Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



Mrs. Meer Hassan Ali’s book Observations on the Mussulmauns of India stood as a benchmark of British knowledge about Islam in South Asia throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Although Ali’s book was a seminal and highly regarded book, modern intellectual and women’s historians have largely ignored her contribution towards the mainstream perception of Islam in colonial India. Published in 1832, Observations on the Mussulmauns countered many negative stereotypes about Islam that had become common in the works of Indologists by putting forth a new perspective gleaned from Ali’s decade-long stay in India, where she lived with her husband’s family in Lucknow. Ali has a uniquely insightful perspective on Islam because she was living in India after marrying into a family from Lucknow that belonged to the Shia sect of Islam. Straying from anti-Muslim ideas present in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Orientalist literature, Observations on the Mussulmauns contended argued that Islam called for the fair treatment of women and was closer to Christianity than most Britons previously thought. After its publication, British scholars and popular writers constantly referred to Observations on the Mussulmauns due to Ali’s detailed descriptions of Muslim beliefs and practices. Ali’s positive, firsthand experiences with Islam helped to change the perception of Islam in early nineteenth-century British literature.



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Committee Chair

Pirbhai, Reza

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History Commons