Ahmad, Irfan. 2009. Islamism and Democracy in India: The Transformation of the Jamaat-e-IslamiPrinceton University Press.It was short-listed for the International Convention of Asia Scholars (2011) Book Prize for the best study in the field of Social Sciences. The South Asian edition of the book is published by Permanent Black, New Delhi, in the Indian Century Series.The Açilim Kitap, Istanbul, will publish a Turkish edition of Islamism and Democracy in India in 2014.

Currently, Irfan is working on a book manuscript on forms, functions and modalities of critique in Islam in relation to social and cultural theories.



Islamism and Democracy in India has earned a range of detailed reviews in multiple languages (English, French, Hindi, Malayalam and Urdu) in leading anthropological and social science journals as well as semi– and non–academic media. It has also been discussed in blogs, online discussions and other genres. In addition to book-talks, the author also gave a long book-based interview (in English) to People TV, a Malayalam TV channel, as well as to the BBC (Urdu).

“This is a major book”.
Francis Robinson
University of London, and Oxford Center for Islamic Studies
“Ahmad’s timely and important book… intervenes…with an unexpected and inspiring conclusion” and makes “impressive contribution…to…discussions concerning Islam and secularism in both the north and the south”.
American Anthropologist
"It is an “illuminating book” with a “brilliant combination of microlevel ethnography and macrolevel Indian history” and “as a contribution to the literature on Islamism, secularism, and democracy, this book stands out as a fascinating political ethnography”.
American Ethnologist
“[T]his important book has earned much interest not only in India, as it somehow puts an end to the frequently asked question: Can Islam and democracy co-exist…?”
Nina zu Fürstenberg
“Ahmad’s book is an impressive analytical achievement, a convincing argument for differentiation, and a well-written and accessible read”.
Contemporary South Asia
“It [Islamism and Democracy in India] is a seminal contribution to understanding the dynamics of Muslim politics…. The research is original, the style is lucid, and the narrative is absorbing. … [I]t is a tremendous achievement.
Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs
“His “[Ahmad’s] work is finely crafted, eloquently argued and conceptually finessed”.
Dipankar Gupta, in Biblio: A Review of Books
“The perspectives and arguments presented in this book surpass those previously published on the traditions and modernity of Islamism. Ahmad’s examination demonstrates one of the most fundamentally important aspects of Islamic dynamism…While a constellation of volumes exist on the nature of Islamism and the contemporary world, Irfan Ahmad’s examination is a successful addition by way of its intellectual precision [and] innovative analysis…”
Central European Journal of International and Security Studies
“Islamism and Democracy in India is a work of thorough research and rigorous analysis…. It is by far the best book on Jamaat-e-Islami; thorough, courageous and honest”.
“Irfan Ahmad’s Islamism and Democracy in India is an engaging exploration of the heartland of Jamaat-e-Islami in India… His lucidly written account takes us with him on his adventures in the field and brings us into an otherwise inaccessible world”.
Australian Book Review
“Among the recent works done [on this theme], this anthropological study is a milestone. On India, this is the first study of its kind which offers a firm foundation for future researchers”.
‘Alamī Sahārā
“Ahmad has enriched Islamism and Democracy in India with an incredible amount of scholarship in his analysis of the incontrovertible distinction between Jamaat-e-Islami’s moderation and SIMI’s radicalization….The currency of Ahmad’s erudition crystallizes the need to examine this question more broadly in the context of international policy”.
Digest of Middle East Studies
“This is an outstanding historical and ethnographic account of one of the most influential Islamist movements in South Asia....It is essential reading for political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, historians, and students of Islam”.
Peter van der Veer
Author of Imperial Encounters
“He [Irfan Ahmad] scoffs at established traditions, and questions common perceptions… He brings a different perspective, whether he is analysing attacks on Indians Down Under or writing about evolution of Jamaat-e-Islami”.
The Hindu
“This is the most important book written on Muslims in India in the last three decades. Ahmad traces the incremental shift of most adherents of Jamaat-e-Islami to moderation and participation in Indian democracy, showing that from its inception the movement has been thoroughly modern. He deals with an aspect of India that is frequently neglected and engages the main debates concerning the relation of Islam to democracy.”
Dale F. Eickelman
Dartmouth College
“This is an important and valuable contribution to our understanding of Muslim societies, providing us with a window into Indian Islamism by skillfully weaving politics, anthropology, and religion in innovative and insightful ways. What Ahmad shows is that Islamism in India has moved far beyond its founding discourses and invectives against secularism and democracy. This ethnography makes the material come alive and gives depth and context to the issues.”
Ebrahim Moosa
Duke University
“It is abrilliant exposition of ideological and practical dilemmas faced by the Jama’at… I congratulate Irfan Ahmad for doing this study with diligence and objectivity expected of an honest scholar”.
Asghar Ali Engineer
“This is the work of a young scholar, who has read widely in intellectual history, political sociology, and cultural anthropology. Ahmad displays an enviable ability to synthesize the approaches and findings of these varied disciplines. … [T]his impressive first book adds enormously to our knowledge and understanding of this country’s largest and most vulnerable minority. … After reading this book, no one should ever be seen speaking or thinking in terms of the ‘putative fixity of Islamism’”.
Ramchandra Guha and Sunil Khilnani
“[T]his well-crafted study will be of great interest to scholars, students of Islam, and policymakers".

“Part of the importance of this book is its deconstruction of the idea that Islamist groups oppose secularism and democracy. …Islamism and Democracy in India addresses some key conceptual and methodological shortcomings in the literature on the subject. …The book should be read by those interested in political Islam not only in the context of international relations and security but also by scholars and students of political anthropology and the study of social movements”.

Journal of Sociology
“It is social science research at its best”.
“[Islamism and Democracy in India] quite stridently questions the conventional ways of dealing with the socio-political life of India’s Muslims …to offer an argument, which simply goes beyond the ‘fixed’ images of Muslim politics and for that matter ‘Islamism’…. [It] gives a new direction to the intellectual tradition established by Mohammad Mujib, Aziz Ahamd, T.N. Madan, Imtiaz Ahmad and Mushirul Hasan”.
South Asian History and Culture
Irfan Ahmad's book could not be more timely or important. At a time when clichés about "Islamists" and "Islamic terrorists" abound, he demonstrates the ideological transformation of one of the twentieth century's most important Islamist movements, India's Jamaat-e-Islami, in support of active participation in a secular, plural democracy. Ahmad's work is essential reading not only for scholars, but for policymakers and concerned citizens alike.

Barbara D. Metcalf

Read Select Reviews in Non-English Languages:

On 20 August 2010, Monash Asia Institute (MAI), Monash University, the Centre for Islam and the Modern World (CIMOW), Monash University, Centre for Contemporary Muslim Societies (University of Western Sydney), & National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies (Melbourne University) jointly organized an evening symposium at Monash University, Caulfield Campus to review Irfan Ahmad’s Islamism and Democracy in India (2009, Princeton University Press) and initiate a conversation with the author. Chaired by Prof. Marika Vicziany, Director of Monash Asia Institute, a panel of distinguished scholars –Prof. Bryan S. Turner (University of Western Sydney & CUNY, New York), Prof. Abdullah Saeed (Melbourne University) and Prof. Gary Bouma (Prof. Emiritus at Monash University and UNESCO Chair in Interreligious and Intercultural Relations, Asia Pacific) –reviewed the book. The author responded to the panel followed by a discussion with the audience.

It is one of the best books I have read on the topic…[I]t challenges the received wisdom on a range of issues – what we call political Islam or, Islamism in short, is one of them and of course the whole notion of Islam…So, thank you Irfan for actually challenging the received wisdom …The debates and issues he deals with …are very relevant for Muslims in the West, for instance, Australia.
Abdullah Saeed
Author of Interpreting the Qur’an: Towards A Contemporary Approach
I have loved reading this book. It is great. I recommend it highly. I recommend it as a methodological treatise or example for those who want to teach doing of social science research in the twenty first century…
Gary Bouma
Author of Australian Soul: Religion and Spirituality in the 21st Century
I actually read this book cover to cover. I have heavily annotated it. I think I will be quoting it for the next …fifteen years… It is beautifully presented and thoroughly researched and so a delight to read.
Bryan Turner
Author of Religion and Modern Society