Comparative Islamic Studies, Vol 5, No 2 (2009)

Reconfiguring South Asian Islam: From the 18th to the 19th Century

Carl W. Ernst
Issued Date: 25 Oct 2011


Distinctive shifts in the character of South Asian Islamic culture took place between eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This article tracks these changes through two notable examples, Ghulam ‘Ali Azad Bilgrami (d. 1786) and Hajji Imdad Allah Muhajir Makki (d. 1899). Analysis of writings by and about these two figures demonstrates shifting models of what it meant to be a South Asian Muslim intellectual. The confident cosmopolitanism of Bilgrami, on the cusp of the British colonial conquest, yields to a much more defensive posture in Hajji Imdad Allah, who was indeed engaged in resistance against the ultimately victorious British rule. Loss of traditional Muslim patronage coincided with the decline of philosophical traditions and interest in Hindu culture, along with the rise of the scriptural reformism typified by the Deoband school, which addressed a broader Muslim public. The relatively short time during which these changes occurred emphasizes the significant cultural gap between the pre- and post-colonial periods of South Asian Islam.

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DOI: 10.1558/cis.v5i2.247

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