Histories and Cultures of Muslim Societies

Histories and Cultures of Muslim Societies

This program focuses on the histories, literatures, philosophy, religious thought, and legal institutions of Muslim societies.  Its primary strength lies in the coverage of a broad range of fields of study in pre-modern and modern periods, particularly with regard to Islamic civilizations in the Near and Middle East. As a result of a growing recognition that the study of Islam and Muslim societies must embrace wider, more inclusive study of the diverse ethnic, racial and religious groups that have been constituents of Muslim cultures in different parts of the world, the program also provides students the opportunity to engage in the comparative study of Muslim societies, particularly in South Asia and Africa and their complex connections with the Near East.

The program in Histories and Cultures of Muslim Societies currently includes the following subfields:

a. Arabic language and literature
b. Islamic religion and culture
c. Islamic intellectual history (especially philosophy and theology)
d. Islamic institutional history
e. Islamic law
f. Modern Arabic literature and culture
g. Indo-Muslim Culture: The Study of Muslim Societies in South Asia
h. Islam in Africa
i. Persian Literatures and Cultures

Students will generally develop their individualized course of study in consultation with their advisors, frequently selecting one of the above sub-fields as an area of focus. In addition to their area of specialization, all students will be expected to demonstrate broad knowledge of the overall history of Islamic civilization and thought. For students focusing their studies on the Near East, some course work on Islam and Muslim societies outside the Middle East is highly recommended.

Students pursuing a degree in this program are expected to meet the general graduate requirement for all students pursuing graduate degrees in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Students must demonstrate research level competence in at least one or more departmental language/s (Arabic, Persian, Turkish) as required by their subfield as well as a reading knowledge of two modern languages of scholarship, one which must be French or German. In addition to training in the classical languages and literatures of Islamicate civilizations, students are encouraged to complement their philological training with exposure to other disciplines in the humanities and interpretive social sciences by taking courses in other departments and graduate schools that provide instruction in courses related to the study of Islam and Muslim Societies not explicitly covered in NELC.


Ali S. Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures
Khaled El-Rouayheb, Professor of Islamic Intellectual History
William E. Granara, Professor of the Practice of Arabic on the Gordon Gray Endowment, Director of Modern Language Programs
Justine Landau, Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Shady Nasser, Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Malika Zeghal, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Professor in Contemporary Islamic Thought and Life
David Stern,  Harry Starr Professor of Classical and Modern Jewish and Hebrew Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature, Director of the Center for Jewish Studies
Saul Noam Zaritt, Assistant Professor of Yiddish Literature

Other faculty offering instruction

Baber Johansen, Professor of Islamic Studies (Divinity School)
Cemal Kafadar, Vehbi Koc Professor of Turkish Studies
Andrew Teeter, Professor of Hebrew Bible/ Old Testament