Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Ali S. Asani is currently Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures at Harvard University. He has also served as the Associate Director of the Prince AlWaleed bin Talal Islamic Studies Program at Harvard from 2010-2016.
After completing his high school education in Kenya, he attended Harvard College, with a concentration in the Comparative Study of Religion, graduating in 1977. He continued his graduate work at Harvard in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, receiving his PhD with high distinction in 1984. Since then he has been on the faculty at Harvard providing instruction in Islamic mysticism and Islamic civilisations with a particular focus on India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. He also offers instruction in various South Asian and African languages.
The recipient of several awards and grants, Professor Asani is the author of many scholarly journal and encyclopaedia articles, book chapters and several books on the devotional literatures of Muslim communities in South Asia, including the Bujh Niranjan: An Ismaili Mystical Poem (Harvard University Press, 1992), The Harvard Collection of Ismaili Literature in Indic Languages: A Descriptive Catalog and Finding Aid (Macmillan Reference, 1992), Celebrating Muhammad: Images of the Prophet in Popular Muslim Poetry (University of South Carolina, 1995) and his most recent book, Ecstasy and Enlightenment: The Ismaili Devotional Literatures of South Asia (I. B. Tauris in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2002). He is also the author of Let's Study Urdu: An Introductory Course (Yale University Press 2007) and Let's Study Urdu: An Introduction to the Script (Yale University Press 2007 - co-author).
Professor Asani also serves on the editorial board of the Journal of the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, Muqarnas, Journal of the Visual Arts of the Islamic Worldand the Khoj Journal of South Asian Studies. He is recipent of the Harvard Foundation medal for outstanding contributions to improving intercultural and race relations at Harvard and the nation, and more recently, the Petra C. Shattuck prize for excellence in teaching by Harvard's Division of Continuing Education.