Abdul Sheriff was born and educated in Zanzibar, and completed his bachelors and master’s degrees at the University of California in Los Angeles in 1966. He went on to receive his PhD from the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), University of London in 1971.
Abdul Sheriff taught history at the University of Dar es Salaam from 1969-1991, served as Advisor & Principal Curator of the Zanzibar Museums from 1993-2005, and as Executive Director of the Zanzibar Indian Ocean Research Institute from 2007 until 2012. He also served as Chairman and Member of the Presidential Committees on the State University of Zanzibar from 1995 until 2002, and Chairman of the Zanzibar Constitutional Forum from 2012 until 2014 and Delegate to the Tanzanian Constituent Assembly in 2014.
Abdul Sheriff has published several books, including Slaves, Spices & Ivory in Zanzibar (1987), and The Dhow Cultures of the Indian Ocean – Cosmopolitanism, Culture & Islam (2010); edited History & Conservation of Zanzibar Stone Town (1995); and co-edited Zanzibar Under Colonial Rule (1991), The Indian Ocean: Oceanic Connections & the Creation of New Societies (2014), and Transition from Slavery in Zanzibar & Mauritius, (2017), as well numerous scholarly articles. His current research interests are on Zanzibar, the Swahili culture, and the Indian Ocean.