I am a scholar of classical Arabic literature and Islamic studies focusing on intersections of the literary, the religious, and the political in classical Arabic poetry and prose. My research interests include ¤ Arabic oratory and Islamic preaching ¤ Literary features and symbolic exegesis of the Quran ¤ Ethical hadith traditions of the Prophet Muhammad ¤ Sermons of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib ¤ Broad features of classical Arabic poetry ¤ Women from the Family of the Prophet ¤ Fatimid and Tayyibi (Da’udi Bohra) Shi’i doctrine, history, and literature, particularly the thought of al-Mu’ayyad al-Shirazi and Sayyidna Tahir Sayf al-Din, and ¤ Arabic in India.
Since 2002, I have been a professor of Arabic literature and Islamic studies in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. I am also a member of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, associate faculty of the Divinity School, and ten-year chair of the undergraduate major Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities (2009-2019). I obtained my PhD (1999) and MA (1994) from Harvard University, Tamhidi Magister (1990) and BA (1988) from Ain Shams University, Cairo, and high school diploma (1984) from Sophia College, Mumbai.
My latest monograph is Arabic Oration: Art and Function (Brill, 2019), in which I present a comprehensive theory of this preeminent genre in its foundational oral period, 7th-8th centuries AD, and discuss its continuing influence on the contemporary Muslim sermon. My current projects include editing and translating al-Sharif al-Radi’s compilation of Ali’s sermons titled Path of Eloquence (Nahj al-balaghah), as well as a monograph on Ali’s religio-political career and ethical preaching based on his sermons and epistles, supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship (2020-21).
I serve as consulting editor of NYU Press’s Library of Arabic Literature series, and Brill’s Shii Islam: Texts and Studies series; also as a director of the Qutbi Jubilee Scholarship Program, Mumbai, and of its interfaith harmony conference series, Taqreeb.
My graduate students work on a range of subjects: the reader in Jahiz’s epistles, tribal poetics in pre-Islamic Arabia, authorship in Ma’arri’s writings, race and gender in Sirat Dhat al-Himma, and the role of hadith in Arabic philology. I also serve on the dissertation committees of students working in the fields of Islamic history, Islamic Thought, and Persian Literature, as well as students in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Divinity School.
Recent Public Talks
Arabic Oration: Art and Function. CMES Ventures podcast 2020: https://soundcloud.com/uchicago-cmes/arabic-oration-art-and-function
Virtues project podcast, interview, 2016: https://thevirtueblog.com/2016/11/30/virtue-talk-podcast-universal-human-virtues-tahera-qutbuddin/
Recent & Regularly Taught Courses
- NEHC 20601/30601 Islamic Thought & Literature-1
- ARAB 40101-40102 Advanced Arabic Syntax I-II
- ARAB 40383 Seminar: Poetry (Al-Mutanabbi)
- ARAB 40486: Abbasid Prose
- ARAB 20381/ 30381: Introduction to Arabic Poetry
- ARAB 40630/ISLM 40631: Balagha Seminar: Jurjani
- ARAB 40629/ISLM 40629: Nahj al-balagha: Virtue & Piety in the Teachings of Ali