Credit: CEU University

Aziz Al-Azmeh

Disciplines: HistoryReligion
Title and home institution: Professor at the Department of History, Central European University, Vienna, Austria
Category of Fellowship: Research residency
Chair: Averroes: Mediterranean Islam – A*Midex/Iméra Chair
Research program: Mediterranean
Residency length: February – June 2022

Research project

Ex Oriente Lux: A History of Unbelief

Summary of the research project

The main preoccupation during the tenure of the chaire Averroès concerns a history of impiety, unbelief and freethinking, with an emphasis on Baghdad in 9th -11th centuries. Systematic stock is taken of the late antique legacy of polemics against religions and between them, and the byways of motifs of unbelief thereafter. The trans-Mediterranean heritage of Baghdadian unbelief and impiety is pursued historically and programmatically as it travelled north in many interesting and surprising ways and avenues, through Italy and Spain and on to the environment of the 17th century libertinage érudit implicit and explicit, not least in France and the Netherlands, ultimately converging with deism and, somewhat later, the beginnings of avowed atheism. Crucial to this work is not simply the pursuit of ideas in the way of intellectual history, but the study of the contexts, milieux, transmission and reception of freethinking and impiety in society and culture broadly understood.

A concurrent line of work is the gathering together and reworking of essays published in recent years on the emergence and composition of the Qur’anic text.


Aziz Al-Azmeh is a professor at the Department of History, Central European University, Vienna, Austria. He joined the CEU in 2002. 

He has been a long-term fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and was twice Directeur de Recherches Associé at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris (Bourse Fernand Braudel). He was a fellow at the institutes for advanced study in Uppsala and Budapest, a fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt foundation, a fellow of the Käte Hamburger Kolleg, and a resident scholar at the Rockefeller Foundation Center for Scholars in Bellagio. 

Mr. Al-Azmeh is the author of, among other books in English, Secularism in the Arab World (Edinbrugh, 2020), The Emergence of Islam in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, 2014), Islams and Modernities (London, 2009), and Muslim Kingship (London, 1996). His L’Obscurantisme postmoderne et la question musulmane (Paris, Actes Sud) appeared in 2004. 

Mr. Al-Azmeh holds a D.Phil. in Oriental Studies from the University of Oxford.

Appels à candidature

Les résidences de recherche que propose l’Iméra, Institut d’études avancées (IEA) d’Aix-Marseille Université, s’adressent aux chercheurs confirmés – académiques, scientifiques et/ou artistes. Ces résidences de recherche sont distribuées sur quatre programmes (« Arts & sciences : savoirs indisciplinés », « Explorations interdisciplinaires », « Méditerranée » et « Utopies nécessaires »).