Professor Oliver Scharbrodt

Photograph of Professor Oliver Scharbrodt

Department of Theology and Religion
Professor of Islamic Studies

Contact details

ERI Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I research modern, contemporary and classical forms of Islam, employing both historical and ethnographic research methods. My interests include modern Islamic reform, Shia Islam, Sufism, Islamic messianism and as well as the historical and contemporary presence of Muslims in Europe. I am particularly interested in making current theories and methods in Religious Studies relevant to the academic study of Islam.


BA (Bonn, Germany), MA PhD (SOAS), FHEA


I studied Comparative Religion, Islamic Studies and Philosophy at the University of Bonn in Germany and completed my graduate studies and research in London, obtaining my MA and PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies. I was involved in establishing the first Study of Religions Department in the Republic of Ireland at University College Cork and was the founding director of the Chester Centre for Islamic Studies at the University of Chester.

I joined the Department of Theology and Religion as Professor of Islamic Studies in September 2017.

Postgraduate supervision

I welcome enquiries for research at doctoral level in the following areas:

  • Modern Islam
  • Muslims in Europe
  • Shia Islam
  • Sufism
  • Islamic messianism

Current PhD students

  • Khalid Aljifry (Saudi Arabia): Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence in Bin Bayyah’s Thought
  • Adel Al-Muthaybiri (Saudi Arabia): Gender and Islam in Contemporary Saudi Novels
  • Yousif Al-Hilli (UK): Iraqi Clerics and the State after 2003
  • Mostafa Movahedifar (Iran): Methods of Hadith Validation among Early Shii Scholars

Find out more - our PhD Theology and Religion  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


Trained as an historian in modern Islamic thought, I initially worked on the influential 19th century Egyptian reformer Muhammad ‘Abduh and his relationship towards mystical and esoteric traditions of Islam. In addition, I have developed an interest in the transnational dimension of Islam investigating links between Muslim minorities in Europe and the Middle East and using ethnographic research methods. 

Research projects

  • Muslims in Ireland (2008-2011, funded by a research grant of the Irish Research Council, £200,000): this pioneering project provides the first in-depth investigation in the new Islamic presence in Ireland, its place in a traditionally Catholic society and its transnational links to the Middle East.
  • “Karbala in London” - Transnational Shia Networks between Britain and the Middle East (2014-2016, funded by a research grant of the Gerda Henkel Foundation, £200,000): This project examines transnational religious and political networks in contemporary Twelver Shia Islam that operate between Britain and the Middle East. The diverse movements and organisations included in the study represent a variety of civil society actors and governmental bodies that operate on a transnational basis. The project investigates their aims and objectives, their discourses and practices and their authority and leadership structures.
  • Creating an Alternative umma: Clerical Authority and Religio-political Mobilisation in Transnational Shii Islam (2018-2022, funded by a Consolidator Grant of the European Research Council, £1.5 Mio.): This interdisciplinary project investigates the transformation of Shii Islam in the Middle East and Europe since the 1950s. The project examines the formation of modern Shii communal identities and the role Shii clerical authorities and their transnational networks have played in their religio-political mobilisation.

Other activities

I am the editor-in-chief of the Yearbook of Muslims in Europe (Leiden: Brill), an annual publication series founded by Jorgen S. Nielsen. The Yearbook of Muslims in Europe is an essential resource for analysis of Europe's dynamic Muslim populations. Featuring up-to-date research from forty-six European countries, the reports provide cumulative knowledge of on-going trends and developments around Muslims in different European countries.

I am also an elected member of the council of the British Association for Islamic Studies (BRAIS), a new academic association bringing British and international researchers together in all fields of Islamic Studies.


  • 2018: God’s Proof to Humanity: An Annotated English Translation of the Kitab al-hujja of Abu Ja‘far Muhammad b. Ya‘qub Al-Kulayni (d. 940), London: IB Tauris [Shi‘i Heritage Series] (in preparation)
  • 2018: Shia Minorities in the Contemporary World: Migration, Transnationalism and Multilocality, edited with Yafa Shanneik, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press (in preparation)
  • 2018: Muhammad ‘Abduh: Islamic Modernism and the Sufi Tradition, London: IB Tauris [Makers of the Modern Middle East] (in preparation)
  • 2017: ‘Modern Readings of the Qur’an’, in Downing, S., and Long, F. (eds.), Reading the Sacred Scriptures: From Oral Tradition to Written Documents and their Reception, London: Routledge
  • 2017: ‘‘Abbas Effendi ‘Abd al-Baha’s Treatise on Civilisation (Risala-yi Madaniyya): translation and commentary’, in Eggert, M. (ed.), Religious Dynamics under the Impact of Imperialism and Colonialism: A Sourcebook, Leiden: Brill, 443-460
  • 2015: Muslims in Ireland: Past and Present, together with Adil Hussain Khan, Tuula Sakaranaho, Vivian Ibrahim and Yafa Shanneik, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press
  • 2015: ‘“From Hafiz”: Irish Orientalism, Persian Poetry and W. B. Yeats’, in Chehabi, H. E., and Neville, Grace (eds.), Erin and Iran: Cultural Encounters between the Irish and the Iranians, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 57-78
  • 2014: “From Irish Exceptionalism to European Normality?: the New Islamic Presence in the Republic of Ireland”, Études Irlandaises 39, 147-160
  • 2012: ‘Muslim Immigration to the Republic of Ireland: Trajectories and Dynamics since World War II’, Éire-Ireland: Journal of Irish Studies – Special Edition New Perspectives on Irish Migration 47, 221-243
  • 2011: ‘Islam and Muslims in the Republic of Ireland: An Introduction’, together with Tuula Sakaranaho, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 31, 471-487
  • 2011: ‘Shaping the Public of Image of Islam: the Shiis of Ireland as “moderate” Muslims’, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 31, 523-538
  • 2011: ‘Islam in Ireland: Organising a Migrant Religion’, in Cosgrove, O. et al. (eds.), Ireland’s New Religious Movements, Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press, 318-336
  • 2010: ‘The qutb as special representative of the Hidden Imam: the conflation of Shii and Sufi Vilayat in the Ni‘matullahi Order’, in Herman, D., & Mervin, S. (eds.), Courants et dynamiques chiites à l’époque moderne (XVIIIe – XXe siècles), Beirut: Orient Institute Beirut, 33-49
  • 2008: Islam and the Baha’i Faith: A Comparative Study of Muhammad ‘Abduh and ‘Abdul-Baha ‘Abbas, London: Routledge (paperback in 2011)
  • 2007: ‘The Salafiyya and Sufism: Muhammad ‘Abduh and his Risalat al-Waridat (Treatise on Mystical Inspirations)’, Bulletin of the School Oriental and African Studies, 70, 89-115

View all publications in research portal


  • Muslim minorities in Europe, transnational movements in modern and contemporary Islam, modern and contemporary Shiism, religions in the Middle East.

Media experience

I have extensive experience as commentator on a broad range of Islamic issues in the media. In both the UK and the Republic of Ireland, I made contributions on radio and television and in print media. I have contributed articles to The Irish Times, Ireland’s major broadsheet newspaper, and appeared on BBC4, BBC Northern Ireland, RTE Prime Time, RTE Radio and LBC among others.


  • Modern Islamic reform
  • Muslims in Europe
  • Shia Islam