Photo of Associate Professor Sajjad Rizvi

Associate Professor Sajjad Rizvi

BA, MA, MPhil (Oxon), PhD (Cantab)

Associate Professor of Islamic Intellectual History and Islamic Studies


01392 724037

My principal research interest is in Islamic intellectual history, playing an active role in the  Centre for the Study of Islam, and of the Islamic Studies research cluster.  I take on research students broadly in Islamic intellectual history. 

I work on Islamic intellectual history in the wider Persianate world. My particular interests which grew from my PhD at Cambridge on the philosophy of Mullā Ṣadrā Shīrāzī (d. c. 1635) lie in post-Avicennan philosophical, theological and mystical traditions. My second main area of interest is Qurʾanic exegesis and textual hermeneutics.

I am currently completing three projects: an intellectual history of philosophy in Iran and North India on the cusp of colonialism, an analysis of the noetics of Mullā Ṣadrā, and a short monograph on Mīr Dāmād. My next major projects are mapping Islamic philosophical traditions in India 1450-1850, and writing an intellectual history of apophasis in Islamic thought. 

I have advised various government departments and private sector concerns on Iraq, Iran, Shiʿi Islam in the Gulf, and Islam in Britain and Europe. 

I also run a blog that has my various musings on philosophy both Islamic and otherwise as well as notes on manuscript research and related critical editions. The blog entitled Hikmat is available here.

I tweet under the name @mullasadra

For office hours and research leave go here.



Research interests

My research interests lie mainly in three concurrent (and I hope complementary) areas:

1. Islamic philosophical traditions in particular Mulla Sadra (d. c. 1635) and Safavid philosophies. I am interested in a number of intersecting problems: first, the relationship between philosophy and other intellectual disciplines such as theology and rational mysticism; second, the course of Neoplatonism(s) in later Islamic thought; third, concepts of the self and self-reflective understanding of philosophy in Islamic culture; fourth, problems of epistemological systems in later Islamic thought; fifth, the legacy of Safavid thought in particular in India; and finally, philosophical theology, the God-world relationship and the possibility of God-talk. This is my primary area of interest. In this context, I am involved in two projects: a European collaboration to produce a new critical edition and study of the so-called Theology of Aristotle funded by the Italian Humanities research council, and a collaborative project to study neotics and the theory of the soul in Arabic-Islamic Philosophy organised by CNRS, Paris.

2. Qur'anic studies and textual hermeneutics. How do interpreters confront and envision the text? How does one make sense of the exegetical traditions in Islam? I am particularly interested in Sufi and Shi'i experiential and mystical exegeses and hermeneutics of the text. Here, I am continuing my association with the Quranic Studies Unit at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London.

3. Shi'i theology of all three branches. I have been interested for some time in the relationship between Mu'tazili thought and Shi'i theologies and am focused on three areas: first, the non-Mu'tazili Zaydi tradition exemplified by Sayyid Humaydan b. Yahya (fl. 13th century); second, the development of Twelver traditions of philosophical theology focusing on the role of Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (d. 1274) and al-'Allama al-Hilli (d. 1325); and third, the development of Ismaili thought in the pre-Alamut period.

Research supervision

I am happy to supervise research students in Islamic intellectual history, Qur'anic studies, Shi'i thought and aspects of contemporary Islamic thought.

I have examined the following:
Yanis Esots, 'Mulla Sadra on Mysticism and Philosophy', PhD University of Tallinn, Estonia, May 2007.
Mohamad Hossein Talebi, 'A critical study of Finnis' Natural Law Theory from an Islamic philosophical perspective', PhD University of Manchester, July 2005.
Soudabeh Marin, 'Ostad Elahi: ethique, conscience, droits et devoirs de l'homme', PhD Universite de Paris X- Nanterre, June 2006.

Mohamed Haj Yousef, 'The concept of time in Ibn 'Arabi's cosmology', PhD University of Exeter, May 2005.
Mahmoud el-Kastawy, 'Al-Biruni and cross-cultural dialogue', PhD University of Exeter, March 2007

Research students

I have successfully supervised the following doctoral projects:

Rushdan Jailani, The Sufi Metaphysics of Shamsuddin Sumatrai (d. 1630) - 2007

Khalil Toussi-Alaghebandi, The Ethics and Politics of Mulla Sadra (d. 1640) - 2007

Chi-Chung (Andy) Yu, Islamic Responses to Modernity: Comparing Tariq Ramadan and Seyyed Hossein Nasr - 2008

Saud el-Tamamy, The Metaphysics of Political Philosophy: Comparing Averroes and Kant - 2009

Kemal Argon, An Intellectual History of Islamism in Pakistan - 2010

Babar Ahmed, Toward a rational Hermeneutics of Islam - 2011 

Minlib Dallh - Serge de Beaureceuil and Abdullah Ansari - 2011 

Ammar Nakhjuvani, A Source-critical Approach to Leadership in Early Islam: The Case of Muʿāwiya bin Abī Sufyān - 2011 

Khaled Troudi, Qurʾanic Hermeneutics and Narratives: A Study of Medieval Exegetical Traditions - 2011

Ghazoan Ali, Substance and Things: Dualism and Unity in the Islamic Cultural Field - 2012 

I am currently supervising the following doctoral projects:

  • Khairul Anam Che Mentri, Avicenna's Philosophy of Science. PhD FT.
  • Gehad Abdelkhalek, Being, Reification and the Problem of Ritual in Islam. PhD FT.
  • Amin Ehteshami, Shiʿi Hermeneutics. PhD FT. 
  • Usama al-Atar, Theology in the Nahj al-balāgha. PhD FT. 
  • Charalampos Varvouzanis, The Theology of Jihad: Medieval Precedent and Modern Ideology. PhD FT.
  • Ahab Bdaiwi, Mulla Sadra and the School of Shiraz. PhD FT.
  • Zubir Ahmed, Ethno-Sectarian Conflict and State Building in Iraq post-2003. PhD FT.
  • Ahmad al-Malik. Orientalism and Occidentalism in Arabic and English Novels post 1991. PhD FT.
  • Mirza Abbas, An Intellectual Biography of 'Allama Tabataba'i. PhD FT.
  • Zuheir Esmail, From the School of Tehran to the School of Qum: Mystical Philosophy in Iran. PhD FT.
  • Amina Inloes, The Construction of Gender in Classical Shiʿi Texts. PhD PT.
  • Sumeyye Parildar, Intentionality in Mullā Ṣadrā. PhD FT. 
  • Pooya Razavian, Faith, Autonomy and Freedom in Contemporary Shiʿi Thought. PhD FT. 




I come from a Twelver Shi'i background, on my father's side from a family of Razavi sayyids originally from Khurasan who settled in North India.

After a liberal education at Westminster School (1986-91), I read modern history at Christ Church, Oxford (1991-1994) where I developed an interest in philosophy and in particular Islamic philosophy. At the time, because my interests were in the modern world, I read Modern Middle East Studies for an MPhil, staying in Oxford (1994-1996), specialising with a dissertation on philosophy in 19th century Qajar Iran.

I then decided to continue the study of philosophical traditions by focusing on the Safavid period and moved across to the other place. At Pembroke College, Cambridge, I ran the Graduate Parlour in 1997-98 and after a great time, I eventually wrote my doctoral dissertation on the philosophy of existence in the thought of the Iranian Safavid philosopher Mulla Sadra Shirazi (d. c. 1635), obtaining my PhD in 2000.

I spent a post-doctoral year as the first fellow in the new Quranic Studies unit at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London.

I then taught for 2 years in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Bristol. I have been teaching at the IAIS since 2004.