Usaama al-Azami

Lecturer in Islamic Studies


BA, Oxford University, 2008
MA, Princeton University, 2013
PhD Candidate, Princeton University (ongoing)


Usaama al-Azami read his BA in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Oxford University, and his MA in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. He is currently completing his PhD at Princeton University's Department of Near Eastern Studies. 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, covering much of what would be studied in the advanced years of an Indian madrasa curriculum. He likes to bring insights from both the academy and the madrasa into his research and teaching. He 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, but 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 tradition in the realms of theology, philosophy, and law. He believes that in order to undertake serious scholarship in these disciplines, it is necessary to have coverage of an array of ancillary disciplines from history to philology, Qur'an and Hadith studies, legal theory, etc., and so such areas are also of interest to him. With respect to normative questions, he is interested in the philosophical and scriptural underpinnings of the issues that Western modernity finds itself preoccupied with vis-a-vis Islam, and vice-versa. These tend to be about Islamic conceptions of gender, secularism (religion and politics), jihad, science and religion, the notion of an Islamic state, Islamic governance and constitutionalism, nationhood, democracy, liberty, to mention some major topics of interest.


Some of Usaama al-Azami's publications may be accessed via:

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]).