Job vacancies

Embodied Imamate: Mapping the Development of the Early Shiʿi Community 700-900 CE, directed by Ed Hayes

Project description

Although Shiʿi claims emerged early in Islamic history, Imami Shiʿism took a couple of centuries to crystallise. Scholarship on Shiʿism has tended to focus on doctrine, but hitherto there has been little research into institutions and social networks. This project aims to fill this gap, addressing the question as to how, when and why a distinctive Imami Shiʿi Imamate emerged and developed as a set of institutions. The ImBod project frames the Imamate as a set of social interactions between the Imams and the community who venerated them within the broader networks of the early Islamic empire. Members of the ImBod project team work on particular thematic spheres in order to identify and study the networks, actors, institutions, spaces, objects and processes through which the Imamate was mediated and performed within the Imami Shiʿi community and beyond. The project brings together a broad array of sources (material, documentary and textual) and approaches, both traditional close-reading and computational analysis in order to approach the vast, challenging textual corpus of Shiʿi and non-Shiʿi texts that bear on the development of the Imamate.


3 positions will be available within the Embodied Imamate team.

  • PhD (subproject 1): 4 years, full-time. Apply here.
  • Postdoctoral researcher (subproject 2): 3 years, full-time. Apply here.
  • Postdoctoral researcher (subproject 3): 2 years, full time. Apply here.

Full details of the positions and hiring process are available on the Leiden University website. Deadline for submission of applications is September 15, 2023. Start dates are flexible, starting February 2024.


Project 1: The household of the Imams

This project will involve conducting research related to the following questions: how were Imams and the Imamate produced in the context of the Imam’s household and the networks of family? How did householders and close family members mediate the image and influence of Imamate to the community beyond? The candidate for this position will therefore have to work to develop a specific project topic within this broad area. The candidate will look at two distinct bodies of literature in particular: the genealogies in which the names and relations between the members of the extended families of ʿAlids were included; and hagiographical reports in which the details of the lives of the Imams were narrated, often via purported eyewitnesses from within the household of the Imams. It is anticipated that key analytical frameworks will be those of kinship, gender and purity. The Imamic household was a key location for the production of (the image of) the Imami Shiʿi Imamate. The Imams were not only spiritual leaders, but also human bodies embedded in processes of birth, procreation, death and succession. These processes were also intrinsically implicated in the process of producing new Imams. This project will involve identifying key sites and rituals for production of Imamate in the intimate spaces of the household: such as procreation, birth, education, death and the designation of a successor. Close attention will be paid to the agency of women close to the Imams, and the ways in which the representations of the Imam are embedded in the historical institutions of family, kinship, concubinage, the legal institutions of marriage and slavery, the purity rituals which governed key aspects of household praxis, and legal and customary institutions governing the procreation of children.

Project 2: Mapping the Imami Community and its Power-Brokers

The aim of this subproject will be to map out the networks of material influence and knowledge-transmission through which the Imamate was mediated to the community. In particular the aim will be to identify and analyse the role of powerbrokers within the Imami the community. Tools will therefore be developed to analyse the networks of Imamate and community. The candidate for this position will therefore have to work to develop a specific project topic within this broad area. Possible questions to address are the shift of Imami Shiʿi centres between Iraq, Iran and other geographical areas; the part played in Imamic influence by local dynasties of scholars; the role of Arab migration versus non-Arab conversion to Shiʿi Islam in the spread of the community; and the process of institutionalisation of authority in particular geographical centres like Qumm and Nishapur. The candidate will be expected to engage with three main textual corpora in particular: bio-bibliographical texts (rijāl and fihrist works); genealogical literature (nasabansāb); and hadith works with their chains of transmitter names (isnād). Both Shiʿi and non-Shiʿi literature should be addressed.

Project 3:The material and spatial performance of Imamate and Imami community

Religious communities do not subsist on doctrines alone but must be instantiated ritually and materially. Histories of pre-Fatimid Shiʿism neglect material culture. Sources are scanty, but they do exist and must be collected and considered. The research in this subproject will address the evidence of art, architecture, inscriptions, papyri, coins and other untapped sources of material culture that relate to pro-ʿAlid and Shiʿi identity, as well as textual evidence relating to material practices such as prayer, almsgiving and pilgrimage. These sources will be viewed through the framework of the ritual performance of community and the representation of Imamic charisma in spaces and objects. The candidate for this project will investigate issues such as the role played by space, architecture and material objects in creating the life of the Imami community. The candidate for this position will have to work to develop a specific project topic within this broad area. Questions such as the following should be addressed: What were the locations in which Imamate, community and communal identity were performed? How was the Imamate performed within the spatial geography of the Shiʿi community. How was the Imamate was represented through the circulation of objects such as letters, seals and coins that provided physical links to a distant Imam. The candidate for this project will be required to master several domains of knowledge: textual sources relating to material and spatial aspects of Imamate and Imami community; material culture from the period of the Imams; and material culture from later (Buyid and Saljuq) periods which might help ask and answer questions about the period of the Imamate.

Call for Papers | ICMA Conference

The Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding of Georgetown University and the Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation of Charles Sturt University in collaboration with Comparative Islamic Studies (Equinox Journal) are pleased to host an online conference on Isnād-cum-matn Analysis (ICMA) as a Method in Contemporary Hadith Studies on 27-28 January 2024.

Western academic scholarship on the origin and transmission of hadith and traditional Muslim hadith methodologies of authentication, though studying the same body of literature, often operate in disconnected universes. It is of scholarly importance to academic development and for the continued vibrancy of the hadith tradition, as practiced by Muslim ulema, that dialogue continues between the two. Conferences aiming to do so, such as the one at Pembroke College, Oxford in 2019 on the topic of Modern Hadith Studies between Arabophone and Western scholarship, are a welcome effort, though the field remains siloed.

Since the academic movement is most closely associated with the work of Harold Motzki from the 1990s, there has been a shift beyond the so-called ‘skeptical’ school with respect to hadith using the technique of ICMA. This method analyses the variation of hadith texts according to their paths of transmission, seeking to provide a reliable date for the time at which a hadith was first in common circulation (as witnessed by its corroborated chains). Scholars with a range of theoretical perspectives have used this methodology to analyze and in particular, date hadiths on various topics. The method is commonly used to recover as much as possible of the hadith corpus as a viable historical source for the first two centuries of Islam, even though the canonical compilations date mainly to the third century and later. Though ICMA has received positive reception, especially in the context of the prior prevailing academic skepticism about hadith, critical voices have been raised. Some scholars have argued for the continuation of a more skeptical attitude towards the transmission of hadith, based on the ways that fabricated reports and chains can enter the corpus. Others have suggested that Motzki’s focus on full textual corroboration does not go far enough and other techniques, including those used within the Islamic intellectual tradition, could be legitimately added to date hadiths earlier still. Finally, some scholars defend the integrity of the canonical hadith collections as a whole.

This conference will provide a forum for the assessment of an international group of experts on hadith, from a variety of backgrounds and theoretical perspectives. The intention is to provide a ‘state of the art’ appraisal of ICMA within hadith studies and related academic disciplines, with selected papers published with the blind peer reviewed journal Comparative Islamic Studies.

For more information:

Send proposals of up to 300 words to by 31 August 2023, which will be reviewed by members of the organizing committee. Please include relevant affiliation, a 200 word biography and contact information in a single Word document along with the abstract.

Call for Papers

“Islamic Tradition at the End of Late Antiquity:

New Perspectives on Hadith, History, and Historiography”

The ERC project “The Qurʾan as a Source for Late Antiquity” (QaSLA) has opened its call for papers for the conference Islamic Tradition at the End of Late Antiquity: New Perspectives on Hadith, History, and Historiography, to be held in Tübingen, Germany, from July 8–10, 2024.

The three-day conference aims at attracting contributions to the scholarly discourse on Islamic tradition and the late antique milieu, particularly studies that pursue connections between the hadith literature, Islamicate historiography, and Jewish and Christian traditions from the period of Islam’s emergence.

The conference is oriented towards exploring new connections between Islam and the late antique milieu, while shifting the emphasis to the hadith, broadly defined. Can the hadith prove to be a reliable source for historical inquiry into the 7th century, despite its codification in the 9th century? And, if so, can other genres of hadith convey insights that contradict or confirm the tafsīr tradition? How might different methodological approaches to the hadith and improved analytical techniques shed new light on the Qurʾan and its environment? And how is the hadith, if at all,a witness to the existence of and the specific cultural and religious impact of Jewish, Christian, or other communities in Arabia?

While we are particularly interested in scholarly contributions that engage with the preceding questions, we welcome other avenues of inquiry into the hadith, Islamic late antiquity, and the interaction of Jews, Christians, and (other) Arabian peoples in and around the 7th century CE. By way of example, themes to be addressed include:

1. Methodological approaches to the study of Muslim traditions: hadith, tafsīr, and akhbār

2. Judeo-Christian elements in hadith, such as the isrāʾīliyyāt, and other Islamic literature

3. Interactions between Islamic and other late antique legal and juridical ideas

4. Portrayals of Jews and Christians in Islamic tradition

Travel and accommodation expenses in Tübingen for the duration of the research symposium will be covered by QaSLA.

This call for papers invites Early Career Researchers (PhD candidates and within five years of the award of the PhD). It seeks to promote outstanding research of early career scholars and bring them in conversation with established scholars of Hadith Studies and Late Antiquity as well as historians of early Islam.

Please note that all proposals must include:

  • Author name and affiliation
  • C.V.
  • Paper title
  • 250-word paper abstract (written in English)

Abstract Due: July 31st, 2023

For questions and proposals contact:

Ana Davitashvili:

Raashid Goyal:

Contact Email: