Muslim Devotional Art in India
An illustrated volume on the history of Islamic popular devotional art and visual culture in India with an emphasis on religious pluralism as part of the iconography.
This is an illustrated monograph on the history of Islamic popular devotional art and visual culture in 20th century India, which weaves the personal narrative of the author’s journey through his understanding of the faith with his research about the making of such devotional art and its use by the masses. The book begins with the coming of the earliest images of Mecca/Medina into India and their dissemination by the print industry along with the pictures of local Sufi shrines and saints, and moves on to explore the adaptation of local Indian icons and symbols into Islamic iconography. Besides providing a historical context of the pre-print culture of popular Muslim visuality, the book also explores the impact the 1947 Partition of India may have made on the calendar art in south Asia – much of Indian popular art leaning more towards Hindu nationalism and leaving the Muslim art mostly with apolitical themes, while Pakistani poster art surprising maintaining the syncretism of Sufi saints and folklore. The last section is a short introspection on why such a vibrant visual culture continues to thrive among South Asian Muslims despite the questions raised by the orthodoxy on its legitimacy in Islam, and why images and popular visual cultures are inevitable for popular piety despite the orthodox Muslims’ increasing dissociation from them.