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Shaping Global Islamic Discourses

The Role of al-Azhar, al-Medina and al-Mustafa

Edited by Masooda Bano, Keiko Sakurai

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Published in Association with the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations

Explores the influence of centres of Islamic learning in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt

Claims abound that Saudi oil money is fuelling Salafi Islam in cultural and geographical terrains as disparate as the remote hamlets of the Swat valley in Pakistan and sprawling megacities such as Jakarta. In a similar manner, it is often regarded as a fact that Iran and the Sunni Arab states are fighting proxy wars in foreign lands. This empirically grounded study challenges the assumptions prevalent within academic as well as policy circles about hegemonic power of such Islamic discourses and movements to penetrate all Muslim communities and societies. Through case studies of academic institutions the volume illustrates how transmission of ideas is an extremely complex process, and the outcome of such efforts depends not just on the strategies adopted by backers of those ideologies but equally on the characteristics of the receipt communities.

In order to understand this complex interaction between the global and local Islam and the plurality in outcomes, the volume focuses on the workings of three universities with global outreach, and whose graduating students carry the ideas acquired during their education back to their own countries, along with, in some cases, a zeal to reform their home society.

Key Features

  • Focuses on case studies of three of the most influential international centres of Islamic learning in contemporary times: Al-Azhar University in Egypt, International Islamic University of Medina in Saudi Arabia, and Al-Mustafa University in Iran
  • Traces the activities and influence of graduates in their home communities to show how ideas are transmitted from one locale to another and how this process often induces adjustments within those ideas
  • Takes a comparative appoach with cases from North and West Africa and Southeast Asia


  • Masooda Bano, University of Oxford
  • Mike Farquhar, School of Oriental and African Studies
  • Hiroko Kushimoto, International Islamic University Malaysia
  • Keiko Sakurai, Waseda University
  • Yuki Shiozaki, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)
  • Alex Thurston, Georgetown University
  • Ann Wainscott, St Louis University
  • Zulkifli, Syarif Hidayatullah


List of contributors
Introduction, Masooda Bano and Keiko Sakurai

Part I. Making of the Global: Inside the Three Universities
1. The Islamic University of Medina since 1961: The Politics of Religious Mission and the Making of a Modern Salafi Pedagogy, Mike Farquhar
2. Making Qom a centre of Shiʿi scholarship: al-Mustafa International University, Keiko Sakurai
3. Protector of the ‘al-Wasatiyya’ Islam: Cairo’s al-Azhar University, Masooda Bano

Part II. Returning Graduates in Negotiation with the Local
4. Ahlussunnah: A Preaching Network from Kano to Medina and Back, Alex Thurston
5. Qom Alumni in Indonesia: Their Role in the Shiʿi Community Zulkifli
6. Islamic Modernism, Political Reform and the Arabisation of Education: The Relationship between Moroccan Nationalists and al-Azhar University, Ann Wainscott

Part III. Returning Graduates and Transformation of the Local
7. From Mecca to Cairo: Changing Influences on Fatwas in Southeast Asia, Yuki Shiozaki
8. ‘Azharisation’ of ʿUlama Training in Malaysia, Hiroko Kushimoto

About the Author

Masooda Bano is Associate Professor in the Oxford Department of International Development, and Senior Golding Fellow, Brasenose College, University of Oxford. She is author of The Rational Believer: Choices and Decisions in the Madrasas of Pakistan (2012) and Female Islamic Education Movements: The Re-Democratisation of Islamic Knowledge (2017), and co-editor of Women, Leadership and Mosques: Changes in Contemporary Islamic Authority (2012) and Shaping Global Islamic Discourses: The Role of al-Azhar, al-Medina, and al-Mustafa (Edinburgh University Press, 2015, 2017).

Keiko Sakurai is Professor at the Faculty of International Research and Education, School of International Liberal Studies, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan.


Superbly edited, this authoritative book sheds light on state-university relations, institutional strategies, student-teacher relations, and the impact of returning graduates on their home communities of three leading Islamic universities with a global footprint. Shattering the myths surrounding Islamic education today, this book is vital reading for scholars, policy makers, and a general audience.

- Dale Eickelman, Dartmouth College

Makes a serious contribution to ongoing debates about the changing nature of authority and the shifting discourse on Islam in the modern world through masterful case studies the examine how the global is negotiated in the local.

- Sajjad H Rizvi, University of Exeter
'This volume brings together scholars conducting field research in diverse parts of the Islamic world. Each chapter provides the reader with in-depth and up-to-date knowledge on Islamic learning in modern nation-state contexts... This volume is recommended to readers who would like to further their understanding about the recent developments in Islamic higher education and their graduates around the globe.'
- Hatsuki Aishima , Die Welt des Islams

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