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Professor Shafique N. Virani is a scholar of Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto. He was previously on the faculty of Harvard University in the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies and head of World Humanities at Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates.
Research and publications
Shafique Virani received his BA in Religious Studies and MA in Islamic Studies in 1992 and 1995 respectively, from McGill University in Montreal. He received his PhD from Harvard University in 2001, where he presented his doctoral thesis, "Seekers of Union: The Ismailis from the Mongol Debacle to the Eve of the Safavid Revolution" to much acclaim, winning the prize for "Best Dissertation of the Year" from the Foundation for Iranian Studies. He also earned the Ilse Lichtenstadter Memorial Publication Prize, and was awarded an Honorable Mention by the Malcolm Kerr Dissertation Award committee, who cited his dissertation as “a path-breaking work of Islamic history.” It was also named International Book of the Year by the government of Iran, which invited him to Tehran as an official guest of state for the awards ceremony.
He has published extensively on topics related to Islamic history and culture, with a focus on Islamic philosophy, Sufism, Twelver and Ismaili Shiism, and Arabic, Persian, and South Asian literatures. His articles have appeared in the Journal of the American Oriental Society, the Encyclopedia of Religion, and the Annual of Urdu Studies. He has also served on the board of editors for the Harvard Middle Eastern and Islamic Review. In 2007, his largest work “The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, A Search for Salvation” was published by the Oxford University Press. The book examines the spiritual and intellectual legacy of Ismaili communities during the Middle Ages, especially as they endured the Mongol invasions of the 13th century.
Professor Virani's teaching experience spans not only a diversity of subject matters but educational contexts as well. He has taught illiterate boatmen on the banks of the Ganges in Benares and members of the royal family in Abu Dhabi, Afghan refugee children in Calgary and Indonesian mullahs at McGill, troubled teenagers from inner-city high schools and both graduate and undergraduate students at Harvard.
He is currently Chair of the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga, and Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto. Professor Virani loves teaching and has enjoyed learning from students of incredibly diverse backgrounds, in numerous countries and a variety of languages.
The recipient of many teaching awards, Dr. Virani has pioneered the incorporation of multimedia and computer innovations in the curriculum to supplement traditional teaching methods. He is the first professor in North America to incorporate the I-clicker classroom response system into the teaching of history and religion.
Shafique Virani has pursued several volunteer initiatives outside of his academic career, including founding a summer camp for Syrian youth in the Khawabi Mountains of Syria and participating in the Madrasa Resource Centre, an East African charity.
His other interests include acting and drama. He was a co-author and actor in the Gujarati comedy “Sui Gayo Hashe” (સુઈ ગયો હશે or He Must Have Fallen Asleep), which was performed in Vancouver, Edmonton and the Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary.