I am interested in the study of socio-religious history of Muslims in the Indian subcontinent during the medieval and early modern period. Over recent years my research has focussed on the general theme of reform and renewal in South Asian Islam and the role of Sufi orders and scholarly networks in the 18th c. reformist upsurge. I am currently working at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies on the project ‘An Atlas of Muslim Social and Intellectual History of South Asia, 1200-1900’.
Before coming to Oxford, I read history at Aligarh Muslim University (India) and did my doctorate from the University of Cambridge where I was the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Trust Scholar at Trinity College. During 2012-13, I was Assistant Professor at the International Islamic University of Malaysia.
My recent book Reform and Renewal in South Asian Islam (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2017) is based on my Cambridge doctoral dissertation. This is a study of the Chishti-Sabri Sufi order in early modern South Asia. The book explains how the efforts of the Chishti-Sabris defined religious and intellectual trends among South Asian Muslims and gave new vitality to Muslim religious life. It explores how they addressed questions posed by colonial rule while still adhering to their mystical heritage and contributed significantly to the reformist upsurge in northern India.
I am currently working on my second monograph which will be published by Oxford University Press in the Makers of Islamic Civilisation Series. Broadly speaking, this would be a study of South Asian religious scholars who were residing in the Hijaz during the 19th century and their connections with their disciples in South Asia and elsewhere. I would primarily focus on a key religious figure, Haji Imdadullah (d. 1899) and his efforts to control and guide his dispersed disciple community. Despite his physical absence from the subcontinent for a large part of his life, he remained aware of the happenings in India and was in constant contact of his students through letters and writings. Residing in what was then Ottoman Hijaz, he was part of the larger cosmopolitan network of Muslim intellectuals who gathered in the Hijaz from different parts of the Muslim world. The study would enable us to understand the experiences of such religious scholars who were trying to re-assert the meaningfulness of their socio-religious world under colonial rule.
Reform and Renewal in South Asian Islam: The Chishti-Sabris in 18th-19th century north India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, January 2017)
Of the many Sufi orders that have operated in South Asia, the Chishtī order is the oldest and the most popular. This book examines the traditions, rituals, experiences, and legacy of the Sābrī branch of the Chishtī order. Challenging the notion of Sufism as an ossified relic of the past, it presents evidence of growing interaction, accommodation, and intermingling within Sufi orders. It also highlights the active involvement of the Chishtī-Sābrīs in the much discussed reformist upsurge in north India and explains how they addressed questions posed by colonial rule while still adhering to their mystical heritage.
The role of networks that connected Sufi scholars in small towns (qasbahs) with those of Delhi is also examined. These connections, it is argued, moulded the religious ethos of such towns and made them incubators of Sufi reform. By locating Sufi traditions and institutions within the discourse of Islamic scholars ('ulamā), the book contends that the boundaries often drawn between 'Sufi' and 'scholarly' Islam were in reality far more blurred and porous than is admitted in the literature on modern reformist movements.