The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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ISLAM IN INDIA: The impact of civilizations Edited by Asghar Ali Engineer, Shipra, Rs 295

The second largest religion after Christianity, Islam, is attracting a lot of attention of late. There appears to be a renewed attempt to understanding Islam all over the world today. India’s association with Islam dates back to the days when it was ruled by Muslim leaders over a considerably long period of time. Their culture has left its indelible stamp on not only our religious and community lives, but on art, architecture, music, language and historiography as well. Non-acceptance of this fact will be a denial of history. The book under review is a collection of essays that examines the various dimensions of this all important fact.

In about a dozen essays ranging from historiography to Arabic literature and written by scholars of national and international statures, the book is a journey back in time. There is a collection of papers read by scholars in an international seminar on the said topic organized by the Indian Council for Cultural relations, New Delhi. The publication of these papers will give an opportunity to the readers to pry into the deliberations of an international seminar and give their verdict on it. Apart from writing the introduction to the book, Asghar Ali Engineer has also contributed a paper on Islamic approaches to nationhood.

The range of the essays is vast and reasonably good. It includes history, Sufism, politics, science and literature. However, many other areas have been left uncovered. There is another aspect to this book too. One may be drawn to the choice of subjects of the different papers, but even a casual glance betray their standard.

As the title of the book is Islam in India, Barun De’s essay on Maulana Azad and Abdelhadi Tazi’s on Ibn Batuta seem a bit out of place. That De has little knowledge of Urdu and Arabic can be understood by his comments on Maulana’s work, specially those on his stupendous work on the interpretations of the holy Quoran. Similarly Tazi’s paper comes across as a preliminary survey. Khwaja Hasan Sani Nizami’s work on Sufi tradition and it is worth perusing, though one expected him to refer to works like Kashf al Mehjub. Indrani Chatterji’s writing on slavery and kingship, though not directly related to the topic, shows the ways of the faithful that constituted the gentry of the time.

Akhtarul Wasey, writing on Indo-Islamic cultural interface, lays down the history of the Muslims without adding much in the ways of interpretations. The same can be said about A.Q. Rafiqi, but his introduction on the Sufi tradition is informative. D.R. Goyal’s write-up on Indian response to Islam is different because it charts the political, rather than the religious thoughts and show how it affected the communities of the time.

The book does not contribute anything new to the study of Islam. But essays as those of Ahmed el-Heseasi and S. Ziaul Hasan Nadwi’s will be helpful to those readers who have little idea about Islamic traditions or their contribution to this society.

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