Department ofHistory

Jonathan Brockopp

Jonathan Brockopp

Professor of History, Religious Studies, and Philosophy

406 Weaver Building

University Park, PA 16802

Curriculum Vitae:


PhD, Yale University, 1995
MPhil, Yale University, 1992
BA, Valparaiso University, 1984
Jonathan Brockopp Headshot



My primary research focus is on the literary remains of early Islamic cultures, including the Qur’an, hadith, legal and theological texts. I am particularly interested in the rise of a professional scholarly community in Egypt and North Africa, using early Arabic manuscripts to trace arguments and lines of influence. Recently, I have focused on the question of how these early scholars construct their notion of religious authority in my book, Muhammad’s Heirs: the Rise of Muslim Scholarly Communities (Cambridge, 2017). This work has led me to formulate a new theory of charismatic authority, one that attempts to account for the dynamic roles of text, community and history in constructing the charismatic leader. I plan on devoting my next book to fleshing out some of the implications of this theory. Arguably, Islamic law is as much a set of ethical guidelines as it is law. It thereby forms an essential backdrop to modern discussions of war, bioethics, economic justice, etc. I have pursued an active interest in these contemporary issues including the impact of climate change on Muslim communities.

Recent Publications:

“Constructing Muslim Charisma”  the Routledge International Handbook of Charisma, edited J.P. Zuquete, (New York: Routledge), 2021, 163-174.

“MS Chester Beatty 3001 and the apotheosis of Malik b. Anas (d. 179/795)” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 49 (2020), 249-275.

“The Rise of Islam in a Judaeo-Christian Context” in Light upon Light: Essays in Islamic Thought and History in Honor of Gerhard Bowering, edited by Jamal Elias and Bilal Orfali. Studies in Islamic History and Civilization (Leiden: E.J. Brill), 2019, 24-44.

Muhammad’s Heirs: The Rise of Muslim Scholarly Communities, 622-950. (Cambridge, 2017)

“Islamic Origins and Incidental Normativity” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 84.1 (2016).

“The promise and the challenge of interfaith work” in Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves: A Lutheran Calling in a Multi-Religious World, ed. Carol Lahurd (Minneapolis: Lutheran University Press), 2016.

“Interpreting Material Evidence: Religion at the ‘Origins of Islam’” History of Religions55 (2015), 121-147.

“Muhammad the peacemaker; Muhammad the warrior. Contested Images of Islam’s Prophet after 9/11” in Muhammad in the Digital Age, ed. Ruqayya Khan (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015), 35-56.

Awards and Service:

Team leader, Religious Studies Re-organization (2020-present)

Schreyer Honors College Ethics Curriculum, Coordinator (2020-present)

Kairouan Manuscript Project, Board member since 2017; Director, 2017-2020

Petra Kappert Fellow, Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, Hamburg University (2020)

Editorial Board, Comparative Islamic StudiesJournal of Islamic Ethics

Recent Courses:

HIST 108 – The Crusades
RLST107 – Introduction to Islam
ARAB/RLST 164 – Muhammad and the Qur’an
HIST/RLST 471Y – Islamic Civilization


Areas of Specialization: