During the partition, however, as Amin’s story reveals, Aligarh became a site of suspicion; Muslims were targeted as potential traitors to the state, and Aligarh was especially vulnerable because many students had been active in calling for independent Muslim statehood.
Professor Hasan was also one of only a few students of the 1940s who was willing to speak about his involvement with the Muslim League in the 1945-46 elections. He frequently made sure that I understood that he regretted his involvement with the League and chalked it up to youthful enthusiasm, a desire for adventure, and naivete.
It was some time before I could convince him to sit down with me for a formal interview about his experiences during the 1930s and 1940s in Aligarh. He was very skeptical of the methodology of my research, being as he is, a historian of medieval India and deeply invested in the investigation of documentary sources. Interviews, he reminded me, would only catch a person’s “bias,” and not “The Truth.”
S.M. Mehdi was surprised to see me, but agreed to answer my questions though he cautioned he could not be considered an expert on Aligarh. He told me, instead, of his experiences during partition as a Communist in Bombay. He worked for thirty years in the Soviet Embassy in New Delhi and has been a lifelong Communist.
In 2009, I spent five months living at the Aligarh Muslim University in the town of Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, India. I was there to research the role and experience of Aligarh students in the movement for Pakistan during the 1940s. As part of this research, I actively sought out university employees and former students of the university from that period. I was referred to S.M. Mehdi through a chance encounter with a university official and arrived at his home without an appointment.
There exists a fault line near the tenth parallel north of the equator where the two great proselytizing religions of the last two millennia meet.In centuries past, desert traders and merchant seamen carried Islam along with their goods, halting only where they confronted unsurpassable natural barriers or the expansion of European Christianity in the colonized regions of Asia and Africa.
In the wake of the recent events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere in the Middle East, many try to predict whether Islam can exist together harmoniously with democracy. In this book, Bayat successfully dismantles the presumptions that constitute this discourse, by stating in the beginning that “the question is not whether Islam is or is not compatible with democracy, or by extension, modernity, but rather under what conditions Muslims can make them compatible.”
Islam has a long tradition in Africa dating back to the seventh century. Today, Islam plays a crucial role in the political, socio-cultural, religious, and economic lives of the population.
In this work, Zachary Lockman seeks to introduce a general audience to the history of the study of Islam and the Middle East in the United States and Europe, with particular attention to US studies from the mid-twentieth century. The importance of this book lies in Lockman’s attempt to reach the general public with information about the history, politics, and culture of the Middle East.
My own family hails from Aligarh, a city about 90 miles southeast of New Delhi and, as Muslims, opted to move to Pakistan. I was aware of this as a child, but because I grew up outside Pakistan, it was not until I began my research and had enough comfort speaking Urdu that I persuaded some of my elderly relatives to tell me their stories of the time of independence and partition.