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Professor Robert Gleave

Professor of Arabic Studies


01392 724025

Rob Gleave is Professor of Arabic Studies, Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam (CSI) and Director of the International Institute for Cultural Enquiry (IICE).

The CSI organises regular seminars and workshops, bringing together staff, researchers and students studying topics related to Islam.

IICE is the Unviersity of Exeter's interidisciplinary, HASS-based research institute, facilitating external engagement and cross-disciplinary research for both HASS and STEMM researchers.

His research interests include Islamic legal theory, particularly legal hermeneutics, and the history of Shi’ite legal thought and institutions. Click here to see his principal publications. His Project Administrator and PA is Ms Sarah Wood.

He is currently Principal Investigator of 2 major projects:

  • Law, Authority and Learning in Imami Shi’ite Islam ( is a 5-year project (2016-2022) 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 appointed two postdoctoral research fellows for its first phase (2016-2019 - Dr Paul Gledhill and  Dr Wissam Halawi), and in its second phase,research fellows have included Drs Cameron Zargar (2019-2020), Amin Ehteshami (2019-2020), Drs Raha Rafii and Kumail Rajani (2019-2022) and Drs Pooya Razavian and Omar Anchassi (2021-2022). The team has also been joined by Dr Belal Alabbas, the British Academy Newton International fellow based at the University of Exeter.
  • Islamic Law on the Edge - a collaborative, one year (2021-2022) project with Dr Adday Hernandez-Lopez of Complutense Unviersity, Madrid, examining neglected and marginalised areas of Islamic legal studies. The project organises workshops, networking events and a doctoral sudent summer school.


His most recent projects include:

British Imams Going Green, funded by the ESRC Exeter Impact Acceleration Account, this two-year project examines how challenging climate change can be integrated into Muslim faith practice in the UK.  The Postdoctoral Research Fellow on this project is Dr Davide Pettinato.

Islam and water management in a changing climate: building ‘faith-based evidence’ – a six-month project, funded by the GCRF Facilitation Fund, examining religious engagement with climate change in the Muslim world, with a focus on Tunisia, and in collaboration with  Institut des Régions Arides (Tunis) and the  Centre for Water Systems (Exeter).  The postdoctoral research fellow on this project is Dr Davide Pettinato.

Understanding Shari’a: Past Present Imperfect Present; this two-year project (2016-2018) was funded by the Humanities in the European Research Area consortium as part of the “Uses of the Past” programme. It was 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 Exeter-based postdoctoral research fellows on this project were Dr Omar Anchassi, and Dr Sejad Mekic.

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.  The research fellow on this prpoject was Dr Istvan Kristo-Nagy.

For details on his past projects click here.  They include:

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.

Rob Gleave was the Principal Investigator on the University of Exeter ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (ESRC-IAA) from 2014 to 2018, and was Associate Dean of the College for Social Science and International Studies 2015-16. For his administrative duties, both within and outside of the University of Exeter, click here.

Research interests

My 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

My past major funded projects include:

GW4 Accelerator Award: Understanding Religion and Law: Fatwas, Muftis and Law in British Islam ( was a two-year (2015-2017) collaboration of the universities of Exeter, Bristol, Cardiff and Bath. The project established a network of researchers on religion an law between the 4 universities, focussing on the role of the mufti and the importance of the fatwa in the British Muslim community. The research fellow on this project was Dr Tayyeb Mimouni.

NWO-AHRC Netherlands-UK (Leiden-Exeter) collaborative grant: The Sharia Project (2011-2013) – working with Leiden University in the Netherlands, holding a series of joint seminars on cutting edge research in Islamic legal studies, with accompanying master-classes by Professors Baudouin Dupret, Kecia Ali and Wael Hallaq.

The Hawza Project: Shiite Seminaries in Iraq and Iran, (2009-2013) funded by the British Academy under the auspices of the British Institute for Persian Studies, this project examined the history and operation of the Shi’ite seminary system (the Hawza) focussing on the seminaries in Qum (Iran) and Najaf (Iraq).

The UK Network of Practitioners and Researchers in Islamic Law; a two year project (2007-2009), funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to increase contact and collaboration between academic experts and legal practitioners working in Islamic law.

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 Model
  • al-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

Other information

Rob Gleave serves on the editorial boards of a number of journals and is sub-editor of Islamic Law and Society and the Journal of Abbasid Studies.  Amongst his appointments, he has 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 was also chair of the Steering Group for Islamic Studies, 2008-2011, a precursor to the British Association for Islamic Studies (BRAIS).

Modules taught

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