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
Islamic messianism

Current PhD students:

Yousif Al-Hilli (UK): Iraqi Clerics and the State after 2003
Mostafa Movahedifar (Iran): Methods of Hadith Validation among Early Shii Scholars
Sainulabdeen Thameem (Sri Lanka): Sri Lanka in Medieval Arab Travel Writing
Magnus Bradshaw (UK): Millennialism in Traditionalist Western Sufism

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.


Recent publications


Scharbrodt, O & Shanneik, Y 2020, Shi’a Minorities in the Contemporary World: Migration, Transnationalism and Multilocality. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh.

Scharbrodt, O, Sakaranaho, T, Khan, AH, Shanneik, Y & Ibrahim, V 2015, Muslims in Ireland: Past and Present. Edinburgh University Press, United Kingdom.


Mesbahi, M 2021, 'Collective hawza leadership in a time of crisis: the period of marajeʿ thalath (1937–1953)', British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies.

Scharbrodt, O 2021, 'Divine Sovereignty and Clerical Authority in Early Shi‘i Islamism: Bāqir al-Ṣadr (1935-80) and Taqī al-Mudarrisī (b. 1945) on the Islamic State', Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. 2021, pp. 1-22.

Scharbrodt, O 2020, 'Khomeini and Muḥammad al-Shīrāzī: revisiting the origins of the “guardianship of the jurisconsult” (wilāyat al-faqīh)', Die Welt des Islams, vol. 61, no. 1, pp. 9–38.

Scharbrodt, O 2019, 'A minority within a minority? the complexity and multilocality of transnational Twelver Shia networks in Britain', Contemporary Islam, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 287–305.

Scharbrodt, O 2019, 'Creating a diasporic public sphere in Britain: Twelver Shia networks in London', Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, vol. 30.

Scharbrodt, O 2014, 'From Irish Exceptionalism to European Normality? The New Islamic Presence in the Republic of Ireland', Etudes Irlandaises, vol. 39, no. 2, pp. 147-160.

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Scharbrodt, O 2020, Anti-Sufism in Early Qajar Iran: Āqā Muḥammad ‘Alī Bihbahānī (1732–1801) and His Risāla-yi khayrātiyya. in Sufis and Their Opponents in the Persianate World. Jordan Center for Persian Studies, Irvine, Cal., pp. 327-363.

Scharbrodt, O 2020, Experiences of Muslims in Western Europe. in R Lukens-Bull & M Woodward (eds), Handbook of Contemporary Islam and Muslim Lives. Springer, Berlin.

Scharbrodt, O 2018, Creating Shia Spaces in British Society: The Role of Transnational Twelver Shia Networks in North-West London. in DR Laurens (ed.), Muslims & Their Discourses in Britain. Springer.

Scharbrodt, O 2018, Spatial methodology in the study of diasporic religions: the example of Shia Muslim networks in Britain. in C Baker, B Crisp & A Dinham (eds), Re-imagining religion and belief: 21st century policy and practice. Policy Press.

Scharbrodt, O 2015, "From Hafiz": Irish Orientalism, Persian Poetry, and W. B. Yeats. in HE Chehabi & G Neville (eds), Erin and Iran: Cultural Encounters between the Irish and the Iranians., 5, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, pp. 57.

Conference contribution

Scharbrodt, O 2016, Anti-Sufism polemics in Early Qajar Iran: Aqa Muhammad Bihbahani (d. 1801) and his Risala-yi khayratiyya. in R Tabandeh & L Lewisohn (eds), Sufis and Mullahs: Sufis and Their Opponents in the Persianate World. University of Exeter, Sufis and Mullahs, Exeter, United Kingdom, 14/04/16.

Review article

Iqtidar, H & Scharbrodt, O 2021, 'Divine sovereignty, morality and the state: Maududi and his influence', Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society.

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.

Languages and other information

Arabic, Persian, German, French

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

Culture and collections

Schools, institutes and departments

Services and facilities