In Memoriam: Shahab Ahmed (1966–2015)

Oct. 6, 2015

Shahab Ahmed, Lecturer on Law and Research Fellow in Islamic Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, passed away on September 17, 2015. Ahmed earned his Ph.D. from the Department of Near Eastern Studies in 1999, writing his dissertation on “The Satanic Verses Incident in the Memory of the Early Muslim Community: An Analysis of the Early Riwa?yahs and Their Isna?ds” under the direction of Michael Cook, Class of 1943 University Professor of Near Eastern Studies. Following appointments at American University in Cairo and Harvard’s Society of Fellows, Ahmed returned to Near Eastern Studies in 2004 as a Postdoctoral Research Associate. While here, he organized with Yossef Rapoport (Ph.D. 2002) a conference on Ibn Taymiyya in April 2005 and later edited with Rapoport the conference papers, Ibn Taymiyya and His Times (Oxford University Press, 2010). He then returned to Harvard in 2005 as an assistant professor of Islamic Studies and was promoted to associate professor in 2010. In 2014 he was appointed Lecturer on Law and Research Fellow in Islamic Legal Studies at Harvard Law School. Ahmed also held appointments as Higher Education Commission of Pakistan Visiting Scholar, Islamic Research Institute, International Islamic University, Islamabad, Pakistan (2007–8) and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Visiting Associate Professor of Islamic Legal Studies, Harvard Law School (Fall 2012). His first book, What is Islam? The Importance of Being Islamic (Princeton University Press) is scheduled for publication in November 2015. A second book, Before Islamic Orthodoxy: The Satanic Verses in the Thought of the Earliest Muslim Community (ca. 632–800), which is based upon his dissertation, will be published by Harvard University Press in 2016.

Ahmed’s dissertation advisor Michael Cook praised Ahmed as “a brilliant scholar with immense promise, tragically cut short,” and M. Qasim Zaman, Robert H. Niehaus '77 Professor of Near Eastern Studies and Religion and Chair, Department of Near Eastern Studies, called Ahmed “one of the most brilliant and innovative scholars of Islam in recent years. His death is a real loss to the field of Islamic Studies.”

Other memorials may be read here, here, and here.