Dr Christian Sahner

Email: ccs50@cam.ac.uk

Dr Christian Sahner is a historian of the Middle East and a research fellow of St John’s College, University of Cambridge. His work deals with the transition from Late Antiquity to the Islamic Middle Ages, relations between Muslims and Christians, and the history of Syria and Iran.

He is the author of Among the Ruins: Syria Past and Present (Hurst/Oxford University Press, 2014), a blend of history, memoir, and reportage from his time in the Levant before and after the Syrian Civil War. His second book, Christian Martyrs under Islam: Religious Violence and the Making of the Muslim World (Princeton University Press, forthcoming), investigates episodes of conversion, apostasy, and blasphemy as a way of understanding how violence contributed to the spread of Islam among the Christian communities of the early medieval Middle East. It also explores how Christians adopted the mentality of a minority through memories of violence. The book is based on his doctoral thesis, which received the Malcolm H. Kerr Award for best dissertation in the humanities from the Middle East Studies Association.

His next project examines the rise of Islam in early medieval Iran and contacts among Muslims, Zoroastrians, and Christians. He write frequently about the art, history and culture of the Middle East for The Wall Street Journal, among other publications.

Born in New York City, he received an A.B. from Princeton University, an M.Phil from the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and a Ph.D. also from Princeton, where he studied under historians Peter Brown and Michael Cook.

Select Publications

“‘The Monasticism of my Community is Jihad’: A Debate on Asceticism, Sex, and Warfare in Early Islam,” Arabica (forthcoming)

“The First Iconoclasm in Islam: A New History of the Edict of Yazīd II (AH 104/AD 724),” Der Islam 94 (2017), 5-56

“Swimming Against the Current: Muslim Conversion to Christianity in the Early Islamic Period,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 136 (2016), 265-84

“Islamic Legends about the Birth of Monasticism: A Case Study on the Late Antique Milieu of the Qurʾān and Tafsīr,”The Late Antique World of Early Islam: Muslims among Christians and Jews in the East Mediterranean, Robert Hoyland, ed. Princeton, NJ: Darwin Press, 2015, 393-435

Among the Ruins: Syria Past and Present. London & New York: Hurst & Oxford University Press, 2014

“Old Martyrs, New Martyrs, and the Coming of Islam: Writing Hagiography after the Conquests,” Cultures in Motion: Studies in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods, Adam Izdebski & Damian Jasiński, eds. Cracow: Jagiellonian University Press, 2014, 89-112

“From Augustine to Islam: Translation and History in the Arabic Orosius,” Speculum 88 (2013), 905-31