Nabil Matar's research and teaching are in the areas of English seventeenth-century religious literature, British-Islamic relations, and Arabic writings on Europe in the early modern period. He started his career by teaching at the University of Jordan (1975-77) and at the American University of Beirut (1978-86). In 1977-78, he received a British Council grant to Clare Hall, Cambridge, and in 1982, a Fulbright grant to Harvard Divinity School. In 1986, he moved to Florida Institute of Technology where he became Professor of English in 1988 and Head of the Department of Humanities and Communication between 1997 and 2007. In Fall 2007, he began his tenure as Professor of English at the University of Minnesota.
He has published on Thomas Traherne and Restoration religious movements, and on Peter Sterry and Interregnum piety and politics (Peter Sterry: Select Writings, 1994). In the early 1990s, he began exploring the archives of Anglo-Islamic history, in England, Tunisia, and Morocco and between 1998 and 2005 completed his trilogy on Britain and the Islamic Mediterranean: Islam in Britain, 1558-1685 (Cambridge UP, 1998); Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery (Columbia UP, 1999); and Britain and Barbary 1589-1689 (UP of Florida, 2005). Meanwhile, he was researching Arabic and European captivity accounts (having been himself held hostage in Beirut in 1986) and in 2001 published an introduction to Piracy, Slavery, and Redemption (Columbia UP, 2001), followed by In the Lands of the Christians: Arabic Travel Writing in the Seventeenth Century (Routledge, 2003). He also published articles in journals, book collections, and encyclopedias, including the Encyclopedia of Travel and the New Oxford National Dictionary of Biography.