William A. Graham

William A. Graham

Murray A. Albertson Research Professor of Middle Eastern Studies (Faculty of Arts and Sciences)
Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor
William A. Graham


  • BA, University of North Carolina
  • AM, PhD, Harvard University


William A. Graham served as Dean of Harvard Divinity School from 2002 to 2012, when he stepped down to return to research and teaching. He has been a member of the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences since 1973 and was a member of the Faculty of Divinity from 2002 to 2018. He has served as director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Master of Currier House, and chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, the Committee on the Study of Religion, and the Core Curriculum Committee on Foreign Cultures at Harvard. He is also former chair of the Council on Graduate Studies in Religion (North America).

His scholarly work has focused on early Islamic religious history and textual traditions (Qur’an and Hadith), and on topics in the global history of religion. In 2000 he received the quinquennial Award for Excellence in Research in Islamic History and Culture from the Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA), the research institute of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. In 2012, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Journal of Law and Religion. He has held John Simon Guggenheim and Alexander von Humboldt research fellowships and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

His book Divine Word and Prophetic Word in Early Islam was awarded the American Council of Learned Societies History of Religions Prize in 1978. He is the author of Beyond the Written Word: Oral Aspects of Scripture in the History of Religion (1987) and Islamic and Comparative Religious Studies (2010). He has co-authored three books, among them The Heritage of World Civilizations (1986; 10th ed., 2014). He is also the author of numerous articles and reviews.

He is a summa graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and holds honorary doctorates from UNC and Lehigh University.

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