Sarah Islam

Dr. Sarah Islam

Research Divison

Dr. Sarah Islam is a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Co-Produced Religions Project, co- directed by Katharina Heyden (University of Bern) and David Nirenberg (Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton). She completed her Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, where she focused on the social and intellectual history of Islamic law under the supervision of Professor Michael Cook.

Dr. Islam received her B.A. from the University of Texas at Dallas in Political Science in 2005 and then spent two years abroad in Egypt, Jordan, and the UAE on the Boren and other fellowships studying Arabic language and Islamic legal history. She then came to Princeton, where she obtained her M.A. in Near Eastern Studies with a focus on contemporary Islamic legal practice, gender, and social movements. After receiving an Arthur Liman Public Interest Law Fellowship administered by Princeton-LAPA and Yale Law School, Dr. Islam worked for KARAMAH in Washington DC, conducting Islamic legal research, serving on advisory councils and liaison at the U.S Department of State (Office of International Religious Freedom) and U.S Department of Justice (Civil Rights Division-Religious Freedom, Office of Special Counsel Eric Treene), and presenting on Islamic legal issues at the United Nations.

Dr. Islam’s dissertation and first book project, which won the Bayard and Cleveland Dodge Memorial Prize for Best Dissertation in Near Eastern Studies, examines the evolution of blasphemy as a legal category among capital crimes in Islamic legal history. A common view among historians has been that Muslim jurists have historically been unanimous in asserting that any individual who insulted the Prophet was to face execution, and that not doing so would be a violation of “God’s law”. Such practices can often be observed in the context of contemporary religious fundamentalism.

Dr. Islam’s research however, demonstrates that historical sources present a far more complex picture, one in which some Muslim thinkers mounted principled and orthodox opposition to this practice, while others operationalized criminalizing sabb as a means to counter religious and political opposition.

In her second project, Porous Communal Boundaries and the Jewish-Muslim Co-Production of Legal Norms in Fāṭimid Egypt (11th - 12 centuries CE): The Case of Islamic and Jewish Iqrārs in the Cairo Geniza, Dr. Islam examines iqrār documents and Islamic court records from the Cairo Geniza to assess how interactions between Muslims and Jews in tenth century Fāṭimid courts affected legal norms on written evidence in Islamic and Jewish contexts.

Dr. Islam’s research has been supported by the Charlotte Newcombe Foundation, Social Science Research Council, Fulbright Program, and National Endowment for the Humanities. Her academic work thus far has been published by Sage, Brill, and Oxford University Presses.

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