Background and activities
I have an MA in Arabic and History of Religions from Stockholm University (1989), and PhD in History of Religions from Uppsala University (2001) on the theses The True New Testament: Sealing the Heart's Covenant in al-Tabari's History of the Messengers and the Kings.
I am currently responsible teacher for two courses at the department:
RVI1030: Midtøstens religioner (Introduction to the Middle East religions Judaism, Islam and the Oriental Christian churches)
RVI2115: Religion, Politics and Science in Global Society (a course also given as part of NTNU's International MA in Globalisation studies).
In addition, I teach epistemology, hermeneutics and methodology on our MA in Religious studies.
My research is about Islam. Thanks to a collegue who, many years ago, alerted me to the French historian of religion, Michel de Certeau (d. 1986), I have become increasingly fascinated by the ways in which modern academia conceptualises 'religion', and its own relationship with it as 'science'. I try to explore the intersections between 'religion' and academic and theoretical thought, and what these intersections imply for how indviduals and institutions conceptualise and 'treat' religious people, artefacts and movements.
I have done some research into Islam in the context of the Nordic welfare state and its institutional order; the intellectual foundations of the modern movement the Muslim Brotherhood; and the general religious studies concept 'fundamentalism'.
The bulk of my research and my publications, however, concerns early and medieval Islamic history, historiography, and Qur'anic studies.
1. The Qur'an: By focusing on concepts related to social contract, law, and linguistics (both rhetoric and semiotics), I have begun to analyse the Qur’an’s historical context in terms of theories. The results have implications for theories of religion, since they show how what we usually define as ‘religion’ (here the Qur’an, Islam’s canon and ‘sacred text’) intersects with what we usually define as ‘non-religion’, i.e. academic disciplines such as law, politics, ethics, and linguistics.
2. Qur'an exegesis: As part of my research into the Qur'an, I compare medieval and modern Qur'an commentaries and scholarship, focusing on how scholars define and theorise the Qur'an. Surprisingly often, I find that the medieval scholars conceptualised the Qur'an in theoretical terms, which again problematises contemporary and sometimes misleading definitions of 'religion'.
3. Historiography of the rise of Islam and the significance of the Qur'an: The early and medieval Muslim histories provide quite different analysis of the rise of Islam and the significance of the Qur'an, depending on how the individual historians selected and constructed the regional and political frames and processes. I am particularly interested in identifying the political, societal and economic factors, which the historians adduce in their anaytical explanations of the rise of Islam, and the significance of the Qur'an and its concepts.
4. Rights and natural law theory: This is a new problem area, which I have arrived at through my research on the Qur'an, Qur'an exegesis and historiography. Here I am particularly interested in how the so-called 'tradition-ists' (those who were not strict rationalists) among the early exegetes and jurists developed theory of natural law, with reference to Qur'anic concepts. It appears that for example the famous Qur'an commentator, historian and jurist Muhammad b. Jarir al-Tabari (d. 310/923) actually developed a theory of human rights, anticipating the UDHR by some 1025 years!
- RVI2185 - Norwegian Islam: Institutions, Disciplines and Schools in Historical Perspective
- RVI1030 - Religions of the Middle East
Scientific, academic and artistic work
A selection of recent journal publications, artistic productions, books, including book and report excerpts. See all publications in the database
- (2020) Deliberating Religion, Science and Progress in the Global Public Sphere: Introduction. Marburg Journal of Religion. vol. 22 (2).
- (2020) Prophetic Clarity: A Comparative Approach to al-Tabari's Theory of Qur'anic Language, Rhetoric, and Composition. Journal of Qur'anic Studies. vol. 22 (1).
- (2018) In Quests for Stronger Human Rights Protection: What Can We Learn from Islamic Social Contract Theory?. DIN - Tidsskrift for religion og kultur. vol. 1.
- (2018) Accurate Knowledge: Implications of ‘Lived Islamic Theology’ for the Academic Study of Islamic Disciplines. Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. vol. 29 (4).
- (2016) Al-Tabari's Concept of the Qur'an: A Systemic Analysis. Journal of Qur'anic Studies. vol. 18 (2).
- (2015) "Islamic Order": Semeiotics and Pragmatism in the Muslim Brotherhood?. Tidsskrift for islamforskning. vol. 9 (1).
- (2014) Harakî Salafism in Norway: 'The Saved Sect' Hugs the Infidels. Tidsskrift for islamforskning. vol. 8 (1).
- (2014) Introduction: Public Islam and the Nordic Welfare State: Changing Realities?. Tidsskrift for islamforskning. vol. 8 (1).
- (2014) Muslim Society Trondheim: A Local History. Tidsskrift for islamforskning. vol. 8 (1).
- (2013) Hate Speech and Dialogue in Norway: Muslims 'Speak Back'. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. vol. 40 (2).
- (2012) Norwegian Haraki Salafism: 'The Saved Sect' Hugs the Infidels. Comparative Islamic Studies. vol. 8 (1-2).
- (2011) Introduction: 'Materialist' Approaches to Islamic History. Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient. vol. 54 (2).
- (2011) "It's the Economy, Stupid": Al-Tabaris Analysis of the Free Rider Problem in the 'Abbasid Caliphate. Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient. vol. 54 (2).
- (2010) Through the Lens of Modern Hermeneutics: Authorial Intention in al-Tabari's and al-Ghazzali's Interpretations of Q. 24:35. Journal of Qur'anic Studies. vol. 11 (2).
- (2009) "The One" Over "The Many": A Historical Perspective on the Pan-Islamic Salafiyyah. Studies in Contemporary Islam. vol. 10 (1-2).
- (2009) Through the Lens of Modern Hermeneutics: Authorial Intention in al-Tabari’s and al-Ghazali’s Interpretations of Q. 24:35. Journal of Qur'anic Studies. vol. 11 (2).
- (2008) The Persuasive Proof: Aristotle's Politics and Rhetoric in the Qur'ân and al-Tabarî's Commentary. Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam. vol. 34.
- (2007) The Power of Subject: Weber, Foucault and Islam. Middle East Critique. vol. 16 (2).
- (2006) "Bund und Land in muslimischer Rezeption. Biblische Kategorien in Tabaris Geschichtswerk". JUDAICA - Beiträge zum Verstehen des Judentums. vol. 62 (4).
- (2005) "Discourse and Historical Analysis: The Case of al-Tabari's History of the Messengers and the Kings". Journal of Islamic Studies. vol. 16 (3).