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Shankar Nair

Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Admissions and MA Programs


  • PhD, Harvard University
  • MA, Harvard University
  • BA, Harvard University

Research Interests

Sufism and Islamic philosophy; Qur'anic exegesis; Hindu philosophy and theology; Muslim-Hindu interaction in South Asia; Arabic, Persian, and Sanskrit literatures; South Asian religions

My general field of interest is the religious and intellectual history of the Indian subcontinent, particularly as it relates to broader traditions of Sufism and Islamic philosophy, Qur'anic exegesis, and Hindu philosophy and theology (especially Advaita Vedanta and other forms of Hindu non-dualism).

My research to date has centered upon Muslim-Hindu interactions and the encounter between Arabic, Sanskrit, and Persian intellectual cultures in early modern (Mughal) South Asia. Broadly speaking, I am interested in how Muslim and Hindu philosophers, theologians, and mystics interacted with one another, and the ways in which these figures conceptualized and responded to the fact of religious diversity in the world around them. I am especially interested in the phenomenon of translation, as we find numerous Sanskrit texts being translated into Persian and Arabic in this time period, often the result of teams of Muslim and Hindu scholars working in tandem. In my future research, I aim to trace the continuing history of such interactions into the colonial and modern periods.

A few of my other teaching and research interests include Sufi poetry and didactic literature, Sanskrit aesthetics and literary theory, Indian vernacular literatures, and classical Islamic ethics.


UVA Alumni Board of Trustees Teaching Award (2019)


RELI 2070: Classical Islam
RELI 2085: Modern Islam: From the Age of Empires to the Present
RELI 3110: Muhammad and the Qur'an
RELI 3120: Sufism: Islamic Mysticism
MESA 3120: Islamic Mystical Literature
MESA 3559: Islam, Religious Diversity, and the Encounter with Other Religions
MESA 3***: Islam, Science, and the Environment
SATR 3559: Literatures of Love in South Asian Religions
RELI 5425: Islamic Philosophy & Theology
RELI 5540: Arabic Philosophical Texts
RELI 5540: Ibn al-'Arabi
RELI 5559: Islam in South Asia
RELI 8703: Advanced Readings in Arabic
RELI 8707: Advanced Readings in Persian
RELI 8***: Readings in Sanskrit

Selected Publications

  • “‘Islam’ in Sanskrit Doxography: A Reconsideration via the Writings of Madhusūdana Sarasvatī,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 32.1 (2022): 33-58.
  • “A Mughal Treatise on Essence and Existence: Muḥibb Allāh Ilāhābādī’s al-Taswiya bayna al-ifāda wa-l-qabūl,” Journal of Sufi Studies 10.1-2 (2021): 108-140.
  • Translating Wisdom: Hindu-Muslim Intellectual Interactions in Early Modern South Asia (Oakland: University of California Press, 2020).
  • “Muḥibb Allāh Ilāhābādī on Ontology: Indian Islamic Debates over the Nature of Being,” in The Oxford Handbook of Indian Philosophy, ed. Jonardon Ganeri (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 657-690.
  • “Sufism as Medium and Method of Translation: Mughal Translations of Hindu Texts Reconsidered,” in Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 43.3 (2014): 390-410.