present day. More

The Text and Language of the Qurʾān

The Qurʾān's complicated history has intrigued both philologists and scholars of religion for centuries. In this thematic guide, Professor Andrew Rippin (University of Victoria and the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London) outlines the structure of the Qurʾān and maps the twisty paths by which the sacred text came to exist in its present form. More

Islam in Spain

Moving from a concise history of Islam in the Iberian Peninsula to an analysis of the scholastic and cultural heritage of Muslim Spain, Ronald Bruce St John's guide to Islam in Spain provides a balanced and comprehensive overview of a fascinating site of cultural contact. More

Islam in France

Muslims have constituted a significant portion of the French population for decades, yet questions surrounding the role and presence of Islam in everyday French life continue to inspire debate. This thematic guide, written by prominent independent scholar Ronald Bruce St John, provides a thorough yet accessible introduction to the complex range of issues surrounding the history of Islam in France.More

Expansion of Islam

Harnessing the dual forces of migration and conversion, Islam has expanded from its base in the Arabian Peninsula to comprise a truly global faith. In this thematic guide, Mushegh Asatryan of the Institute of Ismaili Studies tracks the spread of Islam from the time of Muhammad to the present day.More

Iranian Revolution

The 1979 Iranian Revolution was a pivotal moment in world history. The overthrow of the Shah terminated nearly five centuries of dynastic rule, and transformed Iran into a state run exclusively by religious authorities. In this thematic guide, Christoph Marcinkowski analyzes the roots and legacy of the upheaval.More

Islamic Law

Like its predecessors Christianity and Judaism, Islam is governed by a comprehensive system of divinely-inspired law. In this thematic guide, Jessica Radin of the University of Toronto describes the sources that have shaped, and continue to shape, Islamic law and jurisprudence.More


A literal crossroads lying simultaneously on the European peninsula and Asian landmass, Turkey has been profoundly shaped by forces from the east and west. In this thematic guide, Doğan Eşkinat of Columbia University chronicles the nation's ongoing rise from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.More


In this thematic guide on Sufism, Erik S. Ohlander of Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne charts the fortunes of Islam' s "mystical side" from its origins in modern-day Iraq and Syria in the early 8th century to today.More

Islam Outside the Arab World

Rüdiger Seesemann, of the University of Bayreuth (Germany), explores the practice of Islam outside Arab lands. In actuality, the vast majority of the world’s Muslims reside in Central and South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.More

Sunni-Shiʿa Conflict

Christoph Marcinkowski, Research Fellow at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) in Malaysia, provides a brief historical background on the Sunni-Shiʿa schism. While Iran is the only Shiʿa-majority country in the world, the followers of Ali are spread throughout the entirety of the Middle East.More

Ottoman Empire

In this thematic guide, Corinne Blake of Rowan University summarizes the rise and decline of the Ottomans, one of the world's great gunpowder empires. At its peak, the "paramount Muslim empire" ruled over southeastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.More


William Shepard, professor emeritus of Canterbury University (New Zealand), charts the rise of political Islam throughout the world's Muslim-majority nations with this thematic guide. Whereas some movements and political parties have advocated for the inclusion of some democratic institutions into governance, others call for complete application of shari'a, the body of laws outlined in the Qurɽan and the sunnah.More

Exploring the Contents of the Qur'an

Andrew Rippin of the University of Victoria walks users through the Qur'an with the aid of Hanna Kassis' Concordance of the Qur'an, which is electronically available exclusively on Oxford Islamic Studies Online. Rippin closely examines the main themes of the Qur'an, including God as supreme, the prophets, law, and the afterlife. By providing users with specific examples of terms and concepts found throughout the Qur'an, Rippin makes this holy text accessible to all users by giving them the tools necessary to conduct thorough research.More

Arab-Israeli Conflict

In this thematic guide, Matthew Gray explores the nearly 130-year dispute between Israelis and Palestinians over Palestine and the wider dispute between Israel and most Arab states over the right of Israel to exist as and where it does. Through links to survey articles, biographies, maps, and primary source documents, the guide illuminates a conflict that is still very relevant today, and it does so in a succinct, accessible manner. More

Islam and Modernism

John Voll follows the evolution of Islamic modernism from the middle of the nineteenth century to the present. With links to the biographies of prominent Islamic scholars, primary source documents of important modernist works, and subject entries that explain aspects of the movement, this guide traces the growth of modernist thought across the Muslim world. More

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