Baber Johansen

Baber Johansen

Research Professor of Islamic Studies
Baber Johansen


  • PhD, Habilitation in Islamic Studies, Freie Universität Berlin


Baber Johansen was appointed Professor of Islamic Religious Studies at Harvard Divinity School in 2005. He became Harvard Divinity School Research Professor of Islamic Studies in 2020.

Before coming to HDS, Johansen served as Directeur d'études at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Centre d'étude des normes juridiques), Paris (1995-2005), and Professor for Islamic Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin (1972-1995). In 2006 he was appointed an affiliated professor at Harvard Law School and acting director of its Islamic Legal Studies Program for 2006 to 2010. In 2007 he was affiliated with the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and from July 2010 to June 2013, he was the director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. He is also a faculty associate of Harvard's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and a member of its Executive Committee.

His research and teaching focus on the relationship between religion and law in the classical and the modern Muslim world. His book Muhammad Husain Haikal Europa und der Orient im Weltbild eines ägyptischen Liberalen (1967), translated into Arabic in Abu Dhabi in 2010, examines twentieth-century liberal interpretations of Islam; Islam und Staat (1982) looks at modern Muslim debates on state models; and Islamic Law on Land Tax and Rent (1988) considers long-term changes in classical and postclassical legal doctrine. Contingency in a Sacred Law: Legal and Ethical Norms in the Muslim Fiqh (1999) focuses on law, social practice, and ethics in Islam.

Johansen was invited to the University of Ca’ Foscari in Venice to teach for a month (April-May 1996) as a visiting professor. He was invited by the Institut du Monde Arabe (The Arab World Institute, Paris) for a series of lectures in 1995 for La Chaire de l’IMA. He was an Individual Resident at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in July 1999. He was invited by Harvard University as an H.A.R. Gibbs Scholar in April 1998 and delivered three lectures.

Johansen was twice elected a member of the School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and has been a visiting professor at the Watson Institute (Providence) and Harvard University. He is one of the three executive editors of Islamic Law and Society, and has served as area editor for Islamic Law in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Legal History (2009) and as adviser for the Encyclopedia of Law and Society (Sage, 2009).

Selected publications

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