Political Power and Religious Authority in Indian Islamic Thought: A Perspective from the 18th Century


Political Power and Religious Authority in Indian Islamic Thought: A Perspective from the 18th Century

Thursday, October 31, 2019  •  11:45am  •  West Hall, Room 120  •  ASU Tempe Campus

Note: This event is the presentation of a a specialized academic paper and is not written for a general audience.

Join us as Qasim Zaman examines the interplay of political power and religious authority in the thought of Shah Wali Allah of Delhi (d. 1762), one of the most prominent scholars of eighteenth century India.

Though several of Wali Allah’s writings have received considerable scholarly attention, the aspect of his political and religious thought has been much neglected. A close reading of Wali Allah’s writings reveals him to be keenly interested not just in the immediately relevant issues of the chronic political instability afflicting his age but also in the broader, theoretical, questions of how political power undergirds the moral force of religious norms and institutions. It is the implications of his unusually blunt but robust recognition that power is part of what enables a religious tradition to evolve and change that this talk explores.

Lunch served at 11:45am, presentation begins at 12:00pm

Faculty and students are kindly asked to RSVP


Muhammad Qasim Zaman is the Robert H. Niehaus ’77 Professor of Near Eastern Studies and Religion at Princeton University, a position he has held since 2006. Prior to his position at Princeton, Zaman taught at Brown University.

Zaman’s research interests include issues and debates relating to religious authority in classical, medieval, and modern Islam; history of Islamic law in the Middle East and South Asia; institutions of Islamic education; and religious and political thought in modern Islam. He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Humanities Center, the Institute for Advanced Study, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Zaman’s early work was concerned with the emergence of Muslim religious scholars, the ‘ulama, as a recognizable social entity and the evolving relations of these scholars with the ruling elite during the formative period of Islam. This work became the basis of his Religion and Politics under the Early ‘Abbasids, which was published in 1997. For much of the past decade, his research and writing have focused on religious, legal, and political thought in modern Islam, in both South Asian and Middle Eastern contexts. Principal among his recent publications are The Ulama in Contemporary Islam: Custodians of Change(2002; paperback edition 2007), a study of the transformations traditionally-educated religious scholars have undergone in the modern world; and Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi: Islam in Modern South Asia (2008), which examines the career and thought of a highly influential scholar and Sufi of colonial India. Zaman is also the co-editor of two volumes: Schooling Islam: The Culture and Politics of Modern Muslim Education (2007); and Princeton Readings in Islamist Thought (2009).

Zaman is presently working on two books. The first, which is near completion, is titled Internal Criticism and Religious Authority in Modern Islam and is concerned with debates on social and legal reform in South Asia and the Arab Middle East from the late-19th century to the present. The second book, for which he has been awarded a fellowship by the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, examines various aspects of Islam in Pakistan in their interrelationship and their varied contexts.

Thursday, October 31, 2019 • 11:45am • West Hall, Room 120 • ASU Tempe Campus