Since its establishment in 1991, the Islamic Legal Studies Program has developed an enviable reputation for sustained, careful, unbiased scholarship advancing the comparative understanding of Islamic law. Its reputation is largely due to efforts by the dedicated group of staff that administers the Program, aided and enlivened yearly by an equally dedicated group of Visiting Fellows. In addition, collaboration with faculty and students from other centers and programs at Harvard University in a myriad of disciplinary and interdisciplinary ways contributes to the wealth in people-power that makes up ILSP.
In January, ILSP welcomed Professor Intisar A. Rabb as Faculty Director and Rashid Alvi as Deputy Director. Professor Kristen A. Stilt will join Rabb as Co-Director of the program in September. Our new leadership team has many new and exciting initiatives and events planned for the upcoming academic year and beyond.
ILSP is pleased to welcome Professor Intisar A. Rabb as a new faculty director. Rabb, a leading expert on Islamic Law and legal history, joined the faculty of Harvard Law School on January 1, 2014. Rabb most recently was associate professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and Law at New York University School of Law, where she held a joint appointment at the NYU Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Department and the NYU School of Law.
Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow said: "Intisar is a first-rate scholar; she engages across historical and present-day legal issues and materials with nimbleness and contagious curiosity. We are delighted she is joining this community and look forward to supporting her keen interest in using the web and other tools for sharing accurate information about the Middle East and Islamic legal traditions with students, scholars, journalists and people all over the world. Generations of students and colleagues at HLS, at Harvard, and beyond will benefit enormously from her expertise, her teaching, and her wonderful way of engaging others in discussion of important issues."
In 2012, Rabb served as a visiting associate professor of law at Harvard Law School. From 2011 to 2013, she was a fellow at HLS's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, where she worked with a team to develop an online database aimed at connecting legal scholars and media producers with credible, authoritative information about trends in Islamic law. In 2010, she was named a Carnegie Scholar for her research on "Islamic Law and Legal Change: The Internal Critique," which examines criminal law reform in the Muslim world.
Said Rabb: "I am thrilled to be joining Harvard Law School: the ideal community in which to further explore and teach concepts of Islamic law, legal history, and comparative law in an interdisciplinary way. My colleagues at HLS are stellar scholars and teachers; I found the students I taught there to be consistently sharp and engaged; and the library resources—especially for the study of Islamic and Middle Eastern law—are unparalleled in any North American law school. In addition to continuing down the many avenues of intellectual engagement there, I look forward to coming back to the HLS classroom and to the library. I also look forward to building the Islamic Legal Studies Program to its full potential."
Rabb holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies (with a focus on Islamic Law) from Princeton University. Her dissertation, which won the Princeton NES Bayard and Cleveland Dodge Memorial Thesis Prize for Best Ph.D. Dissertation, focused on the history and function of legal maxims in Islamic law. In addition to her Ph.D., Rabb earned a B.S. from Georgetown University in Government and Arabic in 1999, a M.A. in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton in 2005 and a J.D. from Yale Law School, in 2006.
She served as a law clerk to the Hon. Thomas L. Ambro of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, from 2006 to 2007, and subsequently worked with members of the bench and bar in the United Kingdom as a Temple Bar Scholar through the American Inns of Court.
Kristen A. Stilt, a leading expert on Islamic Law and society, will join Professor Intisar A. Rabb as co-director of the Islamic Legal Studies Program beginning September 2014, with her appointment as Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.
Stilt comes to ILSP and HLS from Northwestern University, where she is Harry R. Horrow Professor in International Law at the Law School, as well as Professor of History.
Stilt’s research focuses on Islamic law and society in both historical and contemporary contexts. She was named a Carnegie Scholar for her work on constitutional Islam, and in 2013 was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.
“ILSP is a tremendous resource at HLS, and I look forward to leading its rejuvenation,” Stilt commented, “along with my co-Director, Intisar Rabb, and the ILSP team. I intend to create and deepen ties between ILSP and my wonderful new colleagues at HLS and throughout Harvard University. I also plan to initiate projects on a diverse range of topics, such as human rights and animal rights, and geographic areas, such as Central Asia. The coming year in particular will be an exciting time as we imagine ways to develop the full potential of ILSP.”
Prior to joining Northwestern University in 2007, she was an assistant professor at the University of Washington in the Law School and in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. She was a visiting associate professor at Harvard Law School from 2011-2012, and she was a visiting researcher at ILSP from 2003-2004. Stilt is the co-editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Islamic Law.
Rabb said, “Kristen Stilt brings a wealth of perspectives on a wide range of topics on Islamic law, in a way that is exciting to imagine the prospects for the study of Islamic law at Harvard and for ILSP. I look forward to welcoming her to HLS and to our work at ILSP in relaunching the Program to be a resource and a place of convening for scholars—whether specialist or comparatists—with a diverse set of interests in and around Islamic law.”
Stilt received a J.D. from The University of Texas School of Law, where she was an associate editor of the Texas Law Review and co-editor-in-chief of the Texas Journal of Women in the Law. Stilt holds a Ph.D. in History and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University.
ILSP welcomes Rashid Alvi in the newly created position of Deputy Director. Rashid joins ILSP from the corporate world, where he worked as an attorney, deal advisor, and executive. At the law firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell, Rashid specialized in mergers and acquisitions. He then moved to Wall Street, working at Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs, where he advised the Goldman Sachs Investment Partners (GSIP). He subsequently joined Acro Healthcare, LLC, a privately held company in the specialty pharmaceuticals industry, in an executive capacity. After helping Acro grow, Rashid advised on its sale to Lincare, Inc., a public company. Following the sale of Acro, Alvi worked as a principal at a boutique business advisory firm.
ILSP Director Professor Intisar Rabb said: “Rashid brings a wealth of experience that uniquely combines expertise in law, business management, and the academic study of Islamic law. I’ve always found him to be a well-spring of ideas that he more than ably executes: he does so in a way that brings results and infectiously draws along those in his orbit. We are excited to have him head the operations of ILSP, for which he will be a vital part of achieving our mission of becoming the leading center for the study of Islamic law.”
Incoming ILSP Co-Director Professor Kristen Stilt commented that “Rashid’s experience in the private sector brings us the combination of skills we need to design and launch the new ILSP. It is a pleasure to have him on the ILSP team, and I look forward to seeing the ideas we are developing now come to fruition in the course of the coming year.”
As Deputy Director of ILSP, Alvi will be operationally responsible for ensuring that the ILSP achieves its mission, engages with its stakeholders, and meets its financial objectives .
Said Alvi: “I am very excited for the opportunity to help ILSP become the best program of its kind in the world. In particular, I am looking forward to working with Professors Intisar Rabb and Kristen Stilt, each of whom brings high academic achievement, a dedication to the study of Islamic law, and wonderful new ideas to the program. Harvard Law School has shown a visionary commitment to the academic study of Islamic law by hiring Professors Rabb and Stilt as faculty and as permanent co-directors of ILSP. I look forward to engaging with their ideas for ILSP, and teaming with them, Ceallaigh Reddy—our Program Administrator—and with faculty at HLS and globally in building ILSP.”
Alvi holds a JD from Columbia Law School, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, an MA from the University of Southern California, and a BA from Binghamton University.