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Being Muslim in India: A Singer, a Madman, and a Schoolgirl in their own Words Metcalf, Barbara


Hosted by the Asian Studies department, as part of the 2010 Virani Lecture Series in Islamic Studies, one of the most important directions in religious studies over recent decades has been an emphasis on the lived experience of those who participate in any given transcendent tradition that includes such domains of life as ritual, worship, and sacred authority. This approach invariably brings home the extraordinary diversity of ways of being part of any sacred tradition. Nonetheless, outsiders often attribute to Islamic sacred texts singular meanings and absolute authority as, indeed, do some Muslim ideologues themselves. In contrast, this talk explores the value of a more contextual approach to understanding engagement with Islamic texts and symbols, and provides examples from three different parts of the Indian subcontinent in three different centuries. The talk introduces an Isma`ili poet who flourished 600 years ago in the north-western area of the subcontinent; an ex-soldier in colonial central India; and, finally, a young Bengali college girl affiliated with a Jama`at Islamic organization in today’s Bangladesh.

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