Dr Moin Nizami

  • Indo-Muslim social and cultural history
  • Islamic history of South Asia
  • Sufi traditions in the Indian subcontinent

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.  


Featured Publication

Reform and Renewal in South Asian Islam: The Chishti-Sabris in 18th-19th century north India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, January 2017)

Reform and Renewal in South Asian Islam: The Chishti-Sabris in 18th-19th century north India

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.


  • Reform and Renewal in South Asian Islam

  • Composite Culture under the Sultanate of Delhi By IQTIDAR HUSAIN SIDDIQUI

  • Symbols of Authority in Medieval Islam: History, Religion and Muslim Legitimacy in the Delhi Sultanate By BLAIN H. AUER.

  • Haji Imdadullah and the Chishti-Sabri Leadership in nineteenth century north India

  • More

I would be willing to hear from potential DPhil students interested in the study of any aspect of Islam in medieval and early modern South Asia. 

Masters Teaching:

I teach a module on ‘Islamic History of South Asia’ at the Oriental Faculty for MPhil degree