Seamless Boundaries presents the autobiography of the nineteenth-century traveller Lutfullah Khan. First published in 1857, the Autobiography of Lutfullah is one of the earliest known works of its kind by an Indian in English.
Belonging to a Sufi lineage of the Malwa region, Lutfulah fled from his ancestral home to Agra. During the subsequent years he travelled extensively and taught Arabic, Persian, Gujarati, and Marathi to English newcomers in the East India Company. The last of these journeys was his notable voyage to and description of England in 1844. This in many ways was the culmination of Lutfullah's interest in the language and culture of the British.
Traversing geographical and cultural boundaries, Lutfullah's narrative defies conventional labels. With an orientation not 'secular' in the European sense, and yet able to respect composite practices, he envisioned a lived Islam in harmony with other religious and philosophical traditions.
The autobiography uncovers important socio-cultural dimensions such as the absence of contemporary oft-perceived Hindu-Muslim tensions in central India. His taste for British cultural, Literary, and artistic life was not uncritical. There was, if anything, a hidden tension between his admiration for British Enlightenment values and his attachment to Indian and Islamic traditions.
Lutfulla's account provides an understanding of events, people, and their culture beyond mere ast-west dichotomies. He, like his near-contemporary traveller to the West, Abu Taleb, unwittingly initiated the significant process of an Anglo-Muslim rapproachment.
With a substantial introduction and annotations by Mushirul Hasan. This volume will interest students and scholars of medieval Indian history, Islamic studies, religious studies, comparative religion, sociology, anthropology, as well as the interested lay reader.
Mushirul Hasan is Vice Chancellor and Professor of Modern Indian History, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.
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