Book Projects

Manuscript 1: Surviving Modernity: Ashraf ‘Ali Thanvi (1863-1943) and the Politics of Muslim Orthodoxy in Colonial India

This monograph advances the study of Muslim South Asia in the colonial period by approaching the culture of Sunni traditionalists as an assemblage of concepts, bodies, pleasures, and politics. It presents an in-depth study of Ashraf ‘Alī Thānvī (1863-1943), a leading Muslim theologian, mystic, and jurist of colonial India. Thānvī authored hundreds of original treatises, compiled texts, and works of commentary on doctrine and ritual, mystical experience, gender and erotic embodiment, communal identity, and political theology. His collected letters, recorded conversations, and sermons were published within his lifetime and continue to instruct many contemporary South Asian Muslims. I closely read Thānvī’s texts and situate them within two frameworks: the history of Indo-Muslim thought and the socio-political history of colonial India. Thānvī’s hundreds of published treatises and sermons, continued citation within South Asian Islam, and widespread ṣūfī fellowship make him one of the most compelling case studies for analyzing some of the key thematic concerns of Muslim orthodoxy, such as religious knowledge, self-discipline, sublimation of desire, regulation of gender, and communalist politics. My analyses demonstrate how orthodox scholars proliferated their theological, legal, and mystical teachings in order to make tradition relevant and authoritative in the public and private lives of many South Asian Muslims. Orthodox Islam not only survived colonial modernity, but also thrived in its ideological and social contexts.

Manuscript 2: Muslims in South Asia (contracted with Edinburgh University Press). 

Muslims in South Asia offers a new way to envision the Muslim tradition of South Asia. Developing the theme of “embodied space,” this book places human bodies at the center of theorizing about the cultural construction of space. Following postcolonial theorists such as Frantz Fanon and Homi Bhabha and feminist theorists such as bell hooks and Judith Butler, I argue that we access and experience spatial constructions while inhabiting regimes of bodily signification. The book illustrates how despite being partitioned by territorialized conceptions of religious identity, South Asian Muslims continue to inhabit particular spaces in similar ways in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. This is so because their embodiment of Islam takes place in an imaginary and symbolic terrain consisting of overlapping desires, concepts, and rituals.

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