Irfan Ahmad makes the far-reaching argument that potent systems and
modes for self-critique as well as critique of others are inherent
in Islam--indeed, critique is integral to its fundamental tenets
and practices. Challenging common views of Islam as hostile to
critical thinking, Ahmad delineates thriving traditions of critique
in Islamic culture, focusing in large part on South Asian
traditions. Ahmad interrogates Greek and Enlightenment notions of
reason and critique, and he notes how they are invoked in relation
to "others," including Muslims. Drafting an alternative genealogy
of critique in Islam, Ahmad reads religious teachings and texts,
drawing on sources in Hindi, Urdu, Farsi, and English, and
demonstrates how they serve as expressions of critique. Throughout,
he depicts Islam as an agent, not an object, of critique.
On a broader level, Ahmad expands the idea of critique itself.
Drawing on his fieldwork among marketplace hawkers in Delhi and
Aligarh, he construes critique anthropologically as a sociocultural
activity in the everyday lives of ordinary Muslims, beyond the
world of intellectuals. Religion as Critique
for new theoretical considerations of modernity and change, taking
on such salient issues as nationhood, women's equality, the state,
culture, democracy, and secularism.