Modernity is commonly cast as a break with tradition – and a marriage with the secular. Rationalism, individual rights, democracy and cosmopolitanism are its favoured offspring, and their story is told as the rise of the modern West. Yet the essential values at stake – from civic culture to the ethos of intellectual life and science – have roots beyond the West. They extend to civilizations and histories of the Islamic world in all its diversity, giving us journeys into a modernity that is familiar but also different.

This book is about Muslim encounters with the modern: how Islam and those in its orbit have shaped and been shaped by histories that are overlapping and distinctive. Identity and citizenship, piety and protest, music and modes of dress are explored as expressions that bear on the making and remaking of modern public spheres. Muslim as well as non-Muslim scholars show in these pages that tradition and religiosity alike are active players in the making of the modern.

A vital theme is the role of the ethical imagination in expressions of the civil, fed by the diversity of religious and cultural narratives as sources of the self. This can be seen in struggles for civil society and democratic citizenship, in the grappling with new technologies, and in the challenges of political violence. Since the events of September 11, 2001, a failure to come to grips with plural modernities has spurred claims about a ‘clash of civilizations’. Fresh perspectives are offered here on what it is to be Muslim and modern, mindful of the rich narratives that inform both identities.