Ali Sultan Asani: The Renowned Professor of Sindhi Heritage

Ali Sultan Asani (born in the year of 1954 in Nairobi, Kenya) is Professor of Indo-Muslim Religion and Cultures and the Director of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University.

Background of Ali Sultan Asani

Ali Sultan Asani was born in Kenya and was brought up there. He is of Sindhi heritage.

Academic Journey

After completing his high-school education in Kenya, he attended the institute of Harvard College, with a concentration in the Comparative Study of Religion, graduating summa cum laude in the year of 1977. He continued his graduate work at the Harvard in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC), receiving his degree of Ph.D. in the year of 1984. Asani also serves on the faculty of the Departments of Sanskrit and Indian Studies and African and African-American Studies. He has taught at Harvard since 1983, offering instruction in a variety of languages such as Hindustani, Sindhi, Gujarati, Kachchi and Swahili as well as courses on various aspects of the Islamic tradition. He currently directs NELC’s doctoral program in Indo-Muslim Culture.

A scholar of Islam in South Asia, Prof Asani’s research concentrates on Shia and Sufi devotional traditions in the region. In addition, he is interested in popular or folk forms of Muslim devotional life, and Muslim communities in the West.

Asani has been specifically active post-September 11, 2001 in making better the understanding of Islam and its role in Muslim societies by conducting workshops for high school and college educators as well as making presentations at various public forums. More recently, he has been involved in the Islamic Cultural Studies Initiative, a global professional development program for high school teachers in Kenya, Pakistan and Texas intended to promote a culturally and historically deployed approach to the study of Islam and Muslim societies. He has also served on the American Academy of Religion’s Task Force on the teaching of religion in schools. In 2002, he was awarded the Harvard Foundation medal for his outstanding contributions to improving intercultural and race relations at Harvard and in the nation.

Publications of Ali Sultan Asani

His books involve The Bujh Niranjan: An Ismaili Mystical Poem; The Harvard Collection of Ismaili Literature in Indic Literatures: A Descriptive Catalog and Finding Aid; Celebrating Muhammad: Images of the Prophet in Muslim Devotional Poetry (co-author); Al-Ummah: A Handbook for an Identity Development Program for North American Muslim Youth; Ecstasy and Enlightenment: The Ismaili Devotional Literatures of South Asia, and Let’s Study Urdu: An Introduction to the Urdu Script and Let’s Study Urdu: An Introductory Course.

Additionally, he has issued several articles in journals and encyclopedias including The Encyclopedia of Religion, The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, Encyclopedia of South Asian Folklore, and the Muslim Almanac. He also serves on the editorial advisory board of the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World and the Encyclopedia of Islam in the USA. He is a member of the board of directors of the American Islamic Congress as well as the Academic Council of Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University



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