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VI The Social Milieu of the Deobandi c Ulama Are we not aware that formerly certain particular persons understood the precepts of Law and religion , while the ignorant and lower classes knew nothing about them? During the past thirty years many people have become acquainted with the precepts of religion.1 'ULAMA such as the Deobandis played an important role in the lives of Muslims of many classes. They generated, as we have seen, many concentric circles of influence. At the center were their students and disciples, people trained by them to spread their religious and social concerns. There followed a larger circle of those who had less sustained contact, perhaps by occasional solicitation of judicial decisions , perhaps by attendance at audiences or by the securing of nominal initiation. Still more knew the Deobandis through their writing and publication of religious literature . Others had heard them engage in public preaching and debate. There were people who had not even this indirect involvement, but simply came to know the reputation of the Deobandis as examplars of orthodoxy, devoted to training 'ulama, spreading the tenets of Islam, and defending the faith against all attacks. The system of voluntary donations was in part responsible for creating this last circle, for people who knew the school encouraged others to enroll as subscribers, explaining to them the characteristics of the school and holding out to them the promise of a copy of the annual proceedings and an invitation to the 1. The Awadh Akhbar, January 25, 1870, quoted in Government of India, SeUctions from the Vernacuhr Newspapers Published in the Punjab, North Western Provinces, Oudh, and the Central Provinces, 1870, p. 3. 235 The Deobandi Movement annual convocation. The subscribers, encompassing members of all these circles, provided the financial support of the c ulama and were, in turn, the main recipients of their teaching and guidance. The geographic, occupational, and social origin of many of the followers of the Deobandis is recorded in the lists of these subscribers.2 Their geographic distribution (see the table in the appendix to this chapter) substantiates Deoband 's claim to be, even in this early period before 1892, more than a local school. It thus represents one of the first institutions to make effective use of modern improvements in communications such as mail and money-order services and cheap methods of printing. From the town of Deoband and about a dozen nearby villages came about 12% of the donors (335), a substantial number but only a small part of the whole. The entire district of Saharanpur represented 28% of the total (736); Muzaffarnagar district to the south, 27% (713). The centers of Deobandi support in these two districts are shown on Map 6. Almost half the donors resided outside these two districts. The rest of the sprawling United Provinces of Agra and Oudh accounted for almost a quarter of the donors—making a total, then, of three quarters (1947) from the whole province. The quarter that remained was widely scattered: about half (316) from Punjab , the rest from Bihar, princely states, and major cities throughout India. Many of the two thousand people who came to Deoband for its convocation in 1883 (one that happens to have been described) must have been these donors. Invited by letters and posters for a date chosen to coincide with a government holiday, taking advantage no doubt of the new rail line, and looking forward to being entertained by local people "as if it had been one of their own weddings" they arrived "great and small, from all over Hindustan."3 The students at the school, one might note, tended to be 2. For an explanation of the lists of donors see the Appendix to this chapter. 3. Muhammad 'Ashiq Ilahl Mlrathl, Tazkiratu'r-Rashid (Meerut, n.d.), I, 95-96. 236 Social Milieu 6. Centers of Deobandi Support in Saharanpur and Muzaffarnagar Districts 237 The Deobandi Movement of even more distant origin than the donors. This was true not only of Deoband but of the Mazahir-i 'Ulum, as well. At the latter school, for example, in 1886 roughly onethird of the students were from the United Provinces, including one-quarter of the whole from Saharanpur city; one-third were from Punjab; and a striking one-third were from Bengal.4 When they completed their studies, these students would stimulate contributions from their home areas. Thus one would expect donors in later years to be even more widely distributed. Diverse not only in...


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