Photo of Mohammad Jafar Mahallati
  • Presidential Scholar in Islamic Studies
  • Nancy Schrom Dye Chair in Middle East and North African Studies
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Education

  • Islamic Theology: Khan Seminary (madrasa), Shiraz (1970)
  • BA, economics, National University, Tehran (1975)
  • BSc, civil engineering, University of Kansas (1978)
  • MSc, political economy, University of Oregon (Thesis Title: A Critique of Marxist Theory of Imperialism, 1980)
  • PhD, Islamic studies, McGill University (Field: History of Islamic Thought; Thesis Title: Ethics of War in Muslim Cultures: A Critical and Comparative Perspective, 2006)
  • Languages spoken: English, Persian, and Classical Arabic (fluent), French (working)

Biography

Mohammad Jafar Mahallati is the current Presidential Scholar in Islamic Studies, and tenured faculty at Department of Religion. He also serves as the Nancy Schrom Dye Chair of Middle East and North African Studies (MENA), an appointment through 2021.

He joined the Oberlin community as a visiting professor of Islamic and MENA studies in 2007, where he taught courses on Islamic Thought and History, and Middle East and North African Studies through 2009.

Prior to coming to Oberlin, Mahallati was a visiting professor of Trans-Regional Studies at Princeton University (1998-99), where he also organized lecture series on Modern Iran, Islam and the Middle East. He was an adjunct professor of international affairs in 1998, at Georgetown and Yale Universities. He taught graduate courses on religion and politics in the Middle East, with an emphasis on Iran

He also was an adjunct professor of international affairs at Columbia University, New York teaching graduate courses on politics, international relations, and religion (1991-97). Early in his academic career, he was chair of the Economics Department at Kerman University in Iran, where he also taught courses on Islamic Economics and Ethics (1980-81).

His current works in progress include:

  • Supervising an Arabic publication of Friendship as a Worldview (includes articles translated from English and Persian into Arabic and articles written originally in Arabic)
  • Working on a Handbook of Islamic Ethics invited by Bloomsbury of London and supervising a group of international scholars who are writing in English, Arabic and Persian
  • “The Grand Ayatollah Boroujerdi,” Encyclopedia of Islam, 3rd. ed.

At Oberlin he initiated the Friendship Day Festival. The festival has received wide support by the college administration, faculty, students, and the Oberlin City Council. The festival is annually celebrated each year on April. The American National Friendship Day has already received support from several members of the U.S. Congress and city councils in Ohio. The initiative has also prompted Friendship Circle, a chartered student organization at Oberlin active since 2011.

In addition to academia, Mahallati held several administrative positions including Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Iran to the United Nations , where he played a key role in ending the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq (1987-89); director general of International Affairs, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Iran (1983-87); Chargé d'affaires at theEmbassy of Iran at the United Nations in Geneva (1982-83); and director general of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Iran (1981-82).

  • Islam
  • Introduction to the Quran
  • Islamic Mystic Traditions, and Literature, Seminar
  • Politics and Religion in the Modern Middle East
  • The Ethics of Conflict Resolution and Peacemaking in Christianity and Islam
  • Introduction to Muslim Cultures and Civilizations: A Humanistic Approach
  • The Making of an Ayatollah, First Year Seminar Program
  • Forgiveness in Christian and Islamic Traditions
  • Ethics in Islam: A Historical and Theoretical Perspective
  • Ethics of War and Peace in Muslim Cultures: A Comparative and Critical Perspective, Seminar

Mohammad Jafar Mahallati achieved his multidisciplinary and multicultural peace-building experience through works at the United Nations in the field of conflict resolution for a decade, teaching international relations for another decade, as well as 10 years of teaching Islamic studies at Oberlin College.

His research has focused on the ethics of peacemaking in Islam in the context of comparative religions. This central theme appears in his published and projected scholarship and also draws from his previous and present peace activism and teaching.

Within the religious framework of interpersonal and inter-communal peacemaking, Mahallati aims to contribute to various stages of this discipline including: Ethics of War (focuses on limiting the scale and scope of war and questioning its legitimacy); Ethics of Forgiveness (based on ethico-religious arguments that aim to end current wars and prevent future ones); and Ethics of Friendship (that aims to transform cold and negative to positive and friendly peace).

His research looks at cultural and religious elements in Muslim life that could be utilized in the modern international relations and produce a language that can facilitate an Islamic contribution to the current strategic peacemaking efforts in international arenas.

His monograph drawing on dissertation research Ethics of War and Peace in Iran and Shi‘i Islam (University of Toronto Press, 2016) serves the first goal; his edited volumes in Ethics of Apology and Forgiveness in Religion and Politics: A Christian and Muslim Perspective (two volumes in Persian by Negah-e Moaser, Tehran, 2017, 2019) serve the second goal; and his edited volume Friendship in Muslim Ethics and World Politics (University of Michigan Press, December 2019) serves the third.

These books are ground-breaking in both languages. They are intended for scholars and students of Islamic studies, conflict resolution, law, history, ethics, interfaith and international relations. They will also be of interest to the general public and to policymakers in the Muslim and the non-Muslim cultures.

Through interdisciplinary teaching and writing, Mahallati brings high moral and religious values such as friendship, forgiveness, magnanimity, and sense of charity from interpersonal realms to civic, interfaith and international relations. Besides his scholarly interests in religious studies, Mahallati enjoys pursuing his interests in Islamic arts and literature, specifically Sufi poetry and sacred calligraphy.

He has co-translated into English two published volumes on works of Sohrab Sepehri known as the contemporary pioneer Persian poet who promotes environmental consciousness. 

In his teaching on Islam, Mahallati deconstructs popular perceptions of this religion through an emic approach that weaves a rich tapestry of cultural religious history. His courses cover a broad historical swath and seamlessly integrate texts of impressive diversity and scope. By looking into the intricate trends of Islamic institutional development and textual interpretation in various historical contexts, he allows students to think within a tradition while also having an eye on modern critical interpretive assessments.

In his seminar courses, Mahallati covers the philosophical and conceptual foundations of lived religion and esoteric, devotional, and artistic practices and beliefs of Muslim societies. In all his courses related to applied ethics, he introduces students to his own research into the intersection between Christian and Muslim ethical discourses on just war theories, peacemaking, and theories of friendship.

Mahallati’s scholarship in ethics of friendship has resulted in the annual celebration of Friendship Day at Oberlin; a day of his founding that has garnered support on the American national scene.

English

  • Friendship in Islamic Ethics and World Politics, edited volume, the University of Michigan Press, (forthcoming: December 2019).
  • Ethics of War and Peace in Modern Iran and Shi‘i Islam, Toronto University Press, 2016
  • The Oasis of Now, co-translation of Sohrab Sepehri poems from Persian (with Kazim Ali), Rochester New York: BOA Publishing, November 2013. Evaluated by World Literature Today as one of the top 75 notable poetry translations of 2013
  • Water’s Footfall, co-translation of Sohrab Sepehri poems from Persian (with Kazim Ali), Richmond, California: Omnidawn Publishing, 2011

Persian

  • Friendship in the Intellectual Universe of East and West, Mizan Press, Tehran, Iran (forthcoming: April 2019), includes introduction, a chapters and epilogue by the editor
  • The Search for Forgiveness: Comparative Apology and Forgiveness, two volumes including solicited articles originally written in Persian and also translations from English of articles written by Western theologians and philosophers (e.g. Antony Bash, Charles Griswold, Chawkat Moucarry, etc.), Negah-e Moaser, Tehran, Iran, 2017 and 2018.
  • Friendship as a Worldview, Hermes Publication, Tehran, Iran, 2017. This volume includes a book-length contribution by editor (introduction and three chapters).

Articles, Book Chapters (Select-List):

English (Peer Reviewed)

  • “Where Aristotle Met Three Iranian Ethicists: A View of Friendship as a Moral and Political Paradigm,” accepted for publication in the Journal of Comparative Islamic Studies (forthcoming 2019)
  • “Ethics of War and Peace in Shahnameh Ferdowsi,” Journal of Iranian Studies, 48, November 6, 2015

Other Articles:

  • “The Civilizational Share of Iran and Shi‘ism in Foreign Policy.” Invited by IranReview.Org (NGO based in Iran), February 16, 2013: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Iran_Spectrum/Civilizational-Share-of-Iran-and-Shiism-in-Foreign-Policy.htm
  • Part II is published on March 8, 2013: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Iran_Spectrum/Civilizational-Share-of-Iran-and-Shiism-in-Foreign-Policy-Part-II.htm
  • “Departed but not Dead: The Rituals of Contact with the Deceased in the Islamic Tradition.” Transcendental Thought, pre-inaugural issue, (November 2011): 88-97
  • “Biography and the Image of a Medieval Historian: The Tārīkh-i Jahāngushā of Atā-Malik Juvaynī.” In the Rhetoric of Biography: Narrating Lives in Arabic, Persian and Turkish, edited by Louise Marlow. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Ilex Series, (Harvard University Press, 2011)
  • “The Significance of Dream Interpretations in the Qur’an,” in Dreaming Across Boundaries: the Interpretation of Dreams in Islamic Lands, edited by Louise Marlow. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Ilex Series, (Harvard University Press, 2008). The volume is translated in Persian language by Maryam Vetr and published in Iran by Kavir Publication in 2015
  • “Moderates Everywhere Have a Duty,” (with Olga M. Davidson), the International Herald Tribune, December 4, 2002
  • “To Rebuild Afghanistan Look Next Door,” (with Olga M. Davidson), the New York Times, February 28, 2002
  • “Islam and the West: Challenges and Opportunities,” in Under Siege: Islam and Democracy, Richard W. Bulliet, ed., (New York: The Middle East Institute of Columbia University, 1994)
  • “The New Persian Gulf Security Arrangement and the Relevant Factors,” Middle East Insight, Vol. 8, No. 1 (July-August 1991), pp. 22-24

Persian

  • “The Address of Friend’s House: Fars, the Cradle of Advanced Peace,” Fars-Nameh, vol.3, No:4, Spring 2019
  • “Peace in the Worldview of Sa‘di of Shiraz,” Sa‘di Shenasi, Specialized Literary Biannual Journal No. 5. Shiraz, Iran, Spring 2018
  • “Love: An Ethical Perspective (Persian),” in Ettela‘at-e Hikmat wa Ma‘rifat (monthly semi-academic periodical), Tehran, Iran: Ettela‘at Newspaper: July 2017
  • “Why Shiraz is the Peace Capital of the Muslim World,” Fars-Nameh, vol.2, No:4, spring 2017 
  • “A View of Friendship as a Socio-Political Paradigm,” in Collected Papers of National Conference: The Ethics of Peace, Forgiveness and Friendship (Persian), Shiraz: Shiraz University Press, 2016, pp. 340-359
  • “Theologies of War and Peace (Persian),” Vazheh (a seasonal periodical for social, literary and historical reflections in Fars Province, Shiraz, Iran), 5, Fall 2015
  • “Why it is a Persian Season (Chera fasl-e fars shenasi ast)?” Fars-Nameh, (Shiraz, Foundation for Studies on Fars Province, winter 2016)
  • “Theodicy in the United Nations, a Personal Memoir (Persian),” Vazheh (a seasonal periodical for social, literary and historical reflections in Fars Province, Shiraz, Iran), 4, spring 2015
  • “Reading Rumi in the West.” Journal of Literary Studies (Pazhuhesh-Nameh Farhang-o-Adab), special issue on the commemoration of Mowlana Jala-al-Din Rumi, the Azad University of Iran, vol. 10, Tehran, Autumn 2010
  • “Ethics of War in Persian Literature.” Journal of Literary Studies, the Azad University of Iran, vol. II, Tehran, 2007

Editorial Projects

  • Suggested and supervised translation into Persian and publication of The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization by Richard Bulliet. The volume is translated by Cyrus Feizi and published by Kavir Press in Iran, 2015
  • Chief editor and contributor to The Realm of Peace Series published in Persian by Negah-e Moaser, Tehran, Iran. The first volume of the series titled Masihiyyat va Democracy (Christianity and Democracy) by Jacque Maritain translated by Soheil Saffari and my introduction published in April 2016

  • During the summer of 2016, I lectured at a conference on the Ethics of War, Forgiveness, and Friendship in Shiraz University, Iran. This event inspired the students from the University of Arts in Shiraz to create posters expressing their views on peace and friendship. Thanks to the support of director of Oberlin Library, an exhibition in Mudd Center showcased 37 peace posters during April 2017.  The hope is that students of Oberlin College will be inspired to respond in kind and participate in a dialogue for peace through arts. Oberlin library also created a weblog to continue this peace dialogue internationally without limits. See http://peaceposters.oberlincollegelibrary.org
  • The Peace Poster Exhibition, Florida International University, March 2019

  • Invited by Florida International University to speak on the “Role of Arts in the Three Realms of Peacemaking: Artistic Responses in an Islamic Context,” (Tuesday, March 19, 2019)
  • Panelist in a conference titled, “Reclaiming the Intellectual Primacy and Promoting Just, Peaceful and Inclusive Societies,” (talk title: “Promoting Religious and Cultural Heritage of Friendship to help foster Peaceful Societies”), United Nations, October 8, 2018
  • Invited for Robbins Peace Convocation Lecture at Berea College on February 22, 2018, (spoke at the convocation with 1,600 student and administration audience)
  • Lectured on “Forgiveness in Religion and Politics,” invited by Khwarazmi University, April, 2017
  • Lectured on Forgiveness in Religion and Politics, and chaired a panel, invited by Shiraz University, April, 2017
  • Lectured on ‘‘War and Peace in the Thought of Sa’di Shirazi’’ (Persian poet of 13th century) Invited by Foundation for the Study of Sa’di Shirazi, April 2017
  • Lectured on ‘‘Islam and Ethical Systems,’’ Shiraz Medical University, August 2016
  • Invited by the Center for the Study of Islamic Culture of Shiraz University to conceptualize and organize workshop series leading to national, regional, and international conference series titled the “Realm of Peace: The Ethics of War, Forgiveness and Friendship.“ Workshops and conferences starting in mid-November of 2015 and extending to 2017 are primarily designed to produce conflict-resolution and peacebuilding literatures needed for dialogue between Muslim and other cultures.
  • Lectured at Bilgi University in Istanbul, Turkey, on the “Realm of Peace: The Ethics of War, Forgiveness and Friendship.” The lectures held in October 2015 at Bilgi campus prompted student responses that are published on weblog Islamic Studies at Oberlin College. Refer to http://languages.oberlin.edu/blogs/relg270/
  • Presented on Islamic Studies in America (one-day workshop, Shiraz University), November 2015
  • Presented on “Friendly Peace as a Precondition for Health” conference by Medical University of Shiraz, November 2015
  • Presented on “Three Levels of Moral Choice in the Qur’an” at a conference by the College of the Quranic Sciences at Shiraz, December 2015

  • Course development grant from Oberlin PACS to develop library sources on interdisciplinary friendship studies, spring 2018
  • Appointed as honorary faculty member in Shiraz Medical University; consultant on medical ethics studies, 2016-present
  • Received Presidential Honor from chancellor of Shiraz University for teaching a two-day workshop on the “Realm of Peace: Ethics of War, Forgiveness and Politics,” January 20, 2016
  • Received awards to Scholarly Publications Program (ASPP) from the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. The award is dedicated to the publication of the Ethics of War and Peace in Iran and Shi'i Islam (2015)
  • Received, together with James Swan Tuite, a PACS award for developing a new PACS/Religion course, RELG 276: The Ethics of Conflict Resolution and Peacekeeping in Christianity and Islam offered in spring 2013
  • Powers Travel Grant, Oberlin College, 2011
  • Ehsan Yarshater Fellow of Persian Studies, Center for Middle East Studies, Harvard University; conducted a research on Ethics of War in Muslim Cultures, a Critical and Comparative Perspective (2004-05)

Notes

  • Kazim Ali, Jafar Mahallati Nominated for Translation Award

    October 1, 2014

    The Oasis of Now, a collection of poems composed by the celebrated Iranian poet Sohrab Sepehri, was selected as a finalist at Rochester International Literary Translation Initiative Award 2014. The works were translated from Persian by Kazim Ali, associate professor and director of the creative writing department, and Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, Oberlin’s presidential scholar of Islam. Oasis of Now is a nominee for the $5,000 translation award given to a book that has been translated for the first time into English.

  • Kazim Ali and Jafar Mahallati Recognized for Translation

    April 30, 2014

    Kazim Ali, associate professor of creative writing, and Jafar Mahallati, presidential scholar of Islam, were named as finalists for the Best Translated Book of Poetry given by the, University of Rochester’s Three Percent Initiative for their translation of Sohrab Sepheri’s The Oasis of Now. Mahallati presented and read from Sepehri on Wednesday April 23 at the Lakewood Public Library, while Ali will be giving a reading at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on May 11.

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