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Living Islam
Muslim Religious Experience in Pakistan's North-West Frontier


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  • Date Published: December 2005
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521617659

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About the Authors
  • Popular representations of Pakistan's North West Frontier have long featured simplistic images of tribal blood feuds, fanatical religion, and the seclusion of women. The rise to power of the radical Taliban regime in neighbouring Afghanistan enhanced the region's reputation as a place of anti-Western militancy. Magnus Marsden is an anthropologist who has immersed himself in the lives of the Frontier's villagers for more than ten years. His evocative study of the Chitral region challenges all these stereotypes. Through an exploration of the everyday experiences of both men and women, he shows that the life of a good Muslim in Chitral is above all a mindful life, enhanced by the creative force of poetry, dancing and critical debate. Challenging much that has been assumed about the Muslim world, this 2005 study makes a powerful contribution to the understanding of religion and politics both within and beyond the Muslim societies of southern Asia.

    • A nuanced and penetrating insider-account of life as a Muslim in Pakistan's troubled North-west Frontier
    • Challenges popular notion that Muslims in Pakistan are all sympathetic to fundamentalist principles
    • For anthropologists, students of religion and politics, and all those interested in the lives of real Muslims
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    • Winner of the 2008 AIPS Book Prize

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Magnus Marsden has joined the ranks of the great ethnographers of the British Empire who described and wrote about the peoples of the Indian subcontinent with accuracy and even affection. Marsden's lucid and insightful work, based in Chitral, one of the most isolated and least known societies in the subcontinent, comes as a relief after the stereotypes and caricatures which pass for commentary in the media about Muslim societies.' Akbar Ahmed, The Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies and Professor of International Relations, American University, Washington D.C.

    '[Marsden's] evocative study … challenges all … stereotypes. … Challenging much that has been assumed about the Muslim world, this study makes a powerful contribution to the understanding of religion and politics both within and beyond the Muslim societies of southern Asia.' International Review of Administrative Sciences

    'This is a valuable contribution in the discussions of a phenomenon which, for better or worse, will help to shape all our futures.' Contemporary Review

    'Marsden's deep engagement with the Chitrali people … has resulted in an empirically rich and nuanced study.' Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2005
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521617659
    • length: 314 pages
    • dimensions: 204 x 159 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.52kg
    • contains: 2 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. Rowshan: Chitral village life
    3. Emotions upside-down: affection and Islam
    4. The play of the mind: debating village Muslims
    5. Mahfils and musicians: new Muslims in Markaz
    6. Rowshan's amulet making ulama
    7. To eat or not to eat: Ismai'lis and Sunnis in Rowshan
    8. Conclusion.

  • Author

    Magnus Marsden, University of Cambridge
    Magnus Marsden is Lecturer on the anthropology of Islam, as well as on religion and politics in Pakistan, at the University of Cambridge.


    • Winner of the 2008 AIPS Book Prize

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