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You are here: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2023/24 Dr. Simon Wolfgang Fuchs

Dr. Simon Wolfgang Fuchs

© Peter Himsel
Albert-Ludwigs-Unviersität Freiburg
Islamic and Middle East Studies
Internal Junior Fellow
October 2019 - July 2020

Room 02 009
Phone +49 (0) 761-203 97365
Fax +49 (0) 761-203 97451


I am a Lecturer in Islamic and Middle East Studies at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany. I am interested in how the Islamic scholarly tradition is debated and negotiated in modern and contemporary Muslim societies. My research revolves around the travel of ideas between West, Central, and South Asia. I focus on religious authority, the global history of the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79, transnational Shi’ism, sectarianism and jihad, Islamic political thought, as well as Islamism and leftist movements in the Muslim world. Fieldwork over the last couple of years has led me to Egypt, Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Tunisia, and Lebanon. My work draws on materials in Arabic, Persian, and Urdu.

Before coming to Freiburg in October 2017, I was a Research Fellow in Islamic Studies at Gonville & Caius College, University of Cambridge. I completed my PhD in September 2015 at Princeton University's Department of Near Eastern Studies. My dissertation “Relocating the Centers of Shīʿī Islam: Religious Authority, Reform, and the Limits of the Transnational in Colonial India and Pakistan” was advised by Prof. Muhammad Qasim Zaman. In May 2019, I was elected a member of the Junge Akademie.

Selected Publications

  • “Casting Aside the Clutches of Conjecture: The Striving for Religious Certainty at Aligarh”, Islamic Law and Society (2020, Advance Articles): 1-25,
  • “Legalised Pedigrees: Sayyids and Shiʿi Islam in Pakistan,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (2020, FirstView): 1-16,
  • (Together with Maria-Magdalena Fuchs), “Introduction: Religious Minorities in Pakistan: Social Belonging, Identities, and Citizenship,” special issue “Religious Minorities in Pakistan”, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 43,1 (2020): 1-17,

  • “Faded Networks: The Overestimated Saudi Legacy of anti-Shi‘i Sectarianism in Pakistan”, Global Discourse 9,4 (2019): 703-715,

  • “Reclaiming the Citizen: Christian and Shi‘i Engagements with the Pakistani State”, special issue “Religious Minorities in Pakistan”, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 43,1 (2020):

  • In a Pure Muslim Land. Shiʿism between Pakistan and the Middle East (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2019), Islamic Networks and Muslim Civilization Series.
  • „Von Schiiten lernen: Der Reiz des Martyriums für sunnitische Gruppen in Pakistan und Afghanistan,” (Learning from Shiʿites: The Appeal of Martyrdom for Sunni Groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan) BEHEMOTH – A Journal on Civilisation 12,1 (2019):  52-68
  • “Glossy Global Leadership: Unpacking the Multilingual Religious Thought of the Afghan Jihad,” in Nile Green (ed), Afghanistan's Islam: From Conversion to the Taliban (Oakland: University of California Press, 2017), 189-206 and 299-307. Available open access at
  • “The Long Shadow of the State: The Iranian Revolution, Saudi Influence, and the Shifting Arguments of Anti-Shi‘i Sectarianism in Pakistan,” in Laurence Louër and Christophe Jaffrelot (eds), Pan-Islamic Connections. Transnational Networks between South Asia and the Gulf (London: Hurst, 2017), 217-232 and 290-300.


FRIAS Research Project

The Iranian Revolution: A Global Intellectual History

My FRIAS project aims at writing a global history of the Iranian Revolution of 1978/79. My goal is to understand when and how the revolution turned from being perceived as an event with universal aspirations to a narrow, sectarian Shi‘i project. As in the 1789 French and 1917 Russian revolutions, the political change in Iran promised to reshape the world in its own image. The popular uprising that toppled the Shah fascinated and inspired global audiences. My research project attempts at capturing and explaining this crucial moment in world history.

For her admirers, Iran decisively proved that the establishment of a modern Islamic state that combined parallel republican and religious structures was possible. Anti-imperialism and non-alignment seemed like common-sense answers in the midst of the Cold War and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Messages emanating from Iran managed to cross sectarian and even religious divides. Mandatory veiling and the quick unraveling of secular family laws sent a powerful message of how an Islamist state could be constructed. I intend to show how Khomeini’s Revolution caused nothing less than a paradigm shift in global Islamism by focusing in particular on non-Shi‘i actors (such as Tunisian students or Lebanese Maoists) in North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia and how they tried to make sense of the Revolution during the 1980s.