Book coverMuslim Devotional Art in India

By Yousuf Saeed
Published 2012, Routledge 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.

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ISBN-10: 0415678382, ISBN-13: 978-0415678384

"Yousuf Saeed’s delightful book provides readers with a rare glimpse into the visual culture of Muslim communities in South Asia. Drawing on the author’s personal experiences and extensive research, it sensitively explores diverse aspects of Muslim devotional life through a vivid and vibrant tradition of popular art. Masterfully narrated and beautifully illustrated, this unique book is 'a must read' for anyone interested in popular religion in South Asia."
- Prof. Ali Asani
Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures, Harvard University

"In this welcome volume, Yousuf Saeed surveys significant examples of the colorful lithographs and other images that form part of the devotional experience of many of India’s Muslims. The work is historical, with attention to the importance of technological innovations in photography, print, and transportation. It takes into account as well central themes in cultural and political history, including the impact of Partition, and devotional and reformist currents that alternately encouraged and disapproved many of these images. This is a vivid account on a subject this will be of wide interest to lay and specialist readers alike."
- Prof. Barbara D. Metcalf
Professor of History Emerita, University of California, Davis