Kezilkree The latter came to depict Islam in terms of canonical Sunnism as a non-hierarchical, scriptural religion in which the believer stands in a relationship to God in worship and social morality mediated solely by revelation and the Prophet Muhammad. Its subtext is a story, revealed in pieces rather than made thematic in the style of reflexive ethnography, of working around boundaries in an over-exposed world. This is a really interesting case study of how people can be guardians of tradition and participants in the 21st century. Blank did field work in both these areas as well as mullahs on the mainframe Karachi, where there is also a sizable Bohra community. Selected pages Title Page.
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Modernity and Islamic Fundamentalism 1 from Chapter Conclusion One of the underlying premises of this study has been a belief in the potential for peaceful coexistence between traditionalist Islam and Western-style modernity. Sadly, such a premise stands in marked contrast to the prevailing popular attitude both in the West and in many Muslim circles. Westerners with little knowledge of Islam often reflexively judge it solely by its most militant, rejectionist elements: the Taliban, hard-line Iranian ayatollahs, or self-described mujahideen of various extremist even terrorist organizations.
These elements represent only a tiny fraction of world Muslim opinion, yet all too often in the West they are presumed to be the legitimate voice of the entire community. The Muslim world, for its part, is equally quick to take Western actions out of context: there are those who may be profitably reminded that the term "modern values" is not necessarily an oxymoron, and that Western civilization does not find its definitive expression in Baywatch.
As a citizen of the West, however, it is not my place to tell Muslims what they should and should not believe about my culture. I will therefore comment very briefly on misperceptions that Westerners have about Islam, and leave Muslim writers to balance the other side of the equation.
Talal Asad, in his Genealogies of Religion, highlights a particularly blatant but not atypical example of the prejudice prevalent even in Western intellectual circles: "The Bible, in its entirety," writes the novelist and social critic Fay Weldon quoted by Asad "is at least food for thought.
The Koran is food for no-thought. It is not a poem on which a society can be safely or sensibly based. One might have hoped Western society would have become more open-minded in the century and a half since.
Observers such as Edward Said sometimes portray Western misrepresentation of Islam as a deliberate or quasi-deliberate act, stemming at least subconsciously from a neocolonialist desire for political and cultural hegemony: "[B]ecause of Orientalism the Orient was not and is not a free subject of thought or action. European culture gained in strength and identity by setting itself off against the Orient as a sort of surrogate and even underground self.
Lewis, with more than half a century of scholarship behind him, has the credentials to launch an eloquent counterattack: "The implication would seem to be that by learning Arabic, Englishmen and Frenchmen were committing some kind of offense," he writes. Said, it would seem, scholarship and science are commodities which exist in finite quantities; the West has grabbed an unfair share of these as well as other resources.
Most Westerners know virtually nothing about Islam, so they form their impressions on the most lurid, shocking, and exotic images presented to them. There is nothing unique in this: as Xiaomei Chen notes, in the non-Western world she writes with particular reference to China, but her observation is valid elsewhere "Orientalism, or the Western construction of the Orient, has been accompanied by instances of what might be termed Occidentalism.
The best way to defeat ignorance is through knowledge, imperfect as such a search may be. By what standard is he more "Islamic" than they? An excellent case could be made that it is the literalists themselves who are outside the mainstream of contemporary Islam.
To step away from Bohras and the Indian subcontinent for a moment, two Islamic leaders in Indonesia admirably demonstrate the point. The Nadhlatul Ulama is a group over seven decades old, with more members nearly forty million than the populations of Saudi Arabia and all the Gulf emirates combined.
As head of the Nahdlatul Ulama, Gus Dur strongly opposed making sharia the law of the land. His vision of Islam is based on ethics and universal tolerance: "There is no monopoly of Islam on goodness," he said in an interview. Islam respects plurality more than anything else. Even before he assumed political office after helping lead the movement that dislodged the dictator Suharto in , he and Gus Dur together had about as many followers as the entire population of Iran, about three times as many as that of Taliban-held Afghanistan.
Often described as more conservative than the Nahdlatul Ulama leader and often displaying less tolerance toward minority communities at the political rather than the theological level , Rais regards himself as equally "open and receptive to other people and other ideas" as Gus Dur. The holder of a Ph.
Rais has no wish to resurrect the lifestyle of a time long past: "As a Muslim, I see no obstacle to enjoying the modern world. The most important and urgent thing to do from this point of view is to "disengage" mentally from the West and to cultivate an independent but understanding attitude toward it.
So long as Muslims remain mentally locked with the West in one way or the other, they will not be able to act independently and autonomously. Rahman urged his coreligionists to "distinguish clearly between normative Islam and historical Islam," and reject the notion that the way something was done in the distant or recent past is somehow closer to the authentic core of the faith.
As much as any other single individual in the twentieth century, Maududi helped shape and promote modern-day Sunni Islamic revivalism. Of his more than publications, only one is on a purely theological topic.
The champion of Islamic fundamentalism began his career in a very modern occupation indeed: he started out as a journalist. Maududi founded the Jamaat-i-Islami in as a political and social advocacy organization; from very early in its history to the present day it has been led by, composed of, and oriented toward laypeople rather than ulema. The parallels between this foremost revivalist organization in the Islamic world and contemporaneous Hindu revivalist groups is obvious: the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh RSS and its collateral organizations are primarily cultural and political groups rather than strictly "religious" ones.
Advani is publicly agnostic; and the legendary Hindu Mahasabha president indeed, the intellectual progenitor of Hindu nationalism itself Veer Savarkar was a self-avowed atheist. Yet not even the outlook of Maududi himself, while generally regarded as traditionalist and reactionary, is void of modernist elements. His Risala-e-Diniyat, published first in Urdu in and translated into English as Towards Understanding Islam , is a defense of religious doctrine on wholly rationalistic terms.
In this important work, Maududi makes an eloquent, logical, and persuasive case for Islamic orthodoxy, using modernist skepticism and speculative detachment as his outlook and frame of reference. Agree or disagree, one can hardly accuse him of being stuck in the seventh century. A thorough discussion of Islam and modernity would fill several bookshelves. I have raised the topic merely to indicate a few premises underlying this study, in brief: Western perceptions of Islam in general, and Islamic fundamentalism in particular, are based upon the views of a small, unrepresentative sampling of Muslim attitudes and beliefs.
Even these self-styled spokesmen of Islamic traditionalism are often less categorically hostile to modernist ideas than is generally recognized. There are tremendous numbers of wholly orthodox Muslims, both individuals and entire communities, living their lives in strict accordance with a traditionalist interpretation of the faith, yet displaying few if any of the anti-Western, antisecular, antimodern attitudes commonly associated with this level of Islamic devotion.
Misportrayals of Islam can become self-fulfilling prophecies. The West singles out peripheral figures for condemnation, and inflates barely known terrorists into world-renowned champions of "Islamic jihad. He has such status, at least in part, because America gave it to him. It is my hope that the portrait of the Bohra community presented in this study will help dispel some commonly held misperceptions about fundamentalist Islam.
I would argue that the values Western triumphalists like to claim as their own respect for human and civil rights, pursuit of social justice, equality of sexes, promotion of liberal education, aptitude for technology are hardly limited to the West. As one of my Bohra friends asked me, "A Mormon in Salt Lake City can work as a computer programmer, help with the housework when his wife is at the hospital practicing neurosurgery, and refrain from liquor, tobacco, and R-rated movies.
Why should I be more of an anomaly than him? And in the Bohra community, he is becoming less and less anomalous every day. Are the Bohras themselves an anomaly among Muslims?
While adhering faithfully to traditional Islamic norms, the Bohras eagerly accept most aspects of modernity, strongly support the concept of a pluralist civil society, boast a deeply engrained heritage of friendly engagement with members of other communities, and have a history of apolitical quietism stretching back nearly a thousand years. Notes As noted in the introduction, the term "fundamentalist" is problematic: it has been used to describe groups ranging from orthodox traditionalists to revolutionary militants.
Throughout this study I use the term primarily in the former sense: the hijacking of the term "fundamentalist" by groups that are actually more radical than traditional is a linguistic appropriation that too many Westerners have aided and abetted.
The only major Hindu nationalist group oriented toward religious specialists is the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which was created by RSS leader and former religious specialist Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar. All rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.
Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the University of Chicago Press. See also: Our catalog of books in Anthropology Our catalog of books in Asian studies Our catalog of books in Religion.
Mullahs on the Mainframe
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content: Anthropological Quarterly Chicago: University of Chicago Press, It is the first ethnography of a Muslim community to provide a comprehensive account of its rituals—organized around life cycles and annual cycles—and, within the social limits of that community, to provide an outline of its beliefs, which have been the main analytical and methodological issues that have deterred external scrutiny. Its subtext is a story, revealed in pieces rather than made thematic in the style of reflexive ethnography, of working around boundaries in an over-exposed world. And it provides enough data incidental to its own thesis that traditionalists may eagerly and selectively embrace the techniques of modernity to reinforce tradition that it can potentially serve as grist for other mills. Typically, they are represented in global depictions of Islam, which still privilege the majority Sunni as the unmarked point of comparison, as "fringe," "sectarian," "secretive," "minority," and for some dubious, rather like Mormons to the Christian "mainstream" represented by Baptists.
MULLAHS ON THE MAINFRAME EPUB
Ethnography, political history, economic history, intermingle, and creatively so, in this unique book—a tribute to a gifted and observant author. Here is one brilliant venture by a young, superbly trained American social scientist who delves into the world of Indian Muslims, and renders that world with artistry, precision, and detail. His text also, very properly, aims to dispel some of the stereotypes that disfigure Western preconceptions of Islam. This unconventional book is a major contribution to scholarship. John R.
Mullahs on the Mainframe: Islam and Modernity among the Daudi Bohras
Modernity and Islamic Fundamentalism 1 from Chapter Conclusion One of the underlying premises of this study has been a belief in the potential for peaceful coexistence between traditionalist Islam and Western-style modernity. Sadly, such a premise stands in marked contrast to the prevailing popular attitude both in the West and in many Muslim circles. Westerners with little knowledge of Islam often reflexively judge it solely by its most militant, rejectionist elements: the Taliban, hard-line Iranian ayatollahs, or self-described mujahideen of various extremist even terrorist organizations. These elements represent only a tiny fraction of world Muslim opinion, yet all too often in the West they are presumed to be the legitimate voice of the entire community. The Muslim world, for its part, is equally quick to take Western actions out of context: there are those who may be profitably reminded that the term "modern values" is not necessarily an oxymoron, and that Western civilization does not find its definitive expression in Baywatch. As a citizen of the West, however, it is not my place to tell Muslims what they should and should not believe about my culture.