Literature, Conversion, and the Arabic Cosmopolis of South and Southeast Asia
The spread of Islam eastward into South and Southeast Asia was one of the most significant cultural shifts in world history. As it expanded into these regions, Islam was received by cultures vastly different from those in the Middle East, incorporating them into a diverse global community that stretched from India to the Philippines.
In Islam Translated, Ronit Ricci uses the Book of One Thousand Questions—from its Arabic original to its adaptations into the Javanese, Malay, and Tamil languages between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries—as a means to consider connections that linked Muslims across divides of distance and culture. Examining the circulation of this Islamic text and its varied literary forms, Ricci explores how processes of literary translation and religious conversion were historically interconnected forms of globalization, mutually dependent, and creatively reformulated within societies making the transition to Islam. Islam Translated will contribute to our knowledge of this region of the Muslim world that remains crucially important to world affairs.
“Ronit Ricci has succeeded in writing a book that combines scrupulous examination of textual shifts, concepts, imagery, and genre with a tremendously persuasive argument and a stimulating reading of the differences in translation process between languages and cultures. This book helps us to understand the differing ways in which Arabic and Arabic writings moved into other literatures and takes readers through a rich and detailed journey of imagery and language. This is a fascinating book that will appeal widely to anyone concerned with translation in its historical and cultural contexts.”
“This is a trail-blazing study about the dynamics of writing within the Arabic cosmopolis around the Indian Ocean, a topic that awaits further explorations. Ronit Ricci’s tantalizing close readings of particular versions of the Book of One Thousand Questions show an impressive knowledge and again and again open it up to new views. Islam Translated breathes enthusiasm and pleasure.”
“Islam Translated is a remarkable achievement, at once theoretically sophisticated and grounded in tremendously impressive archival research. Grappling with questions fundamental to the humanities, this book promises to serve as a model for future scholarship in area studies and comparative literature.”
“This volume makes a significant contribution to the study of the intersections of language, faith, and culture.”
“Straddling history and literary theory, this book is a linguistic tour de force, as the author moves effortlessly between Javanese, Malay, Tamil, Arabic, and Hebrew texts. . . . An extraordinary rich and seductive tale of cross-cultural communication and miscommunication.”
“A salutary corrective both to ideas of indigenous or Southeast Asian ‘uniqueness’ and of derivative Arabization, this splendid book should be widely read.”
“An inspiring combination of breathtaking scholarship and humane vision.”