Professor Zayn Kassam is Director of the IIS and Head of the Department of Academic Research and Publications. Born and raised in Kenya, she completed her BA in Religious Studies at McGill University, her MA in Islamic Studies at the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University, and her PhD in History of Religions at the Faculty of Religious Studies at McGill University, where she specialised in medieval Islamic and Indian philosophy.

Before coming to the IIS, Professor Kassam taught at Pomona College, a highly selective liberal arts college in the USA, where she developed her expertise in and taught courses on gender, environment, and community engagement in addition to her specialisations in Islam, methods in the study of religions, and Sufism, as well as Islamic philosophy. She has received several awards for distinguished teaching. In addition, Professor Kassam has served on the board of the American Academy of Religion, as Co-editor of the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, and is on the editorial board for the Journal of the American Academy of Religion. She has chaired several departments and committees at Pomona College, and also held the position of Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Professor Kassam is the author of Islam (2005), and editor of Women and Islam in addition to Women in Asian Religions. She is also the editor of the Islam section of the volume titled Islam, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism in the Encyclopedia of Indian Religions. She has published several essays dealing with gender, philosophy, environment, and migration, among other topics.