Dr Mustapha Sheikh

Dr Mustapha Sheikh


After completing a first degree in Project Management at UCL in 2000, I decided in the summer of that year to set aside a year to learn the lingua franca of my faith, Arabic. Damascus, the ancient spiritual hub of the Muslim world, was to be my destination of choice. On a full scholarship, I spent a year at the Abu Nour Institute in Rukneddin, Damascus, where I learnt classical Arabic (fusha) together with several entry level subjects of the classical Islamic Studies curriculum. This new world of learning captivated me and led me to want to pursue classical/traditional Islamic studies. Thus what began as a year went on to become four, while I moved from Abu Nour to the well-known Hanafi madrasa established by the al-Farfour family, al-Fath al-Islami. London became a distant memory as I took up the study of Arabic grammar, Islamic jurisprudence, legal theory, Qur'anic exegesis, hadith science, kalam and tasawwuf. This continued until 2004, when, due to the volatile political situation in Damascus, I was forced to abandon my studies. Thankfully, I was able to pick up things again on my return to the UK by enrolling on a similar curriculum to the one in Damascus which was being offered at the European Institute of Human Sciences in Llanybydder, Wales. I studied there for a further two years, graduating in 2006 with a Higher License (Ijazah 'Aliyah) in Islamic Law and Theology.

Following six years of traditional training, I was eager to pursue Islamic Studies in the setting of a university. Traditional training had given me the skills I needed to read the Muslim textual tradition; it had not provided me, however, with the tools I needed to contextualise this same tradition. Therefore, in 2006 I went to Oxford University, to read for the MSt in the Study of Religion, a course offering an intensive training in research in the study of religions while also providing the opportunity to study the early doctrines and practices of particular religious traditions in their historical contexts. I chose Islam and Christianity as my two specialist subjects, and, importantly, had an opportunity to study under Professor Yahya Michot, the Western world's leading expert on Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya. Inspired by him, I decided to remain at Oxford, within the Faculty of Theology, to pursue doctoral studies. Under Professor Michot's supervision, I set about studying the theological, legal and mystical thought of Imam Ahmad al-Rumi al-Aqhisari, a 17th-century Ottoman scholar associated with the infamous Qadizadelis, a puritanical movement that dominated the religious scene of Istanbul for about fifty years in the 1600s. This research is now available in the form of an OUP monograph, and has spawned two further peer-reviewed articles. I received my doctorate from Oxford in 2012.


I initially joined the Department of Arabic, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Leeds in 2009 as a part-time lecturer in Islamic Studies; after submitting my doctoral thesis in 2011, I was appointed full-time lecturer, where I continue to work until today. Other experience I have had in academia include a period as visiting lecturer at Bangor University, where I taught an introductory module on Islam in 2010, and a period as visiting lecturer at the Elshaarani Centre for Islamic Business and Finance, Aston Business School, where I taught Islamic Commercial Law from 2011-2013. I was honored to be appointed a teaching fellow in Arabic at the European Institute of Human Sciences, Birmingham, from 2007 until 2008, where I worked under Shaykh Wanis al-Mabrouk, Institute Director and my one-time teacher. Aside from my experience in academia, I have also worked as a project manager in the UK construction industry (related to my first degree).



A Treasury of Ibn Taymiyyah: Timeless Wisdom of His Words (Treasury in Islamic Thought and Civilisation) (Leicester: Kube Publishing, 2017)

“refreshingly accurate…highly engaging, with elegant commentary, and adorned with footnotes referencing materials for further study.” – Shaykh Dr Yasir Qadhi, Dean of Academic Affairs, The Islamic Seminary of America

Ottoman Puritanism and Its Discontents: Ahmad al-Rumi al-Aqhisari and the Qadizadelis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016)

"Mustapha Sheikh's book is surely an important contribution to the field. His highlighting hitherto unknown texts and exploring their genealogy with careful comparative study sets an example for Ottoman intellectual history, and the dimension of the interconnected cultures of the Islamic East he sets forth to illuminate is something lacking in modern scholarship." Professor Marinos Sariyannis, Principal Researcher, Program of Turkish Studies, FORTH/IMS, Greece

"...Ottoman Puritanism and Its Discontents is a provocative intervention in the historiographical debates regarding the origins, motivations, and legacies of the Qadizadelis (Kadizadelis)...Sheikh's quest for the sources and influences animating al-Aqhisari's views results in meticulous side-by-side comparisons not only with Ibn Qayyim but between the Majalis and both Ibn Taymiyya's Iqtidaʾ Sirat al-Mustaqim and Birgili Mehmed's Tariqat al-Muhammadiyya. Students of Islamic studies, and of the Ottoman early modern era generally, will be indebted to Sheikh for his enlightening demonstration of the sources’ intertextuality...the book's insights regarding 17th-century Ottoman revivalism and its relationship to broader historical trends, including developments in the present day, will surely open up discussion on more productive lines and encourage scholars to explore the textual tradition of these phenomena." Professor Madeline C. Zilfi, Department of History, University of Maryland.

Detailed reviews of Ottoman Puritanism are available here and here.


'Qadizadeli Revivalism reconsidered in light of Ahmad al-Rumi al-Aqhisari's Majalis al-abrar', University of Oxford, Theology Faculty, St. Cross College (awarded 2012)

This thesis can also be found on the British Library Ethos site here


'The Political Economy and Underdevelopment of the Muslim World: A Juridico-Philosophical Perspective', Arab Law Quarterly, 2018. Co-authored with M. Shahid Ebrahim (Durham University).


'Islam, Alcohol and Identity: Towards a Critical Muslim Studies Approach', Reorient: Journal of Critical Muslim Studies, 2018. Co-authored with Tajul Islam.


'Taymiyyan Tasawwuf meets Ottoman Orthodoxy: Reformed Sufism in the thought of Ahmad al-Rumi al-Aqhisari', The Muslim World, January 2018.


'Debt Instruments in Islamic Finance: A Critique', Arab Law Quarterly, 30/2, 2016. Co-authored with M.S. Ebrahim (Durham University).


'The Mudaraba Facility: Evolution, Stasis and Contemporary Revival', Arab Law Quarterly,  29/3, 2015. Co-authored with M.S. Ebrahim (Durham University).


'Taymiyyan Influences in an Ottoman-Hanafi Milieu: The Case of Ahmad al-Rumi al-Aqhisari', Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, July 2014.


'Hybrid Islamic Finance Instruments: An Usuli-Rationalisation', Arab Law Quarterly, 28/3, 2014. Co-authored with M.S. Ebrahim (Durham University) and M. Osman Salleh (Bank Negara Malaysia).


'The Political Economy and the Underdevelopment of the Muslim World', co-authored with M.S. Ebrahim. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2171175

'Debt Instruments in Islamic Finance', M. Sheikh and M.S. Ebrahim. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1960498

'A Critical Study of the Mudarabah Facility in Islamic Finance', M. Sheikh and M.S. Ebrahim. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1977216


Princeton Readings in Islamist Thought: Texts and Contexts from Al-Banna to Bin Laden. Roxanne L. Euben and Muhammad Qasim Zaman (eds), British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Volume 39 (2), 2012. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13530194.2012.709710


'Iklhas and the Assimilation of Tawhid,' Wisdom, July-Aug 2008 (Erkam Publishing).

'The Story of Dhu l-Qarnayn', Wisdom, Jan-Feb 2010 (Erkam Publishing) pp. 17-18.


'The Story of Musa and Khidr', Wisdom, July-Aug 2009 (Erkam Publishing), pp. 21-23.


'Ibn 'Aijba's commentary on Qur'an 18:28 from al-Tafsir al-majdi', Wisdom, Mar-Apr 2009 (Erkam Publishing), pp. 25-27.


'Ibn 'Aijba's commentary on Qur'an 51:55 from al-Tafsir al-majid', Wisdom, Jan-Feb 2009 (Erkam Publishing), pp. 31-33.


Conferences, Symposia and Public Talks

7 July 2019: ‘Decolonising Muslims: From Islamic Studies to Critical Muslim Studies’. Paper presentation on joint panel with Dr Tajul Islam (University of Leeds) and Professor Hatem Bazian (University of Berkley California), Palestine Expo 2019, Olympia London. 

26 June 2019: ‘Un-mooring orientalist assumptions about Muslims and their law’. Paper presentation at BRISMES 2019 conference, ‘Joining the Dots: Interdisciplinarity in Middle Easter Studies’, University of Leeds.

2 May 2019: ‘Migrating from Islamic Studies to Critical Muslim Studies’. Paper presentation at the 2nd Critical Muslim Studies workshop, University of Leeds.

31 January 2019: ‘Critical Muslim Studies: A post-Orientalist ground for the critique of tradition’. Paper presentation at the Percorsi di Resistenza in Medio Oriento e Nord Africa/Paths of Resistance in the Middle East and North Africa conference, XIV Convegno SeSaMO, Torino.

13 December 2018: 'Islam, Alcohol, Identity: A Critical Muslim Studies Approach'. Talk given at the Al-Mahdi Institute, Birmingham. More info here.

26 October 2018: ‘The Erasure of Islam in Decolonial Thought’. Talk given at the ‘Challenging Academic Debates: Situating Decolonial Science, Art and Faith in the Syllabus conference’, celebrating the Black History Month at the University of Leeds.

23 June 2018: ‘The Critique of Tradition: A Critical Muslim Studies Approach’. Paper presentation at the workshop, ‘Towards a Decolonial History of the South: Beyond Utopianism and Orientalism’, Granada (Spain).

18 October 2017: 'Sacred Knowledge and Safe Spaces'. Talk given at the public event, 'A Theology of Tolerance: Amimul Ehsan's Ecumenism', University of Leeds. Video can be viewed here.

3 July 2017: 'What's in a Genre? The Disputed Status of the Hadith Qudsi', Studies in the Religious and Historical Texts of Early and Medieval Islam panel, Leeds International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds.

6 Dec 2016 - Apr 2017: 'Schooling Islam: Criticality, Identity, Change'. Sadler Seminars series, co-convened with Dr T. Islam. Website is here.

19 November 2016: 'Canon to Critique: The Future of Islamic Education', Being Human Festival 2016 event delivered with Dr T. Islam at the Bait ul Aman Mosque, Bradford. Video can be viewed here.

4 July 2016: 'Digestifs and Dutch Courage in the Age of Muslim Empire', Food, Feasting and Famine in the Islamic World panel, Leeds International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds.

24 May 2016: Invited speaker: 'Just Jihad: The Ethics of Warfare in Islam', International Military Religious Leaders Conference, Defence Academy of the United Kingdom.

4 February 2016: Invited speaker: 'Islam and Economic (Under)development: A Political Economy Perspective', Durham University Business School, Durham University.

8 June 2015: 'Exploring the Possibilities of Taymiyyan Infusions in Ahmad al-Rumi al-Aqhisari's Conceptualisation of the Mystical Path, with Reference to the Notion of al-Tariqat al-Muhammadiyya', 'Ibn Taymiyya Among the Mamluks and the Ottomans: Reception, Transmission and State of the Art' international workshop, University of Bologna.

25 April 2015: Invited Speaker: 'Islamic Legal Methods: Study of Sadd al-dhara'i, Ijtihad and Fatwa', 'Journey through Usul' seminar series, Madinatul Uloom, Bradford.

28 January 2015: Invited Speaker: 'Ibn Taymiyya: His Life, Works and Legacy', 'Muslim Thinkers' seminar series, Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies.

4 April 2014: 'Taymiyyan Influences in an Ottoman-Hanafi Milieu', British Association of Islamic Studies Inaugural Conference, University of Edinburgh.

27 June 2012: 'Reflections on the Arab Spring of 2011 and its Aftermath', Lifelong Learning Centre, University of Leeds.

1 February 2012: 'Violence in Istanbul: Ottoman Puritanism in the 17th Century with Reference to the Qadizadelis', Research Seminar Series, Arabic, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Leeds.  

28 January 2012: Co-organiser of symposium, 'Teaching Islamic Studies: Methodological Concerns, Practical Solutions", University of Leeds and Islamic Studies Network.

10 December 2011: 'Reviving the Spirit of the Mudarabah Facility through the Participating Preferred Ijarah Facility', co-presented with Prof M. Shahid Ebrahim (Durham University), 'Analytical and Empirical Research in Islamic Finance, Management, Economics and Law' conference, Aston Business School.

15 May 2011: Invited Speaker: 'Muslim Cultural Diversities in Britain', Luther King House, Manchester.

22 March 2010: Invited Speaker: 'Challenges facing a People of Scripture: British Muslims, Active Citizenship and Faithfulness to the Qur'an', Commando Training Centre Royal Marines (CTCRM).

17 February 2011: Invited speaker: 'Shari'a: Mercy in Diversity', Leeds ISOC, University of Leeds. Video can be viewed here.

3 March 2009: Invited Speaker: 'Muslim Minority Fiqh in the West', Marmara University postgraduate seminar, Istanbul.

15 January 2008: Invited Speaker: 'Women in Islam', Abingdon European Society, Oxford.


  • Director of Arabic, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies
  • Co-Director of the Iqbal Centre for Critical Muslim Studies

Research interests

My major research interests are in Islamic law and legal theory, Muslim reformist and decolonial thought and critical Muslim studies. I have written on the thought of the 14th century Damascene jurist-theologian Taqi al-Din Ahmad b. Taymiyya (d. 1328), focusing especially on his influence upon 17th century Islamic revivalism; my recent book for Kube Publications, A Treasury of Ibn Taymiyya, is a fusion of faith-based and academic thinking on this great scholar. I have several papers with Professor M. Shahid Ebrahim (Durham University) on the reform of Islamic Finance, and more recently, I have developed an interest in the Hadith Qudsi, particularly its role in shaping both Muslim doctrine and praxis.

To learn more about my latest research activities, please visit the Iqbal Centre for the Study of Contemporary Islam, of which I am Co-Director.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Professional memberships

  • Member of British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES)
  • Member of British Association of Islamic Studies (BRAIS)

Student education

Postgraduate Supervision

I am happy to supervise PhD research in all areas of Islamic Studies. I am currently supervising the following doctoral candidates:

Mohammed Ali Rizvi, 'The Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan and the Barelwi Movement'.

Mohammed Abed, 'The Traditions of al-Mahdi and his Imamate between al-Kafi and the Six Books of Sunni Islam: The Contribution of al-Kafi to the Formulation of Twelver Shi'ism'.

Claudia Radiven, ‘Reorientation of the Ideological Axis: Assessing the UK’s counter-terror measures and developing a cohesive terrorist rehabilitation model for the United Kingdom'.

Sitara Akram, 'Riba Revisited: A Genealogical Study'.

Sajda Khan, ‘Modelling Prophetic Behaviour: The Problem of Muslim Integration in Britain with Lessons Drawn from the Prophet's Biography’.

Successfully completed:

Hizer Mir, 'Naming the Nameless: Islamicate Understandings and Interpretations of "Religion" and "Secularism"' (2017).

Marzouq al-Suheil, 'Hadith-Amali Sessions: A Historical Study of A Forgotten Tradition in Classical Islam' (2015).

Taher Hamed Adheidah, 'Forced Marriage in the British Muslim Community from an Islamic Law Perspective: A Critical Study' (2015).

Mansour Alshammari, 'Takfir and Terrorism: Historical Roots, Contemporary Challenges and Dynamic Solutions' (2013).

Research groups and institutes

  • Arabic
  • History
  • Centre for Religion and Public Life

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/research-opportunities">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>