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Adam Gaiser

Associate Professor of Religion

Departmental Area: History and Ethnography of Religions
Research Areas : Islamic Studies; Islamic Sectarianism; Kharijites; Ibadites; Martyrdom

Address: Department of Religion
641 University Way
P.O. Box 3061520
The Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306-1520
Office: M07 Dodd Hall
Email: agaiser@fsu.edu
Office Hours: By Appointment

Curriculum Vitae


Adam Gaiser (Ph.D. ’05, University of Virginia, History of Religions) teaches courses in Islamic studies.  His research focuses on the development of early Kharijites and Ibadiyya, especially on how these groups negotiated their identity among in the context of Arabian, Mesopotamian and North African cultural-religious settings.  Dr. Gaiser also teaches courses on Shi‘ism, Islam in North America, Islamic Law, the Prophet Muhammad and the Qur’an.    

Research Interests 

  • Early Islamic Sectarianism: Kharijites, Ibadites and Shi‘ites
  • Islamic and Eastern Christian Conceptions of Martyrdom
  • Early Islamic Spain and North Africa
  • Islam in Europe and the Americas

Current Research Projects 


  • The Umma Divided: Islamic Sects and Schools (Contracted: Cambridge University Press)

Abstract: This study aims to provide digests of the major historical sectarian divisions among Muslims – the Shī‘a, Khawārij and Ibāḍiyya, Mu‘tazila and Murji`a and the Ahl al-Sunna wa’l-Jamā‘a – while simultaneously offering a critical discussion of sectarianism in the Islamic world.  The chapters of this book aim to present concrete sectarian groups while refracting the concept of sect through various lenses (i.e. sect as allegiance, protest, theology, and as majority).  Framing the central chapters on sectarian groups will be opening chapters devoted to the concept of sect and the early history of Islamic sectarianism.  Closing chapters will deal with recent developments: the colonial and modern use of the concept of sect and an evaluation of contemporary sectarian divisions.  Although the work takes medieval heresiographical categories as its starting point it intends to broaden its scope in the final chapters to include newer sectarian movements and questions about what groups might or might not “count” as a sect.



Guest Edited Journal Issue

  • (with Miriam Ali de Unzaga) “Facets of Exchange between North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula,” The Journal of North African Studies (Spain-North African Project Special Issue), 19/1.


  • “Teacher Lines in al-Qalhati’s al-Kashf wa’l-Bayan: The Accumulation of a Medieval Ibāḍī Identity,” in The Muslim World 105/2 (2015): 157-162.
  • “Slaves and Silver across the Strait of Gibraltar: Politics and Trade between Umayyad Iberia and Khārijite North Africa,” in Medieval Encounters (Spain North-Africa Project Special Issue), 19 (2013): 41-70.
  • “The Kharijites in Contemporary Scholarship,” in Oxford Bibliographies Online, 35 (2013).
  • “Tracing the Ascetic Life and Very Special Death of Abu Bilal: Martyrdom and Early Ibadi Identity,” in Angeliki Ziaka (Ed.), On Ibadism (pp. 59-72). Hildesheim: George Olms Verlag, 2013.
  • “North African and Omani Ibādī Accounts of the Munāzara: A Preliminary Comparison,” in Cyrille Alliet (Ed.), L'ibādisme: une minorité au cœur de l'islam (pp. 63-73). Aix-en-Provence: Revue des Mondes Musulmans et de la Méditerranée, 2012.
  • (Review) “Ibādism: Origins and Early Development in Oman,” in Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 39 (2012): 467-477.
  • “What do we Learn about the Early Khārijites and Ibāḍiyya from their Coins?” in Journal of the American Oriental Society 103/2 (2011): 167-187.
  • “The Ibāḍī ‘Stages of Religion’ Re-examined: Tracing the History of the Masālik al-Dīn,” in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 73/2 (2010): 207-22.
  • “Source-Critical Methodologies in Recent Scholarship on the Khārijites,” in History Compass 7/5 (2009): 1376-90.
  • “Satan’s Seven Specious Arguments: al-Shahrastānī’s Kitāb al-Milal wa’l-Nihal in an Ismā‘īlī Context,” in Journal of Islamic Studies 19/2 (2008): 178-195


Recent Courses

Spring 2016

IFS 2019         Heretics, Rebels and Militants in the Islamic World  
This e-series course addresses some of these questions about the variety of Islamic religious perspectives. We will evaluate the topics of Islamic sectarianism and denominationalism by tracing the main sectarian movements among medieval and modern Muslims.  Students will engage in broad, critical and creative thinking about the creation of “orthodoxy” and “heresy,” the development of religious differences, the interaction between politics, culture and religion, and the issue of religious violence. They will gain knowledge and critical thinking skills that will assist them as they navigate a range of perspectives and trajectories related to the world’s many different Muslims.  Meets LS history and multicultural Y requirements.

REL3936-02   Special Topics: Islamic Law and Society 
This course examines the development of Islamic law and legal cultures as they impact and are shaped by the various contexts in which they operate.  Focusing especially on the intersections between Islam law and Islamic societies, the course presents students with some of the most recent scholarship on the origins and evolution of Islamic law, its manifestations in the medieval period, and its interpretations in the modern era.  The course uses primary sources in conjunction with source critical secondary literature to explore contemporary scholarly debates surrounding Islamic law, its interpreters, and its social contexts. 

Fall 2015

REL3363                 Islamic Traditions  
A historical and topical survey of Islam as a religion and civilization that focuses on the formative and classical periods of Islamic history.  The course is primarily concerned with: the life and career of Muhammad the Prophet of Islam, the scriptural sources of Islam (i.e. the Qur’an and the Sunna), the development of the Muslim community and its principle institutions (schools of thought, law, theology, cultural life and mystical traditions).  The course will acquaint you with significant aspects of Islam as a religion, and to help you think through some of the basic questions of human religious experience in light of the responses given to those questions by the great sages and saints of the Islamic tradition. Fulfills Liberal Studies- Cultural Practice and Diversity in Western Culture (Y) requirements.

REL4366                Shi’ite Islam

RLG5367               Sem: Shi’ite Islam
Seminar on Shi‛ite Islam, focuses on the manifold expressions of Shi‛ism from its origins to the present day.  The course will examine the political divisions within the early Islamic community that led to the development of the shi‘a.  After examining the earliest Shi‛a sects, the course will shift to the major juridical and theological developments within Ithna-‘Ashari (“12er”) Shi’ism (such as the doctrine of the Imamate and the occultation and return of the 12th Imam).  The course will also study the establishment and elaboration of Zaydi and Isma‘ili Shiʽism.  The latter part of the course will be devoted to contemporary issues among the Shi‛ites, including the martyrdom of Husayn and the role of Hizbullah in the politics of the Middle East. Prerequisites: REL 3363 Islamic Traditions, or the equivalent basic working knowledge of Islam and Islamic history is a prerequisite for this course.