In Good Company: Comments

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Usha Sanyal



This article is part of Darakhshan Khan’s larger body of work on women
in the Tablīghī Jamā‘at, who, as she argues persuasively, have not been given
the scholarly attention they deserve (barring a few notable exceptions,
among them Metcalf 2000). Khan observes that the reasons for this range
from the fact that the public image of the Tablīghī Jamā‘at is that of itinerant
males, not females, and that gender segregation in South Asian Muslim
communities makes women invisible to male scholars. Moreover, in today’s
post-9/11 world the Tablīghī Jamā‘at is often viewed through the lens of
counter-terrorist concerns.
Khan’s article revolves around several key themes: the geographical
mobility of Muslim bureaucrats in late nineteenth-century British India;
changes in the structure of the family; changing patterns of religious leadership
in British India, resulting in part from the creation of seminaries such
as the Dār al-‘Ulūm, Deoband; and the incorporation of Muslim women
in religious leadership roles in Tablīghī networks from the mid-twentieth
century onward. The article seems to fall into two distinct parts. The first
half deals with Muslim men from ashraf families working in British Indian
government jobs in the late nineteenth century who moved constantly
(with their wives and children) in response to bureaucratic postings, living
westernized lives at the margins of highly stratified British Indian social
networks. Drawing on sources ranging from Urdu literature to biographies,
Khan shows how isolating this was for the wives and sometimes professionally
disappointing for the husbands. The second half of the article deals
with Muslim religious elites and their more limited geographical travels
in British India in pursuit of religious knowledge, often coinciding with ...

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