Agrarian Forms of Islam: Mofussil discourses on peasant religion in the Bengal delta during the 1920s

Tariq Omar Ali

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During the 1920s, a new genre of didactic poems prescribing the proper Islamic practice of everyday peasant lives were published out of printing presses in deltaic, eastern Bengal's small towns. This article argues that these printed poems constituted a discourse of agrarian Islam that prescribed reforms in peasant material life - work, commerce, consumption, attire, hairstyle, and patriarchal authority - as a means of ensuring the viability of peasants' market-based livelihoods. The article examines the emergence of a small-town Muslim intelligentsia that authored and financed the publications of these poems out of the Bengal delta's small-town printing industry. Eschewing communalism as an analytical frame in understanding South Asian Muslim identities, this article argues that Bengali peasant Muslim subjectivity was located in peasant engagements with agrarian markets. Agrarian Islamic texts urged Muslim cultivators to be good Muslims and good peasants, by working hard, reducing consumption, and balancing household budgets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1311-1339
Number of pages29
JournalModern Asian Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science

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