chapter  16
12 Pages

Out of India

Deobandi Islam, radicalism and the globalisation of ‘South Asian Islam’
WithMagnus Marsden

By the mid-1990s scholars of South Asian Islam had begun to ask what impact its migration to Pakistan had had on the nature of Deobandi Islam. Historical studies of the Deoband madrassa (daru’l-ulum), established in India in 1856/7, emphasised its status as an intellectual context in which north Indian Muslims responded to the pressures and constraints of colonialism. They also underscored the depth of the connections between its scholars and established Sufi brotherhoods, notably the Chishtis (Metcalf 1982). The Deoband was inspired by British educational models, yet sought to exclude the Western sciences from its curriculum. Its scholars focused their teaching on a revival of the Islamic sciences rooted in a deeper philosophy of reformed Sufism, emphasising teaching through a spiritual master without the emphasis on the cult of the saints. Initially, the Deoband ‘school’ focused on the need for Muslims to engage in acts of ‘reform’ (islah), which, in the context of colonial India, involved especially the purification of Islamic traditions and practices from what were increasingly interpreted as illegal, Islamic innovations (bid’a). Over the course of the twentieth century, however, Deobandi thinking and learning focused its attention more and more on the impermissibility, according to Deobandi scholars’ understanding of Islamic teachings, of Sufi-influenced forms of faith and practice; they also highlighted the dangers posed by non-Sunni Muslim communities and practices to the faith, belief and religious conviction of ‘properly Muslim societies’. After partition, and the migration of the Deoband's ulema to Pakistan, they targeted Ahmedi Muslims as infidels and denounced their belief as deviant. They also played a major role in the Pakistani government's decision to strip Ahmadis of their civic rights in 1972 and in 1984.