Arjun Nair

Assistant Professor of Religion
Email Office Phone (213) 821-3043

Research & Practice Areas

Islamic Intellectual History (Philosophy and Theology), History of Quranic Exegesis, Mystical Literature (Arabic and Persian), Commentaries and Canons


  • M.T.S. Theology, Harvard Divinity School
  • Ph.D. Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University
  • M.Eng Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Summary Statement of Research Interests

    I study Islamic Intellectual history with a focus on post-classical (after 1200 CE) Quranic exegesis and mystical commentaries on Sufi poetry. Because post-classical thinkers were frequently interested in adjudicating the different intellectual perspectives already available to them or else forging and forwarding novel syntheses from those perspectives under the rubric of verification, commentaries performed a variety of functions and were sites of innovation and creativity. My first book project, Writing the Self, Writing Reality: Symbolism and Commentary in Islamic Mysticism, tracks one such function in post-classical commentaries on Sufi poetry that I call mystical verification. It closely follows the ways that speculative mystics and philosopher-sages demonstrated the viability of their epistemologies and the rigor of their exegetical methods through innovative expansions of “classical” verses rich in symbolic content. In future work, I aim to excavate the hidden relations between mystical commentaries on poetry and mystical exegesis of the Quran, since both kinds of commentary were a preoccupation of post-classical thinkers.