"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."

- Søren Kierkegaard


Panth, matam, dharm, rah, and ṣirāṭ, meaning ‘The Way’, are some of the terms used by faith communities in South Asia to define their tradition’s path. This conference will explore how these ways were expressed in ritual, belief, and praxis to create distinction. For example, among the 19th century Khōjā of Sindh and Gujarat, the term satpanth ‘The True Way’, referred to numerous vernacular religious practices that incorporated Vaiṣṇav, Svāminārāyaṇ, Jain, Shia, and Sunni practices within a caste faith. Their liturgical materials originally were written in a caste script in a mélange of dialects from Sindhi, Gujarati, Kacchi, Rajasthani, and Urdu. This liminality was not exclusive to the north, in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka araputamiḻ, the Muslim dialect of Tamil in the Arabic script, records the cosmologies and worldview of Muslim merchant communities that intersperses Vaishnava imagery with Arabic vocabulary.

This conference is intended to bring together scholars of the Adivasi, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism to explore how aesthetics, authority, narratives, rituals, and script have been historically shared and divided by faith communities in South Asia. How do we make sense of such heterogeneity that was distant from ‘orthodox’ literature being produced in urbane Sanskrit and Persian? How did rural religion differ and connect to larger faith communities across linguistic and script divides? Where were ethno-religious boundaries drawn between pragmatic mobile merchant communities and how fluid were they until early colonization? South Asian vernacular religion in local languages is a large untapped historical archive from which scholars can produce incisive microhistories. This is an open call for scholars across disciplines who wish to engage with the themes of endangered/extinct languages and scripts, merchant religion, modern religious identity formation, and the transmission of sacred narratives across the Persianate, Turkic, and Indic worlds. Suggested topics include, but are not limited to, The nuances of panth traditions, Satpanth tradition, pre-colonial rural religions, ethno-religious boundaries of Indian religions and liturgical literature of panth traditions.


A two-day conference with a public keynote bringing together interdisciplinary Anglophone and Francophone scholars in the humanities, generally defined, to present and discuss the development of Khōjā identity over the past centuries among transnational communities in South Asia, East Africa, Western Europe, and North America. The output of the conference will be two edited volumes.

Date: 30-31 January 2019

Venue: University of Mumbai, M.G. Road, Fort, Mumbai-400 032

Thursday 15 December 2016


Breakfast at hotel


Welcome addresses from organizers and homage to Françoise Mallison


Keynote address: Michel Boivin, CEIAS, EHESS-CNRS


Panel chair: Zahir Bhalloo, CEIAS-EHESS


Khōjā/Shamsi/Goan: The Impossibility of Otherness in M. G. Vassanji’s The Book of Secrets

R. Benedito Ferrão, William & Mary


A Peep into Waters Deep: The cartography of syncretic traditions espoused in Dasavatar of the Khojas, and in Nizari hymns

Amit Ranjan, Florida International University


History of the Khōjkī script

Juan Bruce




Coffee break

Identity constructions

Panel chair: Iqbal Akhtar, FIU


Women as a Canvas of Our Communal Identity: Efforts Taken to Preserve Shia Ismaili Khoja Identity in British East Africa

Alia Paroo, Texas A&M International University


Divided in Death: Boundary Formations Through Control of Funerary Customs and Ritual Space in a Khoja Community

Shiraz Hajiani, University of Chicago


An Analytical Study of Ēdalajī Dhanajī Kābā’s (1880-1925) Polemical Discourse on the History of Khoja

Kumail Rajani, University of Exeter





The Bohra and Khōjā in comparative perspective

Panel chairs: Denis Gay, Université de Lausanne and Kumail Rajani, University of Exeter


To Arabia and Back; The Career and Collection of Bohra Scholar Muhammad Ali al-Hamdani

Sumaiya Hamdani, George Mason University


Historiography and Construction of Identity: The Ṭayyibī Ismāʿīlī/Bohra Experience between Yemen and India

Samer Traboulsi, University of North Carolina- Asheville




Coffee break

Communal histories

Panel chair: Kumail Rajani, University of Exeter


Preserving but Redefining the Khoja ShiÕa Ithna-Asheri Muslim Identity Today: The Importance of the Mimbar, Madrasah & Family

Sibtain Panjwani,

1540- 1400

Religious Syncretism and Pluralistic Synthesis of the Indo-Islamic tradition in Gujarat - A Case Study of the Evolution of the Khoja Community

Hasnain Walji, The World Federation




Board bus to dinner with the Khōjā centre of Paris &
Screening of The Khojas: A Journey of Faith and guided discussion with Hasnain Walji

Muhamadi Imambara A.C.C.I.J (Paris South Jamaat): 48-50 Chemin lateral, 92220, Bagneux, France


Evening sightseeing trip

Friday 16 December 2016


Breakfast at hotel

The Subcontinent and the Indian Ocean

Panel Chair: Michel Boivin EHESS-CEIAS


Identity and Status: Kachchhi Khojas in Muscat and Zanzibar

Chhaya Goswami, University of Exeter


Lal Shahbāz Qalandar: An Ismāʿīlī Missionary in Sind

Janis Esots, IIS


Unveiling Ismaili Khoja Community in the 20th Century through the Travelogues of Pir Sabzali

Qurratulain Nasiruddin, IIS




Coffee break


Panel Chair: Iqbal Surani, FIU


The Ginan library

Pyarali Jiwa


Songs of Survival: Islam, Music and Identity in South Asian Community

Karim Gillani, University of Alberta


Indo-Ismāʿīlī Cosmogony: A Text-Critical Study

Ali S. Samji, Independent Scholar


The Devotional Poetry by Saint Kabir and ‘BrahmaPrakash’ authored by Peer Shams: A Comparative Study in the Socio‐Cultural Context

Urvashi Manuprasad Pandya, University of Mumbai




Lunch break

Adapting modernity

Panel chair: Hasnain Walji, The World Federation


Culturally Islamic, Islamically Cultural: ethnographic observations of a Twelver Shia Khoja community

Abbas Aghdassi, Tehran University


Multiple Differentiations: Distinctions between the Religious and the Secular in Different Ismaili Communities

Mohamed Magout, University of Leipzig


The Birth of New Khoja Traditions in Modernity

Shumaila Hemani, University of Alberta






Discussion and conference planning for next biennial meeting


Vote of Thanks to the participants and organizers


Bus to dinner at restaurant for conference participants


Kumail Rajani

Kumail Rajani is the Deputy Chair of Khoja Heritage Project of The World Federation of KSIMC. His major interest lies in Comparative Religious Studies, Islamic Jurisprudence, Shiite Hadith and Khoja History.

He is the founder of the KhojaPedia project. He has been supervisor to BA & MA dissertations on the topics related to Khoja History at various universities. Kumail successfully defended his MA dissertation at Al-Mostafa international University on “Bohras in the Scrolls of History and Ideas”. He is currently a PhD candidate at University of Exeter with an interest in Ismaili literature where he is also a Post Graduate Teaching Assistant. He has spent over 17 years at Islamic Seminary of Qum, pursuing advanced Islamic Studies as well as teaching BA and MA students at the Seminary. Kumail was born and brought up in Mahuva, Gujarat, India.

Dr Urvashi Manuprasad Pandya

Dr Urvashi Manuprasad Pandya Awarded by the Very Prestigious UGC RESEARCH AWARD by the University Grant commission, Delhi for the Academic year 2012-14. Every three years this award has been given to those 100 candidates who leads sound scholarship and outstanding research work for Humanities, social sciences and Sciences from all over the country. Dr. Urvashi Manuprasad Pandya is the first Researcher in the subject of Gujarati Literature. For the Academic year 2012-14 total 776 candidate were shortlisted for the interface interview. Dr Urvashi Manuprasad Pandya. Former Head and Associate Professor, Gujarati Department, University of Mumbai, Working at the University of Mumbai for the last 17 years. Established Gujarati writer as a Poet, Critique, Editor, Translator, Researcher. Recognised Ph.D Guide at present Total 13 research students are working under her guidence (09 Ph.D + 04 M.Phil ) and total 07 students (03 Ph.D + 04 M.Phil) are awarded for their research degree. Dr. Urvashi has Published total 10 books which includes her Original creative writing, anthology of Critical essays and research papers, Edited anthologies, and anthologies of the translation of Indian and foreign texts. In the academic year 2007-08 Dr. Urvashi was selected for the Prestigious Research Associate-ship by IIAS (Indian Institute of Advance study,Shimla)and completed her research project under the title" Bhartiya Kathasahitya meni Narichetana ka Aavishkar". Dr. Urvashi is taking care of Savitribai Phule Girls Hostel for the last 12 years. Dr. Urvashi is a member of several important committees at the University of Mumbai.


The World Federation of KSIMC

The World Federation was established in 1976. Its aim was to unify the disparate communities of the Khoja Shia Ithna Asheri community throughout the world under its umbrella. The World Federation recognised the needs and growth of the newly-settled Khoja Shia communities in the West, namely in the UK, Europe, USA, Canada, Dubai, and Australasia. The World Federation attends to the community’s financial, spiritual, and educational needs, and passionately follows its motto: ‘We exist to serve’. It is a registered charity in the UK, and is world renowned for its efficient and well-organised humanitarian and religious contribution to people throughout the world.

The World Federation of KSIMC works in the areas of International Relief & Development, Islamic Education, and Community Affairs, the last of which includes the Khoja Heritage Project.

Florida International University

The Department of Politics and International Relations at Florida International University combines traditional disciplinary strengths in political science with a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of international relations. The Department offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in political science and international relations, the Masters of Arts degree in international studies, and the Doctor of Philosophy in political science and international relations. Students can also pursue several combined degrees at the undergraduate or graduate level.

Faculty and graduate students conduct research that spans a number of geographic regions including North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, and East Asia. Thematically, the Department offers courses in the five traditional political science subfields of American politics, comparative politics, international politics, and political theory. Faculty and students also carry out research that transcends traditional boundaries.

L'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales
The School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences

The EHESS is made up of over 47 research centres, 37 of which are shared with the Centre national de la recherche scientifique. It nevertheless does not constitute a research institute in the conventional sense of the word. Life at the school is centered on research training in which students work alongside experienced researchers, a perspective from which they gain privileged access to the mechanics of research in progress. The school can boast of an unparalleled range of research seminars, programs and publications, all of which embrace an interdisciplinary and multidimensional approach. It accordingly places a particular emphasis on area studies and it is a key aspect of school policy to actively promote conversation between the social sciences and other sciences, in particular the life sciences, as well as the arts.

Life at the EHESS is driven by its 300 plus tutor-researchers and 500 pure researchers based in its multiple research centres, in collaboration with over 450 technical support staff and 3000 enrolled students, and is supported by a consolidated budget of 40 million euro. The school also places great emphasis on its international agenda, maintaining links with a vast constellation of universities around the globe. It invites each year 150 foreign teachers to enrich its research activities and approximately one half of its students come from outside of France. The resources it offers to those pursuing doctoral and post-doctoral studies, as well as the number of publishing researchers based at the school, mark it out as a key hub for research in the social sciences in Europe.

University of Mumbai

Univeristy of Mumbai

Attend the conference

To attend the conference, please register for a ticket at: http://lnk.wf/KHOJASTUDIES