Associate Professor
Contact Areas of Interest
Department for the Study of Religion (St George) & Department of Historical Studies (UTM)
t: 416-978-4892 (St George)
t: 905-569-4492 (UTM)
  • Sufism
  • Bhakti
  • Islamic History, Philosophy and Literature
  • Shi’ism (Twelver and Ismaili)

St George: 170 St George Street, Room 322, Toronto ON M5R 2M8.
UTM: North Building, 3359 Mississauga Road North, Room 122, Mississauga ON L5L 1C6


Dr. Shafique N. Virani is Distinguished Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto, Director of the Centre for South Asian Civilizations, and past chair of the Department of Historical Studies. He was previously on the faculty of Harvard University and the Head of World Humanities at Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates. After earning a joint honors degree with distinction in Religious Studies and Middle East Studies and a master’s degree in Islamic Studies at McGill University in Montréal, he completed an AM and PhD at Harvard University in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.

Professor Virani’s research focuses on Islamic history, philosophy, Sufism, Shi‘ism, and Islamic literatures in Arabic, Persian and South Asian languages. He has contributed articles to the Journal of the American Oriental Society, the Journal of Iranian StudiesIran and the Caucasus, the Encyclopaedia of ReligionThe Annual of Urdu Studies and several other academic journals and books. He also served on the board of editors for the Harvard Middle Eastern and Islamic Review. He has published a book through Oxford University Press entitled The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, A Search for Salvation. The trailer for the book may be viewed by clicking here. His writings have been translated into Albanian, Arabic, Persian, Russian, Serbo-Croat-Bosnian, and Urdu.

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 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.

In his spare time, Professor Virani loves doing volunteer work. He co-founded an Arabic summer camp for Syrian youth in the mountains of al-Khawabi and also sits on the governing board of the Madrasa Resource Centre of East Africa, which administers over 200 schools and reaches out to slum dwellers and other disadvantaged communities in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zanzibar. He enjoys fiction, and co-wrote and acted in a Gujarati comedy, entitled “Sui Gayo Hashe” or “He Must Have Fallen Asleep,” which was performed in Vancouver, Edmonton and the Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary.

Primary Teaching

  • RLG3510 – Of Piety and Poetry: Studies in Islamic Thought and Spirituality
  • RLG461H – Ismaili History and Thought
  • RLG204H – Introduction to Islam

Selected Publications

The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, A Search for Salvation, New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

  • Translated into Arabic as الإسماعيليون في العصور الوسطى: صراع البقاء، طلب النجاة, by Saif al-Din al-Qasir, (Beirut: Saqi Books in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2013).

“Speaking Truth Beyond the Tower: Academics of Islam Engaging in the Public Sphere,” Introduced and edited by Shafique N. Virani, MESA Review of Middle East Studies, 45:2 (Winter 2011).

“Taqiyya and Identity in a South Asian Community,” Journal of Asian Studies, 70:1 (February 2011): 99-139.

  • Translated into Russian as “Такийя и самобытность в южноазиатской общине,” Этнографическое обозрение by Андрея Беленького при содействии Ш. Гуламадова, 5 (2012), 151-181.

“The Right Path: A Post-Mongol Persian Ismaili Treatise,” Journal of Iranian Studies, 43:2 (April 2010): 197-221.

“The Dear One of Nasaf: ‘Aziz Nasafi’s Epistle on Love,” Iran and the Caucasus, 13:2 (2009): 311-318.

“Symphony of Gnosis: A Self-Definition of the Ismaili Ginan Tradition,” in Reason and Inspiration in Islam: Theology, Philosophy and Mysticism in Muslim Thought, ed. Todd Lawson, London: I.B. Tauris, 2005: 503-521.

  • Translated into Russian as “Симфония гнозиса: самоопределение исмаилитской традиции гинана,” Религиоведение by Андрея Беленького при содействии Ш. Гуламадова (issue 4, 2012).
  • Translated into Albanian as “Simfonia e Gnosës: Një vetërrëfim i traditës ginane tek ismailitët,” Perla, Tirana, Albania, 62:2, September 2012, 31-52.

“Qudratullah Shahab’s Maaji,” The Annual of Urdu Studies, volume 19 (2004): 406-415.

•          Reprinted at:

“The Days of Creation in the Thought of Nasir Khusraw,” in Nasir Khusraw: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, ed. Sarfaroz Niyozov and Ramazon Nazariev, Khujand, Tajikistan: Noshir Publications, 2004, 74-83.

  • Reprinted with minor revisions at:
  • Translated into Russian as “Дни сотворения в мышление Насира Хусрава,” available at
  • Translated into Russian as “Дни творения в мышлении Насира Хусрава,” by Андрея Беленького при содействии Ш. Гуламадова. Forthcoming in Восток.
  • Translated into Serbo-Croat-Bosnian as “Ditët e Krijimit sipas Nasir Khusravit,” Beharistan: Časopis za iranistiku i islamsku kulturu, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Vol. XI, Br. 25 (November 2013): 29-40.

“The Eagle Returns: Evidence of Continued Ismaili Activity at Alamut and in the South Caspian Region following the Mongol Conquests,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 123:2 (April-June 2003): 351-370.

  • Reprinted at:
  • Translated into Urdu by Humaira Fatima Khawaja, 2010.
  • Revised Persian edition by the author and ساسان طهماسبی as “اسماعیلیان در الموت و جنوب ناحیه دریای مازندران پس از فتوحات مغول مازندران پس از فتوحات مغول،” فصلنامه تاريخ اسلام، 16:3 (1391 پايیز [2012]), شماره مسلسل 51: 105-138.

“Teflon Tents in the Desert: The Hajj Terminal as a neo-Vernacular Response to Architecture’s International Style,” Jusur: The UCLA Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 15 (1999): 1-13.

Accomplishments and Awards

Professor Virani’s scholarly work has received awards from UNESCO, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Middle East Studies Association, the Foundation for Iranian Studies, Harvard University, the International Farabi Prize, and the British-Kuwait Friendship Society Prize. He is also the recipient of the International Book of the Year award from the government of Iran, for which he was invited to Tehran as a guest of state. The American Academy of Religion named Professor Virani the 2014 recipient of its highest pedagogical honor, the AAR Excellence in Teaching Award. The AAR is the world’s largest association of scholars in the field of Religious Studies and related topics, having some 10,000 members world-wide. Professor Virani is also a member of the University of Toronto’s Teaching Academy, having received the university’s President’s Teaching Award.