While I continue to work on the early history of Shi‘ism and the emergence of Islamic elites, in particularly the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad, I am currently exploring two new research projects. The first examines the history and role of the infamous ‘KHARIJITES’ (Arabic: khawārij, ‘those who go out’), a blanket term to describe groups of early Muslim extremists who were neither Sunni nor Shi’i. By including the much neglected material evidence and broadening the conceptual perspective, I reexamine how and why vastly different revolts were labelled ‘Kharijites’ in the sources, and what these ‘Kharijites’ contributed to the formation of Islam.
My second project explores the ideas, meanings, terminologies, and theories of COLOUR IN EARLY ISLAM. While colour terms and discussions of colours are found in a variety of contexts—from philosophical, astronomical, physionomical or religious works to sales contracts of animals and slaves preserved in the papyrological corpus—there appears to be no monograph, Arabic or Persian, devoted specifically to the subject of colour dating to the early Islamic period (that is, the period to ca 1200 CE). The first theoretical treatments of colour in an Islamic context are found in the works of famous translators of Greek materials, thus dating to the ninth century at the earliest. How did ideas and theories of colour develop and change, and how was the colour vocabulary interpreted as ideas moved through Ancient Near Eastern, Greek, Syriac, Arabic, and Persian speaking cultures? What do these adaptations tell us about the cultures that produced them? While there are a few studies on specific questions relating to colour in Islam, this hugely fascinating topic has not been undertaken on a large or comparative scale.
I am currently in the process of putting together grant proposals for these projects, and am happy to hear from colleagues or students who would be interested to work in either project.