2/07/2020 Peter Durantine

Professor’s Book Examines Long-Running Dispute in Modern Islam

For his first book, SherAli Tareen is pleased with the strong interest that “Defending Muhammad in Modernity” is generating among fellow scholars of religion and history. 

“The book details the content, history, and contemporary significance of crucial intra-Muslim debates about Islamic law, theology, and ritual practice that erupted almost two centuries ago,” said the Franklin & Marshall College associate professor of religious studies. “It’s filling a very important scholarly lacuna in the study of modern Islam and South Asian Islam in particular.” 

Published by the University of Notre Dame Press and released this year, Tareen’s 482-page work provides what some scholars called the most comprehensive and theoretically engaged work on a long-running and contentious dispute in modern Islam, the Barelvi-Deobandi polemic.

  • Religious Studies Professor SherAli Tareen's just released first book explores "crucial intra-Muslim debates about Islamic law, theology, and ritual practice that erupted almost two centuries ago." Religious Studies Professor SherAli Tareen's just released first book explores "crucial intra-Muslim debates about Islamic law, theology, and ritual practice that erupted almost two centuries ago."

"No book offers a richer, more illuminating guide to the origins and complex theological relationship of the Barelvi and the Deobandi orientations, which have dominated Sunni Islam in modern South Asia,” said Muhammad Qasim Zaman, professor of Near Eastern Studies and Religion at Princeton University and author of “Islam in Pakistan: A History.” 

The Barelvi and Deobandi groups, two normative reform movements with beginnings in colonial South Asia in the early 19th century, each offered their own visions of the faith that Tareen called “competing political theologies.” His work explores this polemic in depth. 

“The whole debate is about how should we think about and remember the Prophet in modernity,” Tareen said. 

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