In this groundbreaking study, SherAli Tareen offers the most comprehensive account of the longest running dispute in modern Islam: the Barelvi–Deobandi polemic. The Barelvi and Deobandi groups are two normative orientations with beginnings in colonial South Asia two hundred years ago, yet their differences haunt the religious sensibilities of South Asian Muslims today.
Tareen challenges those who see intra-Muslim contest through the prism of liberal-secular binaries like legal/mystical, moderate/extremist, and reformist/traditionalist. He argues that the Barelvi–Deobandi polemic was animated by “competing political theologies” – contrasting visions of the normative relationship between divine sovereignty, prophetic charisma, and the practice of everyday life. Based on a close reading of unexplored print and manuscript sources in Arabic, Persian, and Urdu, his book intervenes in Islamic studies, South Asian studies, and political theology.
SherAli Tareen is associate professor of religious studies at Franklin and Marshall College. He is co-editor of Imagining the Public in Modern South Asia.
“. . . beautifully written in a language accessible for students and colleagues . . . If you can only read three books on Islam in South Asia, Defending Muhammad in Modernity needs to be one of them.” ~ Margrit Pernau, Max Planck Institute
“No book offers a richer, more illuminating guide to the origins and the complex theological relationship of the Barelvi and the Deobandi orientations . . . [a] remarkably accessible study . . .” ~ Muhammad Qasim Zaman, Princeton
“. . . a major contribution to the literature on the history of Muslims (and Islam) in South Asia . . . The book is also noteworthy for its deep engagement with Urdu, Persian, and Arabic sources.” ~ David Gilmartin, North Carolina State University