Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Kristin V. Monroe


This dissertation examines the flexibility of Quranic exegesis in accommodating self-defined Muslims’ agency in the predominantly Christian society of the United States. This is a project to study Islam not from the perspective of an explicit ideology articulated by clerics, intellectuals, scholars and elites on scriptural texts, but rather one that focuses on Muslims’ readings of scripture and practices of Islam(s), reconstructed in their lived experiences. During fourteen months of ethnographic research in four cities in urban and rural areas in the U.S. South with Iranian Muslims, interlocutors were found to be engaged in a particular kind of relationship with the Quran, a relationship untethered from the jurisprudence (fiqh) of the Iranian clerics that interpret the texts. These individuals cultivated a kind of non-jurisprudential agency that engaged in a process of logical reasoning and exploratory understandings of the Quran, which merged their identity with the dominant discourse of the U.S. citizen.

These non-clerical understandings of the Quran and Islamic teachings occurred in a context where Iranian-American Muslims use Islam to reckon their identity with their transnational circumstances. This dissertation argues that the ordinary Islam(s) of these Iranian Muslims can be characterized by their ability to accommodate religiosity in response to the multiple temporalities of their existence in a diasporic milieu. The Iranian-Muslim community is encompassed by multiple transnational (non)Muslim communities, which have created a diasporic condition that has allowed them to build a community not by creating a homogenous whole, but rather by developing a complex web of cross-cutting bonds that unite through heterogeneities, differences, and disagreement.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Available for download on Monday, May 20, 2024