Saturday, September 15, 2012

India's popular Islam: 4 short films at Studio Safdar, Delhi

Still from "Basant"
Film Screening & Talk:  India’s Popular Islam
Four Short Films on Devotional Muslim Culture

by Yousuf Saeed

Monday 17th September 2012, at 6.30 pm
at Studio Safdar and May Day Bookstore/Café, Delhi

In India, Islam and Muslims have evolved rich cultural traditions through interaction with other traditions. While Muslim societies all over the world are turning to a more sanitised religion devoid of local cultural traditions, this video presentation and talk explores a few examples of rich festivals, religious rituals and visual iconography followed by Muslims in different parts of India. The following short documentaries will be screened along with introduction and discussion by the filmmaker:

- 'Basant', 13 mins. This film looks at the unique version of Basant Panchami (spring festival) celebrated by the Sufis and qawwals at the dargah of Nizamuddin Aulia in Delhi.

- 'Sufi Sama', 14 mins. A short history of the evolution of qawwali and Sufi sama in India, especially its links with Hindustani classical music.

- 'Muharram at Amroha', 15 mins. A film that looks at how the rituals and iconography of Muharram ashura have adopted a lot from Hindu rituals, especially at north India's small town Amroha.

- 'Jannat ki Rail', 7 mins. A short musical video that celebrates the colourful religious poster art produced in India.

The filmmaker, Yousuf Saeed, is also the author of the book "Muslim Devotional Art in India" which he would introduce briefly. 

* Both Studio Safdar and May Day are small spaces with limited seating, so best to arrive early.

None of the events are ticketed. We are unable to pay anything to the artists who enrich our lives, unless you contribute. We’ll spread the chadar at the end of the performance. These contributions will be shared 50:50 with the artists.
Studio Safdar has been made possible by hundreds of voluntary donations from across the country and beyond. Please consider making a donation that will help us equip and maintain the space better.

Studio Safdar and May Day Bookstore and Café
2254/2A Shadi Khampur, New Ranjit Nagar, New Delhi 110008Metro: Shadipur. Directions: Shadipur metro – Satyam Cinema – cycle ricksha – ‘Biyaasi number’ – May Day board next to DMS booth.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Muslim Devotional Art in India

A new illustrated book by Yousuf Saeed, 2011, Routledge India
Forthcoming in June 2011

An illustrated volume on the history of Islamic popular devotional art and visual culture in India with an emphasis on religious pluralism as part of the iconography. More details at

See the page for this book.

  • ISBN-10: 0415678382

  • ISBN-13: 978-0415678384

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Important Links on Popular Islam

Important Links and Resources

Images And Representations In Muslim Popular Culture, A Conference at the Centre for

Theology and Religious Studies, Lund University, 1-4 March 2007

Transglobal Media Flows and African Popular Culture: Revolution and Reaction In Muslim Hausa Popular Culture

Devotion in pictures: Muslim popular iconography

South Asian ways of seeing, Muslim ways of knowing, The Indian Muslim niche market in posters: Sandria B. Freitag

This is What They Look Like, Stereotypes of Muslim Piety in Calendar Art and Hindi Cinema

An Image Bazaar for the Devotee (by Yousuf Saeed)

The Friends of God-Sufi Saints in Islam, Popular Poster Art from Pakistan:

Jurgen Wasim Frembgen

Journey to God, Sufis and Dervishes in Islam: Jurgen Wasim Frembgen

The Scorpion in Muslim Folklore

Conversion on screen: a glimpse at popular Islamic imaginations in Northern Nigeria

Islamic poster art in India - and South Asia

The Hamsa Hand (An popular Islamic icon/amulet)

The Sufis of Delhi streets

UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies :: Giorgio Levi Della Vida Series in Islamic Studies:

Islam Research Directory (Germany)

Popular Devotional Art of the Indian Muslims: Looking for Syncretic Symbols

Euro-Islam: News and Analysis on Islam in Europe and the United States

Living Islam in Europe: Muslim Traditions in European Contexts

Window on Eurasia: Non-Mosque Trend in Islam Remains Strong in Many Parts of Russia

Project on Islam in Eurasia, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University

Lived Islam in South Asia: Adaptation, Accommodation and Conflict

Edited by Imtiaz Ahmad and Helmut Reifeld

Figurative art and Islam: by Intizar Hussain

Art and Material Culture of Iranian Shiism

Islamic bazaar Art (F.Pritchett)

Journal of Religion and Popular Culture

Fortune-tellers popular in Islamic Iran

Islamic Pluralism

Pop Culture in the Name of Islam

Satellite TV and Islamic Pop Culture in Egypt

Intriguing Islamic art, popular cultures and the contemporary South Asian diaspora British films

Muslim pop culture (Rolled-up trousers)

Visual Culture of the Islamic World, A course at the University of Pennsylvania

Islam and Popular Culture in Southeast Asia

Between cult and culture: Bamiyan, Islamic iconoclasm, and the museum – Afghanistan

Imagining Paradise in Islamic Art

Interdisciplinary Conference: Islam and Popular Culture in Indonesia and Malaysia

The Cult of Saints in Northwestern Tunisia, An analysis of contemporary pilgrimage structures,

Wim van Binsbergen

Cultic Trends in Popular Islam

The Interpretation of Myth in the Context of Popular Islam, Wim Van Binsbergen

Islam and Hinduism: Symbiotic Mysticism In Devotional Poems (By A.N.D.Haksar)

Arab and Muslim Stereotyping in American Popular Culture

Pop culture, Islam, and Gender in Indonesia: a Tension of Interpretation

In Praise of Vulgarity, How commercial culture liberates Islam -- and the West: Charles Paul Freund

Anthropology and Islam in Indonesia: Islamic Iconography among Indonesian Muslims (Dadi Darmadi)

Islam, iconography and the Taliban

Hybrid Islamic identities in plural worlds of Indonesian Youth

Notes on Islamic Popular Culture

Masterpieces to Go: The Trucks of Pakistan

Arts of the Islamic World: Battle of Karbala (Brooklyn Museum)

Karbala and The Revival of Islamic Art

Haji Bektash, Sultan Sahak, Shah Mina Sahib and Various Avatars of a Running Wall: Martin van Bruinessen

Harjot Singh Oberoi: The Worship of Pir Sakhi Sarvar: Illness, Healing and Popular Culture in the Punjab

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Event at Max Mueller Bhawan, New Delhi

Illustrated Talk by Yousuf Saeed
"Popular Islam and Urban Spaces:
The Nizamuddin Shrine in New Delhi"

Jan 22, 2010 06:30 pm
Siddharta Hall
Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhawan3,
Kasturba Gandhi Marg, New Delhi 110001

Yousuf Saeed, member of the HRA project "Satellites of Networks" will give an illustrated talk on "Popular Islam and Urban Spaces: The Nizamuddin Shrine in New Delhi".

The talk focuses on how the popular visuality around the shrine has changed over time in response to the changes brought about by urbanization, movement of pilgrims, new technology, and competition from the more orthodox tableeghi and Wahhabi ideologues in the vicinity? This work-in-progress is part of HRA project "Satellites of Networks" a research and documentation project tracing the transcultural flows between Europe and Asia in Muslim popular iconography at the Cluster "Asia and Europe in a Global Context".

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Yousuf Saeed lectures at Heidelberg on India's Popular Islam (24 Nov. 2008)

Nov 24, 2008 - South Asia Institute, Im Neuenheimer Feld 330, Room Z10, 6.15 to 7.45 pm

Lecture by Yousuf Saeed: “Stereotypes of Muslim Piety in India’s Popular Calendar Art and Cinema”

by Iris Mucha last modified Nov 14, 2008 05:53 AM

The talk is a presentation featuring a collection of popular religious posters/ images used by South Asian Muslims, reflecting various syncretic or plural themes and symbolism, including flows between Hindu and Muslim iconography and devotional practices.

More details here

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

India's Popular Islam: a presentation in Vienna

India's Popular Islam: A Film Presentation & Discussion with Yousuf Saeed on Nov 28, 2008, at Vienna, Ausria
proLoka, Talaash and the Institute for South Asia, Tibet and Buddhism Studies in Vienna invite you to a film presentation and discussion round to the topic of „India’s Popular Islam“ by Indian film maker Yousuf Saeed, who agreed to come to Vienna for this special occasion.
Date: 28.11.2008,
Venue: Institut fuer Südasien, Tibet- und Buddhismuskunde,
Spitalgasse 2, Eingang 2.7, 1090 Vienna.
The entry is free, the invitation card can be found here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Popular Culture of Islam and Muslims in South Asia

Many Muslims will ask: what is popular Islam? Islam is Islam, why divide it into popular and unpopular? Why confuse people?

Well, this blog tries to look at some popular cultural traditions associated with Islam found mostly in South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh...).

Many Muslims will say: all those popular cultural traditions are actually biddats (innovations), and the real Islam has no place for them. Sooner or later, the pure Islam will pervade.

We (the promoter of this site), have no issue with the shariat (the codified Islam), but cannot also ignore the centuries old cultural traditions and colourful rituals found everywhere in Muslim societies. Let us look at some of these...