Mashal Saif

Surveying Muslims' Conceptions of Religion. A Call for Reexamining Recent Historiographies and Theories

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Muslim; Religious Studies; Theory; Historiography.

What is religion? Is it a universal category? What impact does locale and one's religio-cultural mooring have on conceptualizations of religion? How have conceptions of religion evolved amongst specific communities? What, if any, is the impact of modernity on understandings of religion? These investigations lie at the heart of this article. And, I answer these questions through an investigation of Muslim understandings of «religion» in general and «Hinduism» in particular, both as a contrast to Islam and to throw into sharp relief Muslim «native categories». I commence with an overview of established historiographies and theories regarding religion and religious studies. My focus then shifts to the history of Muslims' understandings of religion as garnered through their writings on religions, particularly Hinduism. Several examples of Muslim writings that feature in my work call into question the theorizations and historiographies detailed earlier. Consequently, I make a case for rethinking these theories and histories. My work culminates with a discussion of differences between Muslims' native usages of religion and those of their modern, Western counterparts. I also question whether Muslims are unique in arguably possessing a native category that is functionally similar to religion.

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