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Omid Ghaemmaghami

Omid Ghaemmaghami

Contact Information

Office:   Library Tower 512 (5th Floor)
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Curriculum vitae  


Current Position

Associate Professor of Arabic and Near Eastern Studies 

Director, Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Studies

Binghamton University (SUNY)

Previous Positions

Faculty Member, The Arabic School, Middlebury College

Sessional Instructor of Arabic, Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, University of Toronto

Research Interests

My primary areas of research are Shīʿī Islam, messianism, sectarianism, and the history of ideas. My first monograph (currently under preparation) brings together these disciplines by examining the question of encounters with the Hidden Imam in Twelver Shīʿī literature. The history of what has come to be known as Twelver Shīʿī Islam since the late 3rd/9th century is a history of attempts to deal with the abrupt loss of the Imam. According to the group that came to be known as the Twelver Shīʿa, the twelfth and final Imam – most commonly referred to as the Mahdī and the Qāʾim – did not die like the Prophet Muḥammad and the previous Imams but rather concealed himself (commonly referred to as the Imam's ghayba or occultation) and continues to be physically alive on earth while waiting for the appointed time of his (re)appearance. A letter said to have been dictated by this figure in the year 329/941, on the eve of what has come to be known as the period of the Greater Occultation, declared anyone who claims to see him before his return a "lying impostor." Based on a critical study of this letter and the earliest extant Shīʿī sources concerning the occultation and in particular the question of seeing and contacting the Hidden Imam, my book demonstrates that in the early years of the Greater Occultation, Shīʿī authorities maintained that seeing the Imam was no longer possible. This position, however, proved untenable to maintain before historical exigencies and the incessant longing for direct contact with the Imam. Almost a century after the start of the Greater Occultation, prominent scholars began to concede the possibility that some Shīʿa can see the Hidden Imam, thus foreshadowing a radical shift. A century later, accounts began to appear detailing encounters between the Imam and the most privileged of his votaries in a wakeful state. In the earliest accounts, the Imam is most often presented as a healer and miracle-worker. It is much later, after the Imam's final letter had been negotiated, that the stories of encounters with him began to grow in number and become more embellished. While the Imam continues working miracles, in some of these later accounts, he also answers vexing legal or theological questions to prominent Shīʿī ulama, in essence providing the same direct knowledge to his de facto surrogates that is believed to have been suspended when the Greater Occultation began. Whereas some of these accounts have previously been translated into French, my book brings an entirely new set of concerns, questions and methods of investigation in probing the Sitz im Leben of the accounts and what they can teach us about the invention of tradition and the evolution and dynamics of authority in Shīʿī Islam.

My other main areas of research interest are the Qur'an and its interpretation, Islamic eschatology, grammatical anomalies in Arabic religious literature, the Shaykhī movement in Shīʿī Islam, and the Bābī and Bahāʾī religions. 

Teaching Interests

My teaching interests include Qur'anic Arabic; Qur'anic exegesis; readings in Arabic religious texts; medieval Arabic literature; Arabic grammar; Islamic thought; Islamic mysticism and comparative mystical literature; the images of Muḥammad; Shīʿī Islam; comparative religion with a focus on doctrines, rituals, messianism and eschatology; modern standard Arabic; and modern Persian.


  • PhD, Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies, University of Toronto (2013)
  • MA, Islamic & Near Eastern Studies, Washington University in St. Louis (2005)
  • BA, The Study of Religion, University of California, San Diego (2003)

Academic Publications (most recent)

Book manuscript (forthcoming):‎

Ghaemmaghami, Omid. Encounters with the Hidden Imam in Early and Pre-Modern Twelver Shīʿī ‎Islam, under contract with Brill Academic Publishers for its Islamic History and Civilization ‎series

Refereed book chapters:

Ghaemmaghami, Omid. "{And the earth will shine with the light of its Lord} (Q 39:69): Qāʾim and ‎Qiyāma in Shīʿī Thought." In Roads to Paradise: Eschatology and Concepts of the Hereafter in ‎Islam, edited by Sebastian Günther and Todd Lawson, volume 1, 605-48, Leiden: Brill, 2017. ‎‎
‎——. "'Except the Mawlā': Notes on Two Hadiths concerning the Ghayba of the Twelfth Imam." In ‎Esotérisme shi'ite, ses racines et ses prolongements, edited by Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi, M. ‎De Cillis, D. De Smet, and O. Mir-Kasimov, 369-85, Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2016. 
‎——. "Al-Nuʿmānī on the Greater Occultation of the Twelfth Imam." In Islamic Theological Themes: A ‎Primary Source Reader, edited by John Renard, 226-32, Oakland: University of California Press, ‎‎2014. 
‎——. "The Green Isle in Shīʿī, Early Shaykhī, Bābī and Bahāʾī Topography." In Unity in Diversity: ‎Mysticism, Messianism and the Construction of Religious Authority in Islam, edited by Orkhan ‎Mir-Kasimov, 137-73. Leiden: Brill, 2014. 
‎——. "Numinous Vision, Messianic Encounters: Typological Representations in a Version of the ‎Prophet's ḥadīth al-ruʾyā and in Visions and Dreams of the Hidden Imam." In Dreams and ‎Visions in Islamic Societies, edited by Ȫzgen Felek and Alexander D. Knysh, 51-76. Albany: State ‎University of New York Press, 2012. ‎

Refereed journal article:

Ghaemmaghami, Omid. "Arresting the Eschaton: Mīrzā Ḥusayn Nūrī Ṭabarsī (d. 1320/1902) and the ‎Babi and Baha'i Religions." Journal of Religious History 36, 4 (2012): 486-98. 


Saiedi, Nader. "The Ethiopian King: New Research concerning Mubárak, the Báb's Ethiopian Servant," ‎translated and annotated by Omid Ghaemmaghami. Baha'i Studies Review 17, 1 (2012): 181-6. ‎‎

Rafati, Vahid. "Color Symbolism in the Writings of the Báb," translated by Omid Ghaemmaghami. In A ‎Most Noble Pattern: Essays in the Study of the Writings of the Báb, edited by Todd Lawson and ‎Omid Ghaemmaghami, 33-51. Oxford: George Ronald, 2012. 

Tavakoli-Targhi, Mohamad. "Anti-Bahāʾism and Islāmism in Iran," translated by Omid ‎Ghaemmaghami. In The Bahaʾis of Iran, edited by Dominic Brookshaw and Seena Fazel, 200-‎‎231. London: Routledge, 2008. 

Edited volume:

Lawson, Todd and Omid Ghaemmaghami, eds. A Most Noble Pattern: Collected Essays on the Writings ‎of the Báb, ʿAlī Muḥammad Shīrāzī (1819-1850). Oxford: George Ronald, 2012. This volume features the following chapter:‎ Ghaemmaghami, Omid. "A Youth of Medium Height: The Báb's Encounter with the ‎Hidden Imam in Tafsír Súrat al-Kawthar." In A Most Noble Pattern: Essays in ‎the Study of the Writings of the Báb, edited by Todd Lawson and Omid ‎Ghaemmaghami, 175-95. Oxford: George Ronald, 2012. ‎

Encyclopedia/reference work articles:‎
Ghaemmaghami, Omid and Mina Yazdani. ""Ḵāleṣi, Moḥammad Mahdi (1860-1925), a leading ‎Kazemayn-based Shiʿi jurist whose close involvement in anti-British politics in Iraq led to his ‎exile to Iran (i. His life and times; ii. A thematic survey of his major works; iii. The impact of his ‎political and scholastic legacies on historical development of political culture of the Shiʿi ‎clergy)." Encyclopædia Iranica, 2016 (invited) 

Momen, Moojan and Omid Ghaemmaghami. "ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib." Oxford Bibliographies Online: Islamic ‎Studies, 2012. 

Gordon, Matthew S. and Omid Ghaemmaghami. "Amīr al-Muʾminīn." The Oxford Encyclopedia of the ‎Islamic World

Fischer, Michael M. J. and Omid Ghaemmaghami. "Qom." The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic ‎World

Other publications:‎

Mauder, Christian and Omid Ghaemmaghami. "Conference Report: 'Roads to Paradise: Eschatology ‎and Concepts of the Hereafter in Islam'. University of Göttingen, 27–31 May 2009." Journal of ‎Qurʾanic Studies 11, 1 (2009): 152-160. 


Selected Fellowships and Awards

Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH), Binghamton University, 2016‎

Waheed Samy Award for Excellence in Arabic Writing, presented by the American University in Cairo (AUC), 2013

Fellow, Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA), Cairo, 2012-13‎

University of Toronto School of Graduate Studies Dissertation Completion Grant, 2011-12

Ontario Graduate Fellowship, 2008-09

United States Fulbright Fellowship for Syria with Critical Language Enhancement Award, 2007-08

Kathryn Wasserman-Davis Scholarship, Middlebury College, 2007


Conference Presentations (most recent)

‎"The Messianic Turn in Modern Twelver Shīʿī Islam: Notes on ʿAlī-Akbar Nahāvandī's Fine ‎Wonders of Beauty," MESA Annual Meeting, Boston, 19 November 2016‎ (refereed).

‎"'God has made love His religion': Some Introductory Notes on the Prose Works of Tahirih," 2016 ‎Iranian Studies Biennial Conference, International Society for Iranian Studies, Vienna, 3 ‎August 2016 ‎(refereed).

‎"'And like that, he's gone!': Confession, Contention, and the Hidden Imam in Twelver Shīʿī Islam, ‎Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH) speaker series, Binghamton ‎University, 17 February 2016‎"Notes on Three Curious Reports Concerning the Ghayba," MESA Annual Meeting, Denver, 23 November 2015 (refereed).

"'And there befell the Israelites a Period of Concealment': Notes on Moses and the Shīʿī Messiah in Early Twelver Apologetic Literature, Qiṣaṣ al-Anbiyā' Conference, Naples, 15 November 2015 (refereed).

"The Intermissionists in Early Shīʿī Islam," American Oriental Society, 225th Annual Meeting, New Orleans, 16 March 2015 (refereed).

 "After a Break in the Sequence: Moses and the Messiah in Early and Modern Shīʿī Literature," 2014 Iranian Studies Biennial Conference, International Society for Iranian Studies, Montreal, August 2014 (refereed).

Last Updated: 8/1/19