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In: International Journal of Islam in Asia
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Abstract

Looking back at the articles collected in this issue, I want to propose that Asia is a privileged space for Islamic studies for addressing three questions in particular that are relevant for the wider discipline and demand a radical rethinking of familiar understandings of Islam as it has come to be represented in contemporary scholarship. First, the highly heterogeneous landscapes of Islamic Asia invite us to consider the significance of cultural, linguistic, and religious complexity in Islam more broadly. Second, while exhibiting the fundamental changes that Asian Muslims have navigated against the background of the increasing reach of colonialism and globalization, the preceding articles simultaneously resist easy dichotomizations between tradition and modernity. And third, a focus on Islam in Asia allows us to reassess established paradigms of transmission with its various infrastructures, as well as understandings of centers and peripheries undergirding such processes of transmission.

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In: International Journal of Islam in Asia
Author:

Abstract

This article examines the intersections of gender, consumption, and Muslim cosmopolitanism in the emerging bridal fashions of the Hui Muslims in Xi’an, China. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in Xi’an during 2015 and 2016, I analyze the visual and textual discourses surrounding urban Hui Muslims’ pursuit of a globalized Muslim lifestyle, with a particular emphasis on fashion and representations of women. I explore how the image of the modern Muslim is produced and constructed in Hui-owned bridal salons, which offer bridal makeovers and stage wedding portraiture. By focusing on the perspectives of entrepreneurs within the bridal fashion and portraiture industry, I examine the production of ideal bridal aesthetics and a cosmopolitan female piety that are intertwined with universal Muslim values. This affinity for the universal fosters a sense of superiority among the Hui in their predominantly Han context. Engaging with scholarship on Muslim fashion and vernacular cosmopolitanisms, I argue that the Hui’s adoption of cosmopolitan Muslim-ness embodies both globally circulated lifestyles and local interpretations of modesty and piety. This study of Hui Muslim fashion choices showcases a locally embedded transnational Muslim modernity and underscores the diverse ways in which individuals position themselves within their imagined Muslim ummah.

In: International Journal of Islam in Asia
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In: International Journal of Islam in Asia

Abstract

This special issue explores historical and contemporary Asian Islamic traditions to offer an intentional grounding of Islamic studies in and as Asian Studies. Utilizing data from South, Southeast, and East Asian materials, the articles examine Islamic languages and literatures, socio-political institutions, legal practices, miracle workers and pilgrimage networks, and contemporary popular cultures. We build upon scholarship that represents global Islam as a civilizational process, a discursive tradition, a hermeneutic engagement, or as a cosmopolis. In drawing on Asian practices we reassess key categories, conclusions, and questions in the study of Islam such as the nature of Muslim centers and peripheries, the role of ambiguity in religious expression, the importance of the visual arts to identity formation, the gendered dimensions of legal authority and practice, the role of languages other than Arabic in constructing the Muslim community, and how modern Muslim welfare organizations and women’s pious fashion serve the aspirational goals of individuals and communities. Rectifying the legacies of colonialism and Orientalism in the marginalization of Asia in the study of Islam, we argue Islamic studies has much to learn from Asian perspectives and that Asia is an exceptional place from which the field can conceptualize Islamic traditions in broader terms.

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In: International Journal of Islam in Asia

Abstract

Recent scholarship in Islamic studies has proposed ambiguity, especially in the form of literary metaphor and paradox, as integral to pre-modern Islam. However, literary ambiguity has also afforded an interpretive lens for articulations of modern Muslim identity. This article analyzes how two metaphors for the self – the nightingale and the falcon – function in Persian and Urdu ghazals of Muhammad Iqbal (d. 1938), for whom the resources of pre-modern Sufi poetry, especially ambiguity and paradox, become a method of meaning-making for the modern era. Iqbal’s use of these metaphors presents a nuanced view of the tensions between the inheritances of tradition and the demands of modernity for South Asian Muslims in the colonial era, and allows us to attend to the intersections of religion, literature, and politics in modern Islamic thought from the point of view of languages, genres, and geographies that remain marginal to the field of Islamic Studies.

In: International Journal of Islam in Asia
Author:

Abstract

Despite demographic realities, Muslim Southeast Asia remains one of the most marginalized regions in Islamic studies and in popular culture. This article grapples with one of the thorniest of allegations against the Islam of the “peripheries,” that the prevalence of saints and miracle workers, known as keramat in Southeast Asia, is nominally Islamic or syncretic and, thus, it is evidence of regional communities being “less-than-pure” Islamic. In doing so, this article analyzes the texts and traditions of keramat, focusing on Southeast Asian Islamic literature produced in Malay and Tamil from the late nineteenth century to the present. What emerges from a study of these texts, as well as of ongoing Islamic religious practices in the region, is a self-perception of Southeast Asian islands and cities as centers of Islam shaped by the network and circulation of keramat and ʿulamāʾ that operated as nodes of a multi-centered Islam. Arguing against attempts to flatten and essentialize Islam, Southeast Asian Islamic literature associated keramat with Muḥammad, highlighting how regional Islam and its rituals, liturgies, and ṭarīqa were directly passed down by the Prophet. Keramat texts emphasize that Southeast Asia’s saints and ʿulamāʾ were heirs of Muḥammad and enforcers of Muḥammad’s norms through bloodlines and other forms of intimacy. These texts, moreover, propose that some of the keramat buried in the region were the most consummate of Sufis, the Quṭb, or eschatological restorers, or Mahdi, and surpassed prophets in their miraculous powers. Overall, this is a story of miraculous narratives, devotional cultures, social memories, and sacral centers of the Islamic world that are often pushed to the peripheries of Islamic studies but refuse to be marginalized and forgotten.

In: International Journal of Islam in Asia
Author:

Abstract

The Moors’ Islamic Cultural Home (MICH) was incorporated in the State Council in 1944. This paper will look at the establishment of the MICH as indicating the emergence of a particular post-World War II aspirational Muslim middle-class sensibility in Sri Lanka. It will argue that this sensibility emerged at the intersection of two sets of anxieties – Muslims as a minority in a soon to be majoritarian state, and the Muslim elite as insufficiently educated and forward looking in comparison with other elites in the country. In the period when the MICH was established, Ceylonese Muslims distanced themselves from Indian Muslims living in Sri Lanka but presented a connection with a Muslim past through invoking the Moors of Spain. Through the MICH the Muslim elite presented themselves as learned, modern, and as leading poorer Muslims out of destitution toward a modern middle-class way of life.

In: International Journal of Islam in Asia
Author:

Abstract

This article uncovers the hitherto lesser-known histories of the Perso-Arabic cosmopolis as exists among China’s Sinophone Muslims. Drawing on reprinted manuscripts and published secondary literature in Arabic, Persian, and Chinese, I show a continual evolution of this cosmopolis as it articulates with Chinese through rigorous works of translation, transliteration, and a more encompassing mode of translingual conversion. This linguistic feat is enabled by a transregional network where the wider Indian Ocean world is drawn closer to China, while China becomes but one node, though frequently the destination for the global circulation of Islamic texts and ideas. This article aims to offer a detailed description of this Perso-Arabic cosmopolis and help us acquire a more comprehensive understanding of the rich lives of Arabic and Persian in the eastern Indian Ocean world.

In: International Journal of Islam in Asia
Author:

Abstract

My article proposes a new approach to the study of fatwas (Islamic legal opinion) in an Indonesian context, aiming at contributing to Islamic Studies on fatwa-making more broadly. By combining an Islamic studies framework with anthropological research and gender studies, my article challenges the traditional focus on male-dominated institutions and emphasizes the everyday practice of issuing fatwas at the grassroots level, particularly by women. I argue that fatwa-issuing institutions are gendered, excluding women from significant positions and recognition as Islamic scholars. Therefore, studying women’s fatwa-making requires considering various sites of interaction between female mufti and fatwa seekers. These interactions showcase dynamic changes in women’s experiences, religious authority, and everyday fatwa-making practices, driven by context-specific resources. Women’s participation disrupts traditional norms, challenging gendered structures in fatwa-making institutions. Moreover, it signifies the evolution of doctrinal changes and ethical practices, redefining fatwas from static outcomes to a dynamic and inclusive realm of interaction, innovation, and Islamic authority.

In: International Journal of Islam in Asia