Jamal J. Elias

Walter H. Annenberg Professor of the HumanitiesProfessor of Islamic History and Visual Culture



Jamal J. Elias specializes in Islamic thought, literary and visual culture as well as history in Western and South Asia. His current research focuses on processes and understandings of religious community formation from the medieval to the modern world, as demonstrated in historical and literary writing as well as in visual and material culture. His most recent book, After Rumi: Language, Kinship and the Making of a Religious Community, is forthcoming from Harvard University Press. He is also the lead investigator on a project entitled "Art and Islam in Society: Aesthetic Cognition Expanding Religious Meaning," funded by the Templeton Religion Trust. Elias regularly teaches courses in his areas of specialization, on Islam and modernity and on comparative religion, as well as advanced graduate courses in Sufism, Religion and Visual Culture, Qur'anic Studies, and in 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.

Office Hours
By appointment

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
  • Sufi Thought and Literature
  • Seeing is Believing
  • Qur'anic Studies
  • Islam and the Religious Image
  • Religion and Visual Culture
  • Islamic Metaphysics
  • Perisan Intellectual Tradition
  • Sufism in the Ottoman Empire
  • Love and Hate
CV (file)
Elias_cv.pdf293.3 KB