Charles Ramsey

 

Doctoral researcher

Department of Theology and Religion

ramsey-charles

Contact details

About

PhD title: Muslim Exegesis of the Bible in Modern India: Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan (d. 1898) and the Muslim Commentary on the Holy Bible
Supervisor: Professor David Thomas
PhD Islamic Studies

Research

Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan is broadly regarded as a foremost public intellectual of pre-partition India.[1] A social scientist and innovative religious thinker, Sayyid Ahmad continues to symbolize a liberal Muslim response to modernity.[2] Although there is considerable work on Khan’s rationalist Islamic theology and progressive educational reforms, his legacy in Muslim-Christian relations as a student of the Bible remains to be adequately studied.[3]    

Whereas the nineteenth century Judeo-Christian world felt the crisis of modern science from within its own intelligentsia, the Islamic world experienced the upheaval through European colonial presence.[4] Sayyid Ahmad personally experienced the violent end of the Mughal Dynasty in Delhi (1857) and the Muslim exclusion from their own imperial city.[5] Disturbed by the bitter prejudice against Muslims and the aggressive efforts of Christian missionaries, Khan sought to address what he understood as the root of the problem, the disinformation of Islam.[6] The growing embitterment towards Muslims drove him to an unexpected, yet ingenious, course of action. Similar to the research conducted by European counterparts on the Qur’an and life of Muhammad, Khan would study Christian thought and scriptures in hopes of creating an intellectual engagement that would result in a more noble perceptions of Islam. His efforts culminated in the Tabyīn al-kalām: A Muhammedan Commentary on the Holy Bible (1862).[7] The text presents a partial yet determinably inter-textual reading of Jewish and Christian scripture that accentuates the similarities of the two faiths without collapsing differences. The work stands in stark contrast to some of the insidious work of his Christian and Muslim counterparts and opens a new vein of inter-faith engagement.[8] Sayyid Ahmad personally experienced the violent end of the Mughal Dynasty in Delhi (1857) and the Muslim exclusion from their own imperial city. Disturbed by the bitter prejudice against Muslims and the aggressive efforts of Christian missionaries, Khan sought to address what he understood as the root of the problem, the disinformation of Islam. The growing embitterment towards Muslims drove him to an unexpected, yet ingenious, course of action. Similar to the research conducted by European counterparts on the Qur’an and life of Muhammad, Khan would study Christian thought and scriptures in hopes of creating an intellectual engagement that would result in a more noble perceptions of Islam. His efforts culminated in the A (1862). The text presents a partial yet determinably inter-textual reading of Jewish and Christian scripture that accentuates the similarities of the two faiths without collapsing differences. The work stands in stark contrast to some of the insidious work of his Christian and Muslim counterparts and opens a new vein of inter-faith engagement.

Portions of this research have been presented at the Dr. Zakir Hussain Institute for Islamic Studies, Jamia Milia Islamia (Delhi, India), and at Centre for Public Policy and Governance, Forman Christian College (Lahore, Pakistan).

Research is funded in part by a grant awarded from the Bristish Library’s Endangered Archives Program for his proposal entitled Religious Revivalism in 19th Century Punjab.

Ramsey is the Academic Director for the Centre for Dialogue and Action, Forman Christian College (Lahore, Pakistan) and is a member of the Faculty of Religious Studies. Courses taught include History of Christianity in South Asia (CRST 252), Islam and Other Religions (ISLM 305), Sociology of Inequality (SOCL 207), and Islam and the West (FCC/Soliya Cairo).


[1] Ramachandra Guha, Makers of Modern India (Delhi: Penguin, 2010).   A Muslim nobleman, and descendant of Muhammad, he was later knighted by Queen Victoria due to his loyal service to the empire, hence the double title Sir Sayyid. 

[2] Akbar Ahmad, Journey Into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2008). 

[3] Francis Robinson, Islam and Muslim History in South Asia (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000). Aziz Ahmad, Islamic Modernism in India and Pakistan 1857-1964 (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1967); Christian Troll, Sayyid Ahmad Khan: A Reinterpretation of Muslim Theology (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1978). J.M.S. Balijon, The Reforms and Religious Ideas of Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan, 3rd rev. ed. (Lahore: Ashraf Press, 1964).

[4] Bruce Lawrence, The Quran: A Biography (New York: Grove Press, 2006), 143-150.

[5] William Dalrymple, The Last Mughal (Delhi: Penguin, 2006).

[6] Tariq Hasan, The Aligarh Movement and the Making of the Indian Muslim Mind 1857-2002 (New Delhi: Rupa, 2006) 20-21.

[7] Syed Ahmad Khan, The Mahomedan Commentary on the Holy Bible (Aligarh: Sir Syed Academy, 2004).

[8] For example from a Muslim see Rahmatullah ibn Khalil al-Uthmani al-Kairanawis’ Izhar al-Haqq and from a Christian see William Muir’s Life of Mohamet from Earliest Sources.  On conciliatory responses see Clinton Bennett, Victorian Images of Islam (Piscataway: Gorgias Press, 2009) and for sympathetic see Joseph Cumming, Did Jesus Die on the Cross? The History of Reflection on the End of His Earthly Life in Sunni Tafsir Literature, Yale University, May 2001.

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