M. Shahab Ahmed

M. Shahab Ahmed

Associate Professor of Islamic Studies
M. Shahab Ahmed

BA, American University in Cairo
PhD, Princeton University

Shahab Ahmed is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, holding a joint appointment between the Committee on the Study of Religion, and the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.  He joined the Harvard faculty in 2005. He was previously Assistant Professor of Classical Arabic Literature in the Department of Arabic Studies at the American University in Cairo, Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows, and Visiting Researcher and Lecturer in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University.  He spent the academic year 2007-2008 as Higher Education Commission of Pakistan Visiting Scholar in the Islamic Research Institute, Islamabad, and spent the fall semester of 2012 as Visiting Associate Professor of Islamic Legal Studies at Harvard Law School.  He obtained his PhD in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University, and his BA in Middle East History from the American University in Cairo, prior to which he attended the Faculty of Laws at the International Islamic University, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.  He received his preparatory schooling in England at Caterham School, and in Singapore at the Anglo-Chinese School.

Shahab Ahmed has recently completed the writing of two books.   What is Islam? The Importance of Being Islamic is now forthcoming from Princeton University Press.  The Problem of the Satanic Verses and the Formation of Islamic Orthodoxy (ca. 632-2013): Volume 1, The Early Muslim Community, ca. 632-800 is the first volume of a projected two or three, and is under process with Harvard University Press.  A third book, entitled Neither Paradise Nor Hellfire: Seeing Islam Through the Ottomans/Seeing the Ottomans Through Islam, is being co-authored with Nenad Filipovic.  He has edited two collections of articles, Ibn Taymiyyah and His Times (Oxford University Press, 2010, co-edited with Yossef Rapoport), and Literature and the Sacred/al-Adab wa al-Muqaddas (thematic issue of the tri-lingual journal Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics/Alif: Majallat al-Balaghah al-Muqaranah 21 [2003]).  His articles include: “Ibn Taymiyyah and the Satanic Verses”, Studia Islamica 87 (1998) 67-124, “The Poetics of Solidarity: Palestine in Modern Urdu Poetry”, Alif 18 (1998) 29-64, “Mapping the World of a Scholar in sixth/twelfth-century Bukhara: Regional Tradition in Islamic Scholarship as Reflected in a Bibliography”, Journal of the American Oriental Society 120 (2000) 24-43, and “The Sultan’s Syllabus: A Curriculum for the Ottoman Imperial medreses prescribed in a ferman of Qanuni I Suleyman, dated 973 (1565)”, Studia Islamica 98/99 (2004) 183-218 (co-authored with Nenad Filipovic). He is a member of the editorial board of the journal Islamic Studies, and has also served on the editorial board of the monograph series Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization.

Shahab Ahmed has taught the following courses at Harvard: “The Vocabulary of Islam”, “Quran”, “Hadith”, “Representations of the Prophet Muhammad through History”, “Ibn Taymiyyah and his Times”, “Ibn `Arabi”, “Orthodoxy: Religion, Truth, and Authority” (a variation of which was taught at Harvard Law School as “Orthodoxy: Truth, Authority and Law”), “The Satanic Verses Problem in History”, “Sources and Methods for Research in Islamic Studies”, “Islam, Metaphor and Meaning”, “The Social and Cultural Lives of Islamic Law”, and “Public, Private and Islam”.

Professor Ahmed is currently teaching and his last leave was 2011-12.

Contact Information


Harvard University
The Study of Religion
Barker Center, 12 Quincy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

office hours: contact professor directly
p: 617-495-4585

Research Area