Professor Roy Mottahedeh shares with the Alwaleed Program team how he entered the field of Islamic studies as an undergraduate at Harvard in the late 1950s and his development and career as a historian. Originally interested in studying Persian after growing up hearing the language from his father, Professor Mottahedeh pursued the study of both Persian and Arabic at Harvard and, inspired by Sir Hamilton Gibb, chose to pursue a career in Islamic history. Professor Mottahedeh shares his memories of studying Arabic, Persian, and other languages; traveling in the Middle East and Central Asia after college, studying with Sir Hamilton Gibb, Richard Frye, Annemarie Schimmel, and others; and the state of Islamic studies when he returned to Harvard as a professor in 1986. He also answers our questions about some of his best-known works, Loyalty and Leadership in an Early Islamic Society (1980), The Mantle of the Prophet (1985), Lessons in Islamic Jurisprudence (2005), and “The Clash of Civilizations: An Islamicist’s Critique” (1993).
Roy Mottahedeh is Gurney Research Professor of History, the former director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and the founding director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University.