Usaama al-Azami


Departmental Lecturer in Contemporary Islamic Studies

Faculty / College Address:

Oriental Institute / St Antony's College



Usaama al-Azami read his BA in Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Oxford, and his MA and PhD in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. Alongside his university career, he also pursued Islamic studies in seminarial settings in which he has also subsequently taught. He has travelled extensively throughout the Middle East, living for five years in the region. He is also an enthusiastic teacher who is very eager to support the formation of research scholars, and always welcomes students with such aspirations to get in touch with him.

Usaama al-Azami is primarily interested in the interaction between Islam and modernity with a special interest in modern developments in Islamic political thought. His first book, Islam and the Arab Revolutions looks at the way in which influential Islamic scholars responded to the Arab uprisings of 2011 through 2013. His PhD, which is a separate project which he hopes to develop into a monograph in the near future, is entitled "Modern Islamic Political Thought: Islamism in the Arab World from the Late 20th to the Early 21st Centuries". In it, he explores how Arab ulama of a mainstream "Islamist" orientation have engaged Western political concepts such as democracy, secularism and the nation-state, selectively adapting and assimilating aspects of these ideas into their understanding of Islam. His broader interests extend to a range of disciplines from the Islamic scholarly tradition from the earliest period of Islam down to the present.

Research Interests:

  • The Arab uprisings, the ulama and contemporary politics
  • Contemporary debates in Islamic thought/law
  • Methodological debates in Islamic studies
  • Postcolonial and decolonial studies
  • Normative studies in the Islamic scholarly tradition

Current Projects:

  • Book project: Making Islam Autocratic: The Islamic Legitimation of Authoritarianism in the Arab Counter-revolutions
  • Mini-monograph project: Yusuf al-Qaradawi and the Issue of Takfir

Courses Taught:

  • Modern Islamic Thought in the Middle East
  • Islam and Politics in the Middle East (MPhil/MSc only)
  • Modern Islamic Thinkers (BA only)

Recent Publications:

  • Islam and the Arab Revolutions The Ulama Between Democracy and Autocracy. London: Hurst, (forthcoming in August 2021); and New York: Oxford University Press (forthcoming in November 2021).
  • "Locating Ḥākimiyya in Global History: The Concept of Sovereignty in Premodern Islam and Its Reception after Mawdūdī and Quṭb," Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, (forthcoming).
  • “Legitimising Political Dissent: Islamist Salafi Discourses on Obedience and Rebellion after the Arab Revolutions.” in Masooda Bano and Saud al-Sarhan (eds). Salafi Social and Political Movements: National and Transnational Contexts. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming in 2021.
  • "‘Abdullāh bin Bayyah and the Arab Revolutions: Counter‐revolutionary Neo‐traditionalism’s Ideological Struggle against Islamism." The Muslim World 109 (2019), 343-361.
  • "Neo-traditionalist Sufis and Arab Politics: A Preliminary Mapping of the Transnational Networks of Counter-revolutionary Scholars after the Arab Revolutions." In Global Sufism: Boundaries, Structures, and Politics. Eds. Mark Sedgwick and Francesco Piraino. London: Hurst, 2019, 225-236 and 278-283.

Some of Dr al-Azami's publications and works-in progress may be accessed here:

Other Publications:

Book reviews:

  • The Caliphate of Man: Popular Sovereignty in Modern Islamic Thought. Andrew F. March. Harvard, 2019. (Political Theory, 2021)
  • Travelling Home: Essays on Islam in Europe. Abdal Hakim Murad. Quilliam, 2020. (, [2021])
  • Women in the Mosque: A History of Legal Thought and Social Practice. Marion Holmes Katz. Columbia, 2014. (The Muslim World Book Review, 36:2 [2016]).
  • The Impossible State: Islam, Politics, and Modernity's Moral Predicament. Wael Hallaq. Columbia, 2012. (The Muslim World, 104:1-2 [2014]).
  • Just Wars, Holy Wars and Jihads: Christian, Jewish and Muslim Encounters and Exchanges. Sohail Hashmi (ed.). OUP, 2012. (Journal of Islamic Studies, 25:1 [2014]).
  • Sufism and Society: Arrangements of the Mystical in the Muslim World, 1200-1800. Curry Ohlander (eds.). Routledge, 2012. (Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, 24:4 [2013]).
  • Observing the Observer: The State of Islamic Studies in American Universities. Mumtaz Ahmad, Zahid Bukhari, and Sulayman Nyang, eds. Herndon, VA: IIIT, 2012. (American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences (AJISS) 30:3 [2013]).
  • Contemporary Approaches to the Qur’ān and Sunnah. ed. Mahmoud Ayoub. Herndon, VA: IIIT, 2012. (American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences (AJISS) 30:3 [2013]).

Further Information:

Dr al-Azami occasionally contributes op-ed pieces to news outlets. He also engages in consultancy regarding the Gulf region and with respect to Islam and Muslim communities in the West, particularly with the educational and charity sectors.

Usaama al-Azami