Leila Ahmed (1940-) ( لیلى احمد) is an Egyptian American professor of Women's Studies and Religion at the Harvard Divinity School. Prior to coming to Harvard, she was professor of Women’s Studies and Near Eastern studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Cambridge before moving to the United States to teach and write.
Born in the Heliopolis district of Cairo to an upper class family in 1940, Ahmed's childhood was shaped both by Muslim Egyptian values and the liberal orientation of Egypt's aristocracy under the ancient régime. After Egypt's last ruling monarch was overthrown by the Free Officers Movement in 1952, life for Ahmed's family along with others in her milieu was irrevocably changed.
Her father, a civil engineer, was a strong opponent of Gamal Abdel Nasser's construction of the Aswan High Dam on ecological principles. This earned him the wrath of the ruling regime for years to follow and had detrimental effects on the family.