I am interested in all humanistic disciplines, but my primary research specialty has been the history of medieval Middle East, in particular political practice and thought, historiography, messianic beliefs and movements, and cross-cultural/trans-regional connections and encounters circa 8th-10th centuries. I developed my scholarly interests as I pursued learning and scholarship at various institutions under the guidance of dedicated mentors. I earned my PhD from the University of Chicago (History, 2002), MA from the University of Jordan (History, 1990), and BA from Istanbul University (History, 1985). Along the way, I have authored books and articles on various aspects of medieval Middle East history. My publications include:
Messianic Beliefs and Imperial Politics in Medieval Islam: The Abbasid Caliphate in the Early Ninth Century (Columbia, SC: The University of South Carolina Press, 2009).
Tatawwur al-Fikr al-Siyasi ‘inda Ahl al-Sunna: Fatrat al-Takwin [The Development of Sunni Political Thought: The Formative Period] (Amman: Dar al-Bashir, 1993).
“Political Anarchism, Dissent, and Marginal Groups in the Early Ninth Century: The Ṣūfīs of the Muʿtazila Revisited,” The Lineaments of Islam: studies in Honor of Fred McGraw Donner, Paul Cobb, ed. (Leiden: Brill, 2012), pp. 61-84.
“Justification of Political Authority in Medieval Sunni Thought,” Islam, the State, and Political Authority: Medieval Issues and Modern Concerns, Asma Afsaruddin, ed. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), pp. 9-33.
“Translation as Self-Consciousness: The Abbasid Translation Movement, Ancient Sciences, and Antediluvian Wisdom (ca. 750-850),” Journal of World History 20/4 (2009), pp. 523-557.
“Ancient Imperial Heritage and Islamic Universal Historiography: Al-Dinawari’s Secular Perspective,” Journal of Global History 2.2 (2007), pp. 135-155.
“Allahın Halifesi ve Dünyanın Kadısı: Bir Dünya Imparatorluğu Olarak Hilafet,” [God’s Caliph and World’s Judge: The Caliphate as a World Empire,] Divan: Disiplinlerarası Çalışmalar Dergisi, 22 (2007), pp. 133-146.
“Between Nationalism and the Social Sciences: A History of Modern Scholarship on the Abbasid Civil War and the Reign of al-Ma’mun,” Medieval Encounters, 8 (2002), pp. 56-78.
In my work on “Islamic” political thought, I highlight the historical context in which political ideologies emerged and articulated to argue against normative, essentialist, and Orientalist “exoticization” of diverse, vibrant, and dynamic traditions of political thought in Middle Eastern history. In my research on messianism I examine the relationship between rulers and religion in order to understand political action. More specifically, I attempt to understand the impact of messianic and apocalyptic expectations on political and institutional changes in early Abbasid history. By drawing on historiographical sources as well as records of Muslim and non-Muslim apocalyptic prophecies circulating among the subjects of the Caliphate, I illustrate the pertinence of messianic beliefs to caliphal politics and the responsiveness of the caliphs to widespread concerns.
I have tried to align my teaching with my research interests and intellectual curiosity even in broad survey courses. I have taught the following courses: Caliphate in Theory and Practice - Middle East to 1250 - Encounters: East and West - Modern Middle East - Islam and Modernity - Advance Studies in Medieval Islamic History - Islamic Civilization - Introduction to Islam - Medieval Islamic Political Thought – Literatures of the Islamic Middle East - Ottoman History - Islam and the Mediterranean - World History - Modern Standard Arabic (for beginners and advanced students) - Advanced reading in Arabic.
I am currently working on two large projects: the caliphate as empire, in which I examine the caliphate as a form of rule and form of authority within the context of ancient and medieval Eurasian empires, and the representations of human history in Abbasid historiographical narratives.