As long as the study of literature is organized along national lines, scholars cannot decenter global literary history. Merely shifting the focus from major/core literatures to minor/peripheral ones does not decenter anything for such a move preserves the centrality of nation as the only kind of community in which a literary work can become legible. This article argues against a national teleology of literature in which we project the category of nation back in historical time. Instead, it proposes to look at literary history in terms of genre communities—communities that commune around a literary genre (e.g., a novel community, ghazal community). With the help of a nineteenth-century Urdu novel, Nazir Ahmad’s Mirāt ul-‘Urūs (1869) (The Bride’s Mirror), this article shows how a national teleology that gets imposed retrospectively has led scholars of Urdu literature to assume that the novel gives expression to the concerns of reforming a Muslim nation. However, what emerges in and through Nazir Ahmad’s novel is not a Muslim nation but a novel community of the ashrāf (singular sharīf; literally, exalted, noble, honorable). This novel community is organized around the economy of sharaf (honor) and not Islam.

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