ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A World of Curiosity and Inquiry

Refractions of Islam in India: Situating Sufism and Yoga by Carl W Ernst,Sage/Yoda Press, 2016; pp 520, ₹1,050.

Carl W Ernst has a lyrical explanation for the intriguing title of this collection of essays published over the last three decades on Sufism in South Asia, particularly Muslim scholarship on India’s cultural, mystical and religious practices. He says that long before the onset of the bitter politics of communalism in the region that was further exacerbated by partition, and in the period before the arrival of colonialism when people wore their religious identity with ease, Islamic and Hindu traditions interacted with a remarkable lack of self-consciousness, bouncing off each other like light on amber.

The book could not have come at a better time than when conversations around religions and communities are so polarised in the subcontinent. And reading Ernst’s fantastic research work shows that these hostilities come from a complete ignorance of the integral place India occupies in what he defines as “Islamic cosmology,” a place that he establishes with thoroughness citing famous and lesser known works of scholarship. Even those of us who take a keen interest in Urdu and Persian cultural traditions in India probably have little idea of some of the material he uses as evidence spread over a thousand years. This book is certainly for the erudite but it is also for lay readers who take interest in the many strands of the Ganga Jamuni tehzeeb (urbane way of life) that once firmly bound people of various communities and their lives.

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Updated On : 5th Dec, 2018
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