One decade after the first appearance of Islam in South Asia: A Short History (ISA), published in 2008 in Brill’s series “Themes in Islamic Studies” and reprinted in 2012 by Orient Blackswan in Hyderabad, the editors of Brill’s series Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section 2: South Asia asked for a revised and updated version together with some first-hand testimonies from the actors about whom I was writing.
Much like during my first attempt to write A Short History of Islam in South Asia, I felt the limitations involved in such an ambitious project, not the least because of the pronounced contestation of Muslims and Islam in South Asia in the media, academia and religious self-presentation. Over the last two decades, there has been an increasing curiosity about the region’s diverse Muslim cultures, thus calling for a revised overview that can make some sense of the major trends and immense complexity of Muslims in the subcontinent and thus to improve the understanding of the current situation. Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say that in the book in hand, the epistemological frame of reference, the organisation of the chapters and excursuses and large parts of the narrative follow the ones applied and used in the first edition. Major and substantial revisions, changes, abridgements and additions follow the academic literature produced during the last decade or so, as will be elaborated in the Introduction.
Pertaining to transliteration, Urdu, Arabic, Persian and Turkish words follow a slightly altered version of that used by the International Journal of Middle East Studies (IJMES). These words have been written without diacritical marks, including in the selected readings in the annexes, for uniformity and readability. It should be emphasised that the lack of diacritics and the use of the Gregorian as opposed to the Hijri calendar are aimed at making this study accessible to a wider audience in comparative studies of religion, history and cultural and social sciences.
So it is my privilege to submit the final manuscript of the updated edition of ISA with all its shortcomings, for which I am happy to take full responsibility, though cautiously remembering one of my teachers saying that an academic contribution exists and lives on because of its lacunae. Hence, this book is far from being a definitive contribution to what is bahr-e zakhkhar (“a rising ocean”). We can therefore look forward to further studies, anticipating that this work provides helpful perspectives on the state of the art and will stimulate further interest in the area.