The Study of Shia Islam in British Academia: Some Preliminary Reflections

Abstract

This papers investigates the development of Shia Studies in British academia and provides an overview of institutions of higher education undertaking research and providing teaching in Shia Islam. The paper will first provide an overview of the development of Shia Studies in Western academic institutions and the central role that the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 played in increasing significantly the study of Shia Islam in Europe and North America. Different universities in the UK in which research and teaching of Shia Islam is currently undertaken will be introduced with a discussion of the research areas and methodological approaches used by academic researchers based at these institutions. In addition to research and teaching at universities, a number of Shia denominational colleges exist that, in conjunction with a more traditional hawza or pre-hawza training, offer academic programmes in Islamic Studies with some focus on Shia Islam. The paper will also present some academic outreach initiatives of Shia community centres and organisations in the UK before concluding with a number of reflections on how Shia Studies might develop in the future and what opportunities exist for collaboration with community organisations and international partners.