The first round of the AMI Doctoral Scholarship has been awarded to three young scholars of Imāmī Shīʿism whose research sheds new light on the tradition from a variety of perspectives. The scholarship was set up to promote and encourage the study of Imāmī Shīʿism in academia.
Zahra Jafari is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Exeter in Arab and Islamic Studies. Her academic journey began with studies in Communication and Media in Iran. For her master’s thesis, she conducted interdisciplinary research exploring the elements of interpersonal relationships between Shīʿī and Sunnī communities. This involved a thorough analysis of Shīʿī ḥadīth books. Since then, her academic focus has been directed towards Shīʿī studies, ḥadīth and legal theory. Her ongoing doctoral research centres around treating ḥadīth contradictions by means of dissimulation (taqiyya) in Shīʿī ḥadīth literature, specifically in the works of the Akhbārī scholar Shaykh Yūsuf b. Aḥmad al-Baḥrānī (d. 1186/1772).
Mehdi Ali is a PhD candidate in the Department of Religion at University of Southern California, where he is completing his dissertation under the supervision of Dr. Sherman Jackson. Mehdi graduated from Stanford University with a J.D. in Law, M.A. in Sociology, and BA in International Relations. His training has included advanced Islamic studies seminars in theology, law, jurisprudence, mysticism, poetry, and history. Mehdi also studied pre-modern Islamic thought at University of Oxford under the supervision of Dr. Afifi al-Akiti, and he has completed coursework at University of California Berkeley, University of California Los Angeles, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Arizona State University, Qasid Institute (Jordan), and Chulalongkorn University (Thailand). Mehdi’s research focuses on Islamic legal and exegetical discourses using primary source materials in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu. Mehdi is a former Fulbright Scholar (University of Jordan), FLAS Fellow (Persian), Chappell Lougee Scholar (India), and has received research funding from Stanford’s Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies (Pakistan) and Stanford’s Center for South Asia Studies (India). Mehdi has published articles on Islamic law and theology in several leading academic journals. His research focuses on developing a deeper understanding of the evolution of scriptural hermeneutics with respect to legal matters by examining law-focused, or fiqhi Quranic commentaries written by Imami scholars in the classical period.
Mohammad Nabeel Jafri
Mohammad Nabeel Jafri is a PhD candidate at the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto, and a Visiting Faculty at the Department of Social Sciences and Liberal Arts at the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi. His doctoral research is funded by a Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in Canada, and by multiple Ontario Graduate Scholarships from the Government of Ontario. His dissertation, “Orating Knowledge: Urdu Shiʿi khiṭābat in contemporary Karachi,” builds on twenty months of ethnographic fieldwork in Karachi, Pakistan. “Orating Knowledge” examines the myriad emic contestations around both ʿilm and oratory, attending to debates prevalent among orators and their audiences. The dissertation argues that ʿilm is not merely conceptualized or spoken about in these orations, but that oratorical practices themselves— from the clothes that orators don as they ascend the minbar to the archives they cite or omit in their orations to the places they clamour to orate— instantiate the signifying practices through which ʿilm is performed. In addition to his work on khiṭābat, Nabeel is broadly interested in scholarship on semiotics, ritual practice, authority, and language-use.