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Jonathan Brockopp

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Jonathan Brockopp

Jonathan Brockopp

Professor of History, Religious Studies, and Philosophy
406 Weaver Building University Park , PA 16802
(814) 863-1338


PhD, Yale University, 1995
MPhil, Yale University, 1992
BA, Valparaiso University, 1984

Professional Bio

My primary research focus is on the literary remains of early Islamic cultures, including the Qur'an, hadith, legal and theological texts. I am particularly interested in the rise of a professional scholarly community in Egypt and North Africa, using early Arabic manuscripts to trace arguments and lines of influence. Recently, I have focused on the question of how these early scholars construct their notion of religious authority in my book, Muhammad's Heirs: the Rise of Muslim Scholarly Communities (Cambridge, 2017). This work has led me to formulate a new theory of charismatic authority, one that attempts to account for the dynamic roles of text, community and history in constructing the charismatic leader. I plan on devoting my next book to fleshing out some of the implications of this theory. Arguably, Islamic law is as much a set of ethical guidelines as it is law. It thereby forms an essential backdrop to modern discussions of war, bioethics, economic justice, etc. I have pursued an active interest in these contemporary issues including the impact of climate change on Muslim communities.

Recent Publications:

Muhammad's Heirs: The Rise of Muslim Scholarly Communities, 622-950. (Cambridge, 2017)

“Islamic Origins and Incidental Normativity” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 84.1 (2016).
“The promise and the challenge of interfaith work” in Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves: A Lutheran Calling in a Multi-Religious World, ed. Carol Lahurd (Minneapolis: Lutheran University Press), 2016.

“Interpreting Material Evidence: Religion at the ‘Origins of Islam’” History of Religions55 (2015), 121-147.

“Muhammad the peacemaker; Muhammad the warrior. Contested Images of Islam’s Prophet after 9/11” in Muhammad in the Digital Age, ed. Ruqayya Khan (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015), 35-56.

“Introduction to Special Issue. Islam and Ecology: Theology, Law and Practice of Muslim Environmentalism” Worldviews 16 (2012), 213–217.

"The Formation of Islamic Law: the Egyptian school, 750-900." Annales Islamologiques 45 (2011), 123-140.

“Contradictory Evidence and the Exemplary Scholar: The Lives of Sahnun b. Sa`id (d. 854)” International Journal of Middle East Studies 43.1 (2011): 115-132.

The Cambridge Companion to Muhammad. Editor and contributor.  Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Muslim Medical Ethics: From Theory to Practice. Co-editor and contributor with Thomas Eich. Studies in Comparative Religion. Columbia:  University of South Carolina Press, 2008.

“MS Chester Beatty 3001 and the apotheosis of Malik b. Anas (d. 179/795)” forthcoming in Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam.

“The Rise of Islam in a Judaeo-Christian Context” in Light upon Light: Essays in Islamic Thought and History in Honor of Gerhard Bowering, edited by Jamal Elias and Bilal Orfali. Studies in Islamic History and Civilization (Leiden: E.J. Brill), 2019, 24-44.

Recent Courses:

HIST 108 - The Crusades

RLST107 - Introduction to Islam

ARAB/RLST 164 - Muhammad and the Qur'an

HIST/RLST 471Y - Islamic Civilization

PHIL / RL ST / METEO 133N The Ethics of Climate Change

Awards and Service:

Organizer, Getting to Zero: Penn State Carbon Emissions Conference (2014)
Convener, Penn State Society for the Study of Religion (2013-present)
Participant, National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute (2012)
Director, Rock Ethics Institute Initiative in Religion and Ethics (2011-present)

Jonathan Brockopp
Jonathan Brockopp