Beyond Trauma: History and Identity among the Muslim Minority in India A View on the Teachings of Abu al-Hasan Ali al-Nadwi

Itzchak Weismann

Gaining independence from Great Britain in 1947 entailed the partition of the Indian Subcontinent into two nation-states the supra-communal and multi-religious India and the Indian Muslims homeland of Pakistan. Partition was accompanied by a bloodbath, during which up to a million people lost their lives and another 12.5 million became refugees. The Muslims who remained in India became a small and vulnerable minority (11.5% of the total population), reviled by the spokesmen of the rising Hindi nationalism as an alien element in the Indian civilization and as a fifth column of the enemy Pakistan.

This article focuses on the communal-religious teachings of Abu al-Hasan Ali al-Nadwi (1914-1999), one of the leading thinkers of the Muslim minority in India and the Islamic world at large in the post-colonial era. Nadwi strove to overcome the collective trauma of partition and re-constitute an Indian Muslim identity by forging a complementary historical memory in independent India. The article surveys Nadwis biography and his intellectual sources of inspiration. Against this background, it analyzes his historical writings before and after 1947. In them, Muslim history is mobilized to show that low points, such as the Mongol destruction and the colonial conquest, were the key to regeneration, and a space is created for the contemporary Indian Muslims to lead to a new Islamic path that combines religious authenticity with the requirements of the modern age.