The Reorganization of Indian Modernity

The ideals of modernity through a highly Westernized lens forcefully permeated its way through Indian culture, social life, politics, and religion. I will be focusing on the alteration and/or complete loss of countless Islamic religious traditions, and the emergence of a new modernity, solely due to the imposition and forced infliction of an European hegemony. This occurred in multiple areas of an incompatible environment for both parties to maintain an equally beneficial relationship. British customs, values, institutional structures, laws, ideals and narratives forced their way into a society that had to compromise itself and struggle to retain a Muslim or national identity. Two drastically differing structures could not achieve a clean integration of the two.

Historian Ira Lapidus addresses Islamic revival and modernity in a post-colonial age, states that the emphasis on Islamic values during this period was reactionary to contemporary issues constituting modernity instead of an attempt to return to a past era. It was an embracement of basic principles without the historical details (Lapidus, 444). The act of expression against modernity is ironic in the sense that it is also an expression of modernity, and this was exactly that in response to changing political and economic spheres. In doing so, Indians and Muslims in other revivalist countries alike, were creating a new version of Islam that became more a product of modernization rather than a reaction against it. “Islamic revivalism represents not a return to the past, but a form of modernity” (Lapidus, 455). New social conditions prompted the reorganization of everyday lives and a new range of Islam, that better adapted to the current situation.

Blog 5bWe might take into consideration modernity as inclusionary, blending, cross-fertilizing rather than excluding. To observe the rise of modernity from a point of view decentralized from the West in order to generate new conceptualizations of modernity. The British created state sovereignty and spheres of social life that governed Indian society much like those that dominated European society at the time. They were implemented through the establishment of the East India Company via its performance of state functions and the familiarization of that territory to its foreign administrators until it became a colonial state (Kaviraj, 143). English education was introduced to create a class of Indians that could assist British rule and strengthen their political authority. Within a few decades of the introduction of a new civil structure, Indians produced an intellectual class that had acquired knowledge of a foreign language and a conceptualization of rationalism according to Western modernity (Kaviraj, 146). A secular state and democratic politics were administered through a single constitutional settlement. It is said to have emerged only due to the dominance of congress by modernist elites. The spread of the English language incorporated the education of Western rationality, democracy, and modern outlook.

The contemporary Islamic revivalist movement in the first half of the twentieth century was not only and Islamic reaction but a direct product of Western modernity as well. Muslim scholars of the time proposed that the Muslim world was suffering due to “stagnation and loss of social, political, and religious vitality” (Abu-Rabi, 13), referring to its increasing periphery in contrast to its prosperous and territorially far reaching past. The scholars believed they could revitalize their religion through adopting Western philosophies of modernity and rationality. To create a new Islam that was legitimate through a Western frame in order to make Islam globally viable again. We find traces of this through the apologetic writings of Islamic scholars.

Through processes of colonialism and its remnants, Muslim society’s collective history grows to solely include nationalized versions of hegemonic Islam that were altered, reduce, and codified. Colonial influence was far reaching in its alteration of social, and cultural spheres. My image depicts a cartoon in reaction to the efforts made to oust Hindi as the official national language of communication. It illustrates opposition, which is rather ironic, and an example of the parting gifts colonialism left behind. There is loss represented in the image, and in this case, it is language due to the implementation of English education by the hand of British rule that went on to become the language of the educated individuals in India.

English has surpassed native languages as a formal mode of communication due to its widespread establishment by administrative British powers, and therefore, future generations learned to normalize that way of life. Much like the example of language, the creation of a new form of religion that arises from modernity bears British influence due to the globally hegemonic ideals of modernity that stemmed from their authority. The interaction of a global hegemonic power with religion prompts its practitioners to adapt, legitimize and justify their “other” beliefs within a Western framework. Much like the aforementioned example, remnants of old colonial power hierarchies are still extremely evident within society today.


Lapidus, Ira N. “Islamic Revival and Modernity: The Contemporary Movements and the Historical Paradigms.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 40.4 (n.d.): 444-60. JSTOR. Web.

Kaviraj, Sudipta. “Modernity and Politics in India”. Daedalus 129.1 (2000): 137–162. Web.

Abu-Rabi, Ibrahim. “Facing Modernity: Ideological Origins of Islamic Revivalism”. Harvard International Review 19.2 (1997): 12–15. Web.

Hasan, Mushirul. “Muslim Intellectuals, Institutions, and the Post-colonial Predicament”. Economic and Political Weekly 30.47 (1995): 2995–3000. Web.

Rahman, Anisur. “Islamic Law and the Colonial Encounter: On the Discourse of ‘Muhammedan’ Law in British India.” SSRN Electronic Journal SSRN Journal (n.d.): 1-15. Web.

‘Ali, Chiragh. “The Proposed Political, Legal, and Social Reforms.” (n.d.): 277-90. Web.

Voll, John Obert. “Islam, Continuity and Change in the Modern World.” JSTOR. Syracuse University Press, n.d. Web.

Digital image. Geo Currents. N.p., n.d. Web.

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