Is Islam a Religion? Contesting Din-Religion Equivalence in Twentieth Century Islamist Discourse

Words of Experience - Translating Islam with Carl W. Ernst - Ilyse Morgenstein Fuerst

Brannon Ingram [+-]
Northwestern University
Brannon Ingram is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Northwestern University. He is the author of Revival from Below: The Deoband Movement and Global Islam.

Description

This chapter examines how and why the prominent Islamist thinker Abul A`la Mawdudi theorized din so as to distinguish it explicitly from ‘religion’. Drawing on Carl W. Ernst’s discussions of din and ‘religion’, the chapter begins by suggesting that the academic study of Islam has given insufficient attention to the relationship between din and religion. It then shows why Mawdudi believed ‘religion’ was the opposite of din; religion, for him, was a politically vacuous category that colonizers imposed on Muslims as a means of control. I argue that his denial of din-religion equivalence was a critique of the category of religion directed at recuperating the political valence of din under colonial rule. If Mawdudi construed ‘religion’ as inherently private and apolitical, din was its purported opposite: inherently public, political, totalizing, and all-encompassing. A second way that Mawdudi differentiated din from religion was in explicitly arguing that din was, unlike religion, not a comparative category: there is only one din. The chapter will also suggest some provisional possibilities as to the pathways by which Mawdudi came to understand ‘religion’ in the form in which he did.

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Citation

Ingram, Brannon. Is Islam a Religion? Contesting Din-Religion Equivalence in Twentieth Century Islamist Discourse. Words of Experience - Translating Islam with Carl W. Ernst. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Oct 2020. ISBN 9781781799109. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=38420. Date accessed: 21 Sep 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.38420. Oct 2020

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