Religion as Critique: Islamic Critical Thinking from Mecca to the Marketplace

Religion as Critique: Islamic Critical Thinking from Mecca to the Marketplace

by Irfan Ahmad


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Irfan Ahmad makes the far-reaching argument that potent systems and modes for self-critique as well as critique of others are inherent in Islam—indeed, critique is integral to its fundamental tenets and practices. Challenging common views of Islam as hostile to critical thinking, Ahmad delineates thriving traditions of critique in Islamic culture, focusing in large part on South Asian traditions. Ahmad interrogates Greek and Enlightenment notions of reason and critique, and he notes how they are invoked in relation to "others," including Muslims. Drafting an alternative genealogy of critique in Islam, Ahmad reads religious teachings and texts, drawing on sources in Hindi, Urdu, Farsi, and English, and demonstrates how they serve as expressions of critique. Throughout, he depicts Islam as an agent, not an object, of critique.

On a broader level, Ahmad expands the idea of critique itself. Drawing on his fieldwork among marketplace hawkers in Delhi and Aligarh, he construes critique anthropologically as a sociocultural activity in the everyday lives of ordinary Muslims, beyond the world of intellectuals. Religion as Critique allows space for new theoretical considerations of modernity and change, taking on such salient issues as nationhood, women's equality, the state, culture, democracy, and secularism.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781469635095
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 12/04/2017
Series: Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks
Pages: 300
Sales rank: 1,216,144
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Irfan Ahmad, an anthropologist and senior research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Studies in Gottingen, Germany, is the author of Islamism and Democracy in India: The Transformation of Jamaat-e-Islami.

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From the Publisher

This important and passionate book is filled with original ideas. Two of the most striking ones are that Enlightenment thought is deeply indebted to Christian thought, and that Islam has its own tradition of critique that precedes the Western idea of critique but continues to be marginalized in contemporary scholarly and public debate. A significant book for scholars of Islam, Europe, and the Enlightenment." —Arjun Appadurai, author of The Future as a Cultural Fact

Provocatively examines the relationship of the Islamic tradition to critique. This timely reflection on the ways in which reason, criticism, and reflexivity are not exclusive to the Enlightenment pointedly addresses how the practice of Westernized notions of critique are deeply constituted by and through political and anthropological contexts." —Ruth Mas, BGSMCS–Free University Berlin

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