What is Hinduism? What is not? Is Islam a religion or a way of life? What is the difference? The meanings of few words are as greatly contested as that of "religion." For Western (primarily Christian) observers, Hinduism and Islam have acted as foils for their self-perceptions of faith, practice, modernity, and culture. More significantly, Western scholars of religion, in the course of their studies, have influenced the self-understanding of those who identify themselves as Hindu and Muslim. The concept of religion continues to play a significant role in both nation formation and international affairs. Using theory critiquing the category of religion, we will explore the application of this term by Westerners in South Asia and the Middle East and investigate the continuing debate regarding the identities of these religions both by those within and outside these traditions.