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Cosmopolitanisms in Muslim Contexts

Perspectives from the Past

Edited by Derryl N. MacLean, Sikeena Karmali Ahmed

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Published in Association with the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations

Looks at moments in world history when cosmopolitanism pervaded Muslim societies

This collection of 9 essays focuses on instances in world history when cosmopolitan ideas and actions pervaded specific Muslim societies and cultures. The contributors explore the tensions between regional cultures, isolated enclaves and modern nation-states.

Cosmopolitanism is a key concept in social and political thought, standing in opposition to closed human group ideologies such as tribalism, nationalism and fundamentalism. Recent discussions of it have been situated within Western self-perceptions. Now, this volume explores it from Muslim perspectives.

Key Features

  • Contributors include Felicitas Becker, Thomas Kuehn, Ariel Salzmann, Iftikhar Dadi and Muhammed Khalid Masud
  • Choses models from 4 areas: the Swahili coast, the Ottoman Empire/Turkey, Iran and Indo-Pakistan, showing the differences and similarities between areas
  • Each region is covered in 2 chapters, providing a basis for comparison


1. Introduction: Cosmopolitanisms in Muslim Contexts, Derryl N. MacLean
2. Freeborn Villagers: Islam and the Local Uses of Cosmopolitan Connections in the Tanzanian Countryside, Felicitas Becker
3. Interrogating ‘Cosmopolitanism’ in an Indian Ocean Setting: Thinking Through Mombasa on the Swahili Coast, Kai Kresse
4. Translators of Empire: Colonial Cosmopolitanism, Ottoman Bureaucrats and the Struggle over the Governance of Yemen, 1898–1914, Thomas Kuehn
5. Islampolis, Cosmopolis: Ottoman Urbanity Between Myth, Memory and Postmodernity, Ariel Salzmann
6. Cosmopolitan Cursing in Late-Nineteenth Century Alexandria, Will Hanley
7. Kebabs and Port Wine: The Culinary Cosmopolitanism of Anglo-Persian Dining, 1800–1835, Nile Green
8. Abdur Rahman Chughtai: Cosmopolitan Mughal Aesthetic in the Age of Print, Iftikhar Dadi
9. Cosmopolitanism and Authenticity: The Doctrine of Tashabbuh Bi’l-Kuffar (‘Imitating the Infidel’) in Modern South Asian Fatwas, Muhammad Khalid Masud
About the Contributors.

About the Author

Derryl N. MacLean is Director of the Centre for the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies and Cultures, and Associate Professor in the Department of History at Simon Fraser University, Canada. He is author of Religion and Society in Arab Sind (Brill, 1989).

Sikeena Karmali Ahmed is the Manager of Publications at The Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations. She is the author of a collection of poetry, Places to Remember, and an award-winning novel entitled A House by the Sea.


Cosmopolitanisms in Muslim Contexts exceeds all previous efforts to address the intersection of Islam and cosmopolitan norms, values and options. Against the backdrop of Islamicate civilization and contemporary global challenges, its contributors accent cosmopolitanism as both a political ideal and a social practice in several contexts. At last one can, and does, grasp the critical cosmopolitan element of the Muslim world throughout the Afro-Eurasian ecumene.

- Professor Bruce B. Lawrence, Author of The Qur'an - A Biography

MacLean and Ahmed are to be commended for bringing together such a wide range of scholarship under the same theoretical umbrella.

- Ian Campbell, Georgia State University, Middle East Media and Book Reviews

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