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Title: Orthodoxy, heterodoxy, and reform : constructing an Islamic universe in the British official mind, 1860-1914
Author: Meleady, Conor
ISNI:       0000 0004 8507 4008
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2020
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This dissertation concerns conceptualizations of Islam produced by the world of the nineteenth century British colonial official. It argues that, contrary to much of the standard scholarship concerning Western engagement with Islam and Muslims in the age of empire, the British officials who staffed the empire perceived Islam as a religion riven by sectarian division. In order to come to terms with the diversity encountered across their Islamic empire, the 'official mind', a reflexive acknowledgement of the importance of the Muslim world in Britain's imperial project, attempted to bring order to this conceptual chaos by anchoring its understanding of Islam in terms of orthodoxy, heterodoxy, and reform. In the process, the official mind became subject to several contexts, the most important of which were the religious, cultural, and educational background of the officials themselves; the significance of India as the location where the most intimate relationships with Muslims were built; and the influence of native Muslim voices, who in some cases won the ear of their British masters and helped shape colonial policy. The reality of colonial governance drove a process whereby, from the rural hinterlands of the Punjab to the urban sophistication of Cairo, British officials became arbiters of Islam. In some places this involved imposing orthodoxy, in others encouraging reform. Everywhere, it involved engaging in doctrinal controversies, evaluating authenticity within Islam, and speculating on the nature of the dozens of consciously sectarian and reformist movements which were emerging from the world of Islam in the period under review. As the official mind attempted to make sense of the Islamic universe it was constructing, a burgeoning identification with Islam developed, culminating in the project to affect reformative change in the Muslim world in partnership with the sect or movement with the most potential to unleash Islam's essentially progressive spirit.
Supervisor: Devji, Faisal Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council ; National University of Ireland
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Islam ; British Empire ; India ; Orientalism ; History