by SHERALI TAREEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on JULY 3, 2015: 

Ebrahim Moosa
Ebrahim Moosa

Recent years have witnessed a spate of journalistic and popular writings on the looming threat to civilization that lurks in traditional Islamic seminaries or madrasas that litter the physical and intellectual landscape of the Muslim world. In his riveting new book What is a Madrasa? (University of North Carolina Press, 2015), Ebrahim Moosa, Professor of History and Islamic Studies at the University of Notre Dame, challenges such sensationalist stereotypical narratives by providing a nuanced and richly textured account of the place and importance of Madrasas in Islam both historically and in the contemporary moment.

519B98pnpSL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Rather than approaching madrasas from a policy studies viewpoint as institutions requiring reform and modernization, this book instead examines madrasas on their own terms with a view of highlighting their internal complexities and tensions. Focused primarily on the madrasas of South Asia, what makes this book particularly remarkable is the way it brings together the intellectual histories and traditions that define madrasa education and the everyday practices in madrasa life today.

The reader of this book travels through an arcade of the seminal texts, scholars, and sites that have shaped the madrasa as an institution and its curricula over the last several centuries. But moreover, this book also provides readers intimate portraits of daily life at madrasas through the eyes of students who study there, thus bringing into view the rhythms of everyday practices that punctuate the lives of madrasa students, and the hopes, anxieties, and aspirations that irrigate their religious and social imaginaries.

In our conversation, in addition to discussing these themes, we also talked about Professor Moosa’s own journey as a teenager in the madrasas of South Asia to the corridors of the American academy. Written in an exceptionally lucid fashion, this book is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the complexities of Muslim traditions of knowledge and education. It will also be particularly well suited for undergraduate and graduate seminars on Muslim intellectual thought, education, and Islam in South Asia.

LISTEN to interview with MOOSA

Continue reading

by KRISTIAN PETERSEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on APRIL 13, 2015: 

Peter Gottschalk
Peter Gottschalk

When did religion begin in South Asia? Many would argue that it was not until the colonial encounter that South Asians began to understand themselves as religious. In Religion, Science, and Empire: Classifying Hinduism and Islam in British India (Oxford University Press, 2012), Peter Gottschalk, Professor of Religion at Wesleyan University, outlines the contingent and mutual coalescence of science and religion as they were cultivated within the structures of empire. He demonstrates how the categories of Hindu and Muslim were constructed and applied to the residents of the Chainpur nexus of villages by the British despite the fact that these identities were not always how South Asians described themselves.

51XKZ8UBc-L._SL160_Throughout this study we are made aware of the consequences of comparison and classification in the study of religion. Gottschalk engages Jonathan Z. Smith’s modes of comparison demonstrating that seemingly neutral categories serve ideological purposes and forms of knowledge are not arbitrary in order. Here, we observe this work through imperial forms of knowledge production in South Asia, including the roles of cartographers, statisticians, artists, ethnographers, and photographers. Continue reading

by SHERALI TAREEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on DECEMBER 24, 2014:

Kavita Datla
Kavita Datla

In her brilliant new book, The Language of Secular Islam: Urdu Nationalism and Colonial India (University of Hawaii Press, 2013), Kavita Datla, Associate Professor of History at Mount Holyoke College, explores the interaction of language, nationalism, and secularism by focusing on the religious and social imaginaries of important twentieth century Muslim scholars from the state of Hyderabad, especially those associated with the institution of Osmania University.

51RiLTl-qWL._SL160_How were Urdu and Arabic mobilized for projects of nationalism by the pioneers of Osmania University, and in what ways can a history of such intellectual and social projects complicate the religion/secular binary? This is among the central questions that anchor the conceptual stakes of this important book. By effortlessly weaving together a close reading of previously unexplored primary texts with nuanced historiographical analysis of the colonial context, Datla presents an intellectually rich and exciting examination of modern Indian Muslim understandings of and engagements with the question of nationalism. In our conversation, we talked about the problem of the religion/secular binary, Hyderabad and Osmania University, the role of language in the construction of religious and national identity, translation and nationalism, and Urdu’s relationship in colonial India with other languages. This book will be of great interest and benefit to scholars and students of modern Islam, nationalism, South Asia, and Muslim education.

LISTEN HERE: INTERVIEW WITH KAVITA DATLA

In September 2014 the Duke Islamic Studies Center (which manages the Transcultural Islam Project of which TIRN is a part), announced its official institutional affiliation with New Books in Islamic Studies — a bi-weekly audio podcast featuring hour long conversations with authors of exciting new research. For an archive see HERE.

 

Column » ‘By the Book’ with Joseph Preville

by JOSEPH RICHARD PREVILLE and JULIE POUCHER HARBIN for ISLAMiCommentary on DECEMBER 2, 2014: 

struggleforpakistan-197x300Pakistan is a nation with a strong will to survive. It has endured political upheavals, ethnic discord, military dictatorships, and the challenges of religious extremism. In her new book, The Struggle for Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014), Ayesha Jalal examines Pakistan’s history from its creation in 1947 to the present. “Pakistan’s tumultuous history,” she writes, “exhibits a daunting combination of contradictory factors that must affect any decisions made about its future. More than six and a half decades since its establishment, Pakistan has yet to reconcile its self-proclaimed Islamic identity with the imperatives of a modern nation-state.”

Ayesha Jalal is Mary Richardson Professor of History and Director of the Center for South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies at Tufts University. Born in Pakistan, Jalal was educated at Wellesley College and the University of Cambridge. She was a MacArthur Fellow from 1998-2003. Jalal is the author of many books, including The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League, and the Demand for Pakistan (1985) and Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia (2008).

Ayesha Jalal discusses The Struggle for Pakistan in this interview. Continue reading

by KRISTIAN PETERSEN for NEW BOOKS IN RELIGION/NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on OCTOBER 27, 2014: 

Amanullah De Sondy
Amanullah De Sondy

[Cross-posted from New Books in Religion] What gets to count as Islam? In the current political climate this question is being repeated in a variety of contexts. The tapestry of various Islamic identities is revealed in an investigation of gender. In The Crisis of Islamic Masculinities (Bloomsbury, 2014), Amanullah De Sondy, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Miami, tackles the construction of Muslim manhood in several interpretive traditions. These forms of masculinity – both ideal & reviled – are taken across a wide spectrum of thought, from Islamist perspectives to those challenging patriarchy. Many of the discussions revolve around similar themes, most importantly family, marriage, sexuality, and veiling. Other constructions of masculinity challenge heteronormativity within Muslim identities. The Qur’an is central to many of the interpretations discussed in the book but De Sondy demonstrates that here too we are not presented with a singular and clear ideal of masculinity. Qur’anic descriptions of male prophets, including Adam, Joseph, Muhammad, and Jesus, each complicate a simple narrative of Muslim manhood. In our conversation we discuss hermeneutical strategies, feminists approaches to the Qur’an, notions of love and sexual boundaries, the Mughal poet Mirza Ghalib, gender fluidity, Sufism in South Asia, prophethood, and same-sex love.

LISTEN HERE: INTERVIEW WITH DE SONDY

In September 2014 the Duke Islamic Studies Center (which manages the Transcultural Islam Project of which TIRN is a part), announced its official institutional affiliation with New Books in Islamic Studies — a bi-weekly audio podcast featuring hour long conversations with authors of exciting new research. For an archive see HERE