Islam In India
Islam is the second-largest religion in India, with 14.2% of the country’s population or approx. 172 million people identifying as adherents of Islam (2011 census).It makes India the country with the largest Muslim population outside Muslim-majority countries. The majority of Indian Muslims belong to the Sunni sect of Islam while the Shia form a sizeable minority.
Islam in India existed in communities along the Arab coastal trade routes in Gujarat, Kerala, and Bengal as soon as the religion originated and had gained early acceptance in the Arabian Peninsula, though the first incursion through sea by the new Muslim successor states of the Arab World occurred around 636 CE or 643 AD, during the Rashidun Caliphate, long before any Arab army reached the frontier of India by land. The Barwada Mosque in Ghogha, Gujarat built before 623 CE, Cheraman Juma Mosque (629 CE) in Methala, Kerala and Palaiya Jumma Palli (or The Old Jumma Masjid – 628 – 630 CE) in Kilakarai, Tamil Nadu are three of the first mosques in India which were built by seafaring Arab Merchants. Islam arrived in the Indian subcontinent in the 7th century when the Arabs conquered Sindh and later arrived in North India in the 12th century via the Ghurids conquest and has since become a part of India’s religious and cultural heritage.
The Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire have ruled most of South Asia and the Bengal Sultanate, the Deccan sultanates and the Sur Empire have played major economic and political roles. The peak of the Islamic rule in India was marked under the sharia and proto-industrialised reign of emperor Aurangzeb, the world’s largest economy, upon the compilation and establishment of the Fatawa Alamgiri. The re-introduction of further Islamic policies by Mysore King Tipu Sultan contributed to the South Indian culture. The Hyderabad State ruled by the Nizams served as the last self-governing princely state of India until its annexation by the Dominion of India. Over the centuries, there has been significant integration of Hindu and Muslim cultures across India and Muslims have played a notable role in the economics, politics, and culture of India.
The religious administration of each state is headed by the Mufti of the State under the supervision of the Grand Mufti of India, the most senior, most influential religious authority and spiritual leader of Muslims in India. The system is executed in India from the Mughal period.
Early history of Islam in India
Trade relations have existed between Arabia and the Indian subcontinent since ancient times. Even in the pre-Islamic era, Arab traders used to visit the Konkan-Gujarat coast and Malabar region, which linked them with the ports of Southeast Asia. Newly Islamised Arabs were Islam’s first contact with India. Historians Elliot and Dowson say in their book The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians, that the first ship bearing Muslim travellers was seen on the Indian coast as early as 630 CE. H.G. Rawlinson in his book Ancient and Medieval History of India claims that the first Arab Muslims settled on the Indian coast in the last part of the 7th century CE. (Zainuddin Makhdoom II “Tuhafat Ul Mujahideen” is also a reliable work.) This fact is corroborated by J. Sturrock in his Madras District Manuals and by Haridas Bhattacharya in Cultural Heritage of India Vol. IV. It was with the advent of Islam that the Arabs became a prominent cultural force in the world. Arab merchants and traders became the carriers of the new religion and they propagated it wherever they went.
The first Indian mosque, Cheraman Juma Mosque, is thought to have been built in 629 CE by Malik Deenar although some historians say the first mosque was in Gujarat in between 610 CE to 623 CE. In Malabar, the Mappilas may have been the first community to convert to Islam. Intensive missionary activities were carried out along the coast and many other natives embraced Islam. According to legend, two travellers from India, Moulai Abdullah (formerly known as Baalam Nath) and Maulai Nuruddin (Rupnath), went to the court of Imam Mustansir (427–487 AH)/(1036-1094 CE) and were so impressed that they converted to Islam and came back to preach in India in 467 AH/1073 CE. Moulai Ahmed was their companion. Abadullah was the first Wali-ul-Hind (saint of India). He came across a married couple named Kaka Akela and Kaki Akela who became his first converts in the Taiyabi (Bohra) community.
There is much historical evidence to show that Arabs and Muslims interacted with Indians from the very early days of Islam or even before the arrival of Islam in Arab regions. Arab traders transmitted the numeral system developed by Indians to the Middle East and Europe.
Many Sanskrit books were translated into Arabic as early as the 8th century. George Salibain his book “Islamic Science and the Making of the European Renaissance”, writes that “some major Sanskrit texts began to be translated during the reign of the second Abbasid caliph al-Mansur (754–775), if not before; some texts on logic even before that, and it has been generally accepted that the Persian and Sanskrit texts, few as they were, were indeed the first to be translated.”
Commercial intercourse between Arabia and India had gone on from time immemorial, with for example the sale of dates and aromatic herbs by Arabs traders who came to Indian shores every spring with the advent of the monsoon breeze. People living on the western coast of India were as familiar with the annual coming of Arab traders as they were with the flocks of monsoon birds; they were as ancient a phenomenon as the monsoon itself. However, whereas monsoon birds flew back to Africa after a sojourn of few months, not all traders returned to their homes in the desert; many married Indian women and settled in India.
The advent of Muhammad (569–632 CE) changed the idolatrous and easy-going Arabs into a nation unified by faith and fired with zeal to spread the gospel of Islam. The merchant seamen who brought dates year after year now brought a new faith with them. The new faith was well received by South India. Muslims were allowed to build mosques, intermarry with Indian women, and very soon an Indian-Arabian community came into being. Early in the 9th century, Muslim missionaries gained a notable convert in the person of the King of Malabar.
According to Derryl N. Maclean, a link between Sindh and early partisans of Ali or proto-Shi’ites can be traced to Hakim ibn Jabalah al-Abdi, a companion of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, who traveled across Sind to Makran in the year 649AD and presented a report on the area to the Caliph. He supported Ali, and died in the Battle of the Camel alongside Sindhi Jats. He was also a poet and few couplets of his poem in praise of Ali ibn Abu Talib have survived, as reported in Chachnama.
During the reign of Ali, many Jats came under the influence of Islam. Harith ibn Murrah Al-abdi and Sayfi ibn Fil’ al-Shaybani, both officers of Ali’s army, attacked Sindhi bandits and chased them to Al-Qiqan (present-day Quetta) in the year 658. Sayfi was one of the seven partisans of Ali who were beheaded alongside Hujr ibn Adi al-Kindi in 660AD, near Damascus.
The political history of Islam in India
Muhammad bin Qasim (672 CE) at the age of 17 was the first Muslim general to invade the Indian subcontinent, managing to reach Sindh. In the first half of the 8th century CE, a series of battles took place between the Umayyad Caliphate and the Indian kingdoms; resulted in Umayyad campaigns in India checked and contained to Sindh. Around the 10th century, Muslim Central Asian nomadic empire, the Ghaznavids, under Mahmud of Ghazni (971 – 1030 CE), was the second, much more ferocious invader, using swift-horse cavalry and raising vast armies united by ethnicity and religion, repeatedly overran South Asia’s north-western plains. Eventually, under the Ghurids, the Muslim army broke into the North Indian Plains, which lead to the establishment of the Islamic Delhi Sultanate in 1206 by the slaves of the Ghurid dynasty. The sultanate was to control much of North India and to make many forays into South India. However, internal squabbling resulted in the decline of the sultanate, and new Muslim sultanates such as the Bengal Sultanate in the east and the Deccan sultanates in the southern territory breaking off. In 1339, Shah Mir became the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir, inaugurating the Salatin-i-Kashmir or Shah Mir dynasty.
Under the Delhi Sultanate, there was a synthesis of Indian civilization with that of Islamic civilization, and the integration of the Indian subcontinent with a growing world system and wider international networks spanning large parts of Afro-Eurasia, which had a significant impact on Indian culture and society. The time period of their rule included the earliest forms of Indo-Islamic architecture, increased growth rates in India’s population and economy, and the emergence of the Hindustani language. The Delhi Sultanate was also responsible for repelling the Mongol Empire’s potentially devastating invasions of India in the 13th and 14th centuries. The period coincided with a greater use of mechanical technology in the Indian subcontinent. From the 13th century onwards, India began widely adopting mechanical technologies from the Islamic world, including water-raising wheels with gears and pulleys, machines with cams and cranks, papermaking technology, and the spinning wheel.
In the early 16th century, northern India, being then under mainly Muslim rulers, fell again to the superior mobility and firepower of a new generation of Central Asian warriors. The resulting Mughal Empire did not stamp out the local societies it came to rule, but rather balanced and pacified them through new administrative practices and diverse and inclusive ruling elites, leading to more systematic, centralised, and uniform rule. Eschewing tribal bonds and Islamic identity, especially under Akbar, the Mughals united their far-flung realms through loyalty, expressed through a Persianised culture, to an emperor who had near-divine status. The Mughal state’s economic policies, deriving most revenues from agriculture and mandating that taxes be paid in the well-regulated silver currency, caused peasants and artisans to enter larger markets. The relative peace maintained by the empire during much of the 17th century was a factor in India’s economic expansion, resulting in greater patronage of painting, literary forms, textiles, and architecture. The Mughal Empire was the world’s largest economy in the 17th century, larger than Qing China and Western Europe, with Mughal India producing about a quarter of the world’s economic and industrial output.
In the 18th century, Mughal power had become severely limited. By the mid-18th century, the Marathas had routed Mughal armies and invaded several Mughal provinces from the Punjab to Bengal. By this time, the dominant economic powers in the Indian subcontinent were Bengal Subah under the Nawabs of Bengal and the South Indian Kingdom of Mysore under Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, before the former was devastated by the Maratha invasions of Bengal, leading to the economy of the Kingdom of Mysore overtaking Bengal. The British East India Company conquered Bengal in 1757 and then Mysore in the late 18th century. The last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah II, had authority over only the city of Old Delhi (Shahjahanabad), before he was exiled to Burma by the British Raj after the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
Role in the Indian independence movement
The contribution of Muslim revolutionaries, poets and writers is documented in the history of India’s struggle for independence. Titumir raised a revolt against the British Raj. Abul Kalam Azad, Hakim Ajmal Khan and Rafi Ahmed Kidwai are other Muslims who engaged in this endeavour. Ashfaqulla Khan of Shahjahanpur conspired to loot the British treasury at Kakori(Lucknow) (See Kakori conspiracy). Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan (popularly known as “Frontier Gandhi”) was a noted nationalist who spent 45 of his 95 years of life in jail; Barakatullah of Bhopal was one of the founders of the Ghadar Party, which created a network of anti-British organisations; Syed Rahmat Shah of the Ghadar Party worked as an underground revolutionary in France and was hanged for his part in the unsuccessful Ghadar Mutiny in 1915; Ali Ahmad Siddiqui of Faizabad (UP) planned the Indian Mutiny in Malaya and Burma, along with Syed Mujtaba Hussain of Jaunpur, and was hanged in 1917; Vakkom Abdul Khadir of Kerala participated in the “Quit India” struggle in 1942 and was hanged; Umar Subhani, an industrialist and millionaire from Bombay, provided Mahatma Gandhi with Congress expenses and ultimately died for the cause of independence. Among Muslim women, Hazrat Mahal, Asghari Begum, and Bi Amma contributed in the struggle for independence from the British.
Other famous Muslims who fought for independence against British rule were Abul Kalam Azad, Mahmud al-Hasan of Darul Uloom Deoband, who was implicated in the famous Silk Letter Movement to overthrow the British through an armed struggle, Husain Ahmad Madani, former Shaikhul Hadith of Darul Uloom Deoband, Ubaidullah Sindhi, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Hasrat Mohani, Syed Mahmud, Ahmadullah Shah, Professor Maulavi Barkatullah, Zakir Husain, Saifuddin Kitchlew, Vakkom Abdul Khadir, Manzoor Abdul Wahab, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Hakeem Nusrat Husain, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai, Colonel Shahnawaz, Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, Ansar Harwani, Tak Sherwani, Nawab Viqarul Mulk, Nawab Mohsinul Mulk, Mustsafa Husain, V. M. Obaidullah, S.R. Rahim, Badruddin Tyabji, Abid Hasan and Moulvi Abdul Hamid.
Until 1920, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, later the founder of Pakistan, was a member of the Indian National Congress and was part of the independence struggle. Muhammad Iqbal, poet and philosopher, was a strong proponent of Hindu–Muslim unity and an undivided India, perhaps until 1930. Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy was also active in the Indian National Congress in Bengal, during his early political career. Mohammad Ali Jouhar and Shaukat Ali struggled for the emancipation of the Muslims in the overall Indian context, and struggled for independence alongside Mahatma Gandhi and Abdul Bari of Firangi Mahal. Until the 1930s, the Muslims of India broadly conducted their politics alongside their countrymen, in the overall context of an undivided India.
Partition of India
I find no parallel in history for a body of converts and their descendants claiming to be a nation apart from the parent stock.— Mahatma Gandhi, opposing the division of India on the basis of religion in 1944.
The Partition of British India was based on religion. The negotiations failed several times, with differing demands about boundaries, as shown in this map of 1946.
The partition of India was the partition of British India on the basis of religious demographics. This led to the creation of the dominions of Pakistan (that later split into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh) and India (later Republic of India). The Indian Independence Act 1947 had decided 15 August 1947, as the appointed date for the partition. However, Pakistan celebrates its day of creation on 14 August.
The partition of India was set forth in the Act and resulted in the dissolution of the British Indian Empire and the end of the British Raj. It resulted in a struggle between the newly constituted states of India and Pakistan and displaced up to 12.5 million people with estimates of loss of life varying from several hundred thousand to a million (most estimates of the numbers of people who crossed the boundaries between India and Pakistan in 1947 range between 10 and 12 million). The violent nature of the partition created an atmosphere of mutual hostility and suspicion between India and Pakistan that plagues their relationship to this day.
The partition included the geographical division of the Bengal province into East Bengal, which became part of Pakistan (from 1956, East Pakistan). West Bengal became part of India, and a similar partition of the Punjab province became West Punjab (later the Pakistani Punjab and Islamabad Capital Territory) and East Punjab (later the Indian Punjab, as well as Haryana and Himachal Pradesh). The partition agreement also included the division of Indian government assets, including the Indian Civil Service, the Indian Army, the Royal Indian Navy, the Indian railways and the central treasury, and other administrative services.
The two self-governing countries of India and Pakistan legally came into existence at the stroke of midnight on 14–15 August 1947. The ceremonies for the transfer of power were held a day earlier in Karachi, at the time the capital of the new state of Pakistan, so that the last British Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten of Burma, could attend both the ceremony in Karachi and the ceremony in Delhi. Thus, Pakistan’s Independence Day is celebrated on 14 August and India’s on 15 August.
After Partition of India in 1947, two-thirds of the Muslims resided in Pakistan (both east and West Pakistan) but a third resided in India. Based on 1951 census of displaced persons, 7,226,000 Muslims went to Pakistan (both West and East) from India while 7,249,000 Hindus and Sikhs moved to India from Pakistan (both West and East). Some critics allege that British haste in the partition process increased the violence that followed. Because independence was declared prior to the actual Partition, it was up to the new governments of India and Pakistan to keep public order. No large population movements were contemplated; the plan called for safeguards for minorities on both sides of the new border. It was a task at which both states failed. There was a complete breakdown of law and order; many died in riots, massacre, or just from the hardships of their flight to safety. What ensued was one of the largest population movements in recorded history. According to Richard Symonds: At the lowest estimate, half a million people perished and twelve million became homeless.
However, many argue that the British were forced to expedite the Partition by events on the ground. Once in office, Mountbatten quickly became aware if Britain were to avoid involvement in a civil war, which seemed increasingly likely, there was no alternative to partition and a hasty exit from India. Law and order had broken down many times before Partition with much bloodshed on both sides. A massive civil war was looming by the time Mountbatten became Viceroy. After the Second World War, Britain had limited resources, perhaps insufficient to the task of keeping order. Another viewpoint is that while Mountbatten may have been too hasty he had no real options left and achieved the best he could under difficult circumstances. The historian Lawrence James concurs that in 1947 Mountbatten was left with no option but to cut and run. The alternative seemed to be involvement in a potentially bloody civil war from which it would be difficult to get out.
With around 195 million Muslims (2020 estimate), India’s Muslim population is about the world’s third-largest and the world’s largest Muslim-minority population. India is home to 10.3% of the world’s Muslim population.
Muslim populations (top 5 countries) Est. 2020
|Country||Muslim Population||Percentage of Total Muslim Population|
Muslims represent a majority of the local population in Lakshadweep (96.2%) and Jammu and Kashmir (68.3%). The largest concentration – about 47% of all Muslims in India, live in the three states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Bihar. High concentrations of Muslims are also found in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Delhi, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, and Uttarakhand.
Population by states
As of 2015, Muslims comprise the majority of the population in the only Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and in a Union territory Lakshadweep. In 110 minority-concentrated districts, at least a fifth of the population are Muslim.
Population growth rate
Muslim population growth per Census
|Year||Total population||Muslim population||Percentage|
1981 Census: * Parts of Assam were not included in the 1981 Census Data due to violence in some districts.
1991 Census: ** Jammu and Kashmir was not included in the 1991 Census Data due to militant activity in the state.
|% total of population 2011||79.8||14.2|
|10-yr. Growth % (est. 2001–11)||16.8||24.6|
|Literacy rate (avg. 64.8)||63.6||57.9|
|Work Participation Rate||41||33|
|Urban sex ratio||894||907|
|Child sex ratio (0–6 yrs.)||913||943|
Muslims in India have a much higher total fertility rate (TFR) compared to that of other religious communities in the country. Because of higher birthrates the percentage of Muslims in India has risen from about 10% in 1951 to 14% by 2013. The Muslim population growth rate from 1991–01 was higher by more than 10% of the total growth compared to that of Hindus. However, since 1991, the largest decline in fertility rates among all religious groups in India has occurred among Muslims. The Population Growth rate is also attributable to the fact that majority of Muslim populations are concentrated in the states that are lagging behind in social reforms and services which have shown higher birth rates than other states. However, the Sachar Committee Report shows that the Muslim Population Growth has slowed down and will be on par with national averages. The Sachar Committee Report estimated that the Muslim proportion will stabilise at between 17% and 21% of the Indian population by 2100.
Social and economic reasons behind population growth
Demographers have put forward several factors behind high birthrates among Muslims in India. According to sociologists Roger and Patricia Jeffery, socio-economic conditions rather than religious determinism is the main reason for higher Muslim birthrates. Indian Muslims are poorer and less educated compared to their Hindu counterparts. Noted Indian sociologist, B.K. Prasad, argues that since India’s Muslim population is more urban compared to their Hindu counterparts, infant mortality rates among Muslims is about 12% lower than those among Hindus.
However, other sociologists point out that religious factors can explain high Muslim birthrates. Surveys indicate that Muslims in India have been relatively less willing to adopt family planning measures and that Muslim women have a larger fertility period since they get married at a much younger age compared to Hindu women. On the other hand, it is also documented that Muslims tend to adopt family planning measures. A study conducted by K.C. Zacharia in Kerala in 1983 revealed that on average, the number of children born to a Muslim woman was 4.1 while a Hindu woman gave birth to only 2.9 children. Religious customs and marriage practices were cited as some of the reasons behind the high Muslim birth rate. According to Paul Kurtz, Muslims in India are much more resistant to modern contraception than are Hindus and, as a consequence, the decline in fertility rate among Hindu women is much higher compared to that of Muslim women. The National Family and Health survey conducted in 1998–99 highlighted that Indian Muslim couples consider a substantially higher number of children to be ideal for a family as compared to Hindu couples in India. The same survey also pointed out that percentage of couples actively using family planning measures was more than 49% among Hindus against 37% among Muslims.
There are two major denominations amongst Indian Muslims. The majority of Indian Muslims (over 85%) belong to the Sunni branch of Islam while a substantial minority (over 13%) belong to the Shia branch. There are also tiny minorities of Ahmadiyya and Quranists across the country. Many Indian Muslim communities, both Sunni and Shia, are also considered to be Sufis.
The majority of Indian Sunnis follow the Barelvi movement which was founded in 1904 by Ahmed Razi Khan of Bareilly in defense of traditional Islam as understood and practised in South Asia and in reaction to the revivalist attempts of the Deobandi movement. In the 19th century the Deobandi, a revivalist movement in Sunni Islam was established in India. It is named after Deoband a small town northeast of Delhi, where the original madrasa or seminary of the movement was founded. From its early days this movement has been influenced by Wahhabism. A minority of Indian Muslims also follow the Ahl-i Hadith movement.
Shia Muslims are a large minority among India’s Muslims forming about 13% of the total Muslim population. However, there has been no particular census conducted in India regarding sects, but Indian sources like Times of India and Daily News and Analysis reported Indian Shia population in mid 2005–2006 to be up to 25% of the entire Muslim population of India which accounts them in numbers between 40,000,000 to 50,000,000 of 157,000,000 Indian Muslim population. However, as per an estimation of one reputed Shia NGO Alimaan Trust, India’s Shia population in early 2000 was around 30 million with Sayyids comprising just a tenth of the Shia population. According to some national and international sources Indian Shia population is the world’s second-largest after Iran.
Bohra Shia was established in Gujarat in the second half of the 11th century. This community’s belief system originates in Yemen, evolved from the Fatimid were persecuted due to their adherence to Fatimid Shia Islam – leading the shift of Dawoodi Bohra to India. After occultation of their 21st Fatimid Imam Tayyib, they follow Dai as representative of Imam which are continued till date.
Dā’ī Zoeb appointed Maulai Yaqoob (after the death of Maulai Abdullah), who was the second Walī al-Hind of the Fatimid dawat. Moulai Yaqoob was the first person of Indian origin to receive this honour under the Dā’ī. He was the son of Moulai Bharmal, minister of Hindu Solanki King Jayasimha Siddharaja (Anhalwara, Patan). With Minister Moulai Tarmal, they had honoured the Fatimid dawat along with their fellow citizens on the call of Moulai Abdullah. Syedi Fakhruddin, son of Moulai Tarmal, was sent to western Rajasthan, India, and Moulai Nuruddin went to the Deccan (death: Jumadi al-Ula 11 at Don Gaum, Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India).
One Dai succeeded another until the 23rd Dai in Yemen. In India also Wali-ul-Hind were appointed by them one after another until Wali-ul-Hind Moulai Qasim Khan bin Hasan (11th and last Wali-ul-Hind, d. 950 AH, Ahmedabad).
Due to persecution by the local Zaydi Shi’a ruler in Yemen, the 24th Dai, Yusuf Najmuddin ibn Sulaiman (d. 1567 CE), moved the whole administration of the Dawat (mission) to India. The 25th Dai Jalal Shamshuddin (d. 1567 CE) was first dai to die in India. His mausoleum is in Ahmedabad, India. The Dawat subsequently moved from Ahmedabad to Jamnagar Mandvi, Burhanpur, Surat and finally to Mumbai and continues there to the present day, currently headed by 53rd Dai.
Asaf Ali Asghar Fyzee was a Bohra and 20th century Islamic scholar from India who promoted modernization and liberalization of Islam through his writings. He argued that with changing time modern reforms in Islam are necessary without compromising on basic “spirit of Islam”.
The Khojas are a group of diverse people who converted to Islam in South Asia. In India, most Khojas live in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and the city of Hyderabad. Many Khojas have also migrated and settled over the centuries in East Africa, Europe and North America. The Khoja were by then adherents of Nizari Ismailism branch of Shi’ism. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly in the aftermath of the Aga Khan case a significant minority separated and adopted Twelver Shi’ism or Sunni Islam, while the majority remained Nizārī Ismā’īlī.
Sufis (Islamic mystics) played an important role in the spread of Islam in India. They were very successful in spreading Islam, as many aspects of Sufi belief systems and practices had their parallels in Indian philosophical literature, in particular nonviolence and monism. The Sufis’ orthodox approach towards Islam made it easier for Hindus to practice. Sulthan Syed Ibrahim Shaheed, Hazrat Khawaja Muin-ud-din Chishti, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, Nizamuddin Auliya, Shah Jalal, Amir Khusrow, Alauddin Sabir Kaliyari, Shekh Alla-ul-Haq Pandwi, Ashraf Jahangir Semnani, Waris Ali Shah, Ata Hussain Fani Chishti trained Sufis for the propagation of Islam in different parts of India. Once the Islamic empire was established in India, Sufis invariably provided a touch of colour and beauty to what might have otherwise been rather cold and stark reigns. The Sufi movement also attracted followers from the artisan and untouchable communities; they played a crucial role in bridging the distance between Islam and the indigenous traditions. Ahmad Sirhindi, a prominent member of the Naqshbandi Sufi advocated the peaceful conversion of Hindus to Islam.
Main article: Ahmadiyya
The Ahmadiyya movement was founded in 1889 by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian. He claimed to be the promised messiah and mahdi awaited by the Muslims and obtained a considerable number of followers initially within the United Provinces, the Punjab and Sindh. Ahmadis claim the Ahmadiyya movement to embody the latter day revival of Islam and the movement has also been seen to have emerged as an Islamic religious response to the Christian and Arya Samaj missionary activity that was widespread in 19th century India. After the death of Ghulam Ahmad, his successors directed the Ahmadiyya Community from Qadian which remained the headquarters of the community until 1947 with the creation of Pakistan. The movement has grown in organisational strength and in its own missionary programme and has expanded to over 200 countries as of 2014 but has received a largely negative response from mainstream Muslims who see it as heretical, due mainly to Ghulam Ahmad’s claim to be a prophet within Islam.
Ahmaddiya have been identified as sects of Islam in 2011 Census of India apart from Sunnis, Shias, Bohras and Agakhanis. India has a significant Ahmadiyya population. Most of them live in Rajasthan, Odisha, Haryana, Bihar, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and a few in Punjab in the area of Qadian. In India, Ahmadis are considered to be Muslims by the Government of India (unlike in neighbouring Pakistan). This recognition is supported by a court verdict (Shihabuddin Koya vs. Ahammed Koya, A.I.R. 1971 Ker 206). There is no legislation that declares Ahmadis non-Muslims or limits their activities, but they are not allowed to sit on the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, a body of religious leaders India’s government recognises as representative of Indian Muslims. Ahmadiyya are estimated to be from 60,000 to 1 million in India.
Main article: Quranism
Non-sectarian Muslims who reject the authority of hadith, known as Quranists, Quraniyoon, or Ahle Quran, are also present in India. In South Asia during the 19th century, the Ahle Quran movement formed partially in reaction to the Ahle Hadith movement whom they considered to be placing too much emphasis on hadith. Notable Indian Quranists include Chiragh Ali, Aslam Jairajpuri, Khwaja Ahmad-ud-Din Amritsari, and Abdullah Chakralawi.
The vast majority of the Muslims in India belong to South Asian ethnic groups. However, some Indian Muslims were found with detectable, traceable, minor to some levels of gene flow from outside, primarily from the Middle East and Central Asia. However, they are found in very low levels. Sources indicate that the castes among Muslims developed as the result of the concept of Kafa’a. Those who are referred to as Ashrafs (see also Sharif) are presumed to have a superior status derived from their foreign Arab ancestry, while the Ajlafs are assumed to be converts from Hinduism, and have a lower status.
Many of these ulema also believed that it is best to marry within one own caste. The practice of endogamous marriage in one’s caste is strictly observed in India. In two of the three genetic studies referenced here, in which is described that samples were taken from several regions of India’s Muslim communities, it was again found that the Muslim population was overwhelmingly similar to the local non-Muslims associated, with some having minor but still detectable levels of gene flow from outside, primarily from Iran and Central Asia, rather than directly from the Arabian peninsula.
A research regarding the comparison of Y chromosomes of Indian Muslims with other Indian groups was published in 2005. In this study 124 Sunnis and 154 Shias of Uttar Pradesh were randomly selected for their genetic evaluation. Other than Muslims, Hindu higher and middle caste group members were also selected for the genetic analysis. Out of 1021 samples in this study, only 17 samples showed E haplogroup and all of them were Shias. The very minor increased frequency however, does place these Shias, solely with regards to their haplogroups, closer to Iraqis, Turks and Palestinians.
Caste system among Indian Muslims
Although Islam does not recognize any castes, caste system among South Asian Muslims refers to units of social stratification that have developed among Muslims in South Asia.
In some parts of South Asia, the Muslims are divided as Ashrafs and Ajlafs. Ashrafs claim to be derived from their foreign ancestry. They, in turn, are divided into a number of occupational castes.
Barrani was specific in his recommendation that the “sons of Mohamed” [i.e. Sayyid] be given a higher social status than the others. His most significant contribution in the fatwa was his analysis of the castes with respect to Islam. His assertion was that castes would be mandated through state laws or “Zawabi” and would carry precedence over Sharia law whenever they were in conflict. Every act which is “contaminated with meanness and based on ignominity, comes elegantly [from the Ajlaf]”. He sought appropriate religious sanction to that effect. Barrani also developed an elaborate system of promotion and demotion of imperial officers (“Wazirs”) that was primarily on the basis of their caste.
In addition to the ashraf/ajlaf divide, there is also the arzal caste among Muslims, who were regarded by anti-caste activists like Babasaheb Ambedkar as the equivalent of untouchables. The term “Arzal” stands for “degraded” and the Arzal castes are further subdivided into Bhanar, Halalkhor, Hijra, Kasbi, Lalbegi, Maugta, Mehtar etc. They are relegated to “menial” professions such as scavenging and carrying night soil.
Some South Asian Muslims have been known to stratify their society according to qaums. Studies of Bengali Muslims in India indicate that the concepts of purity and impurity exist among them and are applicable in inter-group relationships, as the notions of hygiene and cleanliness in a person are related to the person’s social position and not to his/her economic status. Muslim Rajput is another caste distinction among Indian Muslims.
Some of the upper and middle caste Muslim communities include Syed, Shaikh, Shaikhzada, Khanzada, Pathan, Mughal, and Malik. Genetic data has also supported this stratification. In three genetic studies representing the whole of South Asian Muslims, it was found that the Muslim population was overwhelmingly similar to the local non-Muslims associated with minor but still detectable levels of gene flow from outside, primarily from Iran and Central Asia, rather than directly from the Arabian Peninsula.
The Sachar Committee’s report commissioned by the government of India and released in 2006, documents the continued stratification in Muslim society.
Interaction and mobility
Data indicates that the castes among Muslims have never been as rigid as that among Hindus. They have good interactions with the other communities. They participate in marriages and funerals and other religious and social events in other communities. Some of them also had inter-caste marriages since centuries but mostly they preferred to marry in the same caste.
In Bihar state of India, cases had been reported in which the higher caste Muslims have opposed the burials of lower caste Muslims in the same graveyard.
Some Muslim scholars have tried to reconcile and resolve the “disjunction between Quranic egalitarianism and Indian Muslim social practice” through theorizing it in different ways and interpreting the Quran and Sharia to justify casteism.
While some scholars theorize that Muslim castes are not as acute in their discrimination as that among Hindus, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar argued otherwise, arguing the social evils in Muslim society were “worse than those seen in Hindu society”. He was critical of Ashraf antipathy towards the Ajlaf and Arzal and attempts to palliate sectarian divisions. He condemned the Indian Muslim community of being unable to reform like Muslims in other countries such as Turkey did during the early decades of the twentieth century.
Prominent Muslims in India
India is home to many eminent Muslims who have made their mark in numerous fields and have played a constructive role in India’s economic rise and cultural influence across the world.
Out of the 12 Presidents of the Republic of India, three were Muslims – Zakir Husain, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. Additionally, 4 Muslims: Mohammad Hidayatullah, Aziz Mushabber Ahmadi, Mirza Hameedullah Beg and Altamas Kabir held the office of the Chief Justice of India. Mohammad Hidayatullah also served as the acting President of India on two separate occasions; and holds the distinct honour of being the only person to have served in all three offices of the President of India, the Vice-President of India and the Chief Justice of India.
The former Vice-President of India, Mohammad Hamid Ansari, former Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid are Muslims. Dr. S. Y. Quraishi and Syed Nasim Ahmad Zaidi both served as the Chief Election Commissioner of India . Prominent Indian Muslim bureaucrats and diplomats include Abid Hussain, Ali Yavar Jung and Asaf Ali. Zafar Saifullah was Cabinet Secretary of the Government of India from 1993 to 1994. Salman Haidar was Indian Foreign Secretary from 1995 to 1997 and Deputy Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations. Numerous Muslims have achieved high rank in the Indian Police Service, with several attaining the rank of Director general of police and serving as commanders of both state and Central Armed Police Forces. In 2013, IPS officer Syed Asif Ibrahim became the first Muslim Director of the Intelligence Bureau, the seniormost appointment in the service. There have been seven Muslim Chief Ministers of Indian states (other than Jammu and Kashmir):
- Barkatullah Khan (Rajasthan: 1971–73)
- Abdul Ghafoor (Bihar: 1973–75)
- C. H. Mohammed Koya (Kerala: 1979)
- Anwara Taimur (Assam: 1980–81)
- A. R. Antulay (Maharashtra: 1980–82)
- Mohammed Alimuddin (Manipur: 1973–74)
- M. O. H. Farook was a three-time CM of the Union Territory of Pondicherry.
Some of the most popular and influential as well as critically acclaimed actors and actresses of the Indian film industry are Muslims. These include Yusuf Khan (stage name Dilip Kumar), Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Madhubala, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Naseeruddin Shah, Johnny Walker, Shabana Azmi, Waheeda Rehman, Amjad Khan, Parveen Babi, Feroz Khan, Meena Kumari, Prem Nazir, Mammootty, Nargis, Irrfan Khan, Farida Jalal, Arshad Warsi, Mehmood, Zeenat Aman, Farooq Sheikh and Tabu.
Some of the best known film directors of Indian cinema include Mehboob Khan, Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, Kamal Amrohi, K. Asif and the Abbas–Mustan duo. Indian Muslims also play pivotal roles in other forms of performing arts in India, particularly in music, modern art and theatre. M. F. Husain is one of India’s best known contemporary artists. Academy Awards winners Resul Pookutty and A. R. Rahman, Naushad, Salim–Sulaiman and Nadeem Akhtar of the Nadeem–Shravan duo are some of India’s celebrated musicians. Abrar Alvi penned many of the greatest classics of Indian cinema. Prominent poets and lyricists include Shakeel Badayuni, Sahir Ludhianvi and Majrooh Sultanpuri. Popular Indian singers of Muslim faith include Mohammed Rafi, Anu Malik, Lucky Ali, Talat Mahmood and Shamshad Begum. Another famous personality is the tabla maestro Zakir Hussian.
Sania Mirza, from Hyderabad, is the highest-ranked Indian woman tennis player. Prominent Muslim names in Indian cricket (the most popular sport of India) include Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi and Mohammad Azharuddin, who captained the Indian cricket team on various occasions. Other famous Muslim cricketers in India are Mushtaq Ali, Syed Kirmani, Arshad Ayub, Mohammad Kaif, Munaf Patel, Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, Yusuf Pathan and Wasim Jaffer.
India is home to several influential Muslim businessmen. Some of India’s most prominent firms, such as Wipro, Wockhardt, Himalaya Health Care, Hamdard Laboratories, Cipla and Mirza Tanners were founded by Muslims. The only two South Asian Muslim billionaires named by Forbes magazine, Yusuf Hamied and Azim Premji, are from India.
Though Muslims are under-represented in the Indian Armed Forces, as compared to Hindus and Sikhs, several Indian military Muslim personnel have earned gallantry awards and high ranks for exceptional service to the nation. Air Chief Marshal I. H. Latif was Deputy Chief of the Air Staff (India) during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and later served as Chief of the Air staff of the Indian Air Force from 1973 to 1976. Air Marshal Jaffar Zaheer (1923–2008) commanded IAF Agra and was decorated for his service during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War, eventually rising to the rank of air marshal and ending his career as Director-General of Civil Aviation from 1979–1980. Indian Army’s Abdul Hamid was posthumously awarded India’s highest military decoration, the Param Vir Chakra, for knocking-out seven Pakistani tanks with a recoilless gun during the Battle of Asal Uttar in 1965. Two other Muslims – Brigadier Mohammed Usman and Mohammed Ismail – were awarded Maha Vir Chakra for their actions during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947. High ranking Muslims in the Indian Armed Forces include:
- Lieutenant General Jameel Mahmood (former GOC-in-C Eastern Command: 1992–93),
- Lieutenant General Sami Khan (Commandant of the National Defence Academy: 1985–86, GoC-in-C, Central Command: 1988–89)
- Lieutenant General Pattiarimmal Mohamed Hariz (GOC-in-C, Southern Command: 2016–17),
- Air Marshal Syed Shahid Hussein Naqvi (Deputy Chief of Air Staff: 1997–99, Senior Air Staff Officer, Training Command 1999–2001)
- Lieutenant General Syed Ata Hasnain (GOC XV Corps: 2010–2012, Military Secretary: 2012–13)
- Major General Afsir Karim
- Major General SM Hasnain
- Major General Mohammed Amin Naik.
Abdul Kalam, one of India’s most respected scientists and the father of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) of India, was honoured through his appointment as the 11th President of India. His extensive contribution to India’s defence industry lead him to being nicknamed as the Missile Man of India and during his tenure as the President of India, he was affectionately known as People’s President. Syed Zahoor Qasim, former Director of the National Institute of Oceanography, led India’s first scientific expedition to Antarctica and played a crucial role in the establishment of Dakshin Gangotri. He was also the former Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, Secretary of the Department of Ocean Development and the founder of Polar Research in India. Other prominent Muslim scientists and engineers include C. M. Habibullah, a stem cell scientist and director of Deccan College of Medical Sciences and Center for Liver Research and Diagnostics, Hyderabad. In the field of Yunani medicine, one can name Hakim Ajmal Khan, Hakim Abdul Hameed and Hakim Syed Zillur Rahman. Salim Ali, was an Indian ornithologist and naturalist, also known as the “birdman of India”.
In the list of most influential Muslims list by Georgetown University, there were 21 Indians (in 2017) like Maulana Mahmood Madani, Akhtar Raza Khan, Zakir Abdul Karim Naik, Wahiduddin Khan, Abul Qasim Nomani Syed Muhammad Ameen Mian Qaudri, Amir Khan and Aboobacker Ahmad Musliyar. Mahmood Madani, leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and MP was ranked at 36 for initiating a movement against terrorism in South Asia. Syed Ameen Mian has been ranked 44th in the list.
In January 2018, Jamitha reportedly became the first woman to lead a Jumu’ah prayer service in India.
Islamic culture in India
Indo-Islamic art and architecture
Architecture of India took new shape with the advent of Islamic rule in India towards the end of the 12th century CE. New elements were introduced into the Indian architecture that include: use of shapes (instead of natural forms); inscriptional art using decorative lettering or calligraphy; inlay decoration and use of coloured marble, painted plaster and brightly coloured glazed tiles. Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque built in 1193 CE was the first mosque to be built in the Indian subcontinent; its adjoining “Tower of Victory”, the Qutb Minar also started around 1192 CE, which marked the victory of Muhammad of Ghor and his general Qutb al-Din Aibak, from Ghazni, Afghanistan, over local Rajput kings, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Delhi.
In contrast to the indigenous Indian architecture which was of the trabeate order, i.e. all spaces were spanned by means of horizontal beams, the Islamic architecture was arcuate, i.e. an arch or dome was adopted as a method of bridging a space. The concept of arch or dome was not invented by the Muslims but was, in fact, borrowed and further perfected by them from the architectural styles of the post-Roman period. Muslims used a cementing agent in the form of mortar for the first time in the construction of buildings in India. They further put to use certain scientific and mechanical formulae, which were derived by experience of other civilisations, in their constructions in India. Such use of scientific principles helped not only in obtaining greater strength and stability of the construction materials but also provided greater flexibility to the architects and builders. One fact that must be stressed here is that, the Islamic elements of architecture had already passed through different experimental phases in other countries like Egypt, Iran and Iraq before these were introduced in India. Unlike most Islamic monuments in these countries, which were largely constructed in brick, plaster and rubble, the Indo-Islamic monuments were typical mortar-masonry works formed of dressed stones. It must be emphasized that the development of the Indo-Islamic architecture was greatly facilitated by the knowledge and skill possessed by the Indian craftsmen, who had mastered the art of stonework for centuries and used their experience while constructing Islamic monuments in India.
Islamic architecture in India can be divided into two parts: religious and secular. Mosques and Tombs represent the religious architecture, while palaces and forts are examples of secular Islamic architecture. Forts were essentially functional, complete with a little township within and various fortifications to engage and repel the enemy.
There are more than 300,000 active mosques in India, which is higher than any other country, including the Muslim world. The mosque or masjid is a representation of Muslim art in its simplest form. The mosque is basically an open courtyard surrounded by a pillared verandah, crowned off with a dome. A mihrab indicates the direction of the qibla for prayer. Towards the right of the mihrab stands the minbar or pulpit from where the Imam presides over the proceedings. An elevated platform, usually a minaret from where the Faithful are summoned to attend prayers is an invariable part of a mosque. Large mosques where the faithful assemble for the Friday prayers are called the Jama Masjids.
Tombs and Mausoleum
The tomb or maqbara could range from being a simple affair (Aurangazeb’s grave) to an awesome structure enveloped in grandeur (Taj Mahal). The tomb usually consists of a solitary compartment or tomb chamber known as the huzrah in whose centre is the cenotaph or zarih. This entire structure is covered with an elaborate dome. In the underground chamber lies the mortuary or the maqbara, in which the corpse is buried in a grave or qabr. Smaller tombs may have a mihrab, although larger mausoleums have a separate mosque located at a distance from the main tomb. Normally the whole tomb complex or rauza is surrounded by an enclosure. The tomb of a Muslim saint is called a dargah. Almost all Islamic monuments were subjected to free use of verses from the Quran and a great amount of time was spent in carving out minute details on walls, ceilings, pillars and domes.
Styles of Islamic architecture in India
Islamic architecture in India can be classified into three sections: Delhi or the imperial style (1191 to 1557 CE); the provincial style, encompassing the surrounding areas like Ahmedabad, Jaunpur and the Deccan; and the Mughal architecture style (1526 to 1707 CE).
Law and politics
Certain civil matters of jurisdiction for Muslims such as marriage, inheritance and waqf properties are governed by the Muslim Personal Law, which was developed during British rule and subsequently became part of independent India with some amendments. Indian Muslim personal law is not developed as a Sharia Law but as an interpretation of existing Muslim laws as part of Common Law. The Supreme Court of India has ruled that Sharia or Muslim law holds precedence for Muslims over Indian civil law in such matters.
Muslims in India are governed by “The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937.” It directs the application of Muslim Personal Law to Muslims in marriage, mahr (dower), divorce, maintenance, gifts, waqf, wills and inheritance. The courts generally apply the Hanafi Sunni law for Sunnis; Shia Muslims are independent of Sunni law for those areas where Shia law differs substantially from Sunni practice.
The Indian constitution provides equal rights to all citizens irrespective of their religion. Article 44 of the constitution recommends a uniform civil code. However, attempts by successive political leadership in the country to integrate Indian society under common civil code is strongly resisted and is viewed by Indian Muslims as an attempt to dilute the cultural identity of the minority groups of the country. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board was established for the protection and continued applicability of “Muslim Personal Law”, i.e. Shariat Application Act in India. The Sachar Committee was asked to report about the condition of Muslims in India in 2005. Almost all the recommendations of the Sachar Committee have been implemented.
The following laws/acts of Indian legislation are applicable to Muslims in India (except in the state of Goa) regarding matters of marriage, succession, inheritance, child adoption etc.
- Muslim Personal Law Sharia Application Act, 1937
- The Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939
- Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986
Note: Above laws are not applicable in the state of Goa. The Goa civil code, also called the Goa Family Law, is the set of civil laws that governs the residents of the Indian state of Goa. In India, as a whole, there are religion-specific civil codes that separately govern adherents of different religions. Goa is an exception to that rule, in that a single secular code/law governs all Goans, irrespective of religion, ethnicity or linguistic affiliation. Above laws are also not applicable to Muslims throughout India who had civil marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954.
Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan is an Indian Muslim women’s organisation in India. It released a draft on 23 June 2014, ‘Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act’ recommending that polygamy be made illegal in Muslim Personal Law of India.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was proposed for the changes in the citizenship and immigration norms of the country by relaxing the requirements for Indian citizenship. The applicability of the amendments are debated in news as it is on religious lines (excluding Muslims).
India’s Constitution and Parliament have protected the rights of Muslims but, according to some sources, there has been a growth in ‘climate of fear’ and ‘targeting of dissenters’ under the Bharatiya Janata Party, Modi ministry, affecting the feelings of security and tolerance amongst Indian Muslims. However, these allegations are not universally shared.
Active Muslim political parties
- All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), led by Asaduddin Owaisi active in states of Telangana, Maharashtra,Bihar and Karnataka.
- Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), led by E. Ahamed active in Kerala.
- All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), led by Badruddin Ajmal active in Assam state.
- Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference (JKPC), founded by Abdul Ghani Lone and Molvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari. Led by Sajjad Lone. It is active in Jammu and Kashmir.
- National Conference (NC) main party of Jammu and Kashmir.
- Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) main party of Jammu and Kashmir.
- Apni Party (JKAP) a newly formed party of Jammu and Kashmir
- Peace Party of India of Mohamed Ayub
The Somnath temple was first attacked by Muslim Turkic invader Mahmud of Ghazni and repeatedly rebuilt after being demolished by successive Muslim rulers, including the Mughals under Aurangzeb.
Considerable controversy exists both in scholarly and public opinion about the conversions to Islam typically represented by the following schools of thought:
- The bulk of Muslims are descendants of migrants from the Iranian Plateau or Arabs.
- Conversions occurred for non-religious reasons of pragmatism and patronage such as social mobility among the Muslim ruling elite or for relief from taxes
- Conversion was a result of the actions of Sunni Sufi saints and involved a genuine change of heart.
- Conversion came from Buddhists and the en masse conversions of lower castes for social liberation and as a rejection of the oppressive Hindu caste strictures.
- A combination, initially made under duress followed by a genuine change of heart.
- As a socio-cultural process of diffusion and integration over an extended period of time into the sphere of the dominant Muslim civilisation and global polity at large.
Embedded within this lies the concept of Islam as a foreign imposition and Hinduism being a natural condition of the natives who resisted, resulting in the failure of the project to Islamize the Indian subcontinent and is highly embroiled within the politics of the partition and communalism in India.
Historians such as Will Durant described Islamic invasions of India as “The bloodiest story in history . Jadunath Sarkar contends that several Muslim invaders were waging a systematic jihad against Hindus in India to the effect that “Every device short of massacre in cold blood was resorted to in order to convert heathen subjects”. Hindus who converted to Islam were not immune to persecution due to the Muslim Caste System in India established by Ziauddin al-Barani in the Fatawa-i Jahandari, where they were regarded as an “Ajlaf” caste and subjected to discrimination by the “Ashraf” castes. Others argue that, during the Muslim conquests in the Indian subcontinent, Indian-origin religions experienced persecution from various Muslim conquerors who massacred Hindus, Jains and Buddhists, attacked temples and monasteries, and forced conversions on the battlefield.
Disputers of the “conversion by the sword theory” point to the presence of the large Muslim communities found in Southern India, Sri Lanka, Western Burma, Bangladesh, Southern Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia coupled with the distinctive lack of equivalent Muslim communities around the heartland of historical Muslim empires in the Indian subcontinent as refutation to the “conversion by the sword theory”. The legacy of the Muslim conquest of South Asia is a hotly debated issue and argued even today.
Muslim invaders were not all simply raiders. Later rulers fought on to win kingdoms and stayed to create new ruling dynasties. The practices of these new rulers and their subsequent heirs (some of whom were born of Hindu wives) varied considerably. While some were uniformly hated, others developed a popular following. According to the memoirs of Ibn Battuta who travelled through Delhi in the 14th century, one of the previous sultans had been especially brutal and was deeply hated by Delhi’s population, Batuta’s memoirs also indicate that Muslims from the Arab world, Persia and Anatolia were often favoured with important posts at the royal courts suggesting that locals may have played a somewhat subordinate role in the Delhi administration. The term “Turk” was commonly used to refer to their higher social status. S.A.A. Rizvi (The Wonder That Was India – II), however points to Muhammad bin Tughluq as not only encouraging locals but promoting artisan groups such as cooks, barbers and gardeners to high administrative posts. In his reign, it is likely that conversions to Islam took place as a means of seeking greater social mobility and improved social standing.
Numerous temples were destroyed by Muslim conquerors. Richard M. Eaton lists a total of 80 temples that were desecrated by Muslim conquerors, but notes this was not unusual in medieval India where numerous temples were also desecrated by Hindu and Buddhist kings against rival Indian kingdoms during conflicts between devotees of different Hindu deities, and between Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. He also notes there were many instances of the Delhi Sultanate, which often had Hindu ministers, ordering the protection, maintenance and repairing of temples, according to both Muslim and Hindu sources, and that attacks on temples had significantly declined under the Mughal Empire.
K. S. Lal, in his book Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India, claimed that between 1000 and 1500, the Indian population decreased by 30 million, but stated his estimates were tentative and did not claim any finality. His work has come under criticism by historians such as Simon Digby (SOAS, University of London) and Irfan Habib for its agenda and lack of accurate data in pre-census times. Different population estimates by economics historians Angus Maddison and Jean-Noël Biraben also indicate that India’s population did not decrease between 1000 and 1500, but increased by about 35 million during that time. The Indian population estimates from other economic historians including Colin Clark, John D. Durand and Colin McEvedy also show there was population increase in India between 1000 and 1500.
Main article: Shia–Sunni relations
The Sunnis and Shia are the biggest Muslim groups by denomination. Although the two groups remain cordial, there have been instances of conflict between the two groups especially in the city of Lucknow.
Relationship of Muslims with non-Muslim communities
The conflict between Hindus and Muslims in the Indian subcontinent has a complex history which can be said to have begun with the Umayyad Caliphate’s invasion of Sindh in 711. The persecution of Hindus during the Islamic expansion in India during the medieval period was characterised by destruction of temples, often illustrated by historians by the repeated destruction of the Hindu Temple at Somnath and the anti-Hindu practices of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. Although there were instances of conflict between the two groups, a number of Hindus worshipped and continue to worship at the tombs of Muslim Sufi Saints.
During the Noakhali riots in 1946, several thousand Hindus were forcibly converted to Islam by Muslim mobs.
- From 1947 to 1991
The aftermath of the Partition of India in 1947 saw large scale sectarian strife and bloodshed throughout the nation. Since then, India has witnessed sporadic large-scale violence sparked by underlying tensions between sections of the Hindu and Muslim communities. These include 1969 Gujarat riots, 1970 Bhiwandi riots, 1983 Nellie massacre, and the 1989 Bhagalpur violence. These conflicts stem in part from the ideologies of Hindu nationalism and Islamic extremism. Since independence, India has always maintained a constitutional commitment to secularism.
- Since 1992
The sense of communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims in the post-partition period was compromised greatly by the razing of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya. The demolition took place in 1992 and was perpetrated by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and organisations like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bajrang Dal, Vishva Hindu Parishad and Shiv Sena. This was followed by tit for tat violence by Muslim and Hindu fundamentalists throughout the country, giving rise to the Bombay riots and the 1993 Bombay bombings.
In the 1998 Prankote massacre, 26 Kashmiri Hindus were beheaded by Islamist militants after their refusal to convert to Islam. The militants struck when the villagers refused demands from the gunmen to convert to Islam and prove their conversion by eating beef.
During the eruption of militancy in the 1990s, following persecution and threats by radical Islamists and militants, the native Kashmiri Hindus were forced into an exodus from Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region in Northern India. Mosques issued warnings, telling them to leave Kashmir, convert to Islam or be killed. Approximately 300,000–350,000 pandits left the valley during the mid-80s and the 90s, many of them have been living in abject conditions in refugee camps of Jammu.
One of the most violent events in recent times took place during the Gujarat riots in 2002, where it is estimated one thousand people were killed, most allegedly Muslim. Some sources claim there were approximately 2,000 Muslim deaths. There were also allegations made of state involvement. The riots were in retaliation to the Godhra train burning in which 59 Hindus pilgrims returning from the disputed site of the Babri Masjid, were burnt alive in a train fire at the Godhra railway station. Gujarat police claimed that the incident was a planned act carried out by extremist Muslims in the region against the Hindu pilgrims. The Bannerjee commission appointed to investigate this finding declared that the fire was an accident. In 2006 the High Court decided the constitution of such a committee was illegal as another inquiry headed by Justice Nanavati Shah was still investigating the matter.
In 2004, several Indian school textbooks were scrapped by the National Council of Educational Research and Training after they were found to be loaded with anti-Muslim prejudice. The NCERT argued that the books were “written by scholars hand-picked by the previous Hindu nationalist administration”. According to The Guardian, the textbooks depicted India’s past Muslim rulers “as barbarous invaders and the medieval period as a dark age of Islamic colonial rule which snuffed out the glories of the Hindu empire that preceded it”. In one textbook, it was purported that the Taj Mahal, the Qutb Minar and the Red Fort – all examples of Islamic architecture – “were designed and commissioned by Hindus”.
West Bengal (2010)
In the 2010 Deganga riots, rioting began on 6 September 2010, when an Islamist mob resorted to arson and violence on the Hindu neighborhoods of Deganga, Kartikpur and Beliaghata under the Deganga police station area. The violence began late in the evening and continued throughout the night into the next morning. The district police, Rapid Action Force, Central Reserve Police Force and Border Security Force all failed to stop the mob violence and the army was finally deployed. The army staged a flag march on the Taki Road, while Islamist violence continued unabated in the interior villages off the Taki Road, till Wednesday in spite of army presence and promulgation of prohibitory orders under section 144 of the CrPC.
At least 77 people died and 400,000 people were displaced in the 2012 Assam violence between indigenous Bodos and East Bengal rooted Muslims.
The 2020 Delhi riots, which left more than 50 dead and hundreds injured, were triggered by protests against a citizenship law seen by many critics as anti-Muslim and part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda.
Main article: Islam and Sikhism
Sikhism emerged in the Punjab during the Mughal period. Conflict between early Sikhs and the Muslim power center at Delhi reached an early high point in 1606 when Guru Arjan, the fifth guru of the Sikhs, was tortured and killed by Jahangir, the Mughal emperor. After the death of the fifth beloved Guru his son had taken his spot Guru Hargobind who basically made the Sikhs a warrior religion. Guru ji was the first to defeat the Mughal empire in a battle which had taken place in present Sri Hargobindpur in Gurdaspur After this point the Sikhs were forced to organise themselves militarily for their protection. Later in the 16th century, Tegh Bahadur became guru in 1665 and led the Sikhs until 1675. Teg Bahadur was executed by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb for helping to protect Hindus, after a delegation of Kashmiri Pandits came to him for help when the Emperor condemned them to death for failing to convert to Islam. At this point Aurangzeb had instituted forceful conversions for which they would charge citizens with various accusations granting them to have charges and execution waved off if they converted this led to a high increase of violence between the Sikhs and Hindus as well as rebellions of Aurangzeb’s empire. This is an early example which illustrates how the Hindu-Muslim conflict and the Muslim-Sikh conflicts are connected. After which Guru Gobind Singh and the Sikhs helped the next successor of the throne of India to rise who was Bahadur Shah Zafar for certain period of time good relations were maintained somewhat like they were in Akbar’s time until disputes arose again. The Mughal period saw various invaders coming into India through Punjab with which they would loot and severely plunder. Better relations have been seen by Dulla Bhatti, Mian Mir, Pir Budhu Shah, Pir Bhikham Shah, Bulleh Shah.
In 1699, the Khalsa was founded by Guru Gobind Singh, the last guru. A former ascetic was charged by Gobind Singh with the duty of punishing those who had persecuted the Sikhs. After the guru’s death, Baba Banda Singh Bahadur became the leader of the Sikh army and was responsible for several attacks on the Mughal empire. He was executed by the emperor Jahandar Shah after refusing the offer of a pardon if he converted to Islam. The decline of Mughal power during the 17th and 18th centuries, along with the growing strength of the Sikh Empire resulted in a balance of power which protected the Sikhs from more violence. The Sikh empire was absorbed into the British Indian empire after the Second Anglo-Sikh War of 1849.
Massive population exchanges took place during the Partition of India in 1947, and the British Indian province of Punjab was divided into two parts, and the western parts were assigned to Pakistan, while the eastern parts went to India. 5.3 million Muslims moved from India to West Punjab in Pakistan, 3.4 million Hindus and Sikhs moved from Pakistan to East Punjab in India. The newly formed governments were completely unequipped to deal with migrations of such staggering magnitude, and massive violence and slaughter occurred on both sides of the border. Estimates of the number of deaths range around roughly 500,000, with low estimates at 200,000 and high estimates at 1,000,000.
Tens of thousands of Muslims are living with a disguised identity as Sikhs since the confessional cleansing during the Partition of India.
In spite of the fact that there have been relatively fewer conflicts between Muslims and Christians in India in comparison to those between Muslims and Hindus, or Muslims and Sikhs, the relationship between Muslims and Christians have also been occasionally turbulent. With the advent of European colonialism in India with the demise of Mughal empire beginning from the 18th century, Christians were persecuted in some Muslim ruled princely states in India.
- Anti-Christian persecution by Tipu Sultan in the 17th century
Perhaps the most infamous acts of anti-Christian persecution by Muslims was committed by Tipu Sultan, the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore against the Mangalorean Catholics. Tippu was widely reputed to be anti-Christian. The captivity of Mangalorean Catholics at Srirangapatna, which began on 24 February 1784 and ended on 4 May 1799, remains the most disconsolate memory in their history.
In 1989 there was a social boycott by the Buddhists of the Muslims of Leh district. The boycott remained in force till 1992. Relations between the Buddhists and Muslims in Leh improved after the lifting of the boycott, although suspicions remained.
There are several well established Muslim institutions in India. Here is a list of reputed institutions established by Muslims in India.
Modern universities and institutes
- Al-Ameen Educational Society
- Aliah University
- Aligarh Muslim University
- Jamia Markazu Saqafathi Sunniyya
- Ma’dinu Ssaquafathil Islamiyya
- B. S. Abdur Rahman University
- Darul Huda Islamic University
- Darul Uloom Deoband
- Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama
- Ibn Sina Academy of Medieval Medicine and Sciences
- Integral University
- Jamal Mohamed College, Tiruchirappalli
- Hamdard University, Delhi
- Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi
- M.S.S. Wakf Board College, Madurai (The only college in India run by a State Wakf Board)
- Maulana Azad National Urdu University Hyderabad
- Maulana Azad College of Arts and Science, Aurangabad
- Muslim Educational Association of Southern India
- National College of Engineering, Tirunelveli
- Osmania University, Hyderabad
- Karim City College, Jamshedpur
Traditional Islamic universities
- Al Jamea tus Saifiyah, Bohra
- Al Jamiatul Ashrafia, Barelvi
- Jamia Darussalam, Oomerabad
- Al-Jame-atul-Islamia, Uttar Pradesh
- Jamia Nizamia, Hyderabad
- Manzar-e-Islam, Bareilly
- Raza Academy
- Sunni Cultural Center, Karanthur, Kerala
Islamic traditions in India
Sufism is a mystical dimension of Islam, often complementary with the legalistic path of the sharia had a profound impact on the growth of Islam in India. A en.wikipedia.org/…iki/Islam_in_South_AsiaSufi attains a direct vision of oneness with God, often on the edges of orthodox behaviour, and can thus become a Pir (living saint) who may take on disciples (murids) and set up a spiritual lineage that can last for generations. Orders of Sufis became important in India during the thirteenth century following the ministry of Moinuddin Chishti (1142–1236), who settled in Ajmer and attracted large numbers of converts to Islam because of his holiness. His Chishti Order went on to become the most influential Sufi lineage in India, although other orders from Central Asia and Southwest Asia also reached India and played a major role in the spread of Islam. In this way, they created a large literature in regional languages that embedded Islamic culture deeply into older South Asian traditions.
Leadership and organisations
- The Ajmer Sharif Dargah and Dargah-e-Ala Hazrat at Bareilly Shareef are prime center of Sufi oriented Sunni Muslims of India.
- Indian Shia Muslims form a substantial minority within the Muslim community of India comprising between 25–31% of total Muslim population in an estimation done during mid-2005 to 2006 of the then Indian Muslim population of 157 million. Sources like The Times of India and DNA reported Indian Shia population during that period between 40,000,000 to 50,000,000 of 157,000,000 Indian Muslim population.
- The Deobandi movement, another section of the Sunni Muslim population, originate from the Darul Uloom Deoband, an influential religious seminary in the district of Saharanpur of Uttar Pradesh. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, founded by Deobandi scholars in 1919, became a political mouthpiece for the Darul Uloom.
- The Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, founded in 1941, advocates the establishment of an Islamic government and has been active in promoting education, social service and ecumenical outreach to the community.
The government of India subsidises the cost of the airfare for Hajj pilgrims. All pilgrims travel on Air India. In compliance with Supreme Court of India and Allahabad High Court directions, the Government of India has proposed that, starting from 2011, the amount of government subsidy per person will be decreased and by 2017 will be ended completely. Maulana Mahmood A. Madani, a member of the Rajya Sabha and general secretary of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, declared that the Hajj subsidy is a technical violation of Islamic Sharia, since the Quran declares that Hajj should be performed by Muslims using their own resources. Influential Muslim lobbies in India have regularly insisted that the Hajj subsidy should be phased out as it is un-Islamic.
Muslims in government
India has seen three Muslim presidents and many chief ministers of State Governments have been Muslims. Apart from that, there are and have been many Muslim ministers, both at the centre and at the state level.
Out of the 12 Presidents of the Republic of India, three were Muslims – Zakir Husain, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. Additionally, Mohammad Hidayatullah, Aziz Mushabber Ahmadi, Mirza Hameedullah Beg and Altamas Kabir held the office of the Chief Justice of India on various occasions since independence. Mohammad Hidayatullah also served as the acting President of India on two separate occasions; and holds the distinct honour of being the only person to have served in all three offices of the President of India, the Vice-President of India and the Chief Justice of India.
The former Vice-President of India, Mohammad Hamid Ansari, former Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid and former Director (Head) of the Intelligence Bureau, Syed Asif Ibrahim are Muslims. Ibrahim was the first Muslim to hold this office. From 30 July 2010 to 10 June 2012, Dr. S. Y. Quraishi served as the Chief Election Commissioner of India. He was the first Muslim to serve in this position. Prominent Indian bureaucrats and diplomats include Abid Hussain, Ali Yavar Jung and Asaf Ali. Zafar Saifullah was Cabinet Secretary of the Government of India from 1993 to 1994. Salman Haidar was the Foreign Secretary from 1995 to 1997 and Deputy Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations. Influential Muslim politicians in India include Sheikh Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah (former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir), Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Mehbooba Mufti, Sikander Bakht, A. R. Antulay, Ahmed Patel, C. H. Mohammed Koya, A. B. A. Ghani Khan Choudhury, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Salman Khurshid, Saifuddin Soz, E. Ahamed, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, Asaduddin Owaisi, Azam Khan and Badruddin Ajmal, Najma Heptulla.
Ghettoisation of Indian Muslims
Ghettoisation among Indian Muslims began in the mid-1970s when first communal riots occurred. It got heightened after the 1989 Bhagalpur violence in Bihar and became a trend after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. Soon several major cities developed ghettos, or segregated areas, where the Muslim population moved in. This trend however, did not help for the anticipated security the anonymity of ghetto was thought to have provided. During the 2002 Gujarat riots, several such ghettos became easy targets for the rioting mobs, as they enabled the profiling of residential colonies. This kind of ghettoisation can be seen in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and many cities of Gujarat where a clear socio-cultural demarcation exists between Hindu-dominated and Muslim-dominated neighbourhoods.
In places like Gujarat, riots and alienation of Muslims have led to large scale ghettoisation of the community. For example, the Juhapura area of Ahmadabad has swelled from 250,000 to 650,000 residents since 2002 riots. Muslims in Gujarat have no option but to head to a ghetto, irrespective of their economic and professional status.
Increase in ghetto living has also shown a strengthening of stereotyping due to lack of cross-cultural interaction, and reduction in economic and educational opportunities at large. Secularism in India is being seen by some as a favour to the Muslims, and not an imperative for democracy.
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia