Troubled Muslims
Satish Saberwal
ISLAMIC CONTESTATIONS: ESSAYS ON MUSLIMS IN INDIA AND PAKISTAN by Barbara D Metcalf Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2004, 365 pp., Rs. 595.00
May 2004, volume 28, No 5

“Scores of studies exist on caste groups,” Mushirul Hasan wrote recently, “but not on the Muslims.” For reasons beyond this review, over the past half century, social sciences in India have sported a blind spot that may be called the Case of the Missing Muslim. Professor Barbara Metcalf was among the first to sense this blind spot; her first major work, built around the Deoband madrasa, appeared in 1982. Fifteen of her essays, published over a quarter century, 1978-2002, reappear in this volume, a cross-section of work by a versatile scholar. These essays track her horizon: from Deoband and Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) to Taliban; the “nationalist” Muslims, especially Hakim Ajmal Khan, but also, anticipating later work, Hussain Ahmad Madani, a leading scholar at Deoband who was active later in “nationalist” politics; and larger issues of nationalism and modernity before 1947 and two forays into the scene in Pakistan. The wide range of her sympathy and sensibility is expressed in her analyses of a Mughal painting, of a long poem by Iqbal, and of numerous accounts of the experience of Hajj pilgrimage.

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