Ronit Ricci, "Islam Translated: Literature, Conversion, and the Arabic Cosmopolis of South and Southeast Asia" (U Chicago Press, 2011)


Muslims have been historically connected in various ways. Networks have fostered the spread of Islam through commerce and trade, Sufi brotherhoods and pilgrimage. Ideas too have traveled these paths and literary networks have facilitated cultural exchange across geographic and linguistic boundaries. The role of language in the process of making Islam intelligible to various local audiences serves as a shared thread for an excellent new book, Islam Translated: Literature, Conversion, and the Arabic Cosmopolis of South and Southeast Asia (University of Chicago Press, 2011). This innovative study, which won the American Academy of Religion's Best First Book in the History of Religions Award, explores the role of Arabic in South and Southeast Asia as it affected Javanese, Malay, and Tamil literatures. Ronit Ricci, Researcher at the Australian National University, determines the relationship between translation and religious conversion in the process Arabization and vernacularization in these three linguistic contexts. Translation serves as tool for self-fashioning Islam in particular contexts, which is witnessed in the numerous tellings of the Book of One Thousand Questions. This detailed and theoretically rich study offers new perspectives for understanding Muslim communities who formulate and maintain a collective identity through textual production in local languages. It should be required reading for anyone who is interested in non-Arabic speaking Muslims communities from now on.

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Kristian Petersen

Kristian Petersen is an Associate Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at

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