The Age of Fasad: Jihad, Piety and Liturgical Islam in the Indian Ocean (1500-1750)

As the Portuguese’s entry opened up a turbulent time in the Indian Ocean, Muslim scribal elites across the region presented them within the image of idolatrous infidels. Writing in Arabic, the scribes from Malabar categorised this period as the Age of Fasad (social disorder) and advocated for ‘valour’ as the counter strategy. However, by transliterating sufis and prophets, vernacular scribes in Malabar insisted on the emotion of ‘piety’ for recreating the glory of the bygone Islamic past, as the fasad situation continued. This paper examines this textual/ lyrical transition- from Arabic valour texts to Arabi-Malayalam pietistic poetry- when a large number of Muslims began moving away from maritime towns to settle down in agrarian hinterland.

P K Yasser Arafath is Assistant Professor in the Department of History, Delhi University. Currently, he is the Dr. L.M. Singhvi Visiting Fellow, and located at the Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge. His research focuses primarily on Kerala, and areas of his interests include the social history of healing and Islamic intellectual traditions. His research papers are published in edited volumes and journals such as Economic & Political Weekly and Social Scientist and a new research paper on fasad in medieval Malabar will be published in The Medieval History Journal, 2018, 21(1). His latest work, “Literarization and trans-Islamism: Life and After-life of Sayyed Sanaulla Makthi” will be out shortly in an edited volume from Routledge, London. Dr. Arafath is currently completing a book manuscript entitled Intimate Texts: Malabar Ulema and Lyrical Resistance in the Age of Fasad.