This article argues that Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817-98) and Ashraf Ali Thanvi (1863-1943) were, respectively, exemplars of what I will call the liberal critique of custom on the one hand, and the Islamic legal critique of custom on the other. I argue that a range of overlapping semantic fields in their Urdu works-custom (rasm), reform (islah), decline (zawal, tanazzul) and nation or moral community (qawm), among others-opens up new lines of inquiry in comparing Aligarh and Deoband, typically treated as incommensurable in their views, as institutions and movements. I suggest, additionally, that the public (amm) was a shared frame through which they envisioned implementing their respective projects. At the imagined centre of these publics, they located a new sort of Muslim: literate, self-regulating, self-fashioning, guided by rationality (aql) and free, above all, of the moral and social entanglements of custom.
- customary practice
- Islamic law
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies
- Sociology and Political Science