Mary Elston

Mary Elston is a scholar of Islam focusing on the modern and contemporary Middle East. Her research interests are in the anthropology of Islam, religious studies, and Islamic intellectual history, with a focus on education, knowledge, politics, and language.  In May 2020, Mary received her Ph.D. from Harvard University’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Her dissertation, “Reviving Turāth: Islamic Education in Modern Egypt,” combines ethnography and textual analysis to examine the politics, texts, and practices of a traditionalist education movement at Egypt’s al-Azhar, the preeminent institution of Islamic learning located in Cairo. Her dissertation received the Alwaleed Bin Talal Prize for Best dissertation in Islamic Studies in 2020. Her research in Egypt was supported by the Loeb Dissertation Research Fellowship in Religious Studies, the Frederick Sheldon Traveling Fellowship, the American Research Center in Egypt, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, and Harvard University Center for African Studies. At PLS, Mary plans to turn her dissertation into a book manuscript, tentatively titled “Constructing Tradition: Islamic Turāth in the Contemporary Islamic World.” Her book will take a social scientific and humanistic approach to debates about tradition, knowledge, and Islamic education in the modern and contemporary Muslim world.

email: [email protected]

Rabiat Akande

Harvard Law School SJD 2019

Graduate Fellow, LL.M. Advisor

Graduate Student Affiliate, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University

Teaching Fellow, Harvard College

email: [email protected]

Malika Zeghal

Malika Zeghal is the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Professor in contemporary Islamic thought and life at Harvard and studies religion through the lens of Islam and power. She is particularly interested in Islamist movements and in the institutionalization of Islam in the Muslim world, with special focus on the Middle East and North Africa in the postcolonial period and on Muslim diasporas in North America and Western Europe. She has more general interests in the circulation and role of religious ideologies in situations of conflict and/or dialogue. She has published a study of central religious institutions in Egypt, Gardiens de l’Islam, (1996), and a volume on Islam and politics in Morocco, Islamism in Morocco: Religion, Authoritarianism, and Electoral Politics (2008), which has won the French Voices-Pen American Center Award. She is currently working on a book on states, secularity, and Islam in the contemporary Arab world.

Zahra Takhshid

Zahra Takhshid is the Reginald Lewis Fellow for Law Teaching at Harvard Law School. Her scholarly interests include torts, contracts, comparative defamation law and privacy, and Islamic law. In her doctorate dissertation, she analyzed the role of public policy and unconscionability in negligence lawsuits that involve the express assumption of risk defense. She is currently working on a paper which re-examines the unconscionability defense pertaining to arbitration clauses and offers a new perspective. Zahra received her Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) and LL.M. in Private and Islamic Law from the University of Tehran School of Law and Political Science. She then pursued her second LL.M. degree at the George Washington University Law School. Zahra earned her Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) degree from Fordham Law School. At Fordham, she also served as the Islamic Law Fellow at the Institute on Religion, Law, & Lawyer’s Work. She is also a passionate advocate of youth education and has taught and worked with middle school and high school students in Washington, D.C., and New York City. In addition, Zahra writes Op-Eds for several Iranian newspapers on current comparative legal issues. She speaks Farsi as her native language and is fluent in English. She is proficient in French, Arabic, and the programming language Swift.

Shady Nasser

Professor Nasser is a Program in Islamic Law Faculty Affiliate. He teaches Arabic literature and Islamic Civilizations courses. His previous posting was as a University Lecturer in Classical Arabic studies at the University of Cambridge (UK), in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

Shady started his PhD at Harvard University in Arabic and Islamic studies under the supervision of Wolfhart Heinrichs. He completed his PhD in 2011. From 2009-2012 he was a senior lector of Arabic and the coordinator of the Arabic language program at Yale University. In 2013, he was appointed University Lecturer in Classical Arabic studies at the University of Cambridge (UK).

Roy Mottahedeh

Roy Parviz Mottahedeh is the Gurney Professor of History, Emeritus, at Harvard University.  He served as the Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University from 1987 to 1990 and founded the Harvard Middle East and Islamic Review as a medium for Harvard students and teachers to publish their work. He was elected a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Council on Foreign Relations and has served as a series editor for several academic publishers. In 1994 he was appointed Gurney Professor of History. Together with Angeliki Laiou he co-edited The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World (2001). His book Lessons in Islamic Jurisprudence, published in 2003, studies the philosophy of Islamic law as taught in Shi’ite seminaries. Professor Mottahedeh received an honorary degree from the University of Lund, Sweden, in 2006. He served as Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program at Harvard from 2006 to 2011.

Professor Mottahedeh is the author of numerous articles that demonstrate his wide range of interests from the Abbasid period in the eighth century to Islamic revival movements of the present day. One of his most widely distributed articles, which has been translated into many languages, was his critique of Huntington’s theory of the clash of civilizations. Professor Mottahedeh’s other publications consider such diverse topics as the transmission of learning in the Muslim world, the social bonds that connected people in the early Islamic Middle East, the theme of “wonders” in The Thousand and One Nights, the concept of jihad in the early Islamic period, and perceptions of Persepolis among later Muslims.

Payam Mohseni

Dr. Payam Mohseni is the Director of the Project on Shi’ism and Global Affairs at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and manages Visions, Harvard’s premier online publication on all matters pertaining to global Shi’ism. He is also a Lecturer in the Department of Government at Harvard University and served as a Lecturer on Islamic Studies at the Harvard Divinity School. At Harvard, he teaches on Iranian and Middle East politics as well as Islam and is a multiple recipient of the Harvard Excellence in Teaching award. Dr. Mohseni is also an active term member at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York and a faculty affiliate of the Program in Islamic Law at the Harvard Law School (HLS) and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) at Harvard University.

Dr. Mohseni’s research focuses on comparative political institutions, Iranian foreign and domestic politics, Shi’a thought and identity, Islam and sectarian conflict in the Middle East, and the politics of authoritarianism and hybrid regimes cross-regionally. In particular, his research has contributed to the field of political institutions and comparative regime studies, specifically regarding the conceptualization of hybrid regimes and tutelary institutions, and on theoretical questions of authoritarian resurgence and democracy resistance, the institutional impact of ideology and religion, and the political economy of development in non-democratic settings. His latest research also explores the evolving contemporary dynamics of interconnected Shi’a political movements in the Middle East, the role of non-state actors in the region, and Middle East security.

Dr. Mohseni previously served as the Director of the Iran Project at the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and co-chaired Harvard’s Iran Working Group with Professor Graham Allison which hosted prominent U.S. and international scholars and policy-makers focusing on the Iranian nuclear negotiations and regional issues. He was additionally the Editor-in-Chief of the Belfer Center’s Special Initiative Iran Matters, an online publication on contemporary Iranian affairs. Dr. Mohseni also co-chaired Harvard’s Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies Study Group on the Eastern Mediterranean and Europe from 2014 to 2016. Prior to that, he was a postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Harvard Belfer Center’s International Security Program, a Junior Research Fellow at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University, and a member of the Iran Study Group at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington, D.C. He holds a Ph.D. in Government from Georgetown University, an M.A. in Conflict, Security, and Development from the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, and a B.A. in Development Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.

Tarek Masoud

Tarek Masoud is the Sultan of Oman Associate Professor of International Relations at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. His research focuses on the role of religion in the Muslim world’s political development. He is the author of Counting Islam: Religion, Class, and Elections in Egypt (Cambridge University Press, 2014), the co-author of The Arab Spring: Pathways of Repression and Reform (Oxford University Press, 2015), as well as of several articles and book chapters. He is a 2009 Carnegie Scholar, a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Democracy, and the recipient of grants from the National Science Foundation and the Paul and Daisy Soros foundation, among others. He holds an AB from Brown and a PhD from Yale, both in political science.

Asim Ijaz Khwaja

Asim Ijaz Khwaja is the Sumitomo-Foundation for Advanced Studies on International Development Professor of International Finance and Development at the Harvard Kennedy School, and Co-Director of Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD). His areas of interest include economic development, finance, education, political economy, institutions, and contract theory/mechanism design. His research combines extensive fieldwork, rigorous empirical analysis, and microeconomic theory to answer questions that are motivated by and engage with policy. His recent work ranges from understanding market failures in emerging financial markets to examining the private education market in low-income countries. He was selected as a Carnegie Scholar in 2009 to pursue research on how religious institutions impact individual beliefs. Khwaja received BS degrees in economics and in mathematics with computer science from MIT and a PhD in economics from Harvard.

Ousmane Kane

Ousmane Kane, a scholar of Islamic studies and comparative and Islamic politics, joined Harvard Divinity School in July 2012 as the first Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Professor of Contemporary Islamic Religion and Society at HDS. Since 2002, he was an associate professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the African Studies Association of North America and the Council for the Development of Social and Economic Research in Africa. Kane studies the history of Islamic religious institutions and organizations since the eighteenth century, and he is engaged in documenting the intellectual history of Islam in Africa.