Jamal J. Elias

Walter H. Annenberg Professor of the HumanitiesProfessor of Religious Studies



Jamal J. Elias is the Director of the Wolf Humanities Center. He specializes in Islamic thought, literature and history in Western, Central and South Asia, with a focus on Sufism and Visual Culture. He regularly teaches courses in his areas of specialization, on Islam and modernity and on comparative religion, as well as advanced graduate courses in Qur'anic Studies as well as Persian and Turkish religious literature. He is the author of Alef is for Allah: Childhood, Emotion and Visual Culture in Islamic Societies (Berkeley 2018); Aisha's Cushion: Religious Art, Perception and Practice in Islam (Cambridge, MA 2012); On Wings of Diesel: Trucks, Identity and Culture in Pakistan (Oxford 2011); This is Islam: From Muhammad and the Community of Believers to Islam in the Global Community (Great Barrington 2011); Islam (London 1999);The Throne Carrier of God: The Life and Thought of ‘Ala’ ad-dawla as-Simnani (Albany 1995);  the coauthor of Interpreting the Self: Autobiography in the Arabic Literary Tradition (Berkeley 2001); the editor and translator of Death Before Dying: Sufi Poems of Sultan Bahu (Berkeley 1998); the editor of Key Themes for the Study of Islam (Oxford 2010); the coeditor of Light Upon Light: A Festschrift presented to Gerhard Böwering by His Students (Leiden 2019); and the author of numerous articles. His writings have been translated into at least nine languages. At present he is writing a book on the history of the Mevlevi order (Rumi's followers) from shortly after Rumi's death until the advent of modernity, focusing on the role of interpersonal relationships and the impact of social changes on the use of language. He is also the lead investigator on a project entitled "Art and Islam in Society: Aesthetic Cognition Expanding Religious Meaning," funded by the Temple Religion Trust.


Ph.D., Religious Studies, Yale University

M.A., Religious Studies, Yale University

M.A., Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania

B.A., Religious Studies, Stanford University

Research Interests
  • Islamic thought and metaphysics
  • Visual and Material Culture
  • Popular Culture in Western and South Asia
  • Sufi literature
  • Qur'anic Studies
  • Literature in Arabic, Persian, Turkish (modern and Ottoman), Urdu
Research Areas
Islamic Studies, Visual and Material Culture
Islamic thought, history and literature in Western, Central & South Asia
Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Urdu
Courses Taught
  • Islam and Modernity
  • Love, Sex and Death
  • Sufism
  • Qur'anic Studies
  • Islam and the Religious Image
  • Religion and Visual Culture
  • Islamic Metaphysics
  • Perisan Intellectual Tradition
  • Sufism in the Ottoman Empire
CV (file)
Elias_cv.pdf293.3 KB