Welcome to our March Guest Blogger: Ahmed El Shamsy & Seminar Participants

The essays for this month arise from a seminar on Arabic philology taught by Professor Ahmed El Shamsy at the University of Chicago. Each essay is jointly authored by Professor El Shamsy and various seminar participants whose short biographies can be found below.

Ahmed El Shamsy is Professor of Islamic Thought and department chair in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. He studies the intellectual history of Islam, focusing on the evolution of the classical Islamic disciplines and scholarly culture within their broader historical context. His research addresses themes such as orality and literacy, the history of the book, and the theory and practice of Islamic law. He has published books on the formation of Islamic law (The Canonization of Islamic Law: A Social and Intellectual History, 2013) and on the effect of print on Islamic thought (Rediscovering the Islamic Classics: How Editors and Print Culture Transformed an Intellectual Tradition, 2020). He is now at work on a history of Sunnism.

Seminar participant bios (alphabetized by last name):

Hamza Baig is an MA student at the University of Chicago Divinity School, where he studies Islamic thought. His research focuses on the development of Islamic law, and he wrote his master’s thesis on the 9th/15th-century Ḥanafī jurist Ibn al-Humām. He holds a BA in International Political Economy (University of Texas at Dallas), an MA in the Humanities (University of Chicago), and an ʿĀlimiyyah degree in the traditional Islamic sciences (Qalam Seminary).

Raza Baqai is a PhD student in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. He works on premodern Islamic thought and the development of religious concepts such as taqwā within Islamic history. He holds a BS in Public Policy (University of Southern California) and MA in Islamic Studies (University of Chicago Divinity School).

Adam DeSchriver is an MA student at the University of Chicago Divinity School where he works on the social and religious history of late antique and early medieval west Asia. His research focuses on the history of monotheism in the Arabian Peninsula in the 5th-9th centuries CE. He holds an MA in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Fulbright fellow), a BA in Religious Studies (University of Rochester), and a BM in Clarinet Performance (Eastman School of Music). Starting in the fall of 2024, Adam will pursue a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Yale University.

Ammar Farra is a fourth-year undergraduate and first-year master’s student at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago, where he studies Arabic literature and philology, Islamic history, and Persian language and literature. He is interested in a variety of topics, including early Islamic thought and literature and their development, standardization of the Arabic language, Arabic and Persian poetry, history of emotions, and the influence of Persian and Arabic on each other.

Zainab Hermes received her PhD in Linguistics in 2018 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is currently an Assistant Instructional Professor of Arabic in the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department at the University of Chicago. She is interested in Arabic phonetics, diglossia and dialectology, and philology.

Kainat Jalaluddin is a second-year MA student in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. She is interested in medieval Islamic philosophical debates on themes such as creation, causality, and other metaphysical discussions around the nature of the creator-creation relationship. Kainat holds a BSc in Nursing Sciences (Aga Khan University), an MA in Islamic Studies (SOAS, University of London), and a postgraduate certificate in Islamic Studies and Humanities (Institute of Ismaili Studies, London).

Henry Stratakis-Allen is a PhD student in the NELC Department at the University of Chicago where he is focusing on the landscape of Islamic thought and political development during the era of the Crusades. He holds a BA from William & Mary in Medieval and Renaissance Studies and Mathematics.

Yousef A. Wahb is an Islamic Law Instructor at the University of Windsor’s Faculty of Law and a Family Law Author for LexisNexis Canada. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Islamic Studies from Al-Azhar University, a Master of Laws (LL.M) from the University of Windsor, and is currently completing his Master of Arts (MA) at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

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