He studied comparative religion at Stanford University (A.B. 1973) and Harvard University (Ph.D. 1981), and has done research tours in India (1978-79, 1981), Pakistan (1986, 2000, 2005), and Turkey (1991), and has also visited Iran, Egypt, the Gulf, and Uzbekistan. He has taught at Pomona College (1981-1992) and has been appointed as visiting lecturer in Paris (EHESS, 1991, 2003), the University of Seville (2001), and the University of Malaya (2005). On the faculty of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 1992, he has been department chair (1995-2000) and Zachary Smith Professor (2000-2005). He is now William R. Kenan, Jr., Distinguished Professor (2005- ) and Director of the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations. He and Bruce Lawrence are co-editors of the Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks Series at the University of North Carolina
"It's Not Just Academic – Writing Public Scholarship in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies," Middle East Studies Association Bulletin (forthcoming).
- “‘The West and Islam?’ Rethinking Orientalism and Occidentalism.” Ishraq: Islamic Philosophy Yearbook (Moscow/Tehran), forthcoming.
- "Sufism and the Art of Penmanship according to Siraj al-Shirazi's Tuhfat al-Muhibbin (1454)." Journal of the American Oriental Society (forthcoming).
- “Muhammad as the Pole of Existence.” In The Cambridge Companion to Muhammad, ed. Jonathan Brockopp (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).
- "Davani's Interpretation of Hafiz." In Hafiz and the School of Love in Persian Poetry, ed. Leonard Lewisohn (London: I. B. Taurus, forthcoming).
- "Reconfiguring the relation between religion and world: Sufism and reformist Islam in South Asia since the 18th century." Journal of Comparative Islamic Studies (forthcoming).
- "Rumi on the Sound of the Human Voice.” Keşkül: Sufi Gelenek ve Hayat (forthcoming in 2007).
- “Sufism, Islam, and Globalization in the Contemporary World: Methodological Reflections on a Changing Field of Study.” In Memoriam: The 4th Victor Danner Memorial Lecture. Bloomington, IN: Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, 2009.
- “Accounts of Yogis in Arabic and Persian Historical and Travel Texts.” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, vol. 33 (2008), pp. 409-426.
- "Being Careful with the Goddess: Yoginis in Persian and Arabic Texts.” In Performing Ecstasy: The Poetics and Politics of Religion in India, ed. Pallabi Chakrovorty and Scott Kugle (forthcoming).
- "Reading Strategies for Introducing the Qur'an as Literature in an
." Islamic Studies ( American Public University ) 45:3 (2006), pp. 333-344. Islamabad
- “Fragmentary Versions of the Apocryphal ‘Hymn of the Pearl’ in Arabic, Turkish, Persian, and Urdu.” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, vol. 31 (2006), pp. 144-188. MS Word version requires the following Unicode fonts: Arabic Transparent (Windows XP), Nazanin, and Lateef.
- "On Losing One's Head: Hallajian themes in works attributed to `Attar." In Attar and the Persian Sufi Tradition: The Art of Spiritual Flight, ed. Leonard Lewisohn and Christopher Shackle (London: I. B. Tauris, 2006).
- “Two Versions of a Persian Text on Yoga and Cosmology, Attributed to Shaykh Mu`in al-Din Chishti.” Elixir 2 (2006), pp. 69-76, 124-5 (PDF version). For correct diacriticals, see the MS Word version, which requires the Gentium font.
- "Situating Sufism and Yoga." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Series 3, 15:1 (2005), pp. 15-43.
- "Ideological and Technological Transformations of Contemporary Sufism." In Muslim Networks: From Hajj to Hip-hop, ed. miriam cooke and Bruce B. Lawrence. Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks Series, 2 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005).
- "The Islamization of Yoga in the Amrtakunda Translations." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Series 3, 13:2 (2003), pp. 199-226.
- "Muslim Studies of Hinduism? A Reconsideration of Persian and Arabic Translations from Sanskrit." Iranian Studies 36 (2003), pp. 173-95.
- "Between Orientalism and Fundamentalism: Problematizing the Teaching of Sufism." In Teaching Islam, ed. Brannon Wheeler (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 108-23.
- "Abu Nasr Muhammad Khalidi (d. 1406/1985): A Brief Memoir." The Annual of Urdu Studies 15 (2000), pp. 305-313.
- "Admiring the Works of the Ancients: The Ellora Temples as viewed by Indo-Muslim Authors." In Beyond Turk and Hindu: Rethinking Religious Identities in Islamicate South Asia, ed. David Gilmartin and Bruce B. Lawrence (University Press Florida, 2000), pp. 198-220.
- "Persecution and Circumspection in the Shattari Sufi Order." In Islamic Mysticism Contested: Thirteen Centuries of Controversies & Polemics, ed. Fred De Jong and Berndt Radtke, Islamic History and Civilization: Studies and Texts, 29 (Leiden: Brill, 1999), pp. 416-35.
- "Vertical Pilgrimage and Interior Landscape in the Visionary Diary of Ruzbihan Baqli." Muslim World 88/2 (1998), pp. 129-40.
- "Local Cultural Nationalism as Anti-Fundamentalist Strategy in Pakistan." Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East 16 (1996), pp. 68-76.
- "Sufism and Yoga according to Muhammad Ghawth." Sufi 29 (Spring 1996), pp. 9-13.
- Translations for Religions of India in Practice, ed. Donald S. Lopez, Jr., Princeton Readings in Religions, 1 (Princeton University Press, 1995): "Lives of Sufi Saints" (Persian; pp. 495-512), "Conversations of Sufi Saints" (Persian; pp. 513-17), and "India as a Sacred Islamic Land" (Arabic; pp. 556-64).
- "The Interpretation of the Classical Sufi Tradition in India: The Shama'il al-atqiya' of Rukn al-Din Kashani." Sufi 22 (1994), pp. 5-10. Persian translation by Karim Zayyani as "Tafsiri bar sunnat-i tasavvuf-i klasik-i Hindustan: Shamayil al-atqiya', athar-i Rukn al-Din Kashani," in Sufi 24 (1373/1994), pp. 6-12.
- "Ruzbihan Baqli on Love as 'Essential Desire.'" In Gott is schön und Er liebt die Schönheit/God is Beautiful and He Loves Beauty: Festschrift für Annemarie Schimmel, ed. Alma Giese and J. Christoph Bürgel (Bern: Peter Lang, 1994), pp. 181-89.
- “Traditionalism, the Perennial Philosophy, and Islamic Studies (review article),” Middle East Studies Association Bulletin, vol. 28, no. 2 (December 1994), pp. 176-81.
- "The Man without Attributes: Ibn `Arabi's Interpretation of Abu Yazid al-Bistami." Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn `Arabi Society XIII (1993), pp. 1-18.
- "An Indo-Persian Guide to Sufi Shrine Pilgrimage," in Manifestations of Sainthood in Islam, ed. Grace Martin Smith and Carl W. Ernst (Istanbul: The Isis Press, 1993), pp. 43-67.
- "Mystical Language and the Teaching Context in the Early Sufi Lexicons." In Mysticism and Language, ed. Steven T. Katz (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 181-201.
- "The Symbolism of Birds and Flight in the Writings of Ruzbihan Baqli." In The Heritage of Sufism, Volume 2, ed. Leonard Lewisohn (Oxford: One World, 1999), pp. 353-66.
- "The Stages of Love in Persian Sufism, from Rabi`a to Ruzbihan." In The Heritage of Sufism, Volume 1, Classical Persian Sufism from its Origins to Rumi (700-1300), ed. Leonard Lewisohn (Oxford: One World, 1999), pp. 435-55. Spanish translation, Revista Sufi, Número VIII (Otoño / Invierno 2004).
- "The Spirit of Islamic Calligraphy: Baba Shah Isfahani's Adab al-Mashq." Journal of the American Oriental Society 112 (1992), pp. 279-86. Alternate site.
- "From Philosophy of Religion to History of Religion." In Problems in the Philosophy of Religion: Critical Studies of the Work of John Hick, ed. Harold Hewitt, Jr (London: Macmillan, 1991), pp. 46-50.
- "Controversy over Ibn `Arabi's Fusus: The Faith of Pharaoh." Islamic Culture LIX (1985), pp. 259-66.
- "From Hagiography to Martyrology: Conflicting Testimonies to a Sufi Martyr of the Delhi Sultanate." History of Religions XXIV (May, 1985), pp. 308-27.
- Translations from Jalal al-Din Davani's Figures of Houris, A Commentary on Suhrawardi's Temples of Light (Book 5; Arabic), and The Jalalian Ethics (Book 5; Persian), for An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia, ed. S. H. Nasr and Mehdi Aminrazavi, vol. 4 (London: Oneworld, forthcoming).
Articles for reference works
Encyclopaedia of Islam (Leiden: E. J. Brill): "Ruzbihan Bakli" (VII:651-52, 1995); "Shath" (IX:361-2, 1997); "Shirazi, Rafi` al-Din" (IX:483, 1997); "Tasawwuf (iii): 19th and 20th-century Sufism, in Muslim India" (X:333-7, 1999).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism, ed. K. L. Seshagiri Rao (India Heritage Research Foundation, forthcoming): "Indian Texts, Persian and Arabic Translations of," "Hinduism, Islamicate Studies of."
Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion, ed. Robert Wuthnow (Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1998): "Iqbal, Muhammad," pp. 375-6; "Sufism," pp. 719-21.
Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Mircea Eliade et al. (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1987): "Blasphemy (Islamic Concept)," vol. 2, pp. 242-45.
The Muslim Almanac: A Reference Work on the History, Faith, Cultures, and Peoples of Islam, ed. Azim A. Nanji (Gale Research, Inc., 1996): "Spiritual Life and Institutions in Muslim Society," pp. 253-59.
South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia, ed. Peter J. Claus and Margaret A. Mills (Garland Publishing, Inc., 2003): "Syncretism" (with Tony K. Stewart).
PrefacesForeword. Annemarie Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam (reprint ed., New Delhi: Yoda Press, 2006).
- Preface to the Second Edition. Carl W. Ernst, Words of Ecstasy in Sufism (London: Archetype, forthcoming).
- Preface. K. A. Nizami, The Life and Times of Shaikh Nasiru'd-din Chiragh-e Dehli (new ed., London: Oneworld Publications, forthcoming).
- Preface to the Second Edition. Carl W. Ernst, Eternal Garden: Mysticism, History, and Politics at a South Asian Sufi Center (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2004).
- Foreword. Shaykh `Ali al-Hujwiri, Revealing the Mystery (Kashf al-mahjub), trans. R. A. Nicholson, (reprint ed., N.Y.: Pir Press, 1999).