A New Vision for Islamic Pasts and Futures

A New Vision for Islamic Pasts and Futures

by Shahzad Bashir

A New Vision for Islamic Pasts and Futures is a groundbreaking view of Islam that goes beyond conventional theological, nativist, and orientalist approaches, presented in an interactive, open-access born-digital format.

Available August 9, 2022

"Bashir's book magically mimics the very processes by which we associate image, place, speech, and memory to stitch together our sense of the world. . . . Space, time, the senses, all moving at different emotional speeds, connect fragments of the Islamic world into a significance which can be shared but which will always remain personal. Brilliant."

—Tony K. Stewart, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Chair in Humanities, Emeritus, Vanderbilt University, author of The Final Word: The Caitanya Caritamrta and the Grammar of Religious Tradition

Praise for A New Vision for Islamic Pasts and Futures

“At once a mosaic of entry points into the author's intricate and refreshing views of the Islamic world and a unique web-based interactive experience, this meticulous book moves beyond the Middle East to open up the world with the author guiding the internaut reader on a journey through the prism of time.”

—Lara Baladi, Artist and educator, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and author of ABC: A Lesson in History

"An essential contribution to debates on temporality in history, anthropology, religious studies, and beyond, this beautiful web of narratives, images, videos, and creative academic writing is nothing short of a thrilling scholarly experience."

—Noah Salomon, University of Virginia, author of For Love of the Prophet: An Ethnography of Sudan's Islamic State

"Shahzad Bashir has produced an incredible work of scholarship. . . . It is a wide ranging, stunningly original, and incredibly sophisticated exploration of Islamic pasts and futures that is also accessible to the general reader....I can honestly say that I have never read anything quite like it."

Ethan Kleinberg, Class of 1958 Distinguished Professor of History and Letters, Wesleyan University

“The format is cutting-edge, the scope breathtaking, and the argument multilayered though robustly consistent. The whole is a history of thoughts on Islam in all its diverse glory but also its endless crosstemporal confluences, potential reconfigurations, twists, and modern iterations, of which the book itself is but one methodologically astute yet unassumingly subjective example.”

—Nasser Rabbat, Aga Khan Professor and the Director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT, author of Writing Egypt, al-Maqrizi and his Historical Project

Introduction

Shahzad Bashir invites readers to imagine Islam anew, to see its countless faces as they emerge through the prism of time. Islam is made of objects and narratives, moving and put into patterns, that converge on vanishing points. Pursued from evidence in time and space, Islam is an abstraction that we posit through reflecting on a vast net of interconnected traces. These traces project understandings of time that appear different depending on the vantage from which they are seen. Time conditions beholders as much as what is observed—it is elusive precisely because it is ineluctable.

Unlimited possibilities for exploration

As an electronic monograph with an invented interface, this book’s form is connected to its argument. The table of contents invites readers to explore in the way that best works for them: hopping from subject to subject, designing a one-of-a-kind path that follows their interests and needs, or a more traditional sequential path guided by the author's table of contents.

An immersive experience

Bashir discusses Islam as phenomenon and as discourse—observed in the built environment, material objects, paintings, linguistic traces, narratives, and social situations. The book's layered digital interface allows for an exploration of and engagement with this rich visual material and multimedia evidence not possible in a printed volume.

About the book

This groundbreaking, born-digital work invites readers to imagine Islam anew. Moving beyond conventional theological, nativist, and orientalist approaches, Shahzad Bashir decenters Islam from a geographical identification with the Middle East, an articulation through men's authority alone, and the assumption that premodern expressions are more authentically Islamic than modern ones. Focusing on time as a human construct, A New Vision for Islamic Pasts and Futures interprets stories and images, paying attention to evidence and methods of interpretation.

Islam, in Bashir's telling, is a vast net of interconnected traces that appear to be different depending on the vantage from which they are seen. Complementing narrative with extensive visual evidence, the multimodal digital form enacts the multiplicity of the project's analyses and perspectives, conferring a shape-shifting quality that bridges the gap between sensing Islam and understanding it, between feeling it as a powerful presence and analyzing it through intellectual means.

This interactive, open-access edition allows readers to enter Islam through a diverse set of doorways, each leading to different time periods across different parts of the world. Bashir discusses Islam as phenomenon and as discourse—observed in the built environment, material objects, paintings, linguistic traces, narratives, and social situations. He draws on literary genres, including epics, devotional poetry and prayers, and modern novels; art and architecture in varied forms; material culture, from luxury objects to cheap trinkets; and such forms of media as photographs, graffiti, and films. The book's layered digital interface allows for an exploration of and engagement with this rich visual material and multimedia evidence not possible in a printed volume.

Publication date: August 9, 2022
290 color illus.
ISBN: 9780262371919
DOI: 10.26300/bdp.bashir.ipf

A collaboration between the MIT Press and the Digital Publications Initiative of Brown University.

Supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the MIT Press, and the Digital Publications Initiative of Brown University.

The URL for this publication will be islamic-pasts-futures.org

About Shahzad Bashir

Shahzad Bashir is Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Humanities and Professor of History and Religious Studies at Brown University. He is the author of, most recently, The Market in Poetry in the Persian World and Sufi Bodies: Religion and Society in Medieval Islam and coeditor of Under the Drones: Modern Lives in the Afghanistan–Pakistan Borderlands.

Watch Shahzad discuss the book with his editors Victoria Hindley and Allison Levy.

Shahzad Bashir is wearing a blue plaid suit jacket and button down shirt, as he smiles and looks relaxed against a backdrop of a forest.

Table of contents for A New Vision for Islamic Pasts and Futures

Introduction

  • Islam
  • Time
  • Conceptual Framework

1. Constructing Time

  • A Walk in Time
  • Events and Narratives
  • Tropes
  • Life Stories
  • Politics
  • Modern Global Times

2. The Web of History

  • Jerusalem in Java
  • Inadequacy of Timelines
  • Spacetimes
  • Genealogies
  • Events Relived
  • Enduring Forms

3. Transformative Moments

  • A Roaming Orientalist
  • The Modern (Historical) Condition
  • The Mongol Catalysis
  • Varieties of ‘Islamic’ Times
  • Orientations to the Past

4. Lifetimes

  • A Woman’s Voice
  • An Edifice of Time
  • Documenting the Living Dead
  • Stories from the Americas
  • Self, Family, Nation

5. Pasts Envisioned

  • The Skyline of Istanbul
  • Frescoes in the Desert
  • Beautiful Violence
  • The Gift of Presence
  • The Missing Image
  • The Grave of Time

6. Historical Fictions

  • An Ambiguous Adventure
  • The Arab Renaissance
  • A New Past Nation
  • The Premodern Epic
  • Fictional Truth

7. Looking Back to the Future

  • The Grave of a Living King
  • Anticipating Past Futures
  • A Resurrection
  • A Lost-Found Nation
  • Reading the Stars
  • Refugee Horizons

Epilogue

Read A New Vision for Islamic Pasts and Futures

Resources