Joel Blecher

Joel Blecher

Assistant Professor of History
Phillips Hall 312
Address: Phillips Hall
801 22nd St. NW

Joel Blecher is a historian of early and medieval Islam, whose work also addresses how the classical Islamic tradition continues to operate in the modern world. His research has taken him to Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and India, and his work has been published in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Oriens, and several edited volumes.

Professor Blecher is currently at work on two book projects. Said the Prophet of God: Hadith Commentary across a Millennium, forthcoming with the University of California Press, explores the rich social and intellectual life of hadith commentary in the times and places it flourished the most — classical Andalusia, medieval Egypt, and early modern India — and argues that the meanings of hadith were shaped as much by commentators’ political, cultural, and regional contexts as by the fine-grained interpretive debates that developed over long periods of time. The second, Profit and Prophecy: Islam and the Spice Trade from Venice to India, will offer an inter-disciplinary audience a portrait of how Muslim scholars and merchants in the medieval Islamic world viewed the proper place of religion and business along trade and pilgrimage routes that stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean.

Professor Blecher has taught at Princeton University, Oberlin College, and Washington and Lee University, where he served the departments of Religion and History as well as the School of Law on topics relating to Islam and Islamic history. He has also been invited to speak about the Islamic world on National Public Radio, college radio, and podcasts.


Ph.D. Princeton University, 2013.


Said the Prophet of God: Hadith Commentary across a Millennium, University of California Press, forthcoming 2017.

“Revision in the Manuscript Age: New Evidence of Early Versions of Ibn Ḥajar's Fatḥ al-Bārī,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 76, no. 1 (April 2017): 39-51.

“‘Usefulness without toil’: al-Suyūṭī and the art of concise ḥadīth commentary,” in Al-Suyūṭī, a Polymath of the Mamlūk Period, ed. Antonella Ghersetti. Leiden: Brill, 2016: 182-200.

“Overlooking Race and Secularism in Muslim Philadelphia,” in Race and Secularism in America. Co-authored with Josh Dubler. Eds. Vincent Lloyd and Jonathan S. Kahn. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016: 122-50.

“Pedagogy and the Digital Humanities: Undergraduate Exploration into the Transmission of Early Islamic Law,” in The Digital Humanities and Islamic & Middle East Studies. Ed. Elias Muhanna. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016: 233-50.

“Hadith Commentary.” Oxford Bibliographies in Islamic Studies. Ed. Andrew Rippin. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

“Review of Women and the Transmission of Knowledge in Islam, by Asma Sayeed.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 74, no. 1 (2015): 172-174.

“Hadith Commentary in the Presence of Students, Patrons, and Rivals: Ibn Ḥajar and Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī in Mamluk Cairo.” Oriens 41, no. 3-4 (2013): 261-287.

Classes Taught

HIST 3801: The Formation of Islam

HIST 3801: Jihad: Love and War in Islamic History

HIST 6801: Profit and Prophecy in Islamic History