This year, we are thrilled to welcome Michael Muhammad Knight who is teaching in Kenyon’s Religious Studies department. He recently received his doctorate and came to Kenyon to teach several classes, including Classical Islam and a seminar on Muhammad. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Professor Knight and chat with him.
Professor Knight’s research primarily focuses on textual representations of the Prophet. He is particularly interested in looking at the pre-modern sources on Muhammad with new lenses, such as theories of gender and body. In the past, he has written several memoirs and books, though he is not focused on any right now. He has several different projects that are moving along at different speeds.
Because it is a life ambition of mine to have a Wikipedia page, I had to ask Professor Knight what it was like to have a Wikipedia page about himself. He actually answered quite frankly about the vulnerabilities that are associated with having a public page about yourself that anyone can read or edit. For one, there are wildly inaccurate facts, but incredibly accurate embarrassing things as well. It’s also awkward sometimes to meet someone who’s read your Wikipedia page or memoirs and already is knowledgeable about you.
Professor Knight is well traveled, having spent a good amount of time abroad. When asked about his most significant or favorite trip, he spoke about his complex longing for Mecca. In 2008, he went on a pilgrimage to Mecca which featured ups and downs, but was ultimately a wonderful experience. However, Professor Knight also noted that he was a different person eight years ago and wonders now how he would process a visit to Mecca, especially given the contemporary situation of Mecca being situated in Saudi Arabia.
Finally, Professor Knight wanted to express the wonderful time he has had becoming acclimated to Kenyon. He is originally from the Finger Lake area, so the whole miles and miles of cornfields thing hasn’t been too much of a culture shock. He also mentioned his appreciation of student engagement on campus. It’s always nice that students are willing to show up to his office hours and talk.
I had a wonderful time chatting with Professor Knight and I strongly encourage my fellow students to try to squeeze in a class with him. He’ll be teaching a course on Islam in America and a course on gender in Islam during the spring semester.