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Contingency in the Age of Religion: The Hajj and Religion-Making in Colonial and Postcolonial India

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

In Union of India v. Bhikan(2012), the Indian Supreme Court ruled that government hajj subsidies violated the Indian Constitution’s secular principles. What is notable about this decision is that the Supreme Court based the ruling on its own interpretation of the Qur’an, privileging direct access to scripture over historically established practices surrounding the pilgrimage in discerning what “Islam says” about the state’s proper role in the hajj. Archival and legal research shows that Union of India v. Bhikanis merely the latest moment in over a century of colonial and postcolonial debates about pilgrimage management. This article employs the theoretical and methodological insights of Jonathan Z. Smith and Talal Asad to explore this history and its effects, using the matter of hajj administration to identify the concrete implications of different methods of “religion-making,” or the construction of religion as an object for consideration and regulation, in the public sphere.

Affiliations: 1: Departments of History and Religious Studies, Grinnell College Steiner Hall/1120 Park Street, Grinnell, Iowa 50112 elfenbei@grinnell.edu

10.1163/15700682-12341342
/content/journals/10.1163/15700682-12341342
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2015-08-25
2017-09-20

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