Farid Esack is a South African scholar of Islam who completed the Darsi Nizami, the traditional Islamic Studies program, in Madrasahs in Karachi, Pakistan. He did his PhD at the University of Birmingham (UK) and subsequently did some post-doctoral work on Biblical Hermeneutics at the Philosophisch Theologische Hochschule, Sankt Georgen in Frankfurt-am-Main.
He is the author of several publications including Qur'an, Liberation & Pluralism: An Islamic Perspective of Interreligious Solidarity Against Oppression, On Being a Muslim: Finding a Religious Path in the World Today and An Introduction to the Qur'an (all by Oxford: Oneworld). His current major field of interest and commitment is Islam and AIDS. He is the author of a series of publications dealing with this area including Islam, HIV & AIDS - Reflections Based on Compassion, Responsibility and Justice. More recently (2009) he co-edited "Islam and AIDS - Between Scorn, Pity and Justice, with Sarah Chiddy. He has also published widely on Islam, Gender, Liberation Theology, Inter-faith Relations, Religion & Identity and Qur'anic Hermeneutics.
Formerly a National Commissioner on Gender Equality appointed by President Nelson Mandela, he has taught at the University of the Western Cape, at Amsterdam, Hamburg and Gadjah Mada Universities and Union Theological Seminary in New York. A former Distinguished Mason Fellow at the College of William & Mary, and the Besl Professor in Ethics, Religion and Society at Xavier University in Ohio. Just before his appointment as a Professor in the Study of Islam here at the University of Johannesburg, he held a joint appointment for two years at Harvard University between the Divinity School and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences as the William Henry Bloomberg Professor.
A veteran of struggle against Apartheid and an activist in the inter-religious solidarity movement for justice and peace and that struggle, he played a leading role in the United Democratic Front, the Call of Islam, the Organisation of People Against Sexism and the World Conference on Religion & Peace.
In addition to his academic pursuit, he continues his activism through Positive Muslims, an organization working with Muslims who are HIV positive in South Africa, and through the several development boards on which he serves in South Africa and internationally. He struggles to live and understand the meaning of faith as well as an alternative liberatory vision in a world savaged by the Empire and the often dehumanizing responses by its subjects and victims.