Tahera Qutbuddin

Professor of Arabic Literature
Pick Hall 212
Ph.D., Harvard University, 1999
Teaching at UChicago since 2002

Academic Bio

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; the Quran, Hadith traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, and sermons and sayings of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib; Fatimid poetry, Tayyibi (and Da’udi Bohra) history and literature, 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 Chair of the undergraduate major Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities (2009-present). I obtained my PhD from Harvard University (1999), 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 (Handbook of Oriental Studies, Brill, April 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 teachings about virtue and piety.

I serve as an 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, and race and gender in Sirat Dhat al-Himma. I also serve on the dissertation committees of students working on Islamic history, Islamic Thought, and Persian Literature, as well as students in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Divinity School.


Selected Publications


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
Affiliated Departments and Centers: Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Divinity School
Subject Area: Arabic Language and Literature, Islamic History and Civilization, Islamic Thought