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Department of Near Eastern Studies

Cornell University Cornell University Near Eastern Studies

Faculty Detail

Luxor Temple



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Toorawa, Shawkat M.

Associate Professor

phone: 607/255-1330
room: White Hall, Room 408


Department Appointments

  • Near Eastern Studies (NES)

Graduate Fields

  • Comparative Literature
  • Medieval Studies
  • Near Eastern Studies

Other Affiliations

  • French Studies Program
  • Medieval Studies (MEDVL)
  • Medieval Studies Program
  • Program of Jewish Studies
  • Religious Studies Program (RELST)
  • South Asia Program


Shawkat M. Toorawa (B.A., A.M., Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania) is Associate Professor of Arabic Literature and Islamic Studies. His interests are classical and medieval Arabic literature, modern Arabic poetry, the Qur'an, and the Indian Ocean. He is co-author of Interpreting the Self: Autobiography in the Arabic Literary Tradition (California, 2001); translator of Adonis's A Time Between Ashes and Roses: Poems (Syracuse, 2004) co-editor of Law and Education in Medieval Islam: Studies in memory of George Makdisi (Gibb, 2004); co-editor of Arabic Literary Culture, 500-925 (ThomsonGale, 2005); author of Ibn Abi Tahir Tayfur and Arabic Writerly Culture: A ninth-century bookman in Baghdad (RoutledgeCurzon, 2005); editor of The Western Indian Ocean: Essays on islands and islanders (HTT, 2007); and co-editor of Islam: A short guide to the faith (Eerdmans). He is preparing a critical edition of the Shifa' al-‘alil by the eighteenth-century belletrist Azad Bilgrami.  He is a Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellow; and Co-Executive Editor of the Library of Arabic Literature, an initiative to edit and translate the premodern Arabic literary heritage.


  • Classical and medieval Arabic literature
  • Modern Arabic poetry
  • The Qur’an
  • Plural Islam
  • The Indian Ocean

Selected Publications

Articles and contributions to books (selected):
  • Prayer.  In Key Themes for the Study of Islam, ed. Jamal J. Elias (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2010), 263-280.
  • Azad Bilgrami.  In Essays in Arabic Literary Biography II: 1350-1850, ed. Joseph E. Lowry and Devin J. Stewart (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2008]: Azad Bilgrami (1704-1786), 91-98
  • The Shifa’ al-‘alil of Azad Bilgrami (d. 1200/1786): Introducing an Eighteenth-Century Work on al-Mutanabbi’s Poetry.  In Middle Eastern Literatures 11/2 (2008), 249–264
  • Referencing the Qur’an: A Proposal, with Illustrative Translations and Discussion.  In Journal of Qur’anic Studies 9(1) (2007), 134–148
  • Islamic Literatures: Writing in the Shade of the Qur’an.  In Voices of Islam, vol. 4:  Voices of Beauty, Art and Science, ed. Vincent Cornell (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 2006), 121–141
  • Defining Adab by (re)defining the Adib: Ibn Abi Tahir Tayfur and storytelling.  In On Fiction and Adab in Medieval Arabic Literature, ed. Philip Kennedy (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2005), 285-306.
  • Modern Arabic Literature and the Qur’an: Creativity, Inimitability… Incompatibilities?  In Religious Perspectives in Modern Muslim and Jewish Literatures, ed. Glenda Abramson and Hilary Kilpatrick (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2005), 239-257.
  • Travel in the Medieval Islamic World: The Importance of Patronage as Illustrated by `Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi (and other littérateurs).  In Eastward Bound: Travel and Travellers, 1050-1550, ed. Rosamund Allen (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004), 57-70. [refereed]
  • Ibn Abi Tahir vs. al-Jahiz.  In `Abbasid Studies. Occasional Papers of the School of 'Abbasid Studies. Cambridge, 6-10 July 2002, ed. James Montgomery (Leuven:  Peeters, 2004), 247-261.
  • (revision): A Portrait of `Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi's Education and Instruction.  In Law and Education in Medieval Islam: Studies in Memory of George Makdisi, ed. J. Lowry, D. Stewart and S. M. Toorawa (Cambridge: Gibb Memorial Trust, 2004), 91-109
  •  “We were here first”: The rhetoric of identity and anteriority among African-American Muslims and Muslims in Mauritius.  In Journal of Islamic Law and Culture 8(1) (Spring/Summer 2003), 1-39
  • Seeking refuge from evil: The power and portent of the closing chapters of the Qur’an.  In Journal of Qur’anic Studies 4(2) (2002), 54-60
  • Wâq al-wâq: Fabulous, Fabular, Indian Ocean (?) Islands…  In Emergences 10(2) (November 2000), 387-402
Translations (selected):
  • Dracula [a translation of Salwa Al-Naimi, ‘Drakula’, with Translator’s Note].  In Poetry194/1 (April 2009), 62-63.
  • Two poems by Adonis [‘Flower of Alchemy’ and ‘Church of Daytime’, translations of ‘Zahrat al-kimiya’ and ‘Kanisat al-nahar’], in al-‘Arabiyya 40-41 (2007-2008), 145.
  • Toward an English rhymed prose translation of Surat al-Rahman [Q rahman55] in al-‘Arabiyya 39-40 (2005-2006).
  • Adonis, Three Poems [‘Captive Wonder’, ‘The Tree of Day and Night’, and ‘The Sign’, translations of ‘al-Dahshah al-asirah’, ‘Shajarat al-naar wal-layl’, and ‘al-Ishara’], Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings 8(1) (2008), 74-75.
  • The Fall [translation of Adonis, ‘al-Suqut’]. Redivider 5(1) (Fall 2007), 81.
  • Q Insān 76, Q Yā Sīn 36, and Q Fātiḥa 1.  In ‘Referencing the Qur’an: A Proposal, with Illustrative Translations and Discussion,’ in Journal of Qur’anic Studies 9(1) (2007), 139–147.
  • The New Noah [a translation of Adonis, ‘Nuh al-jadid’, with Translator’s Note].  In Poetry 190/1 (April 2007), 21-23.
  • ‘The Inimitable Rose’, being Qur’anic saj‘ from Surat al-Duhâ to Surat al-Nâs (Q. 93–114) in English rhyming prose, in Journal of Qur’anic Studies 8.2 (2006), 143–153.
  • Selections from the Autograph Notes of ‘Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi.  In K. Brustad et al, Interpreting the Self: Autobiography in the Arabic Literary Tradition, ed. D. F. Reynolds (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 156-164.
  • A Soiree with Abu Khalil al-Qabbani.  A translation of Sa‘dallah Wannus, ‘Sahra ma‘a Abi Khalil al-Qabbani’.  Part 1.  Journal of Arabic and Middle Eastern Literatures 3(1) (January 2000), 19-49.

Awards and Distinctions

  • New Directions Fellowship, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (2006-09)
  • Visiting Fellowship, Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (April-August 2007)
  • Senior Long-Term Fellowship, American Institute for Indian Studies (NEH Humanities Fellowship Program at Independent Research Institutions) (October 2006-April 2007)
  • 2001 (Fall), Faculty Fellowship, Focal Theme: ‘Diaspora and the Critical Imagination,’ Society for the Humanities, Cornell University
  • 2000-01, Ford Foundation Fellowship (non-resident), Project on Creolization in the Indian Ocean, Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, New York University
  • 1999-2000, Rockefeller African Humanities Institute Junior Fellowship, W. E. B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University
  • 1997, Doctoral Fellowship, School of Arts and Science, University of Pennsylvania
  • 1988-89, Fellowship, American Research Center in Egypt, Cairo
  • Humanities Faculty Research Grant (2010)
  • Honorary Member, National Residence Hall Honorary (2008-10)
  • The James A. Perkins Prize for Interracial Understanding and Harmony, Cornell University (2006)
  • Zahid ‘Ali Scholarship, Institute for Ismaili Studies, London (2005-10)
  • Member, Honorary Advisory Board, Abraham’s Vision (2005–)
  • Sophomore Seminar development grant, John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines, Cornell University (2004)
  • Subvention, John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines, Cornell University (for A Time between Ashes and Roses) (2004)
  • Award, Hull Memorial Publication Fund, Cornell University (for A Time between Ashes and Roses) (2004)
  • Humanities Faculty Research Grant, Society for the Humanities, Cornell University (2003-04)
  • Principal Investigator,Intercultural Awareness Cooperative (COOP) Grant, NAFSA:             Association of International Educators, ‘Muslims and Islam: Revealed’ (2002-03)
  • Member International Jury, Zanzibar International Film Festival, Stonetown, Zanzibar (1999)
  • First Prize, Aftaab-e-Islam Mosque Centenary Essay Competition , Mauritius (1996)
  • Honorable Mention, American Association of Teachers of Arabic Translation (AATA) Contest (1991)
  • Second Prize, The Ezra Pound Award for Literary Translation, University of Pennsylvania (1989)
  • Honorable Mention, William Carlos Williams Award of the Academy of American Poets (1988)
  • First Prize, AATA Translation Contest (1986)
  • Mortar Board Senior Honors Society (1984)