Dr Usaama al-Azami

On leave: Lecturer in Islamic Studies


BA, Oxford University, 2008
MA, Princeton University, 2013
PhD, Princeton University, 2018


Usaama al-Azami read his BA in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Oxford University, and his MA and PhD in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. He came to Islamic studies after a gap year studying Arabic and Islamic studies convinced him to turn down an offer to study medicine at Imperial College London. During his undergraduate career, he also pursued Islamic studies in seminarial contexts alongside his academic studies, covering much of what would be studied in the advanced years of an Indian madrasa curriculum. He has travelled extensively throughout the Middle East, living for five years in the region. He is also an enthusiastic teacher who is very eager to support the formation of research scholars, and always welcomes students with such aspirations to get in touch with him.

Research Interests

Usaama al-Azami is primarily interested in the interaction between Islam and modernity with a special interest in modern developments in Islamic political thought. His PhD which he is working to develop into his first book is entitled “Modern Islamic Political Thought: Islamism in the Arab World from the Late 20th to Early 21st Centuries”. In it, he explores how Arab ulama of a mainstream ‘Islamist’ orientation have engaged Western political concepts such as democracy, secularism and the nation-state, selectively adopting and assimilating aspects of these ideas in their understanding of Islam. His broader interests extend to a range of disciplines from the Islamic scholarly tradition from the earliest period of Islam down to the present. He is, in the main, interested in Sunni Islam as a normative legal and philosophical tradition, especially as it intersects with political modernity. Specific areas in which he is currently conducting research include: Islamic political thought after the Arab revolutions; conceptions of democracy and liberty in Islamic governance; the co-optation of religious scholars by the ‘secular’ state to reinforce autocracy; political violence, takfiri theology and Islamic law; Islamophobia, critical race theory and the War on Terror; intersectionality in global Muslim politics; positionality in academic Islamic studies.


Some of Usaama al-Azami's publications may be accessed via: https://princeton.academia.edu/UAzami

Peer-reviewed Publications

“Neo-traditionalist Sufis and Arab Politics: A Preliminary Mapping of the Transnational Networks of Counter-revolutionary Scholars after the Arab Revolutions” in Global Sufism, eds. Mark Sedgwick and Francesco Piraino (London: Hurst Publishers, forthcoming 2019).

Book Reviews

Women in the Mosque: A History of Legal Thought and Social Practice. Marion Holmes Katz. Columbia, 2014. (The Muslim World Book Review, 36:2, [2016])

The Impossible State: Islam, Politics, and Modernity’s Moral Predicament. Wael Hallaq. Columbia, 2012. (The Muslim World, 104:1-2 [2014]).

Just Wars, Holy Wars and Jihads: Christian, Jewish and Muslim Encounters and Exchanges. Sohail Hashmi (ed.). OUP, 2012. (Journal of Islamic Studies, 25:1, [2014]).

Sufism and Society: Arrangements of the Mystical in the Muslim World, 1200-1800. Curry Ohlander (eds.). Routledge, 2012. (Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, 24:4 [2013]).

Observing the Observer: The State of Islamic Studies in American Universities. Mumtaz Ahmad, Zahid Bukhari, and Sulayman Nyang, eds. Herndon, VA: IIIT, 2012. (American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, 30:3 [2013]).