About

Zachary Wright, PhD, is associate professor in residence at Northwestern University in Qatar, 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, his BA in history from Stanford University.

He teaches classes on Islam in Africa, modern Middle East history, African history, Islamic intellectual history and Islam in America. His research focuses on Islamic intellectual history in North and West Africa, from the seventeenth century to the present. He did most of his field research in Senegal, Morocco, and Mauritania, with Arabic, French and Wolof language sources. He is a frequent visitor to the Northwestern home campus, serving as a faculty affiliate of Northwestern’s Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa (ISITA) and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) program. He is also a member of the faculty advisory council of Northwestern’s Buffet Institute for Global Studies. Wright serves as chairperson of Northwestern Qatar’s Middle East Studies Committee.

Teaching

  • 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, Colonialism and Decolonization in the Muslim World
  • History 387, Islam and the Shaping of African History
  • Religious Studies 387, Modern Reform Movements in Islam
  • Journalism 390, Islam, America, and the Media
  • Interdisciplinary Studies 301, The Doha Seminar: Qatar on the World Stage

Research

  • The history of Muslim societies in Africa, with particular reference to the Arabic textual tradition of West Africa.
  • Islamic intellectual history and learning practices in West and North Africa, 17th century to the present. Primary Islamic disciplines of interest include Sufism, Maliki legal traditions, Ashari theology, and esotericism.
  • 18-19th century Islamic revivalist networks in the Middle East and Africa.
  • Contemporary Theology in the Muslim World

Awards & Grants

Awards

  • Elected Member, Council of Scholars, International African Institute, SOAS University of London, 2020-2023
  • Visiting Scholar, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University, Summer 2019
  • Excellence in Research, Northwestern University Research Annual Report, 2015
  • Teacher Award, Northwestern University in Qatar, 2011
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, Al Noor High School, Brooklyn, NY, 2005

Grants

  • Northwestern University Provost Grant, “The Tijani Literature Project,” 2020
  • Fulbright-Hays Dissertation Research Grant, Senegal 2008-2009, “Embodied Knowledge and Shaykh-Disciple Relations in West African Islam”
  • Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) grant for Wolof language study. Summer 2007
  • Fulbright IIE Grant, Morocco 2002-2003, Arabic Language Study and Research on 18thCentury Islamic Reform

Publications

Books

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

Wright, Z. (2015), Pearls from the Flood: Select Insight of Shaykh al-Islam Ibrahim Niasse (translation). Atlanta, Georgia: Faydah Books.

Wright, Z. (2013), Islam the Religion of Peace: Selected Speeches of Cheikh Tidiane Ali Cisse (translation). Singapore: Light of Eminence.

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.

 

Articles and Chapters

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. (2019), “Breaking up the Body Politic: Islamic Scholars as Political and Social Critics in the premodern Muslim world.” Eltayeb and Erskine-Loftus (eds.), From Visionaries to Vloggers: Media Revolutions In the Middle East. Edinburgh: Akkadia Press.

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), “Mālikī Jurisprudence and Sufism in West Africa. In Aziz Kobaiti (Ed.), Maliki School of Jurisprudence in its Contemporary Contexts. Rabat: Mu’assisa al-ʿIlmiyya.

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. (2012), “The History of Islamic Identity in West Africa.” Orient: German Journal for Politics, Economics and Culture of the Middle East. 53, 1.

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

Works in progress

Wright, Z. (forthcoming 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. 

Nobili, M., Diakité, A., Wright, Z. (under contract), Phantom Books of the Sudan: the Timbuktu Chronicle of Ibn al-Mukhtār and the Tārīkh al-fattāsh of the Hamdulillahi Caliphate. The British Academy Fontes Historiae Africanae, Oxford University Press.

Wright, Z. (submitted, under contract), “The Reality of the Human Condition: Reflections on Ali Harazim’s Jawahir al-ma’ani and Umar Tal’s Rimah.” Lumbard, Picken, Wright (eds.), A Guide to Sufi Literature. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Lumbard, J., Picken, G., Wright, Z. (co-edited volume under contract), A Guide to Sufi Literature. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Seesemann, R., Wright, Z., Brigaglia, A. (in progress), The Arabic Literature of Africa: The Writings of the Tijaniyya.