Rushain Abbasi is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities and Lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies at Stanford University. He received his PhD from the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations at Harvard University in 2021, where his dissertation was awarded the prestigious Alwaleed Bin Talal Prize for Best Dissertation in Islamic Studies. He formerly served as an Associate Research Scholar at the Abdullah S. Kamel Center for Islamic Law and Civilization at Yale Law School.
But how subversive can a contemporary inquiry be if it remains a paradigmatically modern- and Euro-centric affair (as the critical literature on the secular has historically been). My suggestion is that if the secular is a temporal and spatial concept emanating from the modern West (as many would agree), its “shadows” will necessarily lie elsewhere.
The idea of the modern secular presupposes the existence of a holistic premodern world in which the amorphous phenomenon of religion penetrated all realms of life. But the existence of an Islamic distinction between the religious and non-religious domains suggests otherwise: not a latent secularity, but rather a difference of an altogether different kind. But if it is not equivalent to the “secular,” then what is it?