Arezou Azad


Senior Research Fellow, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Programme Director, Invisible East

Faculty / College Address:

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies / Corpus Christi College


Arezou is a historian of the medieval Islamicate East from the coming of Islam in the 7th century CE to the Mongol Empire of the 13th century, and all its various component cultures and societies. Her first book entitled Sacred Landscape of Medieval Afghanistan (Oxford, 2013) explores the ways in which the multicultural region of Balkh in Afghanistan, which hosted one of the most magnificant Buddhist monasteries and temples in antiquity, became "the dome of Islam.” Her most recent co-authored book is Faḍāʾil-i Balkh: Annotated translation with commentary and introduction of the oldest surviving history of Balkh in Afghanistan (Gibb Memorial Trust/Oxbow/Casemate, 2021). Arezou leads the Invisible East programme at the University of Oxford which includes two team-focussed projects, the PersDoc project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Go.Local project funded by the European Research Council involving the study of documents, literary sources and material culture from medieval Afghanistan and Central Asia. She received her DPhil (doctorate) at Oxford's Oriental Institute (now the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies), after which she co-directed the Balkh Art and Cultural Heritage Project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust 2011-2015. Arezou was a lecturer in medieval history at the University of Birmingham from 2013-2019. She was born and raised in Germany, and before joining academia served as a UN peacekeeper in the Balkans, Timor Leste, and other hotspots around the world.  

Courses Taught:

  • Introduction to early Islamic history
  • History of the gunpowder empires (Safavids, Mughals, Ottomans)
  • The Middle East around the time of Muhammad
  • Genghis Khan and the Mongols in Iran
  • Historical approaches
  • Medieval Persianate history

Selected Publications:


2021 Azad, A. et al. Faḍāʾil-i Balkh or the Merits of Balkh: Annotated translation with commentary and introduction of the oldest surviving history of Balkh in Afghanistan. Gibb Memorial Trust: Oxbow Books/Casemate.

2013    Azad, A. Sacred Landscape in Medieval Afghanistan: Revisiting the Faḍāʾil-i Balkh. Oxford Oriental Monograph Series. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Book Chapters

2021 Azad, A. The Ecology and Economy of Khurasan in the 7th-8th Century. In ed. A. Marsham, The Umayyad World. Routledge Worlds Series. London: Routledge: 332-54.

2020 Azad, A. A Multi-Religious City in Khurāsān Converts to Islam? Shaykh al-Islām Abū Bakr ʿAbd Allāh al-Wāʿiz. al-Balkhī (fl. 610/1214). In eds. N. Hurvitz, C. Sahner, U. Simonsohn, L. Yarbrough, Conversion to Islam in the Premodern Age – A Source Book. University of California Press: 88-93.

2019   Azad, A. & H. Kennedy, The Coming of Islam to Balkh. In eds. A. Delattre, M. Legendre and P. Sijpesteijn, Authority and Control in the Countryside: From Antiquity to Islam in the Mediterranean and Near East (Sixth-Tenth Century). Leiden: Brill: 284-310.

2016   Azad, A. The Caliphate and Afghanistan: Integrating Islam in Afghan Society (A.D. 709-871). In ed. N. Green, From Sufis to Taliban: Trajectories of Islam in Afghanistan. Berkeley: University of California Press: 41-55.

2010   Azad, A. Possible Tibetan Buddhist Heritage. In eds. A. Akasoy et al, Islam and Tibet – Interactions Along the Musk Routes. Aldershot: Ashgate: 209-230.

Book Reviews

For Medieval Archaeology 64/2 (2020): 392-3: Review of Empires and Exchanges in Eurasian Late Antiquity. Rome, China, Iran, and the Steppe, ca. 250–750, ed. N. di Cosmo and M. Maas. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

For Reading Religion, 04/03/2020: Review of The Excellence of the Arabs by Ibn Qutaybah, ed. James Montgomery, trans. S. B. Savant and P. Webb. Library of Arabic Literature. New York: NYU Press, 2017. [].

For Journal of the American Oriental Society 139/2 (2019): 523-5: Review of Samarqand et le Sughd à l’époque ‘abbāsside: Histoire politique et sociale, by Y. Karev. Studia Iranica, Cahiers, vol. 55. Paris, 2015.

Peer-Reviewed Articles

2016   Azad, A. Living Happily Ever After - Fraternal Polyandry and “the House” in the Bactrian Documents. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 79/1 (2016): 33-56.

2015   Azad, A. In Memoriam: Clifford Edmund Bosworth. ʿUṣūr al-Wusṭā 23 (November 2015): 167-78.

2015   Yastrebova, O. & Azad, A. Reflections on an Orientalist - Aleksandr Kun, the Man and his Legacy. Iranian Studies 48.5: 675-94.

2013    Azad, A. Female Mystics in Mediaeval Islam: The Quiet Legacy. Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient 56 (2013): 53-88.

2012 Azad, A. The Faḍāʾil-i Balkh and its Place in Islamic Historiography. Iran 50 (2012): 79-102.


Doctoral Student Supervisions:

2020-present     Meredith Morrison: Persian Panegyric: Qaṣīda in the Court of Sultan Sanjar. Co-supervision. Oxford Nizami Ganjavi Scholar, Oriental Studies, Oxford.

2015-2018          Gemma Masson: The Urban Janissary in Eighteenth-Century Istanbul. Co-supervision. Awarded Gibb Memorial Trust for the Centenary Scholarship. University of Birmingham. PhD awarded September 2019.

arezou azad