Author Talal Asad explores how religion as a historical category emerged in the West and has come to be applied as a universal concept. The idea that religion has undergone a radical change since the Christian Reformation - from totalitarian and socially repressive to private and relatively benign - is a familiar point of view of secularization. It is often invoked to explain and justify the liberal politics and world-view of modernity. And it leads to the view that 'politicized religions' threaten both reason and liberty.
Asad's book explores and questions all these assumptions. He also argues that 'religion' is a construct of European modernity, a construct that authorises particular forms of 'history-making'. He examines this aspect of authorising in the fundamentalism of Saudi Arabia and i in other socio-political phenomena.