Ruba Kana’an

Assistant Professor
Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, 4 Bancroft Avenue, Room 311B, Toronto, ON, M5S 1C1


Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

  • The Mosque as institution and architecture
  • Mosul art and architecture in the medieval period
  • The artist/craftsman and workshops in the pre-modern world
  • Metalwork between 1050-1400 CE (Khurasan, Mosul, Damascus, Cairo)
  • Architecture in Muslim contexts (all periods)
  • Pre-modern cities and urbanism in Muslim context
  • Museums and the representation of the arts of Muslim civilizations
  • ‘Decolonizing’ Islamic art and the museum


Professor Kana’an is a historian of Islamic art and architecture at the University of Toronto Mississauga and the St. George campuses.  Her primary research focuses on the Intersections between art, artists, art production, and law in urban historical contexts. She uses museum collections as well as field-based, archival, and textual research in her work. She has conducted research in Jordan, Palestine, Turkey, Yemen, Oman, East Africa, Egypt and Syria. Her publications address questions about the formation and meanings of mosque architecture, metalwork, and urban space in pre-modern Muslim contexts.

Her research explores how examining juridical textual sources related to objects and materiality can re-shape and, at times, transform our understanding of the art and architecture of Muslim societies. She is currently researching and writing a book that proposes a re-thinking of the function and symbolism of Friday mosques. The book discusses the contexts in which Friday mosques in Damascus, Baghdad, Cordova, Fez, Cairo, Isfahan, Istanbul, and Muscat were established and the extensive legal debates concerning their construction, decoration, meaning, and urban function.

Her professional experience spans the worlds of academia, architectural practice, museums, and community-based art education. Between 2011 and 2017 she joined the inaugural leadership team at Aga Khan Museum in Toronto (AKM) and spearheaded the museum’s Education and Scholarly Programs. She worked closely with the museum’s Islamic art collection in the areas of museum management, research, education for all levels of learners, scholarly programs, publications and community engagement and programming.


DPhil, University of Oxford