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Abstract / Description

Using primarily Urdu sources from the nineteenth century, this book allows us to rethink notions of 'the Muslim', in its numerous, complex and often contradictory forms, which emerged in colonial North India after 1857. Allowing the self-representation of Muslimness and its manifestations to emerge, it contrasts how the colonial British 'made Muslims' very differently compared to how the community envisaged themselves. A key argument made here contests the general sense of the narrative of lamentation, decay, decline, and a sense of self-pity and ruination, by proposing a different condition, that of zillat, a condition which gave rise to much self-reflection resulting in action, even if it was in the form of writing and expression. By questioning how and when a Muslim community emerged in colonial India, the book unsettles the teleological explanation of the Partition of India and the making of Pakistan.

  • Uses previously unseen Urdu sources to further our knowledge and understanding of Muslim North India
  • Challenges the definition of unitary Muslim quam and identity
  • Acknowledges zillat as an agentive force in the remaking of Muslim identities in North India after 1857.

Table of Contents

  • Preface: The Making of this Book
  • Introduction
  1. Who is a Muslim?: Identities of Exclusion
  2. Zillat, apne hathoṅ se
  3. Main majbūr hu'ā: Print Matters
  4. Performativity, and Orality in Print
  • Conclusions
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Publication Date


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Author Affiliation

  • Professor Dr. S. Akbar Zaidi is the Executive Director of the IBA, Karachi

Rights Information

© S. Akbar Zaidi 2021

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

Making a Muslim: reading publics and contesting identities in Nineteenth-century North India