Joel Blecher Assistant Professor of Religion and Adjunct Professor of Law

Joel Blecher

Baker 205


  • Ph.D. in Religion, Princeton University, 2013
  • M.A. in Religion, Princeton University, 2010
  • B.A. in Religion with a minor in Political Science, high honors, Swarthmore College, 2004


Research Interests

Hadith and Hadith Commentary; Islamic Law and Society; Scriptural Hermeneutics; Transmission of Religious Knowledge from Andalusia to the Indian Ocean; Manuscript and Print Reading Cultures; Salafism; Secularism, Race and Ethnicity in Islamic Societies

Current Research

My current book project investigates the transformation of the commentary tradition on Prophetic traditions (hadith), a central hub of Islamic intellectual life and a foundational source of Islamic law, theology, and religious history. By touring oral and written sources from three historical periods and locales in which the commentary tradition on the most prestigious collection of hadith flourished — Classical Andalusia, Medieval Egypt and Modern India — I argue that the meanings of hadith were shaped as much by commentators' political, cultural and regional contexts as by the fine-grained intellectual debates that developed over long periods of time. By approaching hadith commentary as a living and dynamic practice with social and intellectual stakes, my project sheds new light not only on a vital but unexplored area of the Islamic tradition, it also synthesizes new avenues for scholars of history, anthropology and religion who study cultures of reading and interpretation.


Introduction to Islam; Islamic Civilization; The Qur’an; Prophetic Traditions; Islamic Law; Islamic Political Thought; Islam and Gender; Islamic Mysticism.

Selected Publications

Peer Reviewed Articles in Journals

  • "Revision in the Manuscript Age: New Evidence of Early Versions of Ibn Ḥajar's Fatḥ al-Bārī,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, University of Chicago Press, forthcoming.
  • "Hadith Commentary in the Presence of Students, Patrons, and Rivals: Ibn Hajar and Sahih al-Bukhari in Mamluk Cairo." Oriens 41, no. 3-4 (2013): 261-287.

Peer Reviewed Articles in Books

  • "'Usefulness without toil': al-Suyūṭī and the art of concise ḥadīth commentary," in Al-Suyūṭī, a Polymath of the Mamlūk Period, ed. Antonella Ghersetti. Leiden: Brill, 2016.
  • "Overlooking Race and Secularism in Muslim Philadelphia," in Race and Secularism in America. Co-authored with Josh Dubler. Eds. Vincent Lloyd and Jonathan S. Kahn. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016.
  • "Pedagogy and the Digital Humanities: Undergraduate Exploration into the Transmission of Early Islamic Law," in The Digital Humanities and Islamic & Middle East Studies. Ed. Elias Muhanna. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016.

Peer Reviewed Articles in Works of Reference

  • "Ḥadīth Commentary,” Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE, ed. Kate Fleet, Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas, Everett Rowson, et. al., forthcoming.
  • “Hadith Commentary.” Oxford Bibliographies in Islamic Studies. Ed. Andrew Rippin. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.


  • "Review of Women and the Transmission of Knowledge in Islam, by Asma Sayeed." Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 74, no. 1 (2015): 172-174.