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2 - Becoming Muslim (Seventh to Eighteenth Centuries)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 April 2020

Chiara Formichi
Cornell University, New York
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As the territory and influence of Muslim political authority expanded, the realities of Islamized societies varied greatly. While the resilient appeal of Arabia cannot be denied, the transformation of Asia led Muslims to give Islamic meaning to actions, beliefs, practices, and sensibilities that might have taken form along different paradigms from those emerged in Arabia. Through the centuries Muslims found alternative locations for pilgrimages to fulfill their ritual obligation, but also questioned Mecca’s status as an ideal embodiment of Islamicity as an imagined construct. The hajj rituals show borrowings from pre-Islamic practices, as does the architecture of “classic” mosques in North Africa and the Arab Mediterranean; in Mecca the fusion of local customs with “the law of Islam” was not different than in Java, Aceh, Malaya, or the Levant. Muslim places of worship, general sense of aesthetic, rituals, and legal interpretations adopted and adapted to what existed before the arrival of Islam, in Asia as much as in Arabia. This chapter provides empirical examples and theoretical frameworks to explore and articulate how processes of Islamization necessitated negotiations and active engagement between past and new traditions without undermining Muslims’ commitment to Islam’s precepts.

Islam and Asia
A History
, pp. 42 - 74
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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