Our Team


Sarah Bowen Savant, Associate Professor, AKU-ISMC, and Principle Investigator of KITAB. Dr Savant is a cultural historian specialising in the Middle East and Iran ca. 600-1500. Her work on KITAB is motivated by a desire to write a cultural history of the Arabic book using digital tools. Her publications include The New Muslims of Post-Conquest Iran: Tradition, Memory, and Conversion (Cambridge University Press, 2013; winner of the Said-Sirjani book award given by the International Society for Iranian Studies on behalf of the Persian Heritage Foundation); as editor (with Helena de Felipe), Genealogy and Knowledge in Muslim Societies: Understanding the Past (AKU-ISMC, Exploring Muslim Contexts/Edinburgh University Press, 2014); as translator (with Peter Webb), The Excellence of the Arabs. A Translation of Ibn Qutaybah’s Faḍl al-ʿArab wa l-tanbīh ʿalā ʿulūmihā (The Library of Arabic Literature/New York University Press, 2017); and numerous articles treating ethnic identity, cultural memory, genealogy, and history writing. She serves as president of Middle East Medievalists and as an ex-officio member of the editorial board of its online, open-access journal, Al-ʿUsur al-Wusta. She is also a board member of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, and a member of the editorial board of its journal, Iraq. In 2016-17, she was a mid-career fellow of the British Academy and a fellow at the Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society. During that time she prepared much of her next book, based on KITAB’s data: A Cultural History of the Arabic Book (Leiden: Brill, 2019, expected).

Maxim Romanov is a Universitätsassistent für Digital Humanities at the Institute for History, University of Vienna. His dissertation (Near Eastern Studies, U of Michigan, 2013) explored how modern computational techniques of text analysis can be applied to the study of premodern Arabic historical sources. In particular, he studied “The History of Islam” (Taʾrīḫ al-islām), the largest of surviving biographical collections with over 30,000 biographies, written by the Damascene scholar al-Ḏahabī (d. 1348 CE). Currently, he continues his study of this biographical collection (The History of Islam: An Essay in Digital Humanities), which will serve as methodological and infrastructural foundation for the study of all surviving Arabic biographical collections and chronicles. Additionally, besides KITAB, he is working on other foundational projects for the field of Arabic and Islamic studies, which include  the OpenITI (former OpenArabic), a machine-readable corpus of classical Arabic texts, and al-Ṯurayyā, a gazetteer of the classical Islamic world. For his personal website, click here.

Ahmad Sakhi is an IT professional, specializing in Enterprise Information and Content Management space. He is currently working at New Horizon System Solutions. Mr. Sakhi has a degree in Computer Information Systems and has completed various projects in the Finance, Telecom, Banking and Energy sectors in North America, including designing, architecting and implementing end-to-end solutions. Mr. Sakhi is from Toronto, Canada and is involved in the KITAB project as a TKN volunteer.

Malik Merchant is a Software Consultant, specializing in Microsoft Technologies. He currently is working for Avanade, a joint venture between global consulting firm, Accenture and Microsoft. Mr. Merchant has a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Mumbai, India and has been involved in several projects across several industries with focus in Oil & Gas and Insurance domain. He now lives in Calgary, Canada and is involved in the KITAB project as a TKN volunteer.

Sohail Merchant is currently working as the Lead Office 365 / SharePoint at the University of London. Prior to working at the University of London, he has worked with various organisations including the Institute of Ismaili Studies, Aga Khan University, University College London and Blue Systems Inc. where he has architect, managed and implemented various solutions and web applications. Sohail holds a Master of Science degree in Computing from London Metropolitan University and he is also a PRINCE2 Certified Practitioner and Microsoft Certified Solution Expert.

Razia Velji is the AKU-ISMC Grant Manager for KITAB with responsibility for administering the ERC grant and all other funding applications. She has been with the AKU-ISMC since its origins in 2003, and currently also oversees Academic Planning and Research Development for the Institute.  Prior to joining the AKU-ISMC, Razia previously worked for the University at its Institute for Educational Development (IED) in Pakistan. She has also worked on national development education initiatives in Canada and has managed, while at the Aga Khan Foundation Canada, a grant from the Canadian International Development Agency for programmes in education and agriculture in Tajikistan. She graduated from Harvard University in 2001 with a Masters in Education in Administration, Planning and Policy, specialising in International Education Policy. She holds a BA in English Literature and BEd from the University of British Columbia.


KITAB’s team is supported by many members of the AKU computing staff, including:


  • Jonathan Hughes
  • Markus Bushell
  • Eugene O’Donnell
  • Mohammad Fahd
  • Omer Manya
  • Rafay Hassan
Share this: