We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Language of Secular Islam

Urdu Nationalism and Colonial Hyderabad

Kavita Datla

Publication Year: 2013

During the turbulent period prior to colonial India’s partition and independence, Muslim intellectuals in Hyderabad sought to secularize and reformulate their linguistic, historical, religious, and literary traditions for the sake of a newly conceived national public. Responding to the model of secular education introduced to South Asia by the British, Indian academics launched a spirited debate about the reform of Islamic education, the importance of education in the spoken languages of the country, the shape of Urdu and its past, and the significance of the histories of Islam and India for their present.

The Language of Secular Islam pursues an alternative account of the political disagreements between Hindus and Muslims in South Asia, conflicts too often described as the product of primordial and unchanging attachments to religion. The author suggests that the political struggles of India in the 1930s, the very decade in which the demand for Pakistan began to be articulated, should not be understood as the product of an inadequate or incomplete secularism, but as the clashing of competing secular agendas. Her work explores negotiations over language, education, and religion at Osmania University, the first university in India to use a modern Indian language (Urdu) as its medium of instruction, and sheds light on questions of colonial displacement and national belonging.

Grounded in close attention to historical evidence, The Language of Secular Islam has broad ramifications for some of the most difficult issues currently debated in the humanities and social sciences: the significance and legacies of European colonialism, the inclusions and exclusions enacted by nationalist projects, the place of minorities in the forging of nationalism, and the relationship between religion and modern politics. It will be of interest to historians of colonial India, scholars of Islam, and anyone who follows the politics of Urdu.

4 illus.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. i-iv


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. v-vi

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. vii-x

Hyderabad is blessed with impressive libraries and archives. I would like to thank the staff of the institutions where I did my research work. At the Andhra Pradesh State Archives and Research Institute, I was generously assisted by Zareena Parveen, S. Ramakrishna, P. V. Seetha Rama Rao, T. Purandhar, R. Ranjana, B. Satyanarayana, T. Shankar, Md. Azharuddin, Mir Khaleel- ur-Rahman, Noorunnisa Begum, and S. A. Wali. Equally generous...


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. xi-13

read more

Note on Transliteration

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. xiii-15

The transliteration of Urdu names and terms in this book privileges pronunciation over script. In other words, various characters in the Urdu script that produce the same sound (s, for example) have not been marked differently in the text. Likewise, an unpronounced terminal h has not been transliterated. Words commonly used in the English language, like ulama or Urdu, have not been transliterated. The special markings that do appear indicate long vowels...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 1-19

No university logo better expresses a commitment to linguistic diversity than that of Osmania University. Unfurling banners at its bottom declare Osmania Vishwavidyālayamū, “Osmania University” in Telugu. The motto at the top, tamsō mā jyōtirgamay—“lead us from darkness into light”—is drawn from the Sanskrit Brhadāranyaka Upanishad and is written in the Dēvanāgarī script (the same script used to write modern Hindi). At its center is the solitary...

read more

Chapter 1 Muslims and Secular Education: The Beginnings of Osmania University

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 20-55

The nineteenth century gave us the distinction between religious and secular schools. This is not to say that secular education, the teaching of subjects and skills that were not necessarily or explicitly tied to religion or religious knowledge, did not exist prior to the nineteenth century.1 Rather, the nineteenth century witnessed a unique confluence when the desire of modern states to fund massive projects of public education met with an attempt to stand above or beyond the religious affiliations and networks of their subjects. The...

read more

Chapter 2 Reforming a Language: Creating Textbooks and Cultivating Urdu

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 56-81

The opening lines of Osmania University’s textbooks announced the central concerns of this early twentieth century educational project.1 The structuring assumptions of this statement—of a world hierarchically ordered, of one’s own decline or deterioration, of a connection between the life of nations and the life of the mind, and a faith in universal progress—were not peculiar to this institution in Hyderabad or to India. Like so many projects launched across the...

read more

Chapter 3 Muslim Pasts: Writing The History of India and The History of Islam

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 82-105

Muhammad Ali’s declaration of the equal solidarity of Indian Muslims to India and to Islam came in the wake of devastating political events of prior decades. As a leader of the Khilafat movement, Muhammad Ali had to face his, and Indian nationalism’s, failure to protect the Ottoman caliph from international as well as Turkish politics, the devastation wrought by World War I, and, domestically, a rising tide of communal (Hindu-Muslim) riots and...

read more

Chapter 4 Locating Urdu: Deccani, Hindustani, and Urdu

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 106-137

Scholarship on Hindi and Urdu is torn between the desire to describe the activities of Hindi and Urdu polemicists as homologous on the one hand— each side “matching the extravagant excesses of the other,” sharing equally in whatever blame may be apportioned—and the desire to acknowledge the particularity or autonomous dynamic of their projects on the other. This chapter seeks to reframe this discussion on Hindi and Urdu by widening the focus from...

read more

Chapter 5 Secular Projects and Student Politics: “Vande Mataram” in Hyderabad

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 138-164

In November 1938, Osmania University authorities attempted to stop students from singing “Vande Mataram” on university grounds. The singing of “Vande Mataram,” the students’ expulsion from the hostels, and more dramatically from the university itself, as well as the negotiations with university authorities that followed and stretched far into 1939, have together been called the “Vande Mataram” movement. The “Vande Mataram” movement at Osmania...

read more

Conclusion: From National to Minority Subjects

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 165-171

In 1948, the Indian government launched a military operation, code named Polo, to forcibly incorporate Hyderabad into the Indian Union, bringing to an end the approximately two-hundred- year- reign of the Nizams. Integration meant that the future of Osmania University was reconsidered; this Urdu university would not survive. For two short years, beginning in 1949, the attempt was made to transform Osmania University into a Hindustani university that...


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 173-206


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 207-222


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 223-234

E-ISBN-13: 9780824837914
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824836092

Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 859157619
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Language of Secular Islam

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Urdu language -- Political aspects -- India -- Hyderabad (State) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Language and education -- India -- Hyderabad (State) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Muslim educators -- Political activity -- India -- Hyderabad (State) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Osmania University -- History.
  • Language policy -- India -- Hyderabad (State) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Hyderabad (India : State) -- Languages -- Political aspects.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access