This Iranian-born religious scholar and author is most famous for his widely translated works No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam (published in 2005) and Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (2013).
After graduating from Santa Clara University, he attended Harvard Divinity School and subsequently earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa's famous Writers' Workshop. Later, he received a doctorate in sociology and religious history from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Beginning in 2000, he taught Islamic Studies at the University of Iowa. He later taught in the University of California, Riverside's creative writing program.
When he was seven years old, he moved with his family from his native Iran to Concord, California. His marriage to American entrepreneur Jessica Jackley resulted in two children.
His maternal aunt, Leila Forouhar, had a highly successful career as a pop singer.