BA History / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Minority Rights in Islamic World History

Course unit fact file
Unit code HIST32392
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


The concept of of minority right is commonly grounded today in national and international commitments to protect numerically small, persecuted, or exiled groups across the globe. This concept has been a major, and deeply theorized, issue in Muslim societies. Whereas its history has largely been told from eurocentric perspectives (such as European colonial state building processes and governance), this module explores the history of minority rights through the lens of Islamic World History. Examining how Muslims understood this concept from its emergence during the second half of the nineteenth century to our times, students will interrogate the plural roles of “minority” in Islamic history. Topics will include early Islamic concepts of governing religious and social difference, competing visions of minority rights and their pre-history, as well various historical case studies spanning from colonial India to the Ottoman Empire, Khedival Egypt, the Soviet Union, and contemporary Europe and the US. This module thus embeds Islamic thought within global histories of law, state bureaucracies, and movements for social and political justice worldwide.


To gain extensive knowledge on key Islamic conceptions of difference and their relationship to the international history of minority rights. 

To develop a nuanced and interconnected interpretations of key historiographical debates about Minority Rights and Islamic World History. 

To equip students with tools to understand competing systems of managing religious and social differences across different imperial and national contexts. 

To develop theoretical approaches for studying questions of religious and social difference in colonial and postcolonial contexts through the lenses of Islamic World History. 

To encourage students to interrogate the entangled macro and micro processes that turned  minority rights into a central category of governance and claim-making worldwide

Teaching and learning methods

Workshop activities: brief introductory “lectures” on a weekly subject and various seminar activities (e.g. discussions and presentations). 

Assessments: 1 primary source analysis/book review and 1 essay   

The students will be provided with the reading materials, but they will be encouraged them to use diverse e-learning tools and primary source databases of relevance to the topics in question.

Knowledge and understanding

Demonstrate a broad understanding of the role of Muslim thinkers and institutions in contesting and challenging eurocentric and colonial forms of world order. 

Develop a nuanced understanding of key ideas, processes, and events in the international history of minority rights. 

Gain critical insights on how religious and social difference are constructed and turned on their head by a verity of political alternatives. 

Develop inter-disciplinary lens of historical analysis of minority rights in relation to major Islamic conceptions of difference alongside major ideologies of the modern period, such as Liberalism, Socialism, Gandhism etc. 

Cultivate a critical understanding on the production of ideologies, their “translation” to state policies, and the responses to them.

Intellectual skills

Develop integrative and comparative skills to analyze complex ideas and their impact on diverse societies. 

Refine argumentative skills and critical thinking through oral presentations, discussions, and academic writing. 

Develop original arguments by synthesizing primary and secondary sources from diverse contexts. 

Analyze primary sources from a wide-range of genres, including census’ proceedings, news articles, constitutions, memoirs etc. 

Identify and interpret key historical debates by reading a wide-range of studies in intellectual, social, and political history, as well as in historical anthropology.

Practical skills

Develop teamwork skills through group presentations. 

Learn how to use primary and secondary sources creatively and efficiently in both writing and in speaking. 

Independent research skills throughout the seminars and written assignments  Communicating complex ideas and arguments through presentations and in-class discussions 

Time-management and organizational skills in both in-class conversations and written assignments

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Broad familiarity with the history of the Islamic world and minority rights and their effects on regional and international politics  

Clear, evidence-based and argumentative writing  

Ability to carry out independent research using both primary and secondary sources 

Constructive participation in debates and discussions 

Develop teamwork skills through a variety of group activities in workshops and group presentation

Employability skills


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 35%
Written assignment (inc essay) 65%
Primary Source Analysis/Book Review (Summative) 1000 words

Feedback methods

Verbal feedback on (non-assessed) group presentation and seminar activities. (Formative)Written feedback on the Source Analysis and the essay assignments via Turnitin. (Formative and Summative)Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultations and office hours) (Formative)

Recommended reading

Khalid Masud. Minorities in Islamic History: an Analytical Study of Four Documents.‖ Journal for Islamic Studies 20, (2000): 125-134. 

Janet Klein, “Making Minorities in the Eurasian Borderlands: A Comparative Perspective from the Russian and Ottoman Empires,” in Empire and Belonging in the Eurasian Borderlands, eds. Kristina A. Goff and Lewis H. Siegelbaum (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2019), 17-33.   

SherAli Tareen, Perilous Intimacies: Debating Hindu-Muslim Friendship After Empire (Columbia University Press, forthcoming August 2023)  

Mahmood Mamdani, Neither Settler Nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2020)  

Manan Ahmed Asif, A Book of Conquest: The Chachnama and Muslim Origins in South Asia  (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016).  

Thamarat al-Funun (1898), On the Dreyfus Affair” and Other News Items [introduction and translation: Tarek El-Ariss],” in The Arab Renaissance: A Bilingual Anthology of the Nahda, ed. Tarek El-Ariss (New York: MLA, 2018).  

Adeeb Khalid, Making Uzbekistan: Nation, Empire, and Revolution in the Early USSR (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2015).   

Emily Greble, Muslims and the Making of Modern Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 200

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