The Oxford University Press has launched “Religion as Critique“, a book written by Irfan Ahmad on September 1, 2018. It was launched in the presence of Mr. Hamid Ansari, former Vice-President of India. The other distinguished panelists present at the event included Ziya Us Salam, Associate Editor, Frontline, Manisha Sethi, Associate Professor, Jamia Milia Islamia, and Irfan Ahmad, the Author. The session was moderated by Siddharth Varadarajan, Founding Editor of The Wire.
Irfan Ahmad is an anthropologist and senior research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Studies in Gottingen, Germany. He is also the author of Islamism and Democracy in India: The Transformation of Jamaat-e-Islami (2009).
The book presents the far-reaching argument that potent systems and modes for self-critique as well as a critique of others are inherent in Islam – indeed, critique is integral to its fundamental tenets and practices. Challenging common views of Islam as hostile to critical thinking, Ahmad describes thriving traditions of critique in Islamic culture, focusing in large part on South Asian traditions.
The author interrogates Greek and Enlightenment notions of reason and critique, and he notes how they are invoked in relation to “others,” including Muslims. Drafting an alternative genealogy of critique in Islam, the author reads religious teachings and texts, drawing on sources in Hindi, Urdu, Farsi, and English, and demonstrates how they serve as expressions of critique. Throughout, he depicts Islam as an agent, not an object, of critique.
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