My primary research focus is on the literary remains of early Islamic cultures, including the Qur'an, hadith, legal and theological texts. I am particularly interested in the rise of a professional scholarly community in Egypt and North Africa, using early Arabic manuscripts to trace arguments and lines of influence. Recently, I have focused on the question of how these early scholars construct their notion of religious authority in my book, Muhammad's Heirs: the Rise of Muslim Scholarly Communities (Cambridge, 2017). This work has led me to formulate a new theory of charismatic authority, one that attempts to account for the dynamic roles of text, community and history in constructing the charismatic leader. I plan on devoting my next book to fleshing out some of the implications of this theory. Arguably, Islamic law is as much a set of ethical guidelines as it is law. It thereby forms an essential backdrop to modern discussions of war, bioethics, economic justice, etc. I have pursued an active interest in these contemporary issues including the impact of climate change on Muslim communities.
Muhammad's Heirs: The Rise of Muslim Scholarly Communities, 622-950. (Cambridge, 2017)
“Interpreting Material Evidence: Religion at the ‘Origins of Islam’” History of Religions, 55 (2015), 121-147.
“Muhammad the peacemaker; Muhammad the warrior. Contested Images of Islam’s Prophet after 9/11” in Muhammad in the Digital Age, ed. Ruqayya Khan (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015), 35-56.
“Introduction to Special Issue. Islam and Ecology: Theology, Law and Practice of Muslim Environmentalism” Worldviews 16 (2012), 213–217.
"The Formation of Islamic Law: the Egyptian school, 750-900." Annales Islamologiques 45 (2011), 123-140.
“Contradictory Evidence and the Exemplary Scholar: The Lives of Sahnun b. Sa`id (d. 854)” International Journal of Middle East Studies 43.1 (2011): 115-132.
Muslim Medical Ethics: From Theory to Practice. Co-editor and contributor with Thomas Eich. Studies in Comparative Religion. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2008.
“MS Chester Beatty 3001 and the apotheosis of Malik b. Anas (d. 179/795)” forthcoming in Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam.
“The Rise of Islam in a Judaeo-Christian Context” in Light upon Light: Essays in Islamic Thought and History in Honor of Gerhard Bowering, edited by Jamal Elias and Bilal Orfali. Studies in Islamic History and Civilization (Leiden: E.J. Brill), 2019, 24-44.
HIST 108 - The Crusades
RLST107 - Introduction to Islam
ARAB/RLST 164 - Muhammad and the Qur'an
HIST/RLST 471Y - Islamic Civilization
PHIL / RL ST / METEO 133N The Ethics of Climate Change
Awards and Service:
Organizer, Getting to Zero: Penn State Carbon Emissions Conference (2014)
Convener, Penn State Society for the Study of Religion (2013-present)
Participant, National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute (2012)
Director, Rock Ethics Institute Initiative in Religion and Ethics (2011-present)