Islamic Histories, Part 2: Chronologies and Frameworks of Change in Modern Islamic Traditions

AHA Session 150
Saturday, January 4, 2020: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Metropolitan Ballroom West (Small) (Sheraton New York, Second Floor)
Sana Haroon, University of Massachusetts Boston
Experiencing Time in the Deoband Movement
Brannon Ingram, Northwestern University
Islamic Pasts in Modernist Indian Thought
Faridah Zaman, University of Oxford

Session Abstract

This is the second of two panels which bring together scholars of the extensive modern Islamic world to interrogate how Muslim thinkers conceptualize the past. Participants in this panel are from the fields of history, area studies and religious studies and come together to describe the unusual historical frameworks which have emerged in Islamic traditions in modern South Asia, Iran and China.

Participants provide broad introductions to conceptual frameworks which support understandings of the tradition that they are concerned with. Simon Fuchs describes the transregional and Iran-centered world of modern Shi‘a thought. Brannon Ingram explains the mystical and revivalist underpinnings of the South Asian Deobandi thought. Michael Krautkraemer introduces the Muslims of Xinjiang in what is normally considered a periphery of the Islamic world. Faridah Zaman introduces the powerful and influential modernist Muslims of the late colonial period in India. Each participant then goes on to describe the unusual and unexpected temporal frameworks which have animated discourse and guided pious self conduct in these traditions. Time is turned on its head in Shi‘a traditions where historians and clerics contend with the occultation of twelfth Shi‘a imam in the year 941 and try to conceptualize this empty presence. Prophetic affect, rather than time, progresses in the Deobandi biographies as the power of Muhammad’s presence is transmitted through his companions and then onwards through their followers and then to devotees. Manuals produced for the tradesmen of twentieth century Xinjiang supported a focus on the everyday, to enable living and working in a self consciously Islamic manner. Leading Muslim writers of 19th and 20th century north India narrate events of history which were curious and unfamiliar, challenging historicism’s conceit.

The participants in this panel suggest alternatives to prevailing historical theories of the origin and evolution of Islamic thought and society, approaches which aggregate events and their impact, beginning in a classical age, through a decline and finally into the experience of a revival. Panelists describe understandings of change which is brought about by and within individuals, through the effect of mystical forces and through the impact of little known events.

This session will be organized as a series of four 10 minute presentations, leaving 50 minutes for a moderated discussion.

See more of: Islamic Histories
See more of: AHA Sessions