Haroon Moghul is a specialist on Islamic thought and the modern world. His 2006 novel The Order of Light anticipated the Arab Spring and its disappointment in Egypt. In the novel a young Muslim lights himself on fire to protest the authoritarian reality of the Middle East.
The writer and scholar is a fellow in the National Security Studies Program at New America Foundation and on the board of the Multicultural Audience Development Initiative at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
He is also a Ph.D. Candidate at Columbia University's Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, where he focuses on Islamic thought in colonial India. His research is focused upon the Pakistani poet, philosopher and politician ‘Allama Muhammad Iqbal.
In an interview with the online magazine Elan earlier this year, Moghul discussed how he came to study Islamic thought:
I went through a phase of atheism, and the only thing that drew me back to Islam was the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. There’s a beautiful passage in one of Iqbal’s books, the Javid Nama, in which he writes, ‘You can deny God, but you cannot deny the Prophet.’
Even though he and I are in so many ways so unlike, this captured me. I’d rejected God. But I couldn’t reject Muhammad. So what then? And that’s what academia is all about. We find questions that are deeply meaningful to us, such that we choose to sit beside them and think about them for years. I have to have the courage to admit: Questions don’t have to have easy answers. Our lives can be lived in search for meaning, but sometimes it’s the search that is more beneficial than its conclusion. I think Iqbal would agree with that. He’d look at crude sloganeering, like ‘Islam is the solution,’ and ask, ‘to what problems?’ ...
We think about the world in very different ways that our medieval predecessors did. Must we then think about religion in different ways too? That was Iqbal’s whole project, a very Ghazalian ihya, or revival, but conceived of as a ‘reconstruction.’
Moghul was born and raised in Massachusetts.