Dr Alexander Henley


As an anthropological historian of Islam in the modern Middle East, I am interested in how new conceptions of ‘religion’ have transformed the institutional structures of Islam. I currently hold a Marie Curie Research Fellowship awarded for a project on “Genealogies of Islamic Religious Leadership in Post-Ottoman States”, tracing the rise of Grand Muftis as a new model of religious leadership that has come to define religion in Muslim societies. My field research takes me to Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine. In association with this project, I run an interdisciplinary research network on “Categories of Religion and the Secular in Islam” (CRSI).

I came to Oxford as a Departmental Lecturer in Islam and the Study of Religion in 2016, following a four-year stint in the US where I held research fellowships at Harvard and Georgetown Universities. I have also taught at Qatar University and the Middlebury Summer Arabic Program. I studied at the Universities of Manchester, Edinburgh, Durham and Damascus.

Research Area:

Study of Religions

Research Interests:

Modern Islam; Middle East; religious leadership; sectarianism and religious conflict; religion and politics.






Select Publications

  • Religious Authority and Sectarianism in Lebanon

  • Religious Nationalism in the Official Culture of Multi-Confessional Lebanon

  • Between Sect and State in Lebanon: Religious Leaders at the Interface

  • Remaking the Mosaic: Religious Leaders and Secular Borders in the Colonial Levant

  • Islam as a Challenge to the Ideology of Religious Studies: Failures of Religious Studies in the Middle East

  • Religion and State in Lebanon: Religious Leadership, Sectarianism and Civil War

  • More