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Robert Gleave

Robert Gleave is Professor of Arabic Studies and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam (CSI), IAIS, University of Exeter.

The CSI organises regular seminars and workshops, bringing together staff, researchers and students studying topics related to Islam to share research. His research interests include Islamic legal theory, particularly legal hermeneutics, and the history of Shi’ite legal thought and institutions. His Project Administrator and PA is Mrs Pam Navran.

His Project

He is currently Principal Investigator of 2 major projects:

Understanding Shari’a: Past Present Imperfect Present (www.usppip.eu); this two-year project (2016-2018) is funded by the Humanities in the European Research Area consortium as part of the “Uses of the Past” programme. It is a collaboration between the universities of Exeter, Gottingen, Bergen and Leiden, with a team of lead researchers and postdoctoral fellows in each centre. The project examines the ways in which the notion of a “perfect past” informs programmes of reform of the “imperfect present” in Islamic legal thinking. The postdoctoral research fellow on this project is Dr Omar Anchassi. Law, Authority and Learning in Imami Shi’ite Islam (www.lawalisi.eu) is a 5-year project (2016-2021) funded by the European Research Council (as an Advanced Award) aims to integrate the study of Imami Shi’ite law into the broader field of Islamic legal studies. The project has appointed two postdoctoral research fellows for its first phase (2016-2019) examining early and classical Imami jurisprudence. The post-doctoral fellows are Dr Paul Gledhill and Dr Wissam Halawi.


His most Recent Projects Include:

Islamic Reformulations: Belief, Governance, Violence,  a 3-year project (2013-16) funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of the PACCS programme. Islamic Reformulations examined questions around the reformulation of notions of belief, governance and their relationship to violence in contemporary Islamic thought. The research fellows on this project were Drs Sarah Elibiary and Mustafa Baig.

Legitimate and Illegitimate Violence in Islamic Thought was a 3-year programme (2010-2013) funded by the ESRC as part of the Global Uncertainties Programme.  The project examned how violence has been justified in the intellectual history of Islam, and has produced the series of the same name, publiced by Edinburgh University Press.


His Past Projects:

Understanding Religion and Law: Fatwas, Muftis and Law in British Islam (2015-2017)

NWO-AHRC Netherlands-UK (Leiden-Exeter) collaborative grant: The Sharia Project (2011-2013)

The Hawza Project: Shiite Seminaries in Iraq and Iran, (2009-2013)

The UK Network of Practitioners and Researchers in Islamic Law (2007-2009)

Rob Gleave has been visiting fellow/scholar at the universities of Michigan (Ann Arbor), Oxford, Washington (Seattle), Meiji (Tokyo), Tehran, Chicago and the Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton.


Research Interests

His primary research interests include:

  • Hermeneutics and Scriptural Exegesis in Islam
  • Islamic Law, in particular works of Islamic legal theory (usul al-fiqh)
  • Violence and its justification in Islamic thought
  • Shi’ism, in particular Shi’i legal and political theory

Research Supervision

Postgraduate research topics I have supervised include:

Debating al-Ḥākimiyyah and Takfīr in Salafism;

A critical approach to the origins and evolution of Usūl al-Fiqh and the methodologies of interpretation and inference, with a case of hijāb;

Understanding the Salafi Doctrine of al-Walāʾ wal-Barāʾa;

The Conceptualisation of Power in the thought of Muḥammad Ḥusayn Faḍalallāh;

The Theory of Maqāṣid al-Sharīʿa in Shīʿī jurisprudence: Muḥammad Taqī al-Mudarrisī as a Modelal;

Qawāʾid al-Fiqhiyya in Contemporary Islamic Law;

A study on Muḍārabah in Islamic law and its application in Malaysian Islamic banks;

Necessity (ḍarūra) in Islamic law : a study with special reference to the Harm Reduction programme in Malaysia;

A critical edition of Qawāʾid al-Taṣawwuf by Aḥmad Zarrūq (d. 899/1493) with an introduction.



– Gleave R (2015). Early Shiite hermeneutics and the dating of Kitāb Sulaym ibn Qays. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 78(01), 83-103. DOI.

– Gleave RM (2012). Early Shi’i Hermeneutics: Some Exegetical Techniques Attributed to the Shi’i Imams. In  (Ed) The Development of Method in Islamic Exegesis, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

– Gleave R (2012). Islam and Literalism: Literal Meaning and Interpretation in Islamic Legal Theory. Edinburgh, EUP.

 Gleave R (2011). Shi’i Jurisprudence during the Seljuq period:. Rebellion and Public Order in an Illegitimate State. In Lange C, Mecit S (Eds.) The Seljuqs: Islam revitalised?, Edinburgh: EUP.

– Gleave R (2010). Continuity and Originality in Shi’i Thought: the Relationship between the Akhbariyya and the Maktab-i Tafkik. In Mervin S, Hermann D (Eds.) Shiite Streams and Dynamics (1800-1925).

Other Information

Rob Gleave is currently the Principal Investigator on the University of Exeter ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (ESRC-IAA).  The aim of the ESRC-IAA is to facilitate academics working with external partners across the social sciences.  For more information on the ESRC-IAA, click here.   He has been Director (and Director of Research) of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies (University of Exeter), and Associate Dean for International and Development (College of Social Sciences and International Studies, University of Exeter).  He has also been Executive Director of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies, Secretary and President of the British Institute of Persian Studies, and President and Secretary of the International Society for Islamic Legal Studies.  He serves on the editorial boards of a number of journals and is sub-editor of Islamic Law and Society.

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