Zachary Wright is associate dean for faculty affairs at Northwestern University in Qatar and professor in residence in the Liberal Arts Program, with joint appointments in History and Religious Studies. Wright received his PhD (history) from Northwestern University, his MA in Arabic studies/Middle East history from the American University in Cairo, and his BA in history from Stanford University. He teaches classes on Islam in Africa, Islamic Intellectual History, African history, and Middle East history. His research focuses on Islamic intellectual history in West and North Africa, from the 15th century to the present. Most of Wright’s field research has been conducted in Senegal, Morocco, and Mauritania, with Arabic, French, and Wolof language sources. He serves as a faculty affiliate of Northwestern’s Program of African Studies (PAS), Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa (ISITA), and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) program.


  • History 242, History of the Modern Middle East
  • History 242, Introduction to Modern African History
  • History 242, Medieval Muslim Empires
  • Religious Studies 242, Overview of Islamic Intellectual History
  • Religious Studies 242, Sufism
  • History 387, African Liberation Struggles
  • History 387, Islam and the Shaping of African History
  • Religious Studies 387, Modern Reform Movements in Islam
  • Religious Studies 387, Islam, America, and the Media
  • Interdisciplinary Studies 301, The Doha Seminar


  • Islamic intellectual history and learning practices in West and North Africa, 15th century to the present. Primary Islamic disciplines of interest include Sufism, legal traditions, theology, and esotericism.
  • 18-19th century Islamic revivalist networks in the Middle East and Africa.
  • Medieval empires in West Africa and Muslim clerical positionality.
  • Islam and African decolonization.

Awards & Grants

  • Elected Member, Council of Scholars, International African Institute, SOAS University of London, 2020-2023
  • Northwestern University Provost Grant, “The Tijani Literature Project,” 2020
  • Visiting Scholar, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University, Summer 2019
  • Visiting Scholar, Program of African Studies, Northwestern University, Summer 2018
  • Excellence in Research, Northwestern University Research Annual Report, 2015
  • Fulbright-Hays Dissertation Research Grant, Senegal 2008-2009, “Embodied Knowledge and Shaykh-Disciple Relations in West African Islam”



Wright, Z. (2020), Realizing Islam: The Tijaniyya in North Africa and the Eighteenth-Century Muslim World. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

Ware, R., Wright, Z., Syed, A. (2018), Jihad of the Pen: the Sufi Literature of West Africa. Cairo and New York: American University in Cairo Press.

Wright, Z. (2018), Sur la voie du Prophète: le Cheikh ahmad Tijani et la Tariqa Muhammadiyya. Waterloo, France: Éditions Tasnim.

Wright, Z. (2015), Living Knowledge in West African Islam: The Sufi Community of Ibrāhīm Niasse. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill.

Wright, Z., Holland, M., El-Okene, A. (2010, reprint 2019), The Removal of Confusion concerning the Flood of the Saintly Seal, by Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse (translation). Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae.



Wright, Z. (2022), “Spiritual Training across the Sahara: Debating the Need for the Living Sufi Master in the Tijaniyya.” Journal of Islamic Studies, 33, 3.

Wright, Z. (2022), “Islam, Blackness, and African Cultural Distinction: the Islamic Négritude of Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse.” Journal of African Religions, 10, 2.

Wright, Z. (2021), “The African Roots of a Global Eighteenth-Century Islamic Scholarly Revival,” in Ousmane Kane (ed.), Islamic Scholarship in Africa: New Directions and Global Contexts. London: James Currey. 

Wright, Z. (2020), “The Islamic Intellectual Traditions of Sudanic Africa, with analysis of a 15th Century Timbuktu Manuscript.” Fallou Ngom, Mustapha Kurfi, Toyin Falola (eds), Handbook of Islam in Africa. London: Palgrave. 

Wright, Z. (2019), “Afropolitan Sufism: Reflections on the Contemporary Tijāniyya in Global Contexts.” Sedgwick and Piraino (eds.), Global Sufism: Boundaries, Narratives, and Practices. London: Hurst. 

Wright, Z. (2018), “Secrets on the Muhammadan Way: Transmission of the Esoteric Sciences in 18th Century Scholarly Networks.” Islamic Africa 9, 1. 

Wright, Z. (2015), “Salafi Theology and Islamic Orthodoxy in West Africa.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, 35, 3.

Wright, Z. (2013), “Islam and Decolonization in Africa: The Political Engagement of a West African Muslim Community.” International Journal of African Historical Studies, 46,3.

Wright, Z. (2012), “Traditional Islam and Pedagogical Change in West Africa: The Majlis and the Madrasa in Senegal.” Journal for Islamic Studies, 32.

Wright, Z. (2010), “The Kāshif al-Ilbās of Shaykh Ibrāhīm Niasse: Analysis of the Text,” Islamic Africa, 1, 1.