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Book Review
Muslim lives in India

Book: Image and Representation: Stories of Muslim Lives in India
Edited by: Mushirul Hasan and Asaduddin
Publishers: Oxford
Price: Rs 525

The book is a compilation of 34 stories. Thirty one of them have been translated into English from various South Asian languages while the remaining three are originally written in English. The stories have been advertently selected to portray Muslims and inter-community relationships in the Indian subcontinent. Although literature cannot bring about important social changes, it can throw light on dimensions of our collective existence. The endeavors of the editors are praiseworthy.

The collective stories reflect the variety of forms, style, language and symbols adopted by different writers. We have been reminded by the editors that Islam is not a stoic point of reference (as has been portrayed by many Western and non-Muslim scholars), its interpretations have changed over time, and influential pluralist visions have moulded Muslim communities in India and elsewhere.

The Holy Judges and The Temple and the Mosque, the two well-known stories of Premchand sketch Hindus and Muslims who live in harmony and share common cultural traits. The message of the only story of the anthology from Pakistan, Ashfaq Ahmad’s Stony-hearted is quite clear - triumph of love between a young Muslim man and a Punjabi Hindu girl over the strives in times of great confusion and chaos. Ismat Chughtai’s Kafir, Punni Singh’s The Infidel and Abdul Bismillah’s Guest is God, draw much attention. There are ironical and sarcastic stories as well.

However, the collection under review is successful in highlighting the heterogeneous nature of Indian Islam and broadening the outlook of Indian people as a whole by portraying some of the misconceptions of Hindus and Muslims about each other. The get up of the book is excellent, but the publisher should have avoided printing errors, some of whom even appear on the front flap.

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