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Islamic Studies

Course outline
Course structure
Major research and teaching interests
Formal requirements
Academic advisor

Degree: Bachelor of Arts
Application: not required
Course commences: winter semester only
Standard course duration: 6 semesters
Focus options: 75%; 50 (2); 25%
Language requirements: Reading proficiency in English and French. On application, French can be replaced by another modern European foreign language.
Language of instruction: German

Faculty of Philosophy

Course outline

Islamic Studies is the cultural studies discipline that engages with the world of Islam from Muhammad to the present on the basis of knowledge of the languages of the Islamic civilisation. Islam first materialised within the Arabic language community, soon spreading from there to peoples speaking non-Semitic languages. These peoples made a significant contribution to Islamic civilisation. Today the Islamic world encompasses regions in Europe, Asia and Africa from the Atlantic coast to the Philippines and the shores of East Africa to the great rivers of Siberia. The historical core centres of the Islamic world, like the Arabian Peninsula, Greater Syria, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Iran and Afghanistan, Anatolia and parts of Central Asia are areas where Arabic and Turkish/Persian are spoken.

Thematically, the course covers a wide range of methods and topics deriving from the close investigation of the history, religions, languages, politics, societies, economies, legislations, philosophy, art, archaeology and historical area studies of the Islamic world.

In the attempt to get to grips with the complexity and diversity of the subject matter involved, teaching and research at Heidelberg University has opted for a three-way distribution of emphasis both geographically and in terms of content. In the framework of the B.A. programme on Islamic Studies, emphasis will largely be guided by the choice of language. B.A. graduates interested in engaging more profoundly with the focus they have opted for can go on to sharpen and fine-hone their knowledge in one of the three M.A. courses on Arabic and Islamic Studies, Turkish and Ottoman Studies or Persian and Iranian Studies. The options available are

  1. Arabic focus. The subject matter at the heart of this option is the religious, literary and social history of the Arab world from the 7th century to the present based on a knowledge of Arabic and its geographical and historical variants.
  2. Turkish / Ottoman focus. The subject matter in this study option is the history and culture of the Ottoman Empire and adjacent areas in Southeast Europe, Caucasia and Iran. Students selecting this focus will need to be familiarise themselves with Turkish in its modern and classical (Ottoman) forms.
  3. Persian / Iranian focus. This option homes in on the languages and culture of Iran, with special reference to the Islamic period. The essential basis for this focus is knowledge of modern Persian supplemented by an initial engagement with its classical precursor forms (Middle Persian, Old Persian, Avestic) or the synchronous spectrum of Iranian languages.

Study requirements and prerequisites

Students embarking on the B.A. course in Islamic Studies ae expected to have a broad interest in the history, literature and societal complexion of Islamic culture. They will also need both the ability and the stamina required to achieve a working knowledge of at least one of the classical Islamic languages (Arabic, Turkish, Persian), which are neither related to one another nor are normally to be found on secondary school curricula.  The work involved for the students is considerable and is compounded with the necessity for intensive ongoing preparation for class. In addition, the broad scope of Islamic Studies makes independent reading of secondary literature indispensable, much of which is in English or French. Accordingly, a working knowledge of these languages is a prerequisite for the course (on application, French can be replaced by another modern European language). For some topics occurring in the course of the programme, proficiency in Greek, Italian, Hebrew or Slavic languages will also be highly advantageous.

Admission to the M.A. course on Near and Middle Eastern Studies (now in the planning stage) will require proficiency in two Near Eastern source languages (Arabic, Turkish, Persian) and reading knowledge of English and French (on application, French can be replaced by another modern European language).

Course structure

B.A. in Islamic Studies

The B.A. programme in Islamic Studies normally extends over 6 semesters and can be taken as a main (major) subject (113 CP), a joint-main subject (74 CP) or a subsidiary (minor) subject (35 CP). Only the main-subject option involves completion of a B.A. thesis in Islamic Studies. The first two options equip students with the knowledge required to go on and take the M.A. course in Near and Middle Eastern Studies, but not the third.

Students can choose freely between the three Near Eastern languages on offer and select either Arabic, Turkish or Persian as their A language. The language sequence is finalised in the third semester, when they are called upon to choose a second language. However, the content of the lectures, seminars and practical classes beginning in the third semester is determined by the choice of the first foreign language, so that differing language combinations also lead to differing focus options in the M.A. course on Near and Middle Eastern Studies now in the planning stage.


Main research interests


Ottoman focus

  • provincial history of the Ottoman Empire, notably Balkan countries, with an emphasis on the early 19th century
  • Ottoman documentology and palaeography
  • non-Muslims in Islamic societies
  • historiography in the late Ottoman Empire
  • history of newspapers and the press in the Ottoman Empire, Iran and Russia

Arabic focus

  • literature in the Middle Ages and modernity (poetry, adab, maqama, short story, autobiography)
  • origination and development of Islam (and Islamism)
  • history (and social history) with special emphasis on Egypt/Syria/Lebanon/Palestine/Iraq
  • modern history of the Arab countries

Iranian focus

  • culture and history of the Persian-speaking area, focusing on the Islamic period

Formal requirements


There are no admission restrictions for the B.A. course in Islamic Studiers. Click here for instructions on how to enrol.

Admission regulations for the B.A. course in Islamic Studies.

International applicants

There are special regulations for international applicants. For more information, apply to the International Relations Office of Heidelberg University (Seminarstraße 2).

Subject combinations

Subject combinations are listed in the Catalogue of Subjects. A combination of the two B.A. courses Islamic Studies and Semitic Studies is only possible if Arabic is not chosen as a language option in the B.A. Islamic Studies programme.

Study and examination regulations

B.A. Islamic Studies

Module Handbook

Please click here to find the latest Module Handbook.

Examinations board

Issues arising in connection with examinations, credit transfer and academic credential recognition are dealt with by the relevant examinations board/office. For more information, consult the academic advisor(s) indicated below.


Tuition fees at Heidelberg University are payable at the beginning of each semester.

M.A. course

Heidelberg University offers a consecutive M.A. course on Near and Middle Eastern Studies.

Academic advisor

Johannes Zimmermann, M.A.
Albert-Ueberle-Str. 3-5, Office 253
phone: +49 (0)6221 543582

Office hours: Tuesdays 11.00 am to 1.30 pm in term-time.
Prior notification requested (secretaries’ office Islamic Studies, see below)



Department of Languages and Cultures of the Near East
Albert-Ueberle-Straße 3-5
D-69120 Heidelberg

Secretaries' office:
Patricia Roth
phone: +49 (0)6221 542969
fax: +49 (0)6221 542963

E-Mail: Seitenbearbeiter
Letzte Änderung: 2018-07-10
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