Adam Gaiser

Associate Professor of Religion
Dr. Adam Gaiser

Contact Information

History and Ethnography of Religions
Office Location
Office: M07 Dodd Hall
Resume / CV
Office Hours

By Appointment


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.
  • "In them are Good Models": Ibādī depictions of the Muhakkima,” in Reinhard Eisener (Ed.), Today's Perspectives on Ibadi History (pp. 75-81). Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 2017.
  • “A Narrative Identity Approach to Islamic Sectarianism,” in Nader Hashemi, & Danny Postel (Eds.), Sectarianization: Mapping the Politics of the New Middle East (pp. 61-75). London: Hurst, 2017.
  • “Takfīr re-examined: polemic and ambiguity in the sources on the Muhakkima,” in Barbara Michalak-Pikulska, & Reinhard Eisener (Eds.), Ibadi Jurisprudence: Origins, Developments and Cases (pp. 31-38). New York: Georg Olms Verlag, 2015.
  • “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 2018 
REL3367 Islamic Traditions II: Islam up to the Modern World

This course examines Islam and its adherents from 1300 CE to the present, concentrating on the last two centuries of Islamic history: the period of reform, renewal, and revolution in the wake of Western political and cultural domination. This course investigates a basic question: What happened to different Muslim communities and intellectuals (specifically those in the Arab world, Iran, Turkey, and Africa) as they responded to the challenges posted by "Westernization" and "modernization?" Moreover, it explores the relatively new phenomenon of Islam in America.

REL4366/5367: Seminar on Shi’ite Islam

This seminar focuses on the manifold expressions of Shi'ism from its origins to the present day. It examines the political divisions within the early Islamic community that led to the development of the shi'a. The seminar also examines the earliest Shi'a sects and 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 seminar also studies the establishment and elaboration of Fatimid Isma'ilism. The latter part of the seminar is devoted to contemporary issues among the Shi'ites, including contemporary treatments of the martyrdom of Hussayn and the role of Hizbullah in the politics of the Middle East.

FALL 2017

REL3363: Islamic Traditions

This course provides a historical and topical survey of Islam as a religion and civilization, focusing on the formative and classical periods of its 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 principal institutions (schools of thought, law, theology, cultural life, and mystical traditions). Meets Liberal Studies: Cultural Practice (LS-CUL) and Diversity in Western Experience (DIV-YWE). 

REL4366/RLG5367: Islam in North 

This course surveys in seminar format the manifestations of Islam in the United States, as well as American perceptions of Islam and Muslims. The course begins with the early 18th century and examines early American attitudes toward Muslims, and then moves to the experience of Islam among African-Americans. The latter third of the course is devoted to the assimilation of Muslim immigrants in the US, and how the issues of race, gender, "trans-nationalism" and stereotypes impact the American Muslim community.