photo of Asma Afsaruddin

Asma Afsaruddin

Professor, Department of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures
Adjunct Professor, Department of Religious Studies

Memorial Hall, Rm. M17


Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 1993

Research Interests

Professional Biography

My most recent book is titled The First Muslims: History and Memory, published by Oneworld Publishers in Oxford, England, in 2008. This book discusses the continuing influence of the first three generations of Muslims, collectively called “the Pious Forbears” (al-salaf al-salih) whose religious practices and personal lives are deemed to be paradigmatic and worthy of emulation by later generations of Muslims. Currently, I am completing a book-length manuscript to be published by Oxford University Press, circa 2012, called Striving in the Path of God: Jihad and Martyrdom in Islamic Thought and Praxis. The work focuses on a shifting trajectory of the meanings of jihad and of the related concepts of “martyr” and “martyrdom” from the earliest period of Islam through the late medieval period and down to our present time. It retrieves a broad spectrum of meanings assigned to the term jihad and its derivatives in the Qur’an, especially as reflected diachronically in exegetical works. Additionally, I look at hadith works (containing the statements of the Prophet Muhammad), later fada’il al-jihad (“excellences of jihad”) works, and standard legal treatises on the topic, as well as contemporary literature on jihad, terrorism, and so-called “martyrdom operations.” I have also signed a contract with Edinburgh University Press to write a volume of discrete essays under the title Contemporary Issues in Islam. The book will address some key issues of particular relevance in the contemporary period, such as Muslim reactions to secular modernity, political Islam, religious extremism and militancy, gender, inter-faith relations, and the roles of Western Muslims.

I was recently appointed a senior editor for the Oxford Encyclopedia of Women and Islam and have served in the past on the editorial boards of the Middle East Studies Association Bulletin, Blackwell’s Religion Compass (Islam Section), the Oxford Dictionary of Islam, the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World, and Routledge’s Medieval Islamic Civilization.


Courses Recently Taught

Publication Highlights


Striving in the Path of God: Jihad and Martyrdom in Islamic Thought and Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, forthcoming

The First Muslims: History and Memory. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2008.

Excellence and Precedence: Medieval Islamic Discourse on Legitimate Leadership. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2002.

(Editor) Hermeneutics and Honor: Negotiating Female Public Space in Islamic/ate Societies. Middle East Monograph Series. Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University, 1999.

(Co-editor) Humanism, Culture and Language in the Near East: Essays in Honor of Georg Krotkoff. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1997.

Articles and Book Chapters:

Article “Martyrdom” in The Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought. Ed. Wadad Kadi et al. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011 (forthcoming).

“Early Women Exemplars and the Construction of Gendered Space: (Re-)Defining Feminine Moral Excellence,” in Harem Histories, ed. Marilyn Booth. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2010. Pp. 23-48.

“Where Heaven and Earth Meet: Remembering Muhammad as Head of State,” in The Cambridge Companion to Muhammad. Ed. Jonathan Brockopp. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Pp. 180-198.

“Demarcating Fault-Lines within Islam: Muslim Modernists and Hard-Line Islamists Engage the Shari‘a,” in Between Renewal and Tradition: Shari‘a as Discourse in Encounter with Europe. Ed. Jorgen S. Nielsen and Lisbet Christoffersen. London: Hurst, 2010. Pp. 29-44.

“Debating Absolutism and Pluralism in Contemporary Islam,” in Debating the War of Ideas. Ed. Erik Patterson and John Gallagher. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Pp. 207-27.

“An Altered Terrain: Engaging Islam in Post-9/11 Academia and the Public Sphere,” in The Impact of 9/11 on Religion and Philosophy: The Day that Changed Everything? Ed. Matthew J. Morgan. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Pp. 19-29.

“Discerning a Qur’anic Mandate for Mutually Transformational Dialogue” in Criteria of Discernment in Interreligious Dialogue. Ed. Catherine Cornille. Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2009. Pp. 101-121.

“The Hermeneutics of Inter-Faith Relations: Retrieving Moderation and Pluralism as Universal Principles in Qur’anic Exegeses,” Journal of Religious Ethics 37,Wiley, 2009. Pp.331-54.


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