Aria Nakissa, Ph.D



Aria Nakissa is a lecturer in the Faculty of Islamic Studies and the Faculty of Social Sciences. He holds a joint-PhD in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard, a JD from Harvard Law School, and an MA in Islamic Law from the International Islamic University Malaysia.

Trained as an anthropologist and historian, Nakissa is a scholar of religion and law in Muslim societies. His research spans the premodern and modern periods, giving special attention to the Middle East and Southeast Asia regions. His writings on the premodern period address several core components of the Islamic tradition, including Islamic law, Islamic legal theory, Sufism, theology, and traditional religious education. Nakissa’s writings on the modern period address the Islamic tradition’s continuing influence in contemporary Muslim societies. These writings also examine how the Islamic tradition has been transformed through the impact of colonialism, human rights initiatives, and counterterrorism initiatives.

Nakissa’s previous and current research utilizes both humanistic historical and anthropological approaches. It draws on textual materials written in the Arabic, Indonesian/Malaysian, English, French, and Dutch languages. It also draws on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Egypt, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Additionally, a sizable portion of his current research combines humanistic approaches with cognitive science and related forms of statistical data.

Nakissa is author of The Anthropology of Islamic Law: Education, Ethics, and Legal Interpretation at Egypt’s Al-Azhar (Oxford University Press, 2019). Nakissa also has also published numerous articles in journals in the fields of Islamic studies, history, anthropology, religious studies, and cognitive science. Such journals include Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute; Journal of Global History; Journal of Cognition and Culture; Journal of the American Academy of Religion; Method & Theory in the Study of Religion; Religion Compass; Human Rights Review; Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde / Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia; Islamic Law and Society; Muslim World; and Arabica.