Professor Nicolai Sinai

Professor of Islamic Studies

Having received my doctorate from the Free University Berlin (2007), I arrived at Pembroke in January 2011 from a position at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. The primary focus of my research is in Qur’anic studies and covers topics such as the Qur’an’s literary features, its engagement with earlier (Christian, Rabbinic, Arabian) traditions, and Islamic scriptural exegesis. I also cultivate a strong interest in medieval Arabic philosophy. My tutorials, lectures, and seminars emphasise the close interaction with pre-modern Arabic primary sources, often in the light of comparative phenomena, and the sober and clear construction and evaluation of text-based arguments.

Teaching activities

  • FHS Islamic Religion (together with Christopher Melchert)

  • Additional Arabic: Islamic Texts (for students of Arabic as a subsidiary language)

  • Introduction to Islamic Studies for 1st year MPhil students (together with Christopher Melchert)

  • Various undergraduate and graduate options, especially on the Qur'an, Qur'anic exegesis, and philosophy and theology in the Islamic world.

Detailed Biography

since 1/2011               University Lecturer / Associate Professor / Professor at the Oriental Institute, University of Oxford; Fellow of Pembroke College

1/2007 – 12/2010       Researcher, Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (Corpus Coranicum)

2/2004 – 2/2007         Ph.D. in Arabic Studies, Free University Berlin, doctoral scholarship by the German National Merit Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes)

11/2002 – 11/2003     Ansgar Rummler Scholarship of the Institute for Advanced Studies, Berlin; assistant to the Academic Coordinator of the Working Group Modernity and Islam

2/1998 – 1/2003         M.A. in Arabic Studies and Philosophy at the University of Leipzig and the Free University Berlin; study at Cairo University

College & university roles and committees

College Function

Fellow by Special Election

Member of:

  • Governing Body
  • Domestic and Buildings Committee


  • Professor
  • Associate Faculty Member, Faculty of Theology

Research interests

  • The Qur’an in its historical context
  • Islamic exegesis of the Qur’an and scriptural hermeneutics in general
  • Philosophy and theology in the Islamic world


For recent publications see my departmental page:

The Oriental Institute, University of Oxford