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Muslim Becoming: Aspiration and Skepticism in Pakistan [Paperback]

Naveeda Khan

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Book Description

25 Jun 2012 0822352311 978-0822352310
In Muslim Becoming, Naveeda Khan challenges the claim that Pakistan's relation to Islam is fragmented and problematic. Offering a radically different interpretation, Khan contends that Pakistan inherited an aspirational, always-becoming Islam, one with an open future and a tendency toward experimentation. For the individual, this aspirational tendency manifests in a continual striving to be a better Muslim. It is grounded in the thought of Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938), the poet, philosopher, and politician considered the spiritual founder of Pakistan. Khan finds that Iqbal provided the philosophical basis for recasting Islam as an open religion with possible futures as yet unrealized. He did so partly through his engagement with the French philosopher Henri Bergson. Drawing on ethnographic research in the neighbourhoods and mosques of Lahore and on readings of theological polemics, legal history, and Urdu literature, Khan points to striving throughout Pakistani society: in prayers and theological debates and in the building of mosques, readings of the Qur'an, and the undertaking of religious pilgrimages. At the same time, she emphasizes the streak of scepticism toward the practices of others that accompanies aspiration. She asks us to consider what is involved in affirming aspiration while acknowledging its capacity for violence.

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"Naveeda Khan's book is a clear, original, and arresting argument about Pakistan as a state of becoming. Interested in nothing less than the formation of a new way of being Muslim in Pakistan, Khan argues that Muslim attempts at perfection in Pakistan are neither communal nor turned toward the past, but rather located in modern citizenship and aspirations toward an entirely novel future. This makes Islam more, rather than less, flexible there. Given the stereotypical and repetitive nature of so much writing about Pakistan today, Muslim Becoming is a breath of fresh air. It deserves to be widely read by academics, journalists, and policymakers." Faisal Devji, author of The Terrorist in Search of Humanity: Militant Islam and Global Politics "Muslim Becoming is a powerful contribution to the literature on Islam in Pakistan, not to mention Islam more generally. Its argument - that one has to understand religious practices and institutions in Pakistan in terms of striving or aspiration - is original and quite provocative. Naveeda Khan's subtle insights, novel ethnographic data, and fascinating analysis of Iqbal's poetry and philosophical writings are remarkable too." Steven Caton, author of Yemen Chronicle: An Anthropology of War and Mediation "Tracing the ways that aspiration and skepticism are braided together in lives lived in dialogue with texts in contemporary Pakistan, Naveeda Khan gently shifts our angle of vision on the making and unmaking of Pakistan in everyday life. She thinks of aspiration as a striving for perfectibility, not perfection. This small shift of emphasis makes familiar phenomena, such as sectarian conflict, appear in a new light. Philosophically rich, written in a style that invites conversation, and ethnographically grounded in literary texts, as well as in the ordinary flows of neighborhood relations, Muslim Becoming surely deserves the designation of a modern classic." - Veena Das, author of Life and Words: Violence and the Descent into the Ordinary

About the Author

Naveeda Khan is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. She is the editor of "Beyond Crisis: Re-evaluating Pakistan."

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a must-read for Political Scientists that work on the Middle East! 2 Feb 2013
By Allen Stack - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
One of the most insightful studies on the relation between spirituality and the modern state of Pakistan.
I myself am a political scientist, and many books on Pakistan that I have read give quite an incomplete or superficial rendering of the complex relationship in Pakistan between religion and politics.
"Muslim Becoming" provides us with a much-needed thoughtful study that connects the unique history of this country to the spiritual aspirations of its diverse people.
I strongly recommend this book to political scientists.
In fact it is a must-read if you study the Middle East!!
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