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Omid Ghaemmaghami

Omid Ghaemmaghami

Contact Information

Office:   Library Tower 512 (5th Floor)
Office Hours:




Current Position

Assistant Professor of Arabic, Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies, Binghamton University (SUNY)

Faculty Member, The Arabic School, Middlebury College

Previous Position

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. My second book project will focus on the central Qura'nic eschatological notion of encountering God and the manifold ways this notion has been understood and interpreted throughout Islamic history.

I am also keenly interested in the fields of Islamic codicology and Arabic script palaeography. I plan to receive further training in these areas in coming years with an eye to preparing critical editions of medieval and modern Arabic texts.

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; modern Persian; and Persian-Arabic translation.


  • 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 (peer-reviewed, most recent)

"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. [URL]

"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. (refereed) [URL]

"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. (refereed) [URL]

"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. [URL]

Academic Publications (other)

"Khalesi, Mahdi," for Encyclopædia Iranica (with Mina Yazdani), 2016. [URL]

A Most Noble Pattern: Collected Essays on the Writings of the Báb, ʿAlī Muḥammad Shīrāzī (1819-1850) . Oxford: George Ronald, 2012 (co-editor with Todd Lawson; also contributed a single-authored chapter and two translations). [URL]

"ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib." Oxford Bibliographies Online: Islamic Studies (with Moojan Momen), 2012. [URL]

"Conference: 'Roads to Paradise: Eschatology and Concepts of the Hereafter in Islam'. University of Göttingen, 27–31 May 2009." Journal of Qurʾanic Studies 11, no. 1 (2009): 152-160 (with Christian Mauder). [URL]

Academic Translations

Saiedi, Nader. "The Ethiopian King: New Research Concerning Mubárak, the Báb's Ethiopian Servant," translated by Omid Ghaemmaghami. Bahá'í Studies Review 17, 1 (2012): 181-6. [URL]

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. [URL]

Selected Fellowships and Awards

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

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

Current Projects


An Invented Tradition: Encounters with the Hidden Imam in Early and Pre-Modern Twelver Shīʿī Islam (forthcoming; under contract with Brill)

Edited Volume

Remembrance, Discourse, and Beauty in Islamicate Civilization: Essays in Honour of Benjamin Todd Lawson (with Sebastian Günther)

Book Chapters

"{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 (refereed)

"{And they thought, as you thought, that God will by no means send anyone again} (Qur'an 72:7): A Modern Re-Conception of the Islamic Doctrine of Finality," Proceedings of a conference on approaches to the Qur'an in contemporary Iran held at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, 2 September 2013 (refereed)

"'Except the Mawlā': Notes on Two Hadiths concerning the Ghayba of the Twelfth Imam," for the volume, Esotérisme shi'ite, ses racines et ses prolongements, edited by Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi and Daniel De Smet, to be published by l'Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Sorbonne) en co-édition avec l'Institute of Ismaili Studies ("Shi'i Heritage Series") (refereed)


"ʿAbbas Qummi/Qommi," for Encyclopædia Iranica

"ʿAli-Akbar Nahavandi," for Encyclopædia Iranica

"Mahdi," for Oxford Bibliographies Online: Islamic Studies

Book Reviews

Kalima wa Nagham: A Textbook for Teaching Arabic, Volume 1 by Ghazi M. Abuhakema, Nasser M. Isleem, Ra'ed F. Qasem. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014, for al-ʿArabiyya, the journal of the American Association of Teachers of Arabic

Conference Presentations (most recent)

"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).

Panel Convener: "Messianism in Iranian Islam: From Conceptions to Re-Conceptions," 2014 Iranian Studies Biennial Conference, International Society for Iranian Studies, Montreal, August 2014 (refereed).

"Purity of Intention: al-Shahīd al-Thānī (d. 965/1558) on the Rules of Ethical Conduct for Teachers and Students of Knowledge," Workshop on Teaching Ethics – The Ethics of Teaching: Moral Education in Classical Islam and its Implications on Contemporary Societies, Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst, Cairo, Egypt, 18 March 2013 (invited).

"Knowledge and the Hidden Imam in Early Imāmī Shīʿī Islam (874-1050CE)," International Conference on Knowledge and Education in Classical Islam: Historical Foundations and Contemporary Impact, Göttingen University, 1-5 October 2011 (invited).

"The Debate over Contact with the Hidden Imam at al-Ḥawza al-ʿIlmiyya in Qum and al-Ḥawza al-Zaynabiyya in Damascus," Clerical Authority in Shīʿī Islam Project, the British Academy, London, 15 June 2011 (refereed)

"'Anyone Claiming to Have Seen Me is a Lying Impostor': Tensions in Shīʿī Messianism and the Final Pronouncement of the Hidden Imam," MESA Annual Meeting, San Diego, 21 November 2010 (refereed)

"To the Land of the Promised One: The Green Isle in Akhbārī, Shaykhī, Bābī and Bahāʾī Topography," Conference on Messianism and Normativity in the Late Medieval and Modern Persianate World, Freie Universität, Berlin, 17-18 September 2010 (invited).

"The Abode of Peace: Maḥmūd b. Jaʿfar Maythamī (d. 1893) and the Phenomenon of Encounters with the Hidden Imam," 2010 Iranian Studies Biennial Conference, International Society for Iranian Studies (ISIS), Santa Monica, May 2010 (refereed).

"Seeing the Unseen: The Question of Encounters with the Hidden Imam in Early Twelver Shīʿī Islam," American Oriental Society, 220th Annual Meeting, St. Louis, March 2010 (refereed).

Scientific Organizations (active membership)

Last Updated: 2/1/17