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Introduction: The Shi‘a in South Asia

  • FRANCIS ROBINSON (a1)

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The Shi‘i communities of South Asia, roughly 60 million people, represent, after those of Iran, the second largest grouping of Shi‘as in the Muslim world. Until recently our knowledge of them has not matched their numbers. Indeed, they, and here I refer to the Twelver Shi‘as rather than the Isma‘ilis, have suffered from the paradox of being both highly visible but in scholarly terms largely invisible. Where the Shi‘a live in South Asian towns and cities, arguably, no community has been more visible or more audible: visible because of their great processions at Muharram; and audible, certainly at Muharram, but also throughout the year in their majalis, as they recount the events of Karbala, often transmitting them by loudspeaker to the muhalla.

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References

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1 Hollister, John Norman, The Shi‘a of India, (London, 1953); Engineer, Asghar Ali, The Bohras (New Delhi, 1980).

2 Rizvi, Saiyid Athar Abbas, A Socio-Intellectual History of the Isna ‘Ashari Shi‘is in India, in 2 Vols. (Canberra, 1986); Cole, J. R. I., Roots of North Indian Shi‘ism in Iran and Iraq: Religion and State in Awadh, 1722–1859 (Berkeley, 1988).

3 Schubel, Vernon, Religious Performance in Contemporary Islam: Shi‘i Devotional Rituals in South Asia (Columbia, 1993); Pinault, David, The Shiites: Ritual and Popular Piety in a Muslim Community (New York, 1992), and Horse of Karbala: Muslim Devotional Life in India, (Houndmills, 2001); Howarth, Toby, The Twelver Shi‘a as a Muslim Minority in India: Pulpit of Tears (Abingdon, 2005); Hyder, Syed Akbar, Reliving Karbala: Martyrdom in South Asian Memory (New York, 2006).

4 van Grondelle, Marc, The Ismailis in the Colonial Era: Modernity, Empire and Islam, 1839–1969 (London, 2009); Purohit, Teena, The Aga Khan Case: Religion and Identity in Colonial India (Cambridge, Mass., 2012).

5 Jones, Justin, Shi‘a Islam in Colonial India: Religion, Community and Sectarianism (Cambridge, 2012).

6 Ruffle, Karen G., Gender, Sainthood and Everyday Practice in South Asian Shi‘ism (Chapel Hill, 2011); D’Souza, Diane, Shia Women: Muslim Faith and Practice (New Delhi, 2012).

7 Cole, Roots of North Indian Shi‘ism.

8 Purohit, Aga Khan Case; Green, Nile, Bombay Islam: The Religious Economy of the West Indian Ocean, 1840–1915 (Cambridge, 2011), pp. 155178 .

9 van Grondelle, The Ismailis.

10 Howarth, The Twelver Shi‘a.

11 Schubel, Religious Performance; Pinault, The Shiites; Pinault, Horse of Karbala; Ruffle, Gender, Sainthood and Everyday Practice; D’Souza, Shia Women.

12 Hyder, Reliving Karbala.

13 Ruffle, Karen G., ‘Karbala in the Indo-Persian Imaginaire: The Indianizing of the Wedding of Qasim and Fatima Kubra’, in Hermann, Denis and Speciale, Fazbrizio (eds.), Muslim Cultures in the Indo-Iranian World during the Early-Modern and Modern Periods (Berlin, 2010), pp. 181200 .

14 See, for instance, Hasan, Mushirul, ‘Muharram: an individual and collective experience’, in Ali, Muzaffar (ed.), A Leaf Turns Yellow: the Sufis of Awadh (New Delhi, 2013), pp.170177 .

15 Khan, Hasan Ali, Constructing Islam on the Indus: The Material History of the Suhwawardi Order, 1200–1500 AD, Royal Asiatic Society Books (Delhi, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).

16 Hasan Ali Khan, ‘Shia-Ismaili motifs in the Sufi Architecture of the Indus Valley 1200–1500’, University of London PhD dissertation, 2009. The final chapter of this thesis tells of the fate of these Shi‘i-Isma‘ili elements at the hands of the Pakistan Auqaf Department.

17 Purohit, Aga Khan Case, p. 4.

18 Ibid. , pp. 111–32.

19 Ruffle, ‘Karbala in the Indo-Persian Imaginaire’.

20 Metcalf, Barbara D., Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband 1860–1900, (Princeton, 1982); Robinson, Francis, ‘Religious Change and the Self in Muslim South Asia since 1800’, in Robinson, Francis, Islam and Muslim History in South Asia (Delhi, 2000), pp. 105121 and Robinson, FrancisOther-Worldly and This-Worldly Islam and the Islamic Revival’, in Robinson, Francis Islam, South Asia and the West (Delhi, 2007), pp. 171188 .

21 Jones, Shi‘a Islam, pp. 32–146.

22 Green, Bombay Islam, pp. 118–178.

23 Robinson, FrancisSouth Asia and West Asia from the Delhi Sultanate to the Present: Security, Resources and Influence’, Ministry of Higher Education, Working Papers: Symposium on the Academic Chairs of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said and their Contribution to the Development of Human Knowledge (Oman: Ministry of Higher Education, 2012), pp. 7486 .

24 Nadwi, Mohammad Akram, al-Muhaddithat: the woman scholars in Islam (Oxford, 2007).

25 Bano, Masooda and Kalmback, Hilary, Women, Leadership and Mosques: Changes in Contemporary Islamic Authority (Leiden and Boston, 2011).

26 For the Sunni world recent works are: Mahmood, Saba, Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject (Princeton, 2005), and Ahmad, Sadaf, Transforming Faith: The Story of Al-Huda and Islamic Revivalism among Urban Pakistani Women (Syracuse, 2009). For the Shi‘i world there is Deeb, Lara, An Enchanted Modern: Gender and Public Piety in Shi‘i Lebanon (Princeton, 2006).

27 Ruffle, Gender, Sainthood, p. 20.

28 D’Souza, Shia Women, p. 240.

29 Scott Kugle, ‘Courting ‘Ali: Urdu Poetry, Shi‘i Piety and Courtesan Power in Hyderabad’ in Hermann and Speziale, Muslim Cultures, pp. 125–166.

30 Ali, Mrs Meer Hassan, Crooke, W. ed., Observations on the Mussulmauns of Indiadescriptive of their Manners, Customs, Habits and Religious Opinions made during a Twelve Years’ Residence in their immediate society (London, Oxford University Press, 1917), pp. 1754 .

31 D’Souza, Shia Women, p. 20.

32 Green, Abigail and Viaene, Vincent eds., Religious Internationals in the Modern World: Globalization and Faith Communities since 1750, Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, pp. 119 .

Introduction: The Shi‘a in South Asia

  • FRANCIS ROBINSON (a1)

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