Past Project at the Center for Modern Oriental Studies Berlin (1996-2000)
Allah’s Kingdom on Earth. The Political Project of Islamic Groups in Colonial India (1900-1947).
The project looked into the concepts and views held by two types of Islamic groups. They were summarized under the terms of seminary movements, and faith or revival movements. The former included groups and movements following specific lead madrasas and establishing their own religious school of thought, such as the Deobandis, the Barelwis, the Firanghi Mahallis, and the graduates of the Nadwa; the latter encompassed groups created for the express purpose of strengthening and defending the faith of Muslims such as the Ahl-e Hadith, the Ahrar, the Khaksar, the Tablighi Jama'at, and the Ahmadiyya. In a comparative approach, the movements were surveyed for their concepts and beliefs on their engagement in the public sphere during this period. Their discourse was seen partly as derivative and partly as complementary and even antagonistic to the nationalist movement and its high point of mobilization in the 1920s and 1930s. The project documented various discourses in which all of them participated with varying, but often similar arguments. These discourses included the issues of
religious vs. secular reform of society and man;
religious knowledge vs. spiritual guidance;
religious education and true national education;
atheism vs. faith, democracy vs. paternalist consensus;
defense of Muslims and defense of Islam.
The project formed part of a project group at the Center for Modern Oriental Research, looking at "Agents of Change: biographical studies and group portrays of conflict and synthesis between oriental and occidental cultures." The group project was composed of case studies from Asia and Africa, ranging from the eighteenth to the mid-twentieth century. The project highlighted the contribution of these agents to social and cultural change, their perception and understanding of their own role in this process. In a comparative approach the project intended to study the similarities and variations in these cases. The process of cultural mediation resulted in both integration and confrontation, creating new forms of cultural articulation, not traditional in the narrow sense, and not necessarily western. Conceptually, the project sought to pinpoint the forms of synthesis and coexistence of cultural and civilizational influences that were initiated and absorbed by these agents, as opposed to exclusion and confrontation. The results of the group's project have been documented in several publications:
"Akteure des Wandels. Lebensläufe und Gruppenbilder an
Schnittstellen von Kulturen" (Studien / Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient; Bd. 14)
Berlin: Das Arabische Buch, 2001, edited by Petra Heidrich and Heike Liebau.
The volume discussed case studies of "Agents of Change" in the shape of biographies and group portraits.
D. Reetz contributed a review of the Islamic groups in colonial India there: "Das 'islamische Projekt' als Instrument des Wandels – die Religionsgelehrten des Islam im kolonialen Indien", pp. 71-104.
A postdoctoral thesis for Habilitation, summarizing the project, was successfully defended at the political science department of Free University : "God's Kingdom on Earth - the Contestation of the Public Sphere by Islamic Groups in Colonial India (1900-1947)" on 23 October 2003. The manuscript was revised for publication by Oxford University Press as "Islam in the Public Sphere: Religious Groups in India, 1900-1947" in 2006.
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updated 1 September, 2016