Studying the Islamic World at Oxford

Detail of Quran stand, Sultan Qaytbay Mosque, Cairo

Detail of Quran stand, Sultan
Qaytbay Mosque, Cairo

Oxford is one of the largest and most active university centres world-wide for the study of the Islamic world. Arabic has been taught at Oxford for more than 400 years and, since the middle of the last century, the university has steadily expanded its provision. Today, more than fifty members of staff research and teach all aspects of Muslim societies, past and present, including anthropology, art and architecture, archaeology, development studies and economics, history, languages and literature, philosophy, politics and international relations, religion and theology.

The hub of this activity is the Faculty of Oriental Studies, based in the Oriental Institute in Pusey Lane. The faculty offers students interested in the Islamic world a variety of undergraduate degrees and a range of graduate courses.

Other centres, closely linked to Oriental Studies, specialise in the study of the Islamic world, including the Khalili Research Centre for the Art and Material Culture of the Middle East and the Middle East Centre, St Antony’s College. The Ashmolean Museum, the Bodleian Library, the Museum for the History of Science, and the Pitt-Rivers Museum, all hold important research collections of Islamic materials.

Further afield, and not always so closely linked to Oriental Studies, particular aspects of the Muslim societies are studied and taught in the School of Anthropology, Queen Elizabeth House, and the Faculty of Politics and International Relations, and the Faculty of Theology.

NEWS: The Abdulaziz Saud AlBabtain Laudian Chair in Arabic

Photograph of Mr Abdulaziz Saud AlBabtain with members of the Faculty Board and guests at the unveiling of the plaque in honour of his generous benefaction.

The Laudian Chair of Arabic, first endowed in 1636 by Archbishop William Laud, is one of the oldest Chairs of Arabic in Europe. Thanks to a generous benefaction by Mr Abdulaziz Saud AlBabtain, noted Kuwaiti philanthropist and poet, the Chair has now been re-endowed, ensuring the survival of this important post for future generations. In his honour, the Chair has been renamed the Abdulaziz Saud AlBabtain Laudian Chair in Arabic, combining his name with that of the original donor. On 15 September 2016 a ceremony was held to celebrate this event.

This link (forthcoming) provides excerpts from a speech given by Professor Mark Smith, Chair of the Faculty Board of Oriental Studies, on that occasion, outlining the history of the Arabic Chair at Oxford and thanking Mr AlBabtain for his generosity and his tireless efforts to promote dialogue and cultural exchange between East and West.  It also shows the unveiling of a plaque in his honour, which will be displayed permanently in the Oriental Institute, followed by remarks from Mr AlBabtain himself.