Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Fellows

Established by Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, these graduate student Fellowships support the research, tuition, fees and stipends for students at Harvard who are pursuing degrees in the field of Islamic studies.  In the past, Alwaleed Fellows have been selected from a range of departments including the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Department of History, Committee on the Study of Religion and the History of Art and Architecture. The Graduate School of Arts & Sciences chooses the successful candidates each year.

Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Fellows

Armaan Siddiqi (2015-2016)
Ph.D. candidate, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

Ms. Siddiqi has cross-disciplinary interests in early modern Islamic intellectual history and historiography in North Africa, as well as contemporary interests in trans-national Islamic political and spiritual movements. In 2011, she received a Fulbright Fellowship to research the “politicization” of Morocco’s largest Sufi order, the Qadiri Boutchichiyya and its popularity within diasporic communities in Europe. Her MA thesis took a more historical/philological turn and examined a 15th century Sufi manual by the Moroccan scholar and saint, Ahmed Zarruq.  Much of Ms. Siddiqi’s work broadly concerns the relationship between time, space and social context in the production (and revival) of religious texts, movements and ideologies. She holds a BA in Anthropology from Loyola University and MA in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Chicago.

Shakeel Khan (2015-2016)
Ph.D. candidate, Islamic History and Islam in South Asia

Shakeel Khan focus is Sufism and its role in proselytizing Islam in South Asia. As a graduate student at Columbia University, he completed an M.A. thesis that analyzed the current arguments and theories concerning Islamization in North India, and moreover, examined historical, geographical, and theological factors that were involved in Islamization, particularly the role of Sufism in facilitating this process. At Harvard, he intends to build and expand on the aforementioned studies.

Didar Akbulut (2014-2015)
Ph.D. candidate, History and Middle East Studies

Ms. Didar Akbulut is from Istanbul, Turkey.  She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in History from Boğaziçi University.  Among her research interests are early modern Ottoman intellectual history and the historiography and history of science.  Ms. Akbulut wrote her master’s thesis on the tradition of the classification of sciences in Islam and the tradition’s re-interpretation and articulation by the sixteenth century Ottoman scholar and poet Nev’i.  At Harvard, she intends to conduct further research on classifications of sciences by Ottoman scholars and intellectuals.

Farah El-Sharif  (2014-2015)
Ph.D. candidate, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

Farah El-Sharif is from Amman, Jordan. Her interests lie in contemporary Islam and politics in the MENA region, postcolonial studies, cultural representation and alternative approaches to the study of Sufism. She completed her undergraduate degree at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service where she majored in Culture and Politics. For her Masters degree, she attended the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA and wrote her dissertation on the manufacturing of Sufism as “good Islam” in American religion and the public sphere.

Paul Anderson (2013-2014)
PhD Candidate, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

Mr. Anderson holds a bachelor’s degree summa cum laude (2009) in Arabic and Linguistics and received the distinguished David L. Boren NSEP Scholarship. He holds a master’s degree in Arabic Studies with a concentration in Islamic studies from American University in Cairo (2012). Mr. Anderson lived in Cairo for five years, during which he wrote his thesis, “Martyr or Mischief-Maker? Towards the Construction of a Hagiography of Shihab al-Din al-Suhrawardi al-Maqtul,” which examines the life of al-Suhrawardi, a twelfth-century Persian philosopher. In the wake of the 2011 Egyptian revolution, Mr. Anderson gave a presentation on the thought of the ninth-century mystic Mansur al-Ḥallaj during al-Azhar’s lecture series on Islamic Civilization, directed by Dr. Mahmoud Azab, advisor to Grand Imam Dr. Ahmed al-Tayyeb. Mr. Anderson has knowledge of a wide range of languages, including Egyptian and Classical Arabic, Classical Hebrew, Syriac, Persian, Turkish, and Latin, along with studying Koine Greek, Coptic, Sanskrit, and Classical Tibetan. He is particularly interested in Semitic philology, Islamic philosophy, the kalam tradition, Sufism, and Shi’i intellectual traditions.

Meredyth Winter (2013-2014)
PhD Candidate, Middle Eastern Studies and History of Art & Architecture

Meredyth Winter is a graduate student studying Middle Eastern studies and the History of Art and Architecture.  Although her research has explored a wide range of topics from votive objects in pre-Islamic Yemen to Indian chintz in Great Britain, she is primarily interested in the material culture of the medieval period.  Ms. Winter’s work centers on textiles, their role in promoting Islamic rulers and the impact of technology on their reception and use from the tenth to the fourteenth century. Ms. Winter received her bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts & French from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, and her master’s degree in Material Culture from the Bard Graduate Center in New York.

Ceyhun Arslan (2012–2013)
PhD Candidate, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Mr. Arslan was born in Istanbul and graduated, magna cum laude, from Williams College with a bachelor’s degree in Comparative Literature in 2001. Following his undergraduate studies he enrolled as an MA candidate in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations which allowed him to further develop his interest in Turkish and Islamic literatures and history. He was admitted to the PhD program in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations in fall 2012 and is interested in exploring the intersections between Turkish and Arabic literary works. In particular, he wants to focus on comparing the representations of the nascent and yet burgeoning national movements in late Ottoman Turkish and early modern Arabic texts.

Han Hsien Liew (2012–2013)
PhD Candidate, History and Middle Eastern Studies

Mr. Han Hsien Liew was born in Malaysia and received his undergraduate degree in History from Wesleyan University in 2012. He has also studied at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and spent time abroad at the intensive Arabic immersion program at Al-Azbar University in Cairo. He achieved a nearly perfect undergraduate GPA and benefitted from a double major in History and Social Studies which included rigorous multidisciplinary study of history, government, economics, and philosophy. He writes that his interest in medieval Islamic intellectual history began during his freshman year with a lecture on Ibn Khaldun’s philosophy of history. During his graduate studies, he wishes to examine how caliphal legitimacy was articulated and understood during the late Abbasid period.

Tarek Abu-Hussein (2011-2012)
PhD Candidate, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
PhD Candidate, Middle Eastern Studies

A native of the Lebanese capital, Mr. Abu Hussein attended the American University of Beirut, receiving his degree in political studies. Mr. Abu Hussein particularly excelled in and enjoyed the Middle Eastern history courses he took, leading him to pursue a master’s degree in history at Sabanci University in Istanbul. Mr. Abu Hussein’s master’s thesis examined biographical writing and identity in Ottoman Syria during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with the purpose of showing how the image of Ottoman rulers evolved during that time as reflected in various Syrian biographical dictionaries. Mr. Abu Hussein is now in the first year of his Ph.D., pursuing his interest in several aspects of Ottoman history. In particular, he intends to study the extent of Moroccan influence on early modern Ottoman cultural and intellectual life—a topic he derived from a more general interest in cultural and intellectual interactions between different ethno-linguistic groups in the Islamic world.

Hadel Jarada (2011-2012)
PhD Candidate, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Hadel Jarada graduated from the University of California, Berkeley (Highest Distinction) with a degree in Philosophy and Near Eastern Studies. She was awarded the 2010 Departmental Citation, the highest honor in her department, for her thesis “Islam and the Disparate Components of the Human Apparatus: Avicenna’s Configuration of the Soul and its Relation to the Body.” She is broadly interested in post-classical intellectual history (13th-18th cent.) especially figures who were influential in their time but for some reason or other have received little or no attention in modern scholarship. This includes late-Ashari theology, post-classical mysticism and mystical theology, late Sunni philosophy and logic (in North Africa, Ottoman Turkey and Mughal India), and post-classical Arabic poetry and historiography.

Efe Murat Balikcioglu (2010-2011)
PhD Candidate, History / Middle Eastern Studies
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

As an undergraduate, Efe Murat Balikcioglu studied philosophy and political theory at Princeton University, earning a B.A. in Philosophy with minors in Government and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. He is especially interested in the foundational sources for 17th Century Persian and Ottoman poetic traditions, more specifically, the impact of anything from Islamic philosophy to Ancient and Neo-Platonic thoughts on the common Sebkh-i Hindi [The Indian Style] movement of the Persian and Ottoman Empires. He is also interested in the works of Ibn ‘Arabi and wants to further investigate his immense impact on Ottoman poetry in terms of its unique poetical embodiment.

Efe Murat has previously published four books of poetry and a book of translations from the Iranian poet M. Azad in Turkish. Together with American poet Sidney Wade, he prepared a selection from Turkish poet Melih Cevdet Anday in English and is currently working on the complete Turkish translations of Ezra Pound’s Cantos.

Gregory Halaby (2010-2011)
PhD Candidate, History and Culture of the Islamic World, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations,
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

After graduating from high school, Gregory Halaby postponed his undergraduate education to travel the Arab world and to study intensively a language of particular intellectual and personal importance to him, a course of study that he has rigorously pursued ever since. Greg has earned a B.A. in Arabic Language and Literature from The University of California – Berkeley, while continuously traveling back to Egypt and Syria to pursue fellowships at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) at The American University in Cairo, as well at the French Institute in Damascus.  In May 2010 Greg earned an M.A. in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Harvard University, where he is now working towards a Ph.D. in the same field.

One of his research projects entitled “Zandaqa in the Early Abbasid Period: The Making of Literary Martyrdom” examines the complex legacies of Bashshar Ibn Burd and Ibn al-Muqaffa. He primarily concerns himself with the ways in which these esteemed pioneers of prose and poetry were creatively recast to fit a particular vision of suspect religious belief in the ongoing literary imagination of the classical and post-classical traditions.  More recently, Greg has drawn more heavily from anthropology and social history that blur conventional disciplinary boundaries temporally (modern-premodern), and analytically (humanities-social sciences).

Lispeth Nutt (2010-2011)
PhD Candidate, History and Culture of the Islamic World, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations,
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Lispeth Nutt graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University with a degree in religion and minors in visual arts and Near Eastern studies. A promising young scholar, she won her department’s Islamic Scholarship Award and completed her senior thesis titled “Al-Ghazali’s Character Ethic in Context”. Lispeth subsequently enrolled at Harvard Divinity School and earned a master’s degree in Islamic studies with advanced coursework in Near Eastern history, Islamic law and theology, modern standard Arabic, and classical Arabic philology. She also studied Arabic at the American University in Cairo in Egypt and the Qasid Institute in Jordan.

A first-year doctoral candidate in Harvard’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Lispeth studies the history and culture of the Islamic world with a focus on mid- to late-medieval intellectual history. Specifically, she is interested in building concept histories that trace the context, significance, and development of pivotal terms native to the Arabic tradition of theological discourse. After completing her degree, Lispeth intends to remain in academia to pursue her love of teaching and scholarship.

Arjun Nair (2009-2010)
PhD Candidate, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Arjun Nair holds bachelor’s degrees in environmental engineering and biology from MIT, along with a Master of Engineering in Civil and Environmental Engineering, for which he received an MIT fellowship. He has won the Randolph G. Wei Award for research at the interface of Biology and Engineering from MIT, and was elected to the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor society. In recent years, Arjun has shifted his research interests toward the history of science and philosophy. With the assistance of a Middle East FLAS fellowship, Arjun received a Masters in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, where he completed coursework in Greek and Arabic/Islamic philosophy.

In addition to his university education, Arjun has studied Arabic and Islamic sciences at Georgetown University, the Dalalah Institute in Syria, and the QASID Institute in Jordan, the latter with the assistance of a FLAS fellowship. As a PhD student in NELC, he hopes to study developments in philosophy and the so-called “intellectual sciences” particularly within the Indo-Persian cultural zone of the Islamic world from the medieval to early modern period. He believes such research can help to provide a more complete picture of the past intellectual life of a major world civilization that is of general interest to western readers and yet remains little studied.

Deniz Turker (2009-2010)
PhD Candidate, History of Art / Middle Eastern Studies
Graduate School of Design / Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

After completing her B.A. in the History of Art from Yale College, Deniz Turker earned her SMArchS degree in the Aga Khan Program at MIT. Her thesis traced the life of Khalil Sherif Pasha, the Ottoman diplomat and art collector of the nineteenth-century, who is known most notably as the patron of Gustave Courbet and his painting L’Origine du monde. Last year while still at MIT, she had the privilege of being a teaching fellow at Harvard to Professor David Roxburgh’s course, “Monuments and Cities of the Islamic World”. She further acquainted herself with Harvard by taking a French language course in the summer. Her current research interests have taken her back in time to the Ottoman genre of the biography of poets and the nature of artistic and intellectual circles in the sixteenth and seventeenth-centuries .

A. David K. Owen (2008-2009)
PhD Candidate, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

A. David K. Owen earned a B.A. in Hispanic studies in 2004 and an M.A. in Middle East and Asian languages and cultures in 2006 from Columbia University. In recent years, his scholarly pursuits have led him to various academic institutions across the globe, including the Arabic Language Institute in Fez, Morocco, the University of Damascus in Syria, and the University of Toronto in Canada, where he received a full fellowship to study Islamic religion and philosophy.

David is especially interested in Islamic jurisprudence and intellectual history, which he describes as an area “of great intellectual interest in general and great social import, in particular for the Muslims of the West and for citizens of the Middle East’s quickly developing states.” David recently presented a lecture on Islamic education and intellectual life in North Africa in the early modern period at the Middle East Studies Association annual meeting in Washington, D.C., and at Al-Akhawayn University in Morocco.

Nada Unus (2008-2009)
PhD Candidate, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Nada Unus earned a B.A. in Theology, magna cum laude from Georgetown University in 2002 and a subsequent M.A. in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. Before beginning her doctoral work at the Graduate School in 2008, she completed four terms of study at the Qasid Institute for Classical and Modern Standard Arabic in Amman, Jordan.

Nada has lectured at various Islamic studies conferences across the U.S., including the International Conference on Islam at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Islamic Society of North America Annual Convention in Chicago, Illinois. Her work has been published in the Encyclopedia of Islam in the United StatesIslamic Horizons, and the forthcoming Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. She is particularly interested in tafsir literature and its relationship to Muslim thought. “Through tafsir literature, I would like to examine the uncertain, tense, and eventually denied relationship and intersection between philosophy and theology within normative Sunni orthodoxy,” she says. “I am interested, also, in understanding how this tension develops in the evolution of a Muslim American theology.”

Nuri Friedlander (2007-2008)
PhD candidate, The Committee for the Study of Religion
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Nuri Friedlander is in his fourth year of graduate studies at Harvard. He received a BA in English and comparative literature as well as an MA in Arabic studies from the American University in Cairo. His master’s thesis was entitled, The Intoxication of the Spirit: An Annotated Translation of Ahmad ibn Ajiba’s Commentary on the Wine Song of ‘Umar ibn al-Farid, in which he examined the commentary tradition in relation to Sufi literature and the symbolism found in Sufi poetry.

Although he retains an interest in Sufism and mystical literature in general, Nuri’s studies are currently focused on the relationship between Islamic law and ethics, particularly with regards to dietary law and the treatment of animals.

Ulil Abshar Abdalla (2007-2008)
PhD candidate, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Ulil Abshar Abdalla is from Central Java, Indonesia. He earned his undergraduate degree from the Faculty of Islamic Law at Al-Aqidah Institute of Islamic Studies (AIIS) in Jakarta. He then completed an MA in religion at Boston University with a thesis entitled, The Prophecy in Islam Revisited: Looking at Islamic Theory of Prophecy through the Lens of Maimonides. In between academic degrees, Ulil served as director of the Freedom Institute in Jakarta and executive director of the Institute for the Study of Free Flow of Information (ISAI), an NGO that advocates freedom of expression and free press in Indonesia.

Ulil has played leadership roles in enhancing understanding among Islamic intellectuals and promoting world peace. He co-founded and acted as head of Jaringan Islam Liberal (Liberal Islam Network), widely known in Indonesia as JIL, as well as created the Indonesian Centre for Islam and Pluralism (ICIP). Ulil was also involved in establishing and served as executive director of the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace (ICRP), a national chapter of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP) based in New York. He is a member of the Society of Interreligious Dialogue (MADIA) in Jakarta. The Asia Foundation recognized Ulil for his contribution to democracy and religious tolerance in Indonesia, and the University of Michigan invited him as a visiting fellow to its Centre for Southeast Asian Studies.

Overall, Ulil is interested in the intellectual history of Islam, with emphasis on the classical era. At Harvard he hopes to focus his doctoral research on Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy in Islam: A Study of the Concept of “Bid’ah” and Its Utilization in the Sectarian Debates in the Classical Islam.