Zaleski, John

Humanities Research Fellow Affiliation: NYU Abu Dhabi
Education: BA, Dartmouth College; MA, Harvard University; PhD, Harvard University

Research Areas: Asceticism, Sufism, Syriac Christianity, Monasticism, Muslim-Christian Interaction, Scriptural Exegesis


John’s research examines Christian and Muslim writing on ascetic practice within the early Islamic world. His work in this field began at Harvard University, where he defended his doctoral dissertation in April 2019. John’s studies have also led him to archival research at mosque libraries in Cairo, Fes, and Istanbul, as well as at Western European manuscript libraries.

As a fellow at NYUAD, John will complete a monograph tentatively entitled A Common Tongue: Muslim-Christian Exchange and The Formation of a New Language of Asceticism in Early Islam. This book will show how Muslims and Christians responded to each other’s understandings of piety, eventually developing a shared, but often contested, set of terms, stories, and ideals concerning asceticism. The book will also help uncover the legacy of Syriac Christian authors within the Islamic world, including several authors from the Gulf region who played a major role in developing Christian ideals of piety during the formative years of Islam. In addition, John will continue separate projects in the fields of Muslim and Christian scriptural exegesis and soteriology.