Rula Jurdi Abisaab is Associate Professor of Islamic History at the Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University, where she has worked since 2004. She teaches in all areas of Islamic-Shi`ite history and is especially interested in the transformation of juristic thought, the `ulama’s legal authority and relations of power in Shi`ite society during sixteenth and seventeenth century Iran. Her previous research focused on religion and power in Safavid Iran, exploring the interface of the shari`a with Sufism and heterodoxy. This research was presented in her book Converting Persia: Religion and Power in Safavid Iran (2004) and several articles. Her current research has focused on public religion and militancy in modern Shi`ite society, which built upon her interest in Marxism, Islamism and postcolonial Shi`ite thinkers. This research is reflected in her forthcoming book, co-authored with Malek Abisaab, The Shi`ites of Lebanon: Modernism, Communism and Hizbullah’s Islamists and in articles such as, “Deconstructing the Modular and the Authentic: Husayn Muroeh’s Early Islamic History,” (2008); “Lebanese Shi`ites and the Marja’iyya: Polemic in the late 20th Century,” (2009). The Shi`ites of Lebanon stresses the importance of communal and revolutionary ideology to the reshaping of the political sphere in Lebanon. It delineates the pervasiveness of particular secular ideas and processes and their complex interface with religion and sect.
In addition to her academic research and writing on Islamic Shi`ite history, Rula also is a poet whose poems appeared in Iraqi, Lebanese, and American journals and newspapers. Her first collection of poetry, Ghilāf al-Qalb (The Heart’s Peel) (October 2014) is currently being translated into English and French. Her novel Al-Kathāfa: Qiṣṣat Ḥarb Lubnāniyya (Thick Air: a Lebanese war story) (Dar Nelson: Lebanon & Sweden, 2007) weaves together three stories from the Lebanese civil war marked by displacement, death and futility. Her second collection of poetry, Mithlī aw Ka-al-Mudun al-Khamsa (Like Me or Like the Five Cities) will appear Fall 2014. She also published articles on Emile Habibi’s novel Al-Waqā’i` al-Gharība fī Ikhtifā’ Sa`īd Abū al-Naḥs al-Mutashā’il (The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessomptimist) in al-Ṭarīq and Edebiyat; “Arabic Poetry and the Public Sphere: a Conversation between Abbas Baydoun and Rula al-Jurdi,” al-Jadid.