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


  • BA, National University (Tehran), 1975
  • BS, University of Kansas, 1978
  • MS, University of Oregon, 1980
  • PhD, McGill University, 2006


Mohammad Jafar Amir Mahallati is currently Presidential Scholar in Islamic Studies at the Religion Department of Oberlin College. He also holds the Nancy Schrom Dye Chair in the Middle East and North African Studies. He received his PhD in Islamic Studies from McGill University, after completing the Harvard fellowship for Persian studies in 2005-06. Mahallati has taught graduate courses and lectured at Columbia, Princeton, Yale, and Georgetown Universities. He has served as senior scholar and affiliate with several academic and religious institutions focused on international relations, including the Middle East Institute, the Center for Strategic and International Affairs, and Search for Common Ground (all in Washington DC).

After his studies in Islamic theology at Khan Seminary (Shiraz, Iran) and receiving a BA in Economics from National University (Tehran), Mahallati completed a BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Kansas and an MS in Political Economy from the University of Oregon. He served as, Chairman of Economic Department at Kerman University (1980), Director General for Economic and International Affairs, in Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1981-1987), and Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations (1987-1989). As Ambassador he was successful in bringing an end to the devastating eight-year Iran-Iraq War. 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 ten years of teaching Islamic studies at Oberlin College.



  • 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

Research Interests

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 ten 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 current project Ethics of Apology and Forgiveness in Politics: A Christian and Muslim Perspective serves the second goal, and his edited volumes in English and Persian languages on Rethinking Friendship in Muslim Cultures and Modern World Politics, with his substantial contribution to both, serve the third. This book would be the first of its kind on this topic. It is intended for scholars and students of Islamic studies, conflict resolution, law, history, ethics, interfaith and international relations. It will also be of interest to the general public and to policymakers in the Muslim and the non-Muslim cultures.

Through inter-disciplinary 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.


  • 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.