Centre for Comparative Literature, School of Humanities organized a discussion of “Religion as critique: Islamic Critical Thinking from Mecca to the Marketplace”.

The author of the book Irfan Ahmad is a senior Research fellow at The Max Planck Institute for The Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity Gottingen, Germany.Previously he has worked as a Faculty at The Australian Catholic University Monash, University and University of Amsterdam. He has done his Bachelor in Sociology from Jamia Milia Islamia and went to JNU to pursue his Masters. Irfan Ahmad is the Author of Islamism and Democracy in India (Princeton University Press, 2009).The book for discussion,” Religion as critique: Islamic Critical Thinking from Mecca to the Marketplace (2017)” is published by North Carolina Press.

The discussants included Prof.Sasheej Hegde from Department of Sociology, University of Hyderabd.Sasheej is a regular writer with the Economical and Political Weekly (EPW). From EFLU we had Dr.Sherin BS from the Department of Comparative Literature. From the Centre for Comparative Literature, University of Hyderabad we had two discussant Dr. Shefali Jha and Dr.Dickens Leonard.

Professor Sasheej started the Book Discussion by discussing the first two chapters of the book. The rest of the book was discussed in the same manner by other discussant. Few points underlined by him were-

-The book is an attempt to display the multifaceted critique existing within the tradition of Islam as opposed to the fact that Islam is inimical to Criticism.
– Whenever one talks of religious criticism, christanity has a habit falling out of this zone.
– Where on one side the book shows that critique is a part of Islam it also sheds light on the western idea of critique implicitly mingled with the tone of an ethnic project.
-Islamic conception of reason is much broader than perceived. In Islam reason is highly valued in contrast to how the general populace, religious critics are all upbeat about the lack of reason within the religion.

Chapter two forms the basis of one of the principle contestation that the book makes that is –Enlightenment ,is a form of ethnicity. The book compares and contrasts between the Western notion of critique and the Islamic notion Of Critique. How the concept of Enlightenment is always seen in philosophical lineage.

Dr Dickens explained how Urdu got distanced from Farsi and Arabic, how Urdu got de- religiousised, how it became secular and came into national literature. This brings us to the important question as to what happens with the non secular category of writing .The other discussants also provided with their understanding of the book.
The book tries to show how Islam as a religion is wrongly perceived as freedom despising and bigoted. The book also discusses on the life and work of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan.

Zeenat Shana, Department of Communication

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