Skip to content

Mark Fathi Massoud

Professor · Director of Legal Studies

Mark Fathi Massoud is professor of politics and legal studies at UC Santa Cruz, where he directs the Legal Studies Program and serves as affiliated faculty with the Center for the Middle East and North Africa. Massoud also holds an appointment as a Visiting Professor at the University of Oxford. In Fall 2023, he is a Senior Research Scholar at Yale Law School.

Research Interests

Massoud studies how people build and destroy nations, and why and how they create legal systems. His primary methods include historical and archival research, ethnographic fieldwork, and interviews. He is the author of two books. Shari’a, Inshallah investigates how state officials and activists have used religion to build law and national identity in Somalia and Somaliland. Law’s Fragile State shows how colonial officials, authoritarian regimes, and international lawyers have used the rule of law to govern Sudan. Massoud is also principal investigator (with Kathleen M. Moore) of Shari’a Revoiced, a study of Islamic law and religious exclusion in the United States.

book cover to Shari'a, Inshallah (2021)

⭐ CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title

⭐ WINNER OF THE DISTINGUISHED BOOK AWARD, Sociology of Religion, American Sociological Association

⭐ WINNER OF THE RALPH J. BUNCHE AWARD, American Political Science Association

⭐ WINNER OF THE HART SLSA BOOK PRIZE, Socio-Legal Studies Association


⭐ WINNER OF THE BKFS PRIZE for best book in Middle East Studies

⭐ FINALIST FOR THE PROSE AWARD for best book in government and politics, Association of American Publishers

Western analysts have long denigrated Islamic states as antagonistic, even antithetical, to the rule of law. Mark Fathi Massoud tells a different story: for nearly 150 years, the Somali people have embraced shari’a, commonly translated as Islamic law, in the struggle for national identity and human rights. Massoud upends the conventional account of secular legal progress and demonstrates instead how faith in a higher power guides people toward the rule of law.

Book trailer by Erick Msumanje


Born in Sudan and raised in California, Massoud is a first-generation university graduate. He has held Carnegie, Guggenheim, and Mellon Foundation Fellowships, and visiting positions at Stanford and Princeton. Last year, he gave the Evans-Pritchard Lectures at All Souls College, Oxford. In 2024, he will be a Berlin Prize Fellow of the American Academy in Berlin.

Professional Service

Massoud is an editor of the Cambridge Studies in Law and Society book series. He serves on the Advisory Council of the NSF Law and Science Dissertation Grant Program. He is a past trustee of the Law and Society Association.

photo shows Dr. Massoud speaking at a podium dressed in formal academic regalia
Photo of Massoud speaking on BBC World News

Mark Fathi Massoud (he/هو)

☎ +1 (831) 459-2024 ··· OFFICE HOURS: click here
US MAIL: Merrill Faculty Services · 1156 High St. · Santa Cruz CA 95064