SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Islam in South Asia

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Term 1

The main goal of the module is to analyse the development and functioning of societies, polities, institutions, and thought in South Asia, when the bulk of the subcontinent was under Muslim rulers. The module covers the period from the establishment of Turkish rule in Delhi until the colonial takeover (ca. 1200-1800), and includes the Delhi Sultanates, Mughal Empire, the transition to British rule and their contemporaries. Whereas traditional historiography tends to focus on the history of the Indo-Gangetic Plains, this module expands the scope to include the subcontinent as a whole, examining the developments and responses to political change beyond this core region.

The module is organised according to both chronological and thematic lines, thus enabling the student to examine developments throughout the centuries. Special attention is given to the history 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, and their impact on Muslim and non-Muslim communities; the emergence of Indo-Muslim identities and their social and political manifestation; and the relationship among Muslim communities and between Muslims and non-Muslims in the South Asian environment. Engagement with historiography is central to this module, and accordingly, the syllabus includes primary materials (in translation) of various genres as well as secondary readings debating some of the main historical questions regarding Muslims and Islam in South Asia.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

  • Engage with the central questions and problems of the historiography of pre-colonial South Asia and the place of Muslims within this framework, while understanding the problematic nature of religious and social categories such as ‘Muslim’ and ‘Hindu’ in the debate.
  • Understand the multifaceted and changeable nature of Islamic societies, polities, and institution, and their close association with the South Asian environment.
  • Better read and synthesise primary sources of various kinds, and successfully employ these sources for historical writing.
  • Critically evaluate secondary literature on history, identify the motives behind it, and understand the wider intellectual and political context within which it was created.
  • Better engage with historiographical debates both orally and in writing, and improve ability to form a consistent and well grounded argument.
  • Critically think some of the contemporary concepts and boundaries regarding religious identity, society, and state, and their applicability (or lack thereof) to the premodern environment.

Scope and syllabus

  1. Who Are the South Asian Muslims?
  2. Muslims, Hindus, and the Delhi Sultanate
  3. Sufism and Indian Society
  4. Syncretism and Millenarian Movements
  5. The Mughal State
  6. Religion and Ideology in Mughal India
  7. Language and Elite Culture in Precolonial India
  8. Conversion, Migration, and Social Change
  9. Political Tensions and ideological Change in the Late Mughal State
  10. The Eighteenth Century: Crisis and Response

Method of assessment

  • Article analysis and response, 1,000 words (25%). To submit: Term 1, Week 7 Monday
  • Primary source analysis, 3,000 words (75%). To submit: Term 2, Week 1 Monday

Suggested reading

  • Hardy, The Muslims of British India (Cambridge, 1972)
  • Samira Sheikh, Forging a Region (New Delhi, 2010)
  • Sunil Kumar, The Emergence of the Delhi Sultanate, 1192-1286 (New Delhi, 2007)
  • Peter Jackson, The Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History (Cambridge, 1999)
  • Richard M. Eaton, Essays on Islam and Indian History (New Delhi, 2000)
  • John F. Richards, The Mughal Empire (Cambridge, 1993)
  • Munis D. Faruqui, The Princes of the Mughal Empire, 1504–1719 (Cambridge, 2012)
  • M. Athar Ali, Mughal India: Studies in Polity, Ideas, Society, and Culture (New Delhi, 2006)
  • Aziz Ahmad, Islamic Culture in the Indian Environment (Oxford, 1964)
  • P.J. Marshall (ed.), The Eighteenth Century in Indian History (New Delhi, 2003)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules