India, a unique country of high diversity, is the motherland of world’s second largest population.
The population of India is painted with all religious colors. Almost all religions are prevalent in India. Nowhere in the world anyone, can see such religious diversity.
Every state of India is unique and totally different from other in terms of language, dress, food etc., It has 325 spoken languages, most of them with dialects, of which 18 are recognized as official and that is why it is called “a country of unity in diversity”.
The other name of India is ‘Hindustan’, which, contrary to the common belief, means ‘the land of Indus River’. The early persians pronounced the word ‘Indus’ as ‘Hindus’, a synonym for the sanskrit word ‘Sind’ to denote Indus River. So, this name is geography based and not religion based.
India is a good source of reference in the history of Islam since it has more than 600 years of important Islamic period. It had strong trade connections with the Arabs even in the pre-Islamic period. Those trade connections facilitated making inroads for Islam.
The Arab traders carried and propagated Islam in India in the early 6th century, during the life time of the Prophet Muhammad,(sallallahu alayhe wa sallam). One of the main contributors of such noble cause was Malik ibn Deenar, an honest and respectable Arab trader, whose honest trade practices attracted the then king of Malabar (now, the state of Kerala), by name Cheraman Perumal.
After coming to know about the Prophet, (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) and his teachings, the king encouraged Islam to grow in Malabar. He gifted some palaces and temples for converting them into mosques.
The first mosque was built in Kodungalur, followed by 11 other mosques in various other places at the behest of Cheraman Perumal during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad, (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam).
Ultimately, he embraced Islam and accompanied Malik ibn Deenar to Mecca to perform Hajj. It is chronicled that he joined the Prophet, (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) in his last Hajj (Hajj ul Widhah).
On his return from the Hajj, his ship was wrecked by a severe tempest, causing his death. He was buried in Salalah, Oman where his grave is a famous landmark today.
Cheraman Jumma Mosque, Kodungallur is the first mosque in India.Thus, Islam was first anchored in the southern part of India and spread to the north in contrary to the common belief that it spread from the north.
After the Arab traders paved the way for Islam, it was well nourished by the Sufis. Islam had become a major cultural force in the country thanks to the laborious efforts of the Arab traders and Sufis.
Only in the 11th century, the Muslim rulers stepped into the northern part of this country and India started to be unified under the Islamic flag and was ruled over by many Muslim dynasties for more than 6 centuries. The Muslim rulers showed a great deal of administrative skills by uniting this vast country under one flag though it was not a cake walk for them. They had to face innumerable obstacles and many rulers and Sufis sacrificed their lives, families and belongings to achieve this goal; but in spite of such miseries, they permanently settled in this land with a great sense of belonging.
The Muslims became woven into the very fabric of Indian civilization and culture. As a result, the tradition, language and culture of the Indian Muslims got blended with those of the inhabitants of India which gave rise to many sects among the Indian Muslims such as Bohra and Khoja of west India, who adopted Islam influenced by different Muslim preachers.
The leader of the Khoja (Nizari) community is Agha Khan. The Nawait are the descendants of Arab and Persian immigrants. The Mappillas of Kerala are the descendants from Arab merchants (the first community to embrace Islam in India).
The Pathans are from Afghanistan. Apart from these communities, there are other communities of Turkish origin (Rowther community of south India) and other Indian inhabitants who converted to Islam in the 6th and 7th centuries.
The stiff opposition arose from Muslims when the British tried to establish their supremacy in this country. The king of Mysore, Tipu Sultan was the first to raise voice against the British in the south and fought fierce battles against them. The “sepoy mutiny” (the first war of independence) resulted not only in the execution of Mangal Pandey, but also in the nasty humiliation of Bahadur Shah Zafar ( the last Moghul emperor) at the hands of the British.
Anybody who reads this history will surely shed blood tears and such were the sacrifices of the Indian Muslims. The Muslims were the main opposing force against the British, thanks to the efforts of the Ulemas of Deobandh’s Darul Uloom and the teachers of Aligarh Muslim University, who successfully led and steered the Muslims of India. In the words of Adhil Siddiqui, information coordinator of Deoband “you could say that Deoband and Aligarh are husband and wife, born from the same historical events; but they live at daggers drawn”.
At one point of time, the Ulemas of Darul Uloom declared that it is haraam to learn English which resulted in the withdrawal of many bright Muslim students like Dr. Zakir Hussain (the 3rd President of India) from the Universities.All these sacrifices of the Muslims were somehow buried in the pages of history and the British tactics of ‘divide and rule’ left a nasty impact on the Hindu- Muslim unity in this country which continues till today. Though the Hindus and Muslims do not have any grudges against each other, the politicians and the fanatics play major role in creating Hindu-Muslim riots in some parts of India.
Now, Indian Muslims constitute 13.4% (2001 census) of its total population, which is the second largest of world’s Muslim population. India has more Muslims than Turkey, Syria, Jordon, Libya, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Iraq combined.
The Muslims contributed a lot to this country in terms of architecture, philosophy, education, trade, laws, rules, administration and what not. Even today, the judiciary and administration sectors of India have distinct Arabic, Persian and Urdu words in use such as Tahsildar ( administrative officer), Duffedar (officer’s guard), Amina (court officer), Vakil (lawyer), Vakalat nama (authorization for the lawyer), Waidha (adjournment), Firkha (small revenue area), Taluk (bigger revenue block), Jillah (district) Zamindar (landlord), Sirasdhar (court office superintendent), Jaameen (bail) etc., India’s 80% Hindu population has assimilated with 13.4% muslims and vice versa except for the religious aspects. Thus, muslims in India remain as “muslims” and “Indians” at the same time.
The 1947 partition was supported only by a meager 5 % of muslims. Majority of migration to Pakistan was geographical.The first woman judge of the Supreme Court of India was Fatima Bi, who later became the Governor of Tamil Nadu. There are other great personalities of India such as Late Dr. Zakir Hussain (former President of India), Mr. Hidhayatullah (former Chief Justice of India and later the Vice President), Chief Air Marshal I.H. Latif , M.F. Hussain (great painter of this century), K.A. Abbas (Novelist and distinguished film maker), Late Mr. Mohammed Rafi (popular bollywood singer), Late Mr. Noushad (popular music director of bollywood) to name a few.
All these great Muslims left an indelible mark in the Indian history. No history of Indian literature can be complete without mentioning the literacy and artistic sensibility brought about by Muslim poets and literatures. One cannot discuss Bengali without Nazrul Islam, or Punjabi without Waris Shah or Kashmiri without Habba Khatoon or Tamil without Abdur Rahman or Malayalam without K.T. Mohammad or for that matter Indian literature without Mirza Ghalib; the list is endless.
In 1976, the 42nd amendment was made to the Constitution of India which added the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ to its preamble, thereby making the country secular which does not discriminate its subjects on the basis of religion and this secularism was shown in a recent political scenario that a Sikh Prime Minister(Dr. Manmohan Singh) took official oath under a Muslim President(Dr. A.P.J.Abdul Kalam) under the patronage of a Catholic woman (Mrs. Sonia Gandhi), which made the whole world to raise its eye brows.Unlike other countries of the world, India has Government holidays for all religious festivals and the civil law of the nation is comprised of Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Parsi Personal Laws.
Each religious group is governed by its own religious law. Though the Government of India is taking pains to eradicate the differences, the power mania and the fanaticism work in the opposite direction. The present position of the Indian Muslims is very gloomy. They are deprived of their education and employment rights to a great extent.
The statistics proves that the education among the Muslim population is only 20-30%. Whereas it was more than 90% before independence. Less than 5% of the muslims are in good government jobs today and this is because there is no leader to guide and steer the Muslims.
The Indian muslims need a self-less and strong leader who could lead the community towards prosperity. The glory of the once mighty Muslim League has become a misnomer.
The community which once produced great lot of scholars, philosophers, scientists, architects and even Nobel Prize Laureates now suffers for want of education.
This is the high time for the Indian muslims to give a deep thought over these issues and find salvation. Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya had rightly said “the muslims had enriched our culture, strengthened our administration, and brought near distant parts of the country…it (Muslim period) touched deeply the social life and the literature of the land” ( his presidential address to the 55th session of the Indian Congress in Jaipur, 1948). These words of regard should not go waste and should be proved true for ever by our true painstaking endeavor.
Sulthan Mahboob Ghori