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Title: Belonging at the margins : nation, religion, and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at in colonial and postcolonial India, c. 1930-74
Author: Mehta, Ayesha
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis examines the history of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at in India, c. 1930-1974 through archival and printed sources in Urdu and English. It considers the multiple sites of belonging of nation, sect, and religion that the Ahmadiyya negotiated whilst remaking itself after it was devastated by Partition. The Jama’at’s strategies of self-presentation are assessed via its newspaper, al-Badr, to trace the formation of a distinct Indian Ahmadi identity in the early postcolonial period. Chapters 1 and 2 suggest the received wisdom of the Ahmadiyya’s political neutrality needs revision by looking at its early history under colonial rule and its active engagement in its fate as Partition became increasingly likely. Chapter 3 explores the impact of suspicion of Punjabi Ahmadis in the aftermath of Partition and during wars with Pakistan to consider how Ahmadis projected themselves as loyal and patriotic Indian citizens. Chapter 4 examines two High Court judgements from 1922 and 1970 through the prism of gender and personal law. It proposes continuities between the colonial and postcolonial periods in how the state responded when Ahmadi claims to Muslimness were challenged. The final two chapters are anchored by anti-Ahmadi events in Pakistan in 1953 and 1974 respectively. Chapter 5 assesses Ahmadi efforts to put forward an idea of Muslim political unity to thrive under secular, non-Muslim rule, whilst not losing sight of sectarian differences. Chapter 6 considers how the Ahmadiyya’s missionary efforts and narratives of growth sat alongside intensifying opposition against them from other Muslims and how this opposition reinforced representations of themselves as followers of True Islam. The conclusion considers how this thesis contributes to wider scholarly efforts to deepen and broaden understandings of the legacies of Partition and suggests the implications of its intersectional analysis, especially for conversations about the dynamics of Muslim identity during this time of flux.
Supervisor: Devji, Faisal Sponsor: University of Oxford
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Modern South Asian Studies ; Indian History ; South Asian History