Abdullahi An-Na`im is an internationally recognized scholar on Islam and human rights and a Senior Fellow in the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory’s School of Law. At Emory since 1995, An-Na`im has striven to promote a liberal modernist understanding of Islam consistent with international human right standards, and to put scholarship in the service of improving human rights, in particular for women, children, and religious minorities living in Islamic nations.
His twenty years of scholarship and advocacy in this area stems from his personal experience as a Muslim from Northern Sudan struggling to reconcile his Islamic faith and identity with his commitment to universal acceptance of and respect for human rights. In 1968, while a law student at the University of Khartoum, Sudan, An-Na`im joined the Islamic reform movement of Mahmoud Mohamed Taha, which was suppressed in 1984. In 1985, An-Na`im left Sudan and has lived in exile since, though he has been able to visit four times since 2003 as an American citizen.
He is the author and editor of 15 books, including African Constitutionalism and the Contingent Role of Islam (2006) and Toward an Islamic Reformation: Civil liberties, human rights and international law (1990), which has been translated into Arabic, Indonesian, Russian and Farsi. He has published more than fifty articles and book chapters on human rights, constitutionalism, Islamic law and politics. Over the past decade An-Na`im’s work has attracted nearly $2 million of support from the Ford Foundation for a series of multiyear, international research projects, including studies on women and land rights in Africa, Islamic family law, and an Islam and Human Rights fellowship program, which brought to Emory over a dozen scholar-activists from Islamic nations advocating for social change in their home countries. His current project is a two-year study on the future of Islamic law – Shari’a – and the role of religious neutrality in Islamic societies.
An-Na`im holds an LL.B. from the University of Khartoum, Sudan, an LL.B. from the University of Cambridge, England, and a PhD in Law from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Before coming to Emory, he served as Executive Director of Africa Watch from 1993-95, now the African Division of Human Rights Watch, in Washington, DC.