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The Language of Secular Islam

The Language of Secular Islam: Urdu Nationalism and Colonial Hyderabad

Copyright Date: 2013
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    The Language of Secular Islam
    Book Description:

    During the turbulent period prior to colonial India's partition and independence, Muslim intellectuals in Hyderabad sought to secularize and reformulate their linguistic, historical, religious, and literary traditions for the sake of a newly conceived national public. Responding to the model of secular education introduced to South Asia by the British, Indian academics launched a spirited debate about the reform of Islamic education, the importance of education in the spoken languages of the country, the shape of Urdu and its past, and the significance of the histories of Islam and India for their present.The Language of Secular Islampursues an alternative account of the political disagreements between Hindus and Muslims in South Asia, conflicts too often described as the product of primordial and unchanging attachments to religion. The author suggests that the political struggles of India in the 1930s, the very decade in which the demand for Pakistan began to be articulated, should not be understood as the product of an inadequate or incomplete secularism, but as the clashing of competing secular agendas. Her work explores negotiations over language, education, and religion at Osmania University, the first university in India to use a modern Indian language (Urdu) as its medium of instruction, and sheds light on questions of colonial displacement and national belonging.Grounded in close attention to historical evidence,The Language of Secular Islamhas broad ramifications for some of the most difficult issues currently debated in the humanities and social sciences: the significance and legacies of European colonialism, the inclusions and exclusions enacted by nationalist projects, the place of minorities in the forging of nationalism, and the relationship between religion and modern politics. It will be of interest to historians of colonial India, scholars of Islam, and anyone who follows the politics of Urdu.4 illus.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-3791-4
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. 1-19)

    No university logo better expresses a commitment to linguistic diversity than that of Osmania University. Unfurling banners at its bottom declare Osmania Vishwavidyālayamū, “Osmania University” in Telugu. The motto at the top,tamsō mā jyōtirgamay—“lead us from darkness into light”—is drawn from the SanskritBrhadāranyaka Upanishadand is written in the Dēvanāgarī script (the same script used to write modern Hindi). At its center is the solitary letter ‘ain, the Urdu—and Perso-Arabic—letter with which the name Osmania begins. The appearance of English in the logo comes as no great surprise since Osmania University is located in...

  7. CHAPTER 1 MUSLIMS AND SECULAR EDUCATION: The Beginnings of Osmania University
    (pp. 20-55)

    The nineteenth century gave us the distinction between religious and secular schools. This is not to say that secular education, the teaching of subjects and skills that were not necessarily or explicitly tied to religion or religious knowledge, did not exist prior to the nineteenth century.¹ Rather, the nineteenth century witnessed a unique confluence when the desire of modern states to fund massive projects of public education met with an attempt to stand above or beyond the religious affiliations and networks of their subjects. The desire to maintain a neutrality with regard to the religion of their subjects did not,...

  8. CHAPTER 2 REFORMING A LANGUAGE: Creating Textbooks and Cultivating Urdu
    (pp. 56-81)

    The opening lines of Osmania University’s textbooks announced the central concerns of this early twentieth century educational project.¹ The structuring assumptions of this statement—of a world hierarchically ordered, of one’s own decline or deterioration, of a connection between the life of nations and the life of the mind, and a faith in universal progress—were not peculiar to this institution in Hyderabad or to India. Like so many projects launched across the non-Western world in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Osmania University was a response to the intellectual challenges posed by the West and to those practices of...

  9. CHAPTER 3 MUSLIM PASTS: Writing The History of India and The History of Islam
    (pp. 82-105)

    Muhammad Ali’s declaration of the equal solidarity of Indian Muslims to India and to Islam came in the wake of devastating political events of prior decades. As a leader of the Khilafat movement, Muhammad Ali had to face his, and Indian nationalism’s, failure to protect the Ottoman caliph from international as well as Turkish politics, the devastation wrought by World War I, and, domestically, a rising tide of communal (Hindu-Muslim) riots and carnage. The cruelty of nationalist politics was everywhere present. Muhammad Ali questioned the political forms and violence released by nationalism while maintaining the inescapability of Indo-Muslim allegiance to...

  10. CHAPTER 4 LOCATING URDU: Deccani, Hindustani, and Urdu
    (pp. 106-137)

    Scholarship on Hindi and Urdu is torn between the desire to describe the activities of Hindi and Urdu polemicists as homologous on the one hand—each side “matching the extravagant excesses of the other,” sharing equally in whatever blame may be apportioned—and the desire to acknowledge the particularity or autonomous dynamic of their projects on the other. This chapter seeks to reframe this discussion on Hindi and Urdu by widening the focus from this pair “locked in bitter complementarity” to consider the challenges posed to Urdu-language advocates not by their Hindi rivals but by the introduction of English in...

    (pp. 138-164)

    In November 1938, Osmania University authorities attempted to stop students from singing “Vande Mataram” on university grounds. The singing of “Vande Mataram,” the students’ expulsion from the hostels, and more dramatically from the university itself, as well as the negotiations with university authorities that followed and stretched far into 1939, have together been called the “Vande Mataram” movement. The “Vande Mataram” movement at Osmania University has been recalled in histories, like those quoted above, as an integral part of the freedom struggle in Hyderabad and as evidence of the anti-Hindu policies of the Nizam’s government. Does the first large-scale student...

  12. CONCLUSION: From National to Minority Subjects
    (pp. 165-172)

    In 1948, the Indian government launched a military operation, code named Polo, to forcibly incorporate Hyderabad into the Indian Union, bringing to an end the approximately two-hundred-year-reign of the Nizams. Integration meant that the future of Osmania University was reconsidered; this Urdu university would not survive. For two short years, beginning in 1949, the attempt was made to transform Osmania University into a Hindustani university that used both the Perso-Arabic and Dēvanāgarī scripts. The policy was endorsed by Jawaharlal Nehru, who received an honorary degree from the university that same year. In the 1949 issue ofMujalla-i Osmania, the editor...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 173-206)
    (pp. 207-222)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 223-234)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 235-235)