Oliver Scharbrodt

Colleges, School and Institutes


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.


Research interests

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.

Willingness to take PhD students


PhD projects

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