Aug 25, 2017

Muslim Origins in South Asia

Episode 330

hosted by Shireen Hamza

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When did Muslims first come to the South Asian subcontinent? The answer to this question has formed a crucial part of nationalism in both India and Pakistan, where the story begins with the conquest of Sind by Muhammad ibn Qasim in 712 AD. In this episode, we speak with Manan Ahmed Asif about his book, A Book of Conquest: The Chachnama and Muslim Origins in South Asia, which reexamines a key text in this narrative about Islam in South Asia: The Chachnama. Written in Sind in the 13th century, this text draws on multiple Indic and Islamic literary traditions to respond to its contemporary political context. We discuss the ways in which the text puts forth political theories, based on the lives of Brahmin rulers of Sind -- including the eponymous Chach -- as well as Muhammad ibn Qasim. Rather than a straightforward story of Muslim conquest, the text advocates a mode of rule which acknowledges and engages with the cultural and religious diversity of Sind. Finally, we touch on the ways this history is alive today among residents of Uch, the city most discussed in the Chachnama.

Aug 22, 2017

Islam in West African History

Episode 329

hosted by Shireen Hamza and Abdul Latif

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In this interview, we explore the early history of Islam in West Africa with Professor Ousmane Kane, who has mapped out the networks of Islamic learning in the region. We discuss intellectual history, the curricula of madrasas and a day in the life of a 16th-century student in Sankore. We then turn to the role of language in West African Muslim intellectual production, and the effects of colonialism on education, broadly. West African Islam is neglected by both Islamic Studies and African studies, despite its rich history, from the first centuries of Islam to the present. We end with a discussion of how these disciplines draw boundaries that have thus far discouraged many from looking beyond material exchange in Timbuktu to the broader study of Islamic intellectual history in West Africa.

Aug 20, 2017

Intellectual Currents in Early Modern Islam

Episode 328

hosted by Shireen Hamza and Abdul Latif

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The seventeenth century, contrary to popular belief, was a time of great originality and change for scholars in the Ottoman Empire and the Maghreb. In this interview, Khaled El-Rouayheb debunks the many myths of intellectual decline by showing how the intellectual production changed in tandem with major migrations across the Islamic world. We start with the influx of Kurdish and Azeri logicians into the Ottoman Empire, and the new disciplines that they brought with them. We then discuss the movement of scholars from North Africa to Egypt and the Hejaz, and how they insisted on methods of taḥqīq, or verification, rather than taqlīd, or the acceptance of knowledge based on authority alone. Finally, we touch on how the spread of Sufi orders from India and Central Asia into Arabic-speaking regions impacted the development and disputation of the concept of waḥdat al-wujūd, or the unity of being. How does this detailed research on intellectual trends change our understanding of "modernity" and the period we call the "early modern"?