Joel Blecher is a scholar of Islamic history and Islamic thought. His research, which combines methods from social and intellectual history, is grounded in archives and field sites in Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey, and India, as well as various manuscript libraries across Europe and North America.
Professor Blecher's first book, Said the Prophet of God: Hadith Commentary across a Millennium (University of California Press, 2018), explores the rich history of the practice of hadith commentary in the times and places it flourished the most—classical Andalusia, medieval Egypt, and early modern India. Weaving together tales of public debates, high court rivalries, and colonial politics with analyses of ethnographic field notes and fine-grained arguments adorning the margins of manuscripts, this book opens new avenues for scholars who study interpretive traditions over long periods of time and geographical expanses.
His second book project, Profit and Prophecy: Islam and the Spice Trade, retells the story of the spice trade through the eyes of medieval Muslim scholars, merchants, and scholar-merchants who mixed religion and business along pilgrimage routes and port cities that stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean. Supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Library of Congress, this book will offer new insights for students and scholars of global history, religion, and commercial exchange.
Professor Blecher has taught at Princeton University, Oberlin College, and Washington and Lee University, where he served the departments of Religion, History, as well as the School of Law. He has also been invited to speak about the Islamic world on Public Radio and has contributed to the Atlantic.