Tahera Qutbuddin

tahera qutbuddin photo credit ken bennett

Photo credit: Ken Bennett


Faculty/College Address:  

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies / St John's College




I study classical Arabic literature and Islamic studies, focusing on intersections of the literary, the religious, and the political in poetry and prose. Since July 2023, I am the AlBabtain Laudian Professor of Arabic. I am also Professor Emerita at the University of Chicago, where I taught from 2002 till June 2023. Born in Mumbai, I earned a PhD from Harvard, and Tamhidi Magister and BA from Ain Shams, Cairo.

Research Interests:

  • Classical Arabic literature, including poetry, orations, epistles, aphorisms, narrative, poetics, and philology
  • Orations and sayings of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib
  • Ethical hadith and orations of the Prophet Muhammad
  • Fatimid and Tayyibi Bohra poetry, history, theology, and law
  • Literary features and symbolic exegesis of the Quran
  • Classical Arabic women’s literature, including orations and poetry
  • History, functions, and literary genres of Arabic in India



  • Nahj al-Balāghah: The Wisdom and Eloquence of ʿAlī (critical edition and translation, Brill 2024).
  • Arabic Oration: Art and Function (monograph, Brill 2019, winner of Sheikh Zayed Book Award).
  • Light in the Heavens: Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (critical edition and translation, NYU 2016).
  • A Treasury of Virtues: Sayings, Sermons, and Teachings of ʿAli (critical edition and translation, NYU 2013).
  • Al-Muʾayyad al-Shīrāzī and Fatimid Daʿwa Poetry: A Case of Commitment in Classical Arabic Literature (monograph, Brill 2005).

Articles: journal articles, book chapters, and encyclopedia entries available for online viewing/download at: LINK

Courses Taught:

  • Arabic Literature: Classical, Prose and Poetry (FHS Core Paper: Arabic/EMEL Undergraduate Year 3)
  • Arabic Literary Texts: Classical, Wisdom Literature (FHS: Core Paper for Subsidiary Arabic for Classics and Islamic Studies Undergraduate Year 1; Further Subject for Arabic/EMEL Undergraduate Year 3)
  • Option Papers in Classical Arabic poetry and prose for undergraduates and postgraduates

Presentations available online:

  • Early Islamic Oration: Rhetoric, Religion, and Ritual. University of Chicago Divinity School Nuveen Lecture 2022: LINK
  • Principles of Fatimid ta’wīl in the Majālis Mu’ayyadiyya of al-Mu’ayyad fī al-Dīn al-Shīrāzī: IIS, London 2022: LINK
  • Meet the Scholar: Snapshots of Intellectual Journeys. Georgetown University 2021: LINK 
  • Haza Ana (هذا أنا). Abu Dhabi Television Arabic Talk Show, season 5:14, 2021: LINK
  • Art and Power of Arabic Oration (Khutba): Past and Present. NYU, Abu Dhabi 2021: LINK
  • Normative Islam and Denominational Identities: Points of Unity and Difference among Sunni and Shia Muslims. Brigham Young University conference “The Islamic World Today” 2021: LINK

Editorial Boards:

  • Al-Markaz: Majallat al-Dirāsāt al-ʿArabiyya journal (Brill, Leiden)
  • Qur’anic Studies book series (IIS, London, and Oxford Univ. Press)
  • Shii Islam: Texts and Studies book series (Brill, Leiden)
  • Taqreeb interfaith harmony conference series (Qutbi Jubilee Scholarship Program, Mumbai)
  • Library of Arabic Literature edition-translation book series (NYU, Abu Dhabi)

Fellowship Awards:

  • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, New York (2021-20)
  • American Council of Learned Societies, New York (2016-17)
  • Carnegie Corporation of New York (2008-09)
  • Franke Institute for the Humanities, University of Chicago (2006-07)

CV: For further information on publications, conferences, students, and other academic activities, please see my Curriculum Vitae: LINK