Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/132864
Title: Problematizing the Construction of Hinduism and the Concept of Religion: Al-Biruni and the Religion of Hind
Authors: Alatas, S.F. 
Issue Date: 13-Dec-2016
Source: Alatas, S.F. (2016-12-13). Problematizing the Construction of Hinduism and the Concept of Religion: Al-Biruni and the Religion of Hind. Problematizing the Construction of Hinduism and the Concept of Religion: Al-Biruni and the Religion of Hind. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: Social scientific concepts originate from cultural terms in everyday language. As such they present problems when brought into scientific discourse & used to talk about areas & periods outside of those of their origins. The result is a distortion of the phenomena that they are applied to. By the 18th century "religion", from the Latin religio, came to be used as a scientific concept, referring to belief systems other than Christianity. When "religion" is applied to beliefs other than Christianity, for example, Islam or Hinduism, there is an implicit or explicit comparison with Christianity, which results in an elision of reality & a cultural Christianization of these other belief systems in the sense that it is the characteristics of Christianity which are attributed to these other "religions". This has become a problem in the social sciences because of the fact that it was European Christendom that became dominant culturally, resulting in the cognitive hegemony of European knowledge. This does, however, suggest the possibility of alternative constructions of 'Hinduism'. This paper critically examines the Arab scholar, Al-Biruni's (AH 362-442/AD 973-1050) construction of the beliefs that he encountered in India. It examines his Kitab ma li al-Hind & looks for a construction that predates the coming of European Orientalist studies & social science. I examine Al-Biruni's attempt to understand the beliefs he encountered in India in their own terms, & the problem of the use of conceptual vocabulary from the Islamic tradition. The ultimate aim of this paper is to suggest that a more universal concept of religion requires the study of the various & not just Christian-originated constructions of different belief systems.
Source Title: Problematizing the Construction of Hinduism and the Concept of Religion: Al-Biruni and the Religion of Hind
URI: http://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/132864
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