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Department of History

Islam in South Asia

Course Code:
Course Not Running 2015/2016
Unit value:
Taught in:
Full Year

This course examines Islamic societies, polities, institutions, and thought in the South Asian environment. The course covers the period from the establishment of Turkish rule around the turn of the thirteenth century to the end of British rule in 1947. Thus, it discusses the periods of the Delhi Sultanates, the Mughals, and British colonial rule, in addition to examining parts of the subcontinent that fell beyond the dominion of the aforementioned polities. 

The course is organized both chronologically and thematically, thus enabling us to explore several phenomena over the centuries. Special attention is given to the development of social, political, and religious Muslim communities in South Asia; continuity and change of institutions, concepts, and ideologies; the role of Islamic traditions and thought in the history of South Asia; the emergence of Indo-Muslim identities and their social and political manifestation; and the relationship within the various Muslim communities and their interaction with their non-Muslim environment. 

The readings include a variety of secondary sources as well as primary materials (in translation), and class discussions is an important part of the learning process.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate:

  • An understanding of the multifaceted nature of Islamic societies, polities, and institution in South Asia, and their ability to adapt to the changing circumstances.
  • An understanding of the problematic of “Islam” and “Islamic” versus “Hindu” or “Indian” as categories for the analysis of societies, polities, and institutions in South Asia.
  • Working knowledge of the main questions and problems in the historiography of pre-colonial and colonial South Asia and the place of Islam within this framework.
  • An improved ability to read and synthesize primary sources of various kinds (e.g. chronicles, treatises, letters), developed through close reading and class discussion.
  • An increased ability to engage in historical discussions, both orally and in writing, while employing primary and secondary sources in order to substantiate the arguments.

Method of assessment

Exam (50%) and 2 x 5,000 word Essays (25% each)

Suggested reading

  • Aziz Ahmad, Studies in Islamic Culture in the Indian Environment (Oxford, 1964).
  • Richard M. Eaton, The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1993).
  • Fazlur Rahman, Islam, 2nd Edition (Chicago, 1979).
  • David Gilmartin and Bruce B. Lawrence (eds.), Beyond Turk and Hindu (Gainesville, 2000).
  • P. Hardy, The Muslims of British India (Cambridge, 1972).
  • Ayesha Jalal, The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan (Cambridge, 1985).
  • P.J. Marshall (ed.), The Eighteenth Century in Indian History (Delhi, 2003).
  • Barbara Daly Metcalf, Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860–1900 (Delhi, 2002).
  • M. Mujeeb, The Indian Muslims (London, 1967).
Background reading:
  • Catherine B. Asher and Cynthia Talbot, India before Europe (Cambridge, 2006).
  • Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal, Modern South Asia (London and New York, 1997).
  • Sunil Kumar, The Emergence of the Delhi Sultanate, 1192-1286 (New Delhi, 2007).
  • Barbara D. Metcalf and Thomas R. Metcalf, A Concise History of India (Cambridge, 2002).
  • John F. Richards, The Mughal Empire (Cambridge, 1993).