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Prof. Dr. Shahzad Bashir

Research Interests:

History, theory and philosophy of history, religious studies, Iran, Central Asia, South Asia


Prof. Dr. Shahzad Bashir specializes in Islamic Studies with interest in the intellectual and social histories of the societies of Iran, Central and South Asia circa fourteenth century CE to the present. His published work is concerned with the study of history and temporality, Sufism and Shi’ism, messianic movements originating in Islamic contexts, representation of corporeality in hagiographic texts and Persian miniature paintings, literary and religious development during the Timurid and Safavid periods, and modern transformations of Islamic societies.

Project Abstract

My work during the fellowship is part of an enhanced digital monograph entitled Islamic Pasts and Futures: Horizons of Time (under contract with MIT Press). This is an innovative, born digital, publication whose interface has been engineered to suit the topic. It consists of seven media-rich interpretive essays that suggest ways of rethinking the conjunction between Islam and temporality through attention to case studies spanning the centuries and regions where Islam has been a significant presence. Looking beyond the commonplace view of Islamic history as a one-way stream that begins in sixth-century Arabian peninsula, the project sees ‘Islamic time’ as a vast matrix of horizons generated from ‘present’ moments that fold pasts and futures into themselves.

During the fellowship period, I will complete sections of the book relevant for the reception of antiquity in Islamic contexts. The birth of Islam is a late antique phenomenon, whose significance is manifest in all Islamic historiographical tradition. 'Islamic' universal history begins not with Muhammad but with foundational figures such as Adam (regarded as the first prophet) and the Persian mythical figure Kayumars. Additionally, grand scale Islamic histories almost always contain sections that enumerate the great Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, whose theories about time, moreover, had great influence on Islamic thought.

Over the centuries, antiquity has also been a resource for creative imagination for Muslims. For example, I highlight the city of Kudus, on the island of Java in Indonesia. This is an Islamic 'new Jerusalem' founded in the mid-sixteenth century where Muslims have continually appreciated and reinterpreted the Middle Eastern holy city for centuries. I excavate the various 'time signatures' embedded in monuments and stories associated with this city to show the working of history as a web of nodes rather than a straightforward timeline in Islamic contexts.

Curriculum vitae


1998 | PhD, Yale University

1991 | BA summa cum laude, Amherst College


Since 2017 

Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Humanities, Professor of Religious Studies and Professor of History, Brown University

2011-2017 | Lysbeth Warren Anderson Professor in Islamic Studies, Stanford University

Since 2020

Associate Editor, History and Theory: Studies in the Philosophy of History

Editor for book series: Islamicate Intellectual History (Brill) and Islamic Humanities (University of California Press)

Awards and Fellowships:

2020 | Brown University Presidential Faculty Award

2016 | Visiting Fellow, Max-Weber-Kolleg, University of Erfurt

2015-2016 | Andrew F. Carnegie Fellowship, Carnegie Corporation of New York

2011-2012 | John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship

2011-2012 | Stanford Humanities Center Fellowship

2004-2006 | Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship, American Council of Learned Societies

2004-2005 | National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for Faculty

1998 | Best Dissertation in Iranian Studies, Foundation for Iranian Studies

Selected Publications

2020. “The Living Dead of Tabriz: Explorations in ChronotopicImagination”. History of Religions 59(3), 169-192.

2019. Editor for Theme Issue “Islamic Pasts: Histories, Concepts, Interventions”. History and Theory: Studies in the Philosophy of History 58(4).

2018. “Everlasting Doubt: Uncertainty in Islamic Representations of the Past”. Archiv für Religionsgeschichte 20, 25-44.

2014. “On Islamic Time: Rethinking Chronology in the Historiography of Muslim Societies”. History and Theory 53(4), 464-519.

2011. Sufi Bodies: Religion and Society in Medieval Islam. New York: Columbia University Press.

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February 23, 2023

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