In today’s geopolitical environment, teaching South Asia can be somewhat of a sticky wicket, particularly when it comes to religion and communalism. Each time I discuss Hindu–Muslim relations in an introductory course on South Asia or in a 100-level world history class, I run up against a whole host of preconceived notions on religion in the non-Western world. Worse yet, most students are unaware that our modern understanding of religion can’t be projected backward. However, a properly contextualized discussion of Hindu–Muslim relations in South Asia not only gives students a deeper comprehension of the region, but also illustrates how, when viewed through the lens of history, seemingly timeless institutions like religion can take on meanings and forms that our twenty-first-century minds could never imagine.
Religion in History: Manjhan’s Madhumalati and the Construction of Indo-Islam