• Diversity and Pluralism in Islam: Historical and Contemporary Discourses amongst Muslims

    I.B. Tauris in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London 2012.

    ISBN HardBack:
    For more than fourteen hundred years, Muslims have held multiple and diverging views about many aspects of their religious tradition including religious authority, ritual practice, political power, law and governance, civic life, and the form and content of individual and communal expressions. Muslims have regularly debated amongst themselves about these issues. Despite the diversity amongst Muslims and the plurality of understandings about Islam, Muslims are regularly portrayed as internally homogenous and monolithic. This book challenges such propositions by examining the ways in which Muslims regularly debate amongst themselves about matters of common concern, the processes by which they discursively construct notions of self, other and community, and the socio-cultural tools they employ in so doing.

    The first chapter by Zulfikar Hirji introduces the main subject of the book and sets out some of the complementary and cross-cutting themes addressed in the volume. These include: (1) the paradigmatic ummainfo-icon; (2) the social construction of the internal other; and (3) the discourses and counter-discourses of debating Muslims. Roy Mottahedeh’s chapter examines the manner in which different Muslim thinkers such as al-Ghazali (d. 1111), Rumi (d. 1273) and Hafiz (d. 1389-1390) interpret the hadithinfo-icon traditions of the Prophet concerning sectarian divisions in Islam. The third chapter by Dominique-Sila Khan draws on extensive ethnographic and archival study of ‘threshold’ communities in India to point out the problems associated with defining Muslims in a highly pluralistic context; particularly as such definitions were informed by the colonial imagination and then carried forward to meet the needs of the Indian nationalist project. Patrice Brodeur’s case study of Muslims living in post-9/11 America provides a contrast to Khan’s study. Here, intra-Muslim plurality is articulated with reference to both local and global discourses about jostling definitions of the umma. The fifth chapter by James Allan surveys so-called Sunni, Shi‘ainfo-icon and Sufi art from the classical Islamic heritage to determine the extent to which Muslims marked out ‘self’ and ‘other’. The theme of how Muslims have constructed the internal other is explored in R. Kevin Jaques’s case study of classical biographical texts about Shafi‘iinfo-icon and Hanafi legal scholars. Jaques shows how madhab-based scholars used literary devices such as cross-referencing, rhetorical flourish, and ‘spin’ to build up and dismantle the reputations of their opponents. Roman Loimeier’s case study compares and contrasts the discursive strategies of successive generations of tariqainfo-icon-based reformers in Senegal and Coastal Eastern Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries and shows how internal others exist within a multi-dimensional space-time context. The volume concludes with John Bowen’s study of Muslim discourses of pluralism in South-East Asia and Europe. Bowen shows how different local contexts generate different solutions to the issue of pluralism.

    This volume emerged out of a series of seminars on ‘Muslim Pluralism’ hosted at The Institute of Ismaili Studies between 2002 and 2003. The seminar series and this volume were developed, in part, as a response to the events of 11 September, 2001.

    Editor’s Note



    About the Contributors



    List of Illustrations




    Debating Islam from Within: Muslim Constructions of the Internal Other

    Zulfikar Hirji




    Pluralism and Islamic Traditions of Sectarian Divisions

    Roy P. Mottahedeh



    Being One and Many Among the Others: Muslim Diversity in the Context of South Asian Religious Pluralism

    Dominique Sila Khan



    Religious Pluralism in the Light of American Muslim Identities

    Patrice C. Brodeur



    Islamic Art and Doctrinal Pluralism: Seeking Out the Visual Boundaries

    James W.Allan



    The Contestation and Resolution of Inter- and Intra-School Conflicts through Biography

    R. Kevin Jaques



    Traditions of Reform, Reformers of Tradition: Case Studies from Senegal and Zanzibar/Tanzania

    Roman Loimeier



    Justifying Islamic Pluralism: Reflections from Indonesia and France

    John R. Bowen















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    al-Isnawi, Abd al-Rahim. Tabaqat al-shafi‘iyah. Kamal Yusuf al- Hut (editor). Beirut, 1987.

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    7. Traditions of Reform, Reformers of Tradition: Case Studies from Senegal and Zanzibar/Tanzania


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    ____‘A Lost Generation? Youth Identity and State Decay in West Africa’, in R. Werbner and T. Ranger, eds., Postcolonial Identities in Africa. London, 1996, pp. 55–74.

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    ____ ‘Translocal Networks of Saints and the Negotiation of Religious Disputes in Local Contexts’, Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions (ASSR, Paris), 133 (March 2006).

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    ____ ‘Je veux étudier sans mendier: The Campaign against the Qur’anic Schools in Senegal’, in H. Weiss, ed., Social Welfare in Muslim Societies in Africa. Uppsala, 2002, pp. 118–137.

    ____ Säkularer Staat und Islamische Gesellschaft. Die Beziehungen zwischen Staat, Sufi-Bruderschaften und islamischer Reformbewegung in Senegal im 20. Jahrhundert. Hamburg, 2001.

    ____ Islamic Reform and Political Change in Northern Nigeria. Evanston, 1997.

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    ____ ‘Senegal’, African Studies Review, 47:2 (2004), pp. 61–72.

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    8. Justifying Islamic Pluralism: Reflections from Indonesia and France


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    ____ Islam, Law, and Equality in Indonesia: An Anthropology of Public Reasoning. Cambridge, 2003.

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    ____ ‘Pluralism and Normativity in French Islamic Reasoning’, in R. Hefner, ed., Remaking Muslim politics: pluralism, contestation, democratization. Princeton, 2005, pp. 326–346.

    ____ ‘Two Approaches to Rights and Religion in Contemporary France’, in R. .Wilson and J. P.Mitchell, eds., Human Rights in Global Perspective. London, 2003, pp. 33–53.

    ____ ‘Does French Islam Have Borders? Dilemmas of Domestication in a Global Religious Field’, American Anthropologist, 106:1 (2004), pp. 43–55.

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  • Professor Zulfikar Hirji

    Dr Zulfikar Hirji
    Zulfikar Hirji is an Anthropologist and Social Historian of Muslim Societies and Cultures. He is currently Associate Professor of Anthropology at York University, Toronto. He was formerly a Research Associate at The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, and Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford. Professor Hirji received his DPhil from the University of Oxford, MPhil from University of Cambridge, and B.A. (Joint Honours) from McGill University. He also studied at The Institute of Ismaili Studies in the Graduate Programme of Islamic Studies and Humanities. Professor Hirji...Read more


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