Select Reviews of
Religion as Critique

Reviews in Text

“[Irfan] Ahmad has written an important, sophisticated, and provocative book. This book stands in the best tradition of contemporary Islamic studies.”–Marginalia: Los Angeles Review of Books

“Religion as Critique is literally a tour de force that combines different objectives around the central axis of showing how believers in Islam act as ‘dynamic agents . . . of critique’.”–South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies

“Original and compelling . . . This important text will be of interest to a wide range of scholars from the social sciences to the humanities committed to better understanding what a postcolonial ethic toward scholarship on Muslims and Islam in the context of rising Islamophobia might look like.”–Nova Religio

“The book is written in a passionate and engaging style and can easily persuade the reader to finish it at a sitting as its vocabulary is rich and varied and its rhetoric well-crafted, illustrated with poetry, proverbs and personal anecdotes. . . . This book is at once a challenging and exciting work.”–Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations

“Thoughtful, nuanced, questioning, exploratory, Religion as Critique: Islamic Critical Thinking from Mecca to the Marketplace is a brave book and a timely one.” —The Hindu

“Ahmad writes as both a philosopher and an anthropologist. . . . What Ahmad does in assessing Abdul Ghaffar Khan is nothing short of revisionism at its most extreme, and daring, pinnacle. . . . Irfan Ahmad deserves the acclaim that . . . Khan has been denied, but may now regain, in part thanks to this lucid, imaginative analysis of his life, his movement, and his legacy.” — Critical Research on Religion

“[Irfan Ahmad] has carved out a reputation for himself as someone who can delve into the corridors of the faithful and come up with rare gems. . . . He shows how a man [Maududi] who . . . had written biographies of Mahatma Gandhi and Madan Mohan Malviya, found himself pushed to the margins of the polity rather than be allowed to swim along with the mainstream.” — Frontline

“[Irfan] Ahmad unveils one of the most original and liberating accounts of the Khudai Khidmatgar movement initiated by Abdul Ghaffar Khan (d. 1988) which he describes as an ‘autonomous entity’ and a ‘movement of critique.’”–

“A bold academic contribution that presents an alternative narrative of India and Islam that is seldom discussed in mainstream academic discourse and . . . is recommended not only to readers of anthropology and religion, but also to those interested in philosophy and discursive practices.” — Open

“A sophisticated intervention against the exceptionalism attributed to Islam, it uncovers the limits of Eurocentric theoretical frameworks and scrutinizes the legacies of anthropological knowledge production . . . the theoretical underpinnings of Religion as Critique go well beyond the field of Islam and make a timely contribution to decolonial scholarship.”–Politics, Religion & Ideology

“Ahmad is convincing in his retheorization of ‘critique.’ . . . Ultimately, with Religion as Critique, Ahmad makes an important contribution to the field of anthropology.”–ReOrient

“Ahmad’s work anthropologically situates ‘the rationale’ behind the apparently uninformed utterances about Islam that European intellectuals make and turns them into anthropological objects of study. Religion as Critique helps us navigate public discourses about Islam pronounced by Muslims and non-Muslims without resulting to such inadequate labels as Islamophobe, right-wing or left-wing, and conservative or liberal.”–American Ethnologist

“Irfan Ahmad’s text, Religion as Critique, is an ambitious work that seeks to open a new approach to the understanding of Muslims: an anthropology of philosophy.”–Reading Religion

“The book constitutes a significant contribution to both the study of critique and the anthropology of philosophy.”–Political Theology

“Offers an interesting opposition to the West-and-the-rest narratives of an European Enlightenment radiating outwards from Greece and Germany into the backward corners of a darker world.”–Al Jazeera

“Scholars of religion and philosophy will find plenty of challenges to assumptions about what counts as critique and who can deploy it.”–Publishers Weekly

“Here is a scholarly and nuanced intervention in the politics of culture—the way the hegemonic West with its Christianity and Enlightenment rationality stigmatizes Islam as the turbulent site of irrationality, orthodoxy, and violence. Irfan Ahmad contests this monologue of the West … and argues that Islam has its own distinctive and immensely meaningful discourse of reason. This brilliantly written book ought to shatter the misplaced confidence of hegemonic modernists as well as orthodox zealots.”–Avijit Pathak, Professor of Sociology, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

“In this enlightening and impressive examination of Islamic thought, Irfan Ahmad investigates a part of the Muslim world too often regarded as marginal but which ought to be recognized as central. Ahmad argues that Islam has its own form of religious criticism carried out by believing Muslims with reference to their own traditions. Will be of interest not only to those who study modern Islamic thought but also to scholars of religion and postcolonial studies and to anthropologists beyond area specialists.”– Talal Asad

“This important and passionate book is filled with original ideas. Two of the most striking ones are that Enlightenment thought is deeply indebted to Christian thought, and that Islam has its own tradition of critique that precedes the Western idea of critique but continues to be marginalized in contemporary scholarly and public debate. A significant book for scholars of Islam, Europe, and the Enlightenment.”– Arjun Appadurai

“Religion as Critique elevates both terms…. With sustained intellectual courage and intelligence, Irfan Ahmad takes the idea of God, prophecy, and reform as constituting a framework from within which the past, present, and future have been, and can be, rethought. The idea of critique that emerges from this book is deeply attentive to the present by articulating a long Islamic tradition that has had the resources to think in concrete and abstract ways. This book is a genuinely thoughtful contribution to the understanding of Islam and to ways in which we can rethink it and the world we live in.” —Uday Mehta

“Provocatively examines the relationship of the Islamic tradition to critique. This timely reflection on the ways in which reason, criticism, and reflexivity are not exclusive to the Enlightenment pointedly addresses how the practice of Westernized notions of critique are deeply constituted by and through political and anthropological contexts.”– Ruth Mas, SOAS University of London, UK.

“Religion and Critique is a remarkably original work aiming to construct a theory of critique and judgment in Islam…. This excellent book, written in a reader-friendly style, stresses for a more informed understanding of Islamic universe of knowledge and action. Irfan Ahmad situates the global anti-Islamic obsession in the Indian context by offering an intelligent criticism of Amartya Sen’s Argumentative Indian.”–Hilal Ahmed, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi, India.

Reviews in Video

Book Review - Religion as Critique by Irfan Ahmad (2018) by Iulia Lumina​

Why Read Religion as Critique by Prof. Irfan Ahmad

Symposia in Journals on Religion as Critique