Reading Prof. Fahim Akhtar’s ‘Islamic Studies: Concept, Present Scenario and Future’

Title: Islamic Studies: Concept, Present Scenario and Future
Editor: Prof. Mohd. Fahim Akhtar
Publication Details: Hyderabad: Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), August 2022; Pages: 184; ISBN: 978-93-95203-58-6; Paperback; Price: 225/-

“The book narrates and describes the evolution and history, growth and genealogy and challenges and prospects of Islamic studies as an academic discipline”
Back in 1990, Prof. Syed Maqbool Ahmad (in an Urdu quarterly, ‘Islam aur Asr-e Jadid’, 22, 1: 5-18, pp. 6, 16) wrote: “Islamic Studies, as a subject dealing with the study of Islamic history, culture and civilization, is not a new discipline”; “its name is new”, but the not the subject itself and the contents it covers, because “the discipline is as old as Orientalism itself.” Orientalism, literally the study of the Orient/ East, is here taken specifically to mean the study of Islam and Muslims. This is the general conception of the discipline, which has passed through different stages/ phases before it got this specific name, as become evident from many works, including Mapping Islamic Studies (Azim Nanji, 1997), Approaches to Islam in Religious Studies (Richard Martin, 2001) and Bloomsbury Companion to Islamic Studies (Clinton Bennett, 2013), to name a few: Orientalism, Theology, Religious Studies, Area Studies and Islamic Studies. The concept of Islamic Studies as a social science discipline “has a long journey in the contemporary world, having different meanings and perspectives in the Arab world and in the Western world”.
The history of Islamic Studies, both in the West and East, is centuries old. In the West, it has passed through different stages/ phases (beginning with Orientalism). In the East, including the Indian context, its history dates back, to speak from the academic/ teaching point of view to the early decades of the 20th century.
It will not be unfair to add here that the history of the subject is both ‘extensive and complex’. It has passed through different stages and has transformed, especially in the past few decades, tremendously. Keeping in view the significance of the subject, its long history both in the Western as well as in the Eastern/ Arab world and considering the fact that it is a subject of utmost importance in India too, so there have been many attempts to narrate and recount its journey. Though most of these attempts have been made by Western scholars (like Nanji, Martin, Bennett and others) with a more focus on the evolution and development of this subject within the western perspective, there are few attempts by the Muslims of India too to recount the journey of this discipline, at the global level in general and in the Indian context in particular. One such recent attempt in Urdu is Prof. Mohd. Fahim Akhtar’s Islamic Studies: Tasawwur, Soorat-e-Haal aur Mustabil/ Islamic Studies: Concept, Present Scenario and Future (published in August 2022): a compilation of eighteen (18) selected papers presented in a two-day national seminar organized by ‘Department of Islamic Studies’ (DoIS), MANUU in collaboration with Henry Martin Institute, Hyderabad (HMI) on April 24-25, 2019.
The objective of the Seminar was “to elaborate and examine the achievements of Islamic Studies in recent past, and to chalk out the action plan for future.” In this seminar, a total of thirty-two (32) papers (both in Urdu and English) were presented by senior and young faculty members and researchers of the subject—from Kashmir to Kolkata. Out of these, eighteen (18) Urdu papers have been compiled in Prof. Akhtar’s Islamic Studies: Concept, Present Scenario and Future, which are preceded by ‘Message’, ‘Preface’ and ‘Introductory Remarks’, respectively by the VC, Director of Translation and Publication Division, and HoD, DoIS, MANUU, and ends with Seminar Report (by Dr. M. Irfan Ahmad) and ‘Suggestions and Recommendations’ (by the senior and young paper presenters).
Compiled by Prof. Akhtar (Head, DoIS, MANUU), Islamic Studies: Concept, Present Scenario and Future consists of eighteen (18) chapters which are divided thematically under three (3) parts: Part-I, “Islamic Studies: Concept and History” (chapters 1-4); Part-II, “Institutions of Islamic Studies in India and their Contribution” (chapters 5-10); and Part-III, “Islamic Studies: Curriculum, Contemporary Relevance and Future (Prospects)” (chapters 11-18).
The main theme of chapters 1 and 3 in part-I and chapters 11-15 in part III is the discipline of Islamic Studies at the global and national level, its genesis and development in East and West, transitions and transformations of the subject from early stages to the current times as well as contemporary relevance, challenges, and future prospects of this discipline. A few chapters threw light on the journey of the subject from ‘Orientalism to Islamic Studies (chapter 3), and contemporary issues/ trends in research to be explored in Islamic studies (chapter 12).
Chapters 2, 4 (in part-I), 5-10 (part II) and 16-18 (part III) discuss the teaching and research, curriculum and contribution of various departments/ institutes of Islamic Studies, spread throughout India (like Jamia Milia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University, Aliah University, MANUU, Osmania University, Lucknow University), the contribution of Zakir Hussain Institute of Islamic Studies (JMI) and Islamic Studies through the Distance Education at MANUU as well as a general survey of the development of the subject in India, since 1920.
Many chapters also provide comparative analysis and evaluation of the curriculum taught at various universities (chapter 17) as well as content analysis of selected courses like ‘Islam in India’ (chapter 16).
All in all, Islamic Studies: Concept, Present Scenario and Future is a valuable and significant contribution that will prove helpful to the students and researchers of Islamic studies not only to know the genesis and genealogy of the subject at the global level and in Indian context but also to know about the curriculum, teaching and research in this subject, while not overlooking its challenges and future prospects of Islamic Studies as an academic discipline.

Author is Assistant Professor, Islamic Studies, at GDC Sogam (Lolab) Kupwara (J&K). Feedback at [email protected]


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