Homayra Ziad earned a doctorate in Islamic Studies at Yale University (Religious Studies) and was Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies in the Department of Religion at Trinity College in Hartford, CT. At Trinity, she also served on Trinity’s Community Learning Initiatives advisory committee and guided students in Muslim community-based learning in Hartford. After six years, she chose to enter the public square as the inaugural Scholar of Islam at the non-profit organization Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies (ICJS) in Baltimore. At ICJS, she led the integration of the study and teaching of Islam and engagement with Muslim communities at one of the oldest freestanding interfaith organizations in the country, and worked with diverse learning communities (teachers, religious leaders, activists) to help participants reflect on religion in the public square. Through her work at an educational non-profit in Baltimore, she has created strong relationships with many Baltimore community leaders and with cultural and educational institutions, and remains committed to the pedagogy of community-based learning.
Homayra is trained as a generalist in classical and modern Islam, with a specialization in Sufism and Indo-Persian textual traditions. Her research explores the creation of religious selfhood and subjectivity and its relationship to language, as well as pre-modern and modern interpretation of the Qur’an. She is working on a book, Quest of the Nightingale: The Scriptural Selfhood of Khwajah Mir Dard, that explores the theology and hermeneutics of Khwajah Mir Dard (d. 1785), one of the “four pillars” of classical Urdu poetry. The book contends that Dard’s theology and poetics reveal a sensitive exploration of the centrality of language to the creation of religious subjectivities and selfhood in a rapidly changing socio-political order and argues that Dard as poet and cultural activist explicitly shaped the norms and cultural institutions of a new literary language (Urdu) to create new religious subjectivities centered on an interpretive project that he called the Path of Muhammad. Her interest in language and selfhood continues with her work on reformist Qur’an interpretation in the work of the Indian modernist litterateur, reformer and exegete, Abd al-Majid Daryabadi (1892-1977), intellectually linked with the Aligarh and Deobandi schools, and the early Jama`at i Islami, and credited with nearly fifty works, including popular Urdu and English translations and commentaries of the Qur’ān. Homayra is also interested in an ethnographic investigation into the neo-Sufi musical revival in Pakistan, how musicians and participants understand the terms Islam, Sufism, and Sufi music, whether and how they locate these terms within their own religious subjectivities, personal journeys, and within state-sanctioned religion.
Homayra has been active in imagining forward the new academic field of Interreligious Studies, serving for five years as co-founder and co-chair of the American Academy of Religion’s Unit in Interreligious and Interfaith Studies. She is co-editor of Words to Live By: Sacred Sources for Interreligious Engagement (Orbis Press, 2018). She has fifteen years of experience in interreligious programming and education, creating workshops, courses and retreats that help community leaders navigate and thrive in an interreligious world. She has written for popular venues, consulted for and created programs for the media, and speaks regularly in public forums on Islam and Islamophobia.