Surviving Modernity: Ashraf 'Ali Thanvi (1863-1943) and the Making of Muslim Orthodoxy in Colonial India
This dissertation examines the shape, substance, and staging of Muslim orthodoxy in British India, concentrating on how orthodox theologians survived colonial modernity by deploying sociological, discursive, psychic, and hermeneutical strategies. This dissertation is organized around Ashraf `Ali Thanvi (1863-1943), a leading Muslim theologian, mystic, and jurist of colonial India. Thanvi authored hundreds of original treatises, compiled texts, and works of commentary on doctrine and ritual, mystical experience, 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 Thanvi's texts and situate them within two frameworks: the history of Indo-Muslim thought and the socio-political history of colonial India. Thanvi's hundreds of published treatises and sermons, continued citation within South Asian Islam, and widespread sufi 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.
South Asian studies
Ashraf Ali Thanvi
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