ILSP Directors, staff, and affiliates mourn the passing of M. Shahab Ahmed on Thursday, September 17. Ahmed, an ILSP Research Fellow in 2014-2015, was remembered by HLS’ Noah Feldman in Bloomberg View: “He demonstrated, in his work and in his life, that it’s within the power of today’s Muslims to make rich and cosmopolitan meaning within their tradition—to embrace, not reject. His legacy should extend beyond the world of scholarship to the world of thought and belief and action and love.”
Ahmed received his primary schooling in Singapore, his secondary schooling in the UK, and attended university in Malaysia, Egypt and the USA. He first came to Harvard in 2000 as a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows, and was subsequently appointed to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in 2005. His recently completed book, What is Islam? An Essay on the Importance of Being Islamic (an attempt at conceptualizing Islam as a theoretical object and analytical category) will be published by Princeton University Press in December of this year. At the time of his death, he was working on two other book manuscripts, Neither Paradise Nor Hellfire: Rethinking Islam through Ottoman Culture/Rethinking Ottoman Culture through Islam (about the nature of normative Islam in seventeenth-century Ottoman society; co-authored with Nenad Filipovic), and The Problem of the Satanic Verses and the Formation of Islamic Orthodoxy (a history of the attitudes of Muslims towards the Satanic verses incident from the seventh century down to the present day).
Ahmed leaves his wife, Nora Lessersohn, a doctoral candidate in History and Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, his sister, Dr. Shahla Ahmed, and his parents, Drs. Razia and Mohammed Mumtazuddin Ahmed.
Harvard University will hold a memorial service for Ahmed later this fall. He will be sorely missed by his friends and colleagues at ILSP.