Michael Sells

John Henry Barrows Professor of Islamic History and Literature in the Divinity School
Michael Sells

Ph.D., University of Chicago

Special Interests

Ghazal and other forms of lyric poetry; mystical literature; qur'an; classical Arabic poetry; sacred texts, violence, and the religious imagination.

Michael Sells studies and teaches in the areas of qur'anic studies; Sufism; Arabic and Islamic love poetry; mystical literature (Greek, Islamic, Christian, and Jewish); and religion and violence. The new and expanded edition of his book Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations appeared in 2007. He has published three volumes on Arabic poetry: Desert Tracings: Six Classic Arabian Odes, which focuses upon the pre-Islamic period; Stations of Desire, which focuses upon the love poetry of Ibn al-'Arabi; and The Cambridge History of Arabic Literature, Al-Andalus, which he coedited and to which he contributed. His books on mysticism include Early Islamic Mysticism, translations and commentaries on influential mystical passages from the Qur'an, hadith, Arabic poetry, and early Sufi writings; and Mystical Languages of Unsaying, an examination of apophatic language, with special attention to Plotinus, John the Scot, Ibn al-'Arabi, Meister Eckhart, and Marguerite Porete. His work on religion and violence includes: The Bridge Betrayed: Religion and Genocide in Bosnia; and The New Crusades: Constructing the Muslim Enemy, which he coedited and to which he contributed. He is currently finishing a book entitled The God of War: America in a World of Religion. He teaches courses on the Qur'an, Islamic love poetry, comparative mystical literature, Arabic Sufi poetry, Arabic religious texts, and Ibn al-'Arabi.


See Prof. Sells' personal site.