Roy Mottahedeh is a historian of Islamic civilization, who focuses on the pre-modern social and intellectual history of the Islamic Middle East.
His work addresses the problem of the social structure of Islamic society during the medieval period. Mottahedeh has also examined the Iranian revolution in the context of two millennia of Middle Eastern cultural history. He is the author of Loyalty and Leadership in Early Islamic Society (1980), which describes medieval Islamic society in its own cultural terms and explains its stability without familiar Western political institutions, and The Mantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran (1985), which chronicles Islam and politics in revolutionary Iran from the first-hand accounts of eyewitnesses. He is also co-editor of The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World (2001) and translator of Lessons in Islamic Jurisprudence (2003).
He was a Harvard Junior Fellow (1967-1970) and a professor at Princeton University (1970-1987). Since 1987, Mottahedeh has been the Gurney Professor of Islamic History at Harvard University, where he served as director of the Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies (1987-1990) and is the faculty adviser for the Harvard Middle Eastern and Islamic Review.
Mottahedeh received an A.B. (1960) and a Ph.D. (1969) from Harvard University.