A Muslim modernity

Ismaili engagement with Western societies

Authored by: H. Karim Karim

Routledge Handbook of Islam in the West

Print publication date:  August  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415691321
eBook ISBN: 9781315794273
Adobe ISBN: 9781317744023


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Shi‘i Nizari Ismaili Muslims (or “Ismailis” for short) are a branch of Islam who have engaged in a unique manner with modernity. Their hereditary leaders (imams) were prominent interlocutors with European colonialism and have been present in Western Europe since the early twentieth century. Following migration from Asia and Africa, Ismailis now have significant settlements in several parts of Europe, North America, and Australasia. This relatively small group of several millions located around the world has a form of communal (jamati) self-governance that has Western features of organization and whose structure is specified in a transnational “constitution.” Many members of the community living in Western as well as non-Western countries have integrated modernity into their lives, while maintaining Islamic practice and identity. In producing new ways of engaging with the modern state, civil society, institutional organizations, international development, transnationalism, cosmopolitanism, citizenship, and traditional and contemporary knowledge, they have produced a unique form of Muslim modernity.

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