Leila Ahmed came to the Divinity School in 1999 as the first professor of women's studies in religion and was appointed to the Victor S. Thomas chair in 2003. Prior to her appointment at HDS, she was professor of women's studies and Near Eastern studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. While at the University of Massachusetts, she was director of the women's studies program from 1992 to 1995 and director of the Near Eastern studies program from 1991 to 1992.
Her latest book, A Quiet Revolution: The Veil's Resurgence, from the Middle East to America, has been widely acclaimed and was the winner of the Grawmeyer Award in Religion for 2012. Her other publications include the books Women and Gender in Islam: The Historical Roots of a Modern Debate; A Border Passage: From Cairo to America—A Woman's Journey; and Edward William Lane: A Study of His Life and Work and of British Ideas of the Middle East in the Nineteenth Century, as well as many articles, among them "Arab Culture and Writing Women's Bodies" and "Between Two Worlds: The Formation of a Turn of the Century Egyptian Feminist."
Her current research and writing interests include Islam and gender in America, and issues of gender, race, and class in the Middle East in the late colonial era.