The Meanings of Islamic Orthodoxy in the British Official Mind, 1860 - 1914
Supervisor: Faisal Devji
My thesis examines how those concerned with and responsible for formulating and executing British imperial policy in post-1857 India and the Middle East conceptualized Islam in an age of growing Muslim sectarian consciousness and revivalism. I argue that as part of the process of coming to terms with the growing diversity of Islam during the late nineteenth century, the classic law-derived understanding of what constituted Islamic orthodoxy, against which the authenticity and moral worth of the various Islamic sectarian groups the British encountered was typically measured, was complicated and challenged by the emergence of the reformist movements of the period. Their apparently novel means of contesting the traditional structures of authority deemed to define Islam prompted a search among British scholars, travellers, and officials for more abstract essences of Islam through which the religion could be revitalized in partnership with Britain's imperial mission.