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“I’ll never forgive myself,” laments Professor Henry Jones Senior after hitting Junior with a large vase on the head. The subsequent scenes in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade clarify that the Professor’s concern was not directed at his son – who had, after all, come to save him from Nazi captivity – but at the damage inflicted on what appeared to be a fine exemplar of blue-and-white Chinese porcelain.
Islam travelled across the Asian expanse along land and maritime routes, as Muslims engaged in trade, proselytism, and conquest. While the territory and influence of Islamic political authority expanded, collapsed, and reached further once again, between the seventh and sixteenth centuries the realities and attributes of any given Islamic society varied greatly. This chapter provides a bird's-eye view of the expansive movement of Muslims out of Arabia and into Asia, as Islam crossed the Oxus/Amu Darya river (Uzbekistan), following two main paths. First was the military expansion of the Arab Muslim Empire, which reached its territorial apogee under the Abbasid, spreading as far as Transoxiana and Northwest India. Second was the movement of pilgrims, scholars, soldiers, and mystics – whose identities melted one into the other – across continental and maritime Asia, along the centuries-old Silk Road and the Indian Ocean networks. These trajectories allow us to see Asia as a historically cohesive space of Islamized interaction, where Muslims imagined themselves as part of a religious community, the umma.
The intellectual biographies of the scholars presented in this chapter – Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (1703–1792), Shah Waliullah Dihlawi (1703–1762), Shaykh Da’ud al-Fatani (1769–1847), ‘Abd al-Nasir al-Qursawi (1776–1812), Ma Laichi (?1681–1766), and Ma Mingxin (?1719?–1781) – lead us through an exploration of how mysticism and legal approaches to Islamic practice took shape not as mutually exclusive but rather as intertwined dynamics, highlighting a dual track of reformism and Sufism concerned with “proper” ritual, a return to the scriptures, and a rejection of bid’a, often manifested as the absorption of local traditions into Islamic practices. The specific focus on the Naqshbandiyah additionally allows us to center these dynamics in Asia, as this Central Asian order spread to the Indian subcontinent and influenced developments in China and Southeast Asia, ultimately bringing Asia center-stage when exploring scholars’ concerns (and interventions) about “deviation” and “orthodoxy”. Without denying the crucial role played by Mecca and Medina as gathering places for scholars coming from all corners of the world, this chapter has taken into consideration alternative routes and networks of religious learning that connected the umma across geographical boundaries.
If the anti-colonial experience had created solidarity networks harnessed to the idea of an interconnected umma, the emergence of nation-states set new frames of reference. In the “post-colonial moment” transnational networks of solidarity took form along leftist, Third-Worldist, labor unionist, or feminist ideologies. Islam only occasionally emerged as a site of connection. As secular ideologies came to rule Muslim communities, some sectors of these populations set out to re-insert Islam into the picture, sometimes in the realm of politics, sometimes in society, either through peaceful or violent means. But regardless of their intellectual scope or strategic modalities, the territorial unit of reference remained the nation-state. This was also evident for Muslim minority communities, even when their self-identified cultural-geographical expanse did not match extant political boundaries. Minorities’ concerns and desires pertained to being recognized as legitimate constituencies with their own self-determined identities. This chapter reflects on how Muslims, in both majority and minority contexts, have interfaced with broader societal communities and states to (re)define the role of religion in the "post-colonial moment" from specific case studies of Indonesia, Pakistan, the Soviet Republics of Central Asia, Singapore, India, and Burma/Myanmar.
The rapid technological advances which took place in the second half of the 19th century – most notably steam shipping, the opening of the Suez Canal, and printing -- allowed for increased exchanges and communication across Islamized Asia. The intellectual vitality that enveloped Cairo and Mecca reached many across Asia, whether directly through travel or indirectly through publications. As World War One brought about the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the end of the Caliphate in 1924, at the same time reinforcing European colonial presence, Muslim communities world-wide became involved with pan-Islamism, whether as a reflection of their interest in the resurgence of a caliphate, or as a strategic component of their anti-colonial efforts, further reinforcing the sense of community and belonging. This chapter follows the impact of the Caliphal crisis across Asia with a focus on the Netherlands East Indies, British India and Soviet Central Asia, as Muslims in these locales became main initiators of forums to discuss the future of the Caliphate and came to embrace pan-Islamism as a rallying point to achieve independence, even though their frames were largely shaped by local understandings and experiences of culture, religion and politics. 
This chapter stresses how Islamic activist ideologies travelled from one country to another, following multiple geographical vectors and shaping local envisioning of piety beginning in the 1980s. The influence of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood in the establishment and political assertion of Malaysia’s Islamist party (PAS), the impact of Iran’s revolutionary intellectuals among Indonesia’s activists, the Saudi World League’s interest in fostering connections in China, and the booming of relations across the border between former Soviet Central Asia and Pakistan all show how the re-imagination of piety that occurred in the second half of the twentieth century across Asia had roots in phenomena that built on the idea of the transnational umma as a global community of belonging, but it was also “hyper-national” in nature. These case studies are useful for understanding how international networks of piety found fertile soil to implant themselves in Asia as Muslims there became disenchanted with the secularist experiment.
Jihad, a heavily loaded word in the post-9/11 discourse, has in fact many layers, in theological and historical terms. This chapter investigates how the anti-Soviet resistance to the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s turned this Central Asian country into a receptacle of religiously oriented ideologues and militants from all over the world. The social and political transformations of the 1960s and 70s, the conflation of local self-determination, radicalization of refugees, absorption of foreign militants, the charisma of a Palestinian Muslim Brother, and the wealth of a well-connected Saudi man all come together in shaping the Afghan jihad as a symbolic and imagined site of resistance to outside forces for the global umma. If in the 1980s jihad had carried a positive connotation of liberation, in the aftermath to the 9/11 attacks labeling a movement as “jihadist” has become a convenient way for governments to tackle unrest in Muslim areas, even where struggles had been taking place for decades without much connection to Islamist aspirations, as seen in the cases of Southern Philippines, Indonesia, Southern Thailand, Kashmir, and Western China.