Manan Ahmed Asif has written aprovocative, though eminently readable, book challenging settled historiographies on Muslim origins in South Asia. ‘Beginnings are a seductive necessity… for the modern nation, the romance of origins and the gravitas of a unique genealogy are imperative,’ Asif declares unambiguously in the opening pages of the book. However, the rest of the book is an engaging argument against the dominant narrative, illumined by colonial histories, that Muslim pasts are intelligible only within a singular template of conquests—starting with Muhammad bin Qasim’s victory in Sind, but since then perpetually reproduced at successive moments of arrival. Asif problematizes the imagining of a particular story of beginnings, that of Muslims in India, constructed primarily from the Chachnama—a Persian text written by Ali Kufi in the thirteenth century, which narrates the story of the righteous Brahmin King of Sind, Chach, and the subsequent coming of the Arab army under Qasim in 712 ad.
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