The political transition from rule by the Muslim Mughal dynaasty to British colonial rule led to a basic religious reorientation among Indian Muslims. At this time of transformation in the early nineteenth century, a key Muslim movement called the Tariqah-I-Muhammadiyah or Muhammadi movement, also referred to as the Mujahidin Or Indian Wahabi movement, gathered force in northwest India. Although the Muhammadi reformers gained recognition by waging a jihad (holy war), a much familiar and feared word today, the jihad was only one manifestation of a fundamental change in religious thought and organization. Using Muhammadi sources as well as the contemporary accounts of the movement by Muslim and British observers, this incisive study makes an important comment on the historical interaction of social and religious forces in the nineteenth century in the Indian subcontinent.

While basing itself on a Sufi world-view, organization and concepts inspired by the intellectual system of the eighteenth-century theologian, Shah Wali Allah, the Tariqah-I Muhammadiyah put forth a reformist program attacking the prevalent practices at the tombs of saints and mystics, and belief in any mediation between man and God. Widespread Muhammadi preaching and religious literature in the popular Urdu language presented the Divine Law to all classes of Indian Muslims for the first time. The Muhammadi were also among the first Mulsims anywhere to use the printing press to spread their fundamentalist message. In proclaiming religious purification and revival as well as holy war to the Indian masses during a time of rapid historical change, the Muhammadi reformers helped to shape a new individual and communal identity and also initiated a process of Islamic reform in India. Pearson's major contribution in this important volume is to show how the intellectual history associated with Shah Wali Allah was transformed in the nineteenth century to an activist, organized 'mass movement' that drew upon techniques and technologies, notably printing and popular preaching, introduced to India by British officials and Christian missionaries.

Genre: History
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