AIS Graduate Colloquium

The Georgetown Arabic Department Graduate Association (GADGA) is very pleased to present the Arabic and Islamic Studies Graduate Colloquium, a forum in which graduate students have the opportunity to present and discuss their research projects, hold academic workshops, and participate in roundtable discussions. The Colloquium aims at encouraging discussions among graduate students and professors over their research and its contribution to the scholarship in the field. It is also open to discuss works-in-progress by more advanced scholars.

Moiz Mohammad — President (2021/2022)
Hatice Ozturk — Treasurer (2021/2022)



Title: AIS Fellowship and Grant Workshop

When: May 16, 2022, 11:00 AM EST

Where: Via Zoom (Zoom link to be shared the week of the event)

Dr. Sara Omar, Georgetown University, Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies
Dr. Anny Gaul, University of Maryland, Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
Eriko Okamoto, PhD Candidate, Georgetown University, Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies

Title: “The Ismaʿili Interlude in the Samanid history: the Early Ismaʿili Daʿwah in Khorasan and Mawarannahr”

When: April 20, 2022, 4:00 PM EST

Where: Via Zoom (Zoom link to be shared the week of the event)

Co-sponsored by: The Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies and The Department of Theology


Ismāʿīlīsm is a branch of Shia Islam and one of the oldest Islamic minoritarian movements that continues to exist today with more than 20 million adherents around the world. Ismāʿīlīsm is usually understood as an oppositional movement to the religious norms and political authority of the Sunni caliphs of Baghdād, challenging established Muslim hermeneutic practices and establishing the vast Fatimid Imamate in the heart of the Muslim world on the Mediterranean, familiar to Western audiences through Crusader histories. During the gradual expansion of the doctrine through the complex system of missionaries (duʿāt) to the Persian provinces and frontiers of Central Asia (Khorasan and Mawarannahr), the Ismāʿīlī “call” (daʿwah) found the response among the different strata of the local population. One of the converts was amir Nasr b. Ahmad (d. 943), the sovereign of the Samanids, the dynasty that governed the eastern provinces of the Caliphate on behalf of the Abbasids. This presentation seeks to explain the phenomenon of the Ismāʿīlī daʿwah from a sociohistorical perspective, focusing on the specific sets of relationships that Ismāʿīlī agents enjoyed with the local population of Khorasan and Mawarannahr.

View the recording here.

Title: “Python for humanities scholars: A little coding goes a long way”

When: March 31, 2022, 3:00 PM EST

Where: Via Zoom (Zoom link to be shared the week of the event)

Co-sponsored by: The Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies

Title: Equality vs. Freedom: Continuity and Change in the Demands of ’48 Palestinians

When: Friday, February 25th, 2022, 3-4:30pm EST

Where: Via Zoom (Zoom link to be shared week of event)

Presenter: Dr. Maha Nassar, University of Arizona

Moderated by: Dr. Jonathan Brown, Georgetown University

Co-sponsored by: The Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies and The Department of History

In May 2021, as the world’s attention was once again riveted to images of Israel’s violence against Palestinians, thousands of ’48 Palestinians (also known as Palestinian citizens of Israel) rose up in protest. Echoing the chants of Palestinians around the world, they pledged their fidelity to Jerusalem and demanded “hurriya” (freedom). While there is a long history of protest among ’48 Palestinians, a paradigmatic shift has occurred in recent years. Whereas protests in earlier decades were dominated by calls for equality for Palestinians within Israel and for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside it, today younger ’48 Palestinians are increasingly framing their struggle as an integral part of a broader Palestinian demand for unity and national liberation from all forms of Israeli settler-colonialism. In this talk, Dr. Maha Nassar will trace these discursive shifts and discuss what they may mean for the future of Palestinians and Israelis.

View the recording here.

Title: “Wives and Work: Islamic Law and Ethics Before Modernity”

When: Monday, November 1, 2021, 3:00 PM (EST)

Where: Via Zoom ( (new window))

Presenter: Marion Katz, Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, NYU

Discussant: Marya Hannun, PhD, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS), GU


It is a widely cited fact that classical Islamic law denies that wives have any obligation to do housework.  Muslim wives’ exemption from domestic labor was a talking point among Muslims responding to Orientalist stereotypes by the late nineteenth century, and was a prominent motif in writings by Muslim feminists in the US starting in the 1980’s. Nevertheless, as early as the ninth century CE, the prevalent legal doctrine that wives had no legal duty to do housework stood in conflict with what most Muslim legal scholars understood to be morally and religiously right.  They sought to resolve this tension in various ways, from delineating a clear distinction between legal claims and ethical ideals to forging a complete synthesis of the two.  As a result, the issue of wives’ domestic labor offers a unique lens for questions about the relationship between Islamic law and ethics that have long been debated in the western academy.  

View the video recording here.

Title: “Learning Arabic in Pre-Modern Times”

When: Monday, October 18, 2021, 3:00 PM (EST)

Presenter: Michael Cooperson, Professor of Arabic, UCLA

Where: Via Zoom ( (new window))


Most of the pre-modern Arabic grammar books we have today are too advanced to have been used as foundational teaching texts for Arabic grammar, so how did non-native speakers learn Arabic? In this presentation, Dr. Michael Cooperson explores sources that allude to various dimensions of this learning process. At the same time, he highlights manifestations of an anxiety that some non-native speakers seem to have felt when performing in Arabic in this pre-modern context. This anxiety comes through clearly in al-Ḥarīrī’s Maqāmāt, which is both a document of multilingualism and an erasure of that some learners who spoke the language poorly were nevertheless able to write it well. Dr. Cooperson proposes a partial explanation of this achievement. A number of sources, chief among them al-Ghuzūlī (d. 1411+) indicate that some learners who spoke the language poorly were nevertheless able to write it well. 

Discussant: Mohamed Lamallam, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, GU

*Please note, the talk will be in Arabic followed by the discussion in English. Q&A: English or Arabic

View the video recording here.

Title: “Arabic Vernacular Use Online: A corpus study of a Tunisian internet forum over ten years”

When: October 8, 2021, 3:00 PM (EST)

Where: Via Zoom (

View the video recording here.


Title: “Prophecy in Arabic and Islamic Philosophy: al-Fārābī’s Psychological Explanation”

When: April 21, 2021, 5:00 PM (EST)

Where: Via Zoom

Title: “Between Justification and Purpose: Paradigms of Jihad in Abū Bakr al-Sarakhsī’s Theory of Jihad”

When: April 14, 2021, 5:00 PM (EST)

Where: Via Zoom

Title: “Constructing the ‘Impossible State’: Islam, Rights, and Reform in Afghanistan’s First Constitution”

When: March 10, 2021, 5:00 PM (EST)

Where: Via Zoom

Title: Legal Conceptions of Harm in Marriage and Divorce

When: December 9, 2020, 2:30 PM

Where: Via Zoom


The Mālikī school of law, unlike the other three Sunnī schools of law, explicitly categorizes the occurrence of harm (ḍarar) as one of the means by which a wife can obtain a divorce. As a result, they are correctly credited with featuring discussions of harm in a much wider and more detailed capacity. In this presentation, I set out to substantiate that Mālikīs’ thorough references to harm is a result of 1) their usage and understanding of the concept of harm itself and 2) their conception of marriage. In short, the Mālikī definition of harm is directly correlated with the rights of the individual and/or of God (ḥaqq al-ʿibādḥaqq Allāh). When a right exists, it can be infringed upon, and such infringement constitutes harm. A concern for rights, therefore, is often translated as a concern about harm. Naturally, the rights of individuals and God feature prominently in legal discourse. Since the Mālikī conception of marriage inherently affords more rights to individuals than the other schools of law, we see more discussion and references to harm as a result. Specifically, they grant the wife more rights within the marriage itself than the other schools, and with more rights involved, the room the wife has to experience harm grows. Because Mālikīs understand harm within a “rights” paradigm, their concern for harm—or discussions revolving around harm—is not limited to contexts of physical harm and is thus much more prominent than is often depicted in current secondary literature.  In other words, since harm is understood to occur when one’s rights are infringed upon, it can apply to situations other than hitting, which is often the only lens through which harm is examined. Illustrating the prominence of harm beyond hitting, a goal of this presentation, serves two purposes. Number one, it distinctly contributes to the existing literature by demonstrating that Mālikīs’ unique definition of harm lends itself to a broader application to include both the material and immaterial realms. And number two, it is important because it correlates with a larger number of outlets to alleviate harm; a more generous understanding of what constitutes harm provides more room for ramifications for those inflicting harm, and for the purposes of this study, more room for reform efforts.

Title: Navigating New Legal Cases: What the Leading Debates over Tobacco tell us about Islamic Law

When: November 18, 2020, 2:30 PM

Where: Via Zoom

Alarmed by the swift dissemination of tobacco in the seventeenth century, Ottoman political and religious authorities judged its consumption to be illegal and religiously prohibited (ḥarām) for the simple reason that it threatened the political and moral order of the Ottoman polity. Instead of stamping out the practice, however, state prohibition merely drove smokers underground where smoking continued to rapidly gain popularity. Unable to effectively curb its growth, political and religious officials subsequently retracted the ban, thereby officially legalizing smoking and deeming it religiously permissible (mubāḥ). In an article on the great tobacco debate, the historian James Grehan points to this moment as the triumph of popular culture over the political and religious, a moment in which the ʿulamāʾ had no choice but to acquiesce to social reality in order to keep the Sharīʿa socially relevant. In this presentation, I challenge Grehan’s position by examining a legal epistle on the topic by the Ḥanbalī jurist Marʿī b. Yūsuf al-Karmī (d. 1032/1623). Al-Karmī contends that any prohibition of smoking violates the basic rule that jurisconsults (muftīs) can only make definitive legal judgements when conclusive and overwhelming proof exists. Taking his approach as an example, I argue that muftīs historically dealt with unprecedented legal cases by exercising a high degree of caution in pronouncing a ruling either as prohibited (ḥarām) or obligatory (farḍ/wājib) so as to not infringe upon God’s sole authority to legislate. Far from expressing an unqualified acceptance of social reality as Grehan suggests, the initial conservatism of the ʿulamāʾ followed by a more moderate tempering of early positions perfectly accords with the muftīs’ circumspect method in cases of legal ambiguity. It also explains why later jurists who maintained its prohibition felt compelled to resort to a different line of argument, one that relied upon the authority of the ruler to limit the permissible (taqyīd al-mubāḥ) so as to sidestep the evidentiary uncertainty associated with legally classifying tobacco.  

Title: A Self-View of 17th Century Arabic Poetry: Ibn Ma’sum and his Biographical Dictionary

When: October 21, 2020, 2:30 PM

Where: Via Zoom

The 11th/17th century Ḥijāzī scholar Ibn Maʿṣūm al-Madanī (d. 1709) wrote a significant later post-classical/pre-modern biographical dictionary of poets, Sulāfat al-ʿaṣr fī maḥāsin al-shuʿarāʾ bi-kulli miṣr (Pressing of the Wine Grapes on the Excellence of Poets from Every Region). Written in India presumably while Ibn Maʿṣūm was under house arrest, the Sulāfa, along with two contemporary biographical dictionaries of poets by two other 11th/17th century authors, al-Khafājī and al-Muḥibbī, attempted to preserve and defend the forgotten literature of the later period that preceded the so-called modern period. In these books, the authors claim to provide instances of great literature that compete with—if not surpass—their ancestors’ literature. By taking the Sulāfa as an example, I argue that besides its merit of preserving a significant amount of prose and poetry in the 11th/17th century and defending contemporary literature, the work provides a set of poetic aesthetics that corresponds to what to them is an excellent literary example. I will focus on what Ibn Maʿṣūm says in his introduction to see why he wrote this book and what aims he attempts to reach, and why it is important to look at books in the later period to understand what is their view of literary eloquence and creativity rather than relying on our own modern literary taste.  


Title: Portraying Pre-modern Arabic Poetry: lbn Maʿṣūm al-Madanī (d.1709) in His Biographical Dictionary

When: April 27, 2020, 2:00 PM

Where: CCAS Boardroom, ICC 141 (Enter through 241)

Title: Applying for Academic Jobs: Faculty-Led Workshop

When: March 16, 2020, 2:00 PM

Where: CCAS Boardroom, ICC 141 (Enter through 241)

Presenter: Karen McNeil

Title: “Daarija and Changing Writing Practices in Tunisia”

When: November 11, 2019

Where: Poulton Hall, Rm 230

Presenter: Dr. Felicitas Opwis

Title: “Workshop on Presenting at Academic Conferences”

When: October 21, 2019

Where: Poulton Hall, Rm. 230

Presenter: Irene Kirchner

Title: “The Blockchain in Islamic Law – Are cryptocurrencies sharia-compliant?”

When: October 15, 2019, at 4:00 PM

Where: Poulton Hall, Rm. 230

Presenter: Younus Mirza

Title: “Workshop on Writing and Publishing Academic Book Reviews”

When: October 2, 2019, at 2:00 PM

Where: Poulton Hall, Rm. 230


Presenter: Abdullah Alaoudh

Title: “Quasi-Judicial Activism in Saudi Arabia”

When: October 10, 2018, at 12:30pm

Where: ICC 450

Presenter: Mohammad Fakhreddine

Title: “Situating Su’lūk Poetry in the Arabic Literary Tradition”

When: October 31, 2018, at 12:30pm

Where: ICC 450

Presenter: Marya Hannun

Title: “From Cairo to Kabul and Back Again: Exploring Early 20th Century Women’s Movements through the Movement of Women”

When: November 14, 2018, at 12:30pm

Where: ICC 450

This pathbreaking intellectual history of the 18th century Muslim world challenges stale views of this period as one of decline, stagnation, and widespread fundamentalism. Far from being moribund, Dallal argues, the 18th century was one of the most fertile eras in Islamic thought. From the banks of the Ganges to the shores of the Atlantic, Dallal charts in rich detail how intellectuals rethought and reorganized religious knowledge and also the reception and impact of their ideas, showing how ideologies were forged in particular sociopolitical contexts. Reformists’ ventures were in large part successful—up until the 19th century, when the encounter with Europe changed Islamic discursive culture into one that was largely articulated in reaction to the radical challenges of colonialism.

When: November 28, 2018, at 12:30pm

Where: ICC 450




Presenter: Rezart Beka

Title: “Fiqh al-Wāqiʿ [Jurisprudence of Reality] and its Discontents: Salafī Debates on the Role of Reality in Sharīʾa”

When: March 21, 2018 at 12:30

Where: ICC 462

When: September 13, 2017 at 12:30
Where: ICC 450

Presenter: Tesneem Alkiek

Title: “The Limits of Darar: how al-Mahdī al-Wazzānī redefined marriage expectations”

When: September 27, 2017 at 12:30

Where: ICC 550

Presenter: Richard Sutherland

Title: “Women in the “Sharia” economy with a focus on Bangladesh and Malaysia

When: October 17, 2017 at 12:30

Where: ICC 450

Presenter: Mohammed El-Sayed Bushra

Title: “Conceptual Change through Transformation of Linguistic Norms: Tyranny in the Arab Muslim Context”

When: November 1, 2017 at 12:30

Where: ICC 450

Presenter: Anny Gaul

Title: “Mother sauces and civilizing processes: Writing cuisine in Egypt and Morocco”

When: November 15, 2017 at 12:30

Where: ICC 450

When: November 29, 2017 at 12:30
Where: ICC 450


Presenter: Mike Raish

Title: “Measuring the Complexity, Accuracy, and Fluency of Written Arabic”

When: Thursday, January 26th, 12:30pm

Where: Poulton Hall, Rm. 230

Presenter: Tesneem Alkiek

Title: “Ibn al-Qayyim’s Aḥkām ahl al-dhimmah”

When: Thursday, February 9th, 12:30pm

Where: ICC 462

Presenter: Marya Hannun

Title: “Islam and the environment: an untold history”

When: Thursday, March 16th, 12:30pm

Where: Poulton Hall, Rm. 230

Presenter: Nick Mangialardi

Title: “Ṣawt-scapes: Sound and Song in Middle East Studies”
When: Thursday, April 20th, 12:30pm
Where: Poulton Hall, Rm. 230

**Food will be Provided**

Presenter: Richard Sutherland

Title: “A New Perspective on the Ottoman Safavid War of 1623-39”

When: Wednesday October 26th, 12:30pm

Where: ICC 450

Presenter: Mohammed Bushra

Title: “Dissection of a Digital Debate with Dāʿish: Muḥammad al-Masʿarī vs. Turkī al-Binʿalī on Tawḥīd, Shirk, and ʿIbādah”

When: Wednesday November 16th, 12:30pm

Where: ICC 241 (CCAS Boardroom)
**Food will be provided**

2014 – 2015

Presenter: Abdul-Rahman Mustafa

Title: “From God’s Nature to God’s Law: Theology, Law and Legal Theory in Islam”

When: Nov. 5th, 12:30pm

Where: ICC 450 

Presenter: Robert Ricks – POSTPONED

Title: “Hard Language or Hardest Language?: Moving Beyond the Myth of Arabic Difficulty”

When: TBD

Where: TBD

**Lunch will be provided**

Presenter: Robert Ricks

Title: “Assessing L2 Arabic vocabulary knowledge”

When: February 27, 12:15 pm (Lunch will be served)

Where: Poulton 230

Presenter: Tuve Floden

Title: “More Than Oneself: How Muslim Televangelists Empower Individuals to Change the World”

When: March 19, 4:30 pm

Where: Poulton 230

Presenter: Abdallah Soufan

Title: “Could there be a private language? Ibn Taymiyyah against the Ash’arite conception of God’s speech”

When: April 23, 4:30 pm

Where: Poulton 230

Arabic and Islamic Studies Symposium

Presenter: Enass Khansa

Title: “Conceptions of Authorship in 4th/10th c. Literature”.

When: Nov 4th, 12:15pm

Where: ICC 450

**Lunch will be provided**

Presenter: Nabil al-Hage Ali

Title: “Men of Mosques: Early Religious Education and Activism in Shi’i Lebanon (1969-1974)”

When: Nov. 20, 12:15pm

Where: Poulton 230