Jonathan Brockopp’s primary research focus is on the literary remains of early Islamic cultures, including the Qur'an, hadith, legal and theological texts. He is 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, Dr. Brockopp has focused on the question of how these early scholars construct their notion of religious authority in his book, Muhammad's Heirs: the Rise of Muslim Scholarly Communities (Cambridge, 2017). This work led him 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.
He plans on devoting his next book to fleshing out some of the implications of this theory. Arguably, he says, Islamic law is as much a set of ethical guidelines as it is the law. It thereby forms an essential backdrop to modern discussions of war, bioethics, economic justice, etc. He has pursued an active interest in these contemporary issues including the impact of climate change on Muslim communities.