Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Indian Muslims Vs Arab Muslims and Advent of Islam in India and South Asia

Recently I was trolled by a non-Muslim Indian for posting a comment on a video of an American YouTuber of Egyptian origin. Most of you might have understood whom we are talking about. Though the comment was for the YouTuber in question, this person started commenting out of context when he realised that I am an Indian. He started telling me that all Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims have Hindu blood in them and it will remain inside us no matter what we do and his other point was - Arabs hate us.

Really? First of all the term 'having someone's blood in us' is a figure of speech. But what was important here was the 'general' nature of the comment. And secondly, why only Arabs (though I do not agree on that), the world hates us, man! But does that unsettle/ disturb us? No. We are so used to that by now. I find it amusing. But those who are not used to being poked at, get hurt at even the slightest comment on them.

Okay, let's come back to the comment and my responses, which I made. I will discuss those points in detail here.

According to this person, Arabs hate Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and the like. First of all, Arabs form 33% of the World's Muslim population. And all Arabs are not Muslims. There are ethnic Arab Jews and Christians as well and their cultural dressing is similar (if not same) to Arab Muslims. Most Indians speak of Arabs from their experience of working in Saudi Arabia. Now, Saudi Arabia is not the only Arab country in the world. Let's take UAE for example. People across the world work here and enjoy the hospitality and accepting culture there. Many women are comfortable working alone also in UAE, as it is considered one of the safest place for women. Okay, for the time being let's consider this man's point about Arabs hating us. But why only Arabs? Everyone seems to be hating Muslims, man. It's part of our existence.

Another point is that some Indians / Pakistanis / Bangladeshi Muslims take education lightly and then go to gulf countries for any kind of job, hoping that while bringing money to their country, they will multiply it due to difference in exchange rates. Sometimes it is better to work hard in your own country and live with respect, than take up any job for some few bucks and act as if you are foreign-returned. Having said that, I also say that people who are well educated, including Engineers (Muslims and non-Muslims), prefer to work in Shipping/ Oil companies in Oman, Muscat, Bahrain etc due to the very high Rupee to local currency difference. And they (now here I am speaking of non Muslims) are happy being there, even if they have to accept few local cultures. My organisation also has a branch in Bahrain, and given a chance for a transfer back, they prefer to stay. Or quit. That's the decision of non-Muslims. So, definitely, Muslims who go and work on higher scales there, stay as long as they can, with their families as they find more similarities in religious cultures. But it's a personal choice. Some can feel at ease in a Mediterranean culture, some in Western, some in Eastern. Some Americans also later settle in Mexico for peace and quietude and to live near the coast, though Mexico is quite backward than US in technology and internal regulations. In some things, even India is several times better than Mexico. Yet some Americans retire to that country.

This person told me that Hinduism is one of the oldest religions on Earth. This, I agree to. Yes, Hinduism is one of the oldest religions. I respect that. But let us not forget that there were many pagan religions in the world prior to Hinduism also, which do not exist now. Even Buddhism and Jainism are very old religions. And they originated in India and co-existed with Hinduism as well. So to say that India is only the land of the Hindus and every inhabitant of India was a Hindu originally would not be totally correct. And let us not forget the Sikhs and the Sindhis. They also form part of the Indus Valley civilisation.  

Yes, Islam is one of the last religions of the world, having been in existence since 1400 years only. From being the latest religions (let us exclude cults here), it has gone on to become, the 2nd / 3rd largest religions in the world. Islam came into existence in 610 AD (7th century AD).

Now let's come back to Muslims. According to this man, every Indian Muslim was forced by the Mughals to accept Islam. Is that true? Did Mughals force Islam on us? Were there no Muslims in India prior to Mughals? Were there no migrant Muslims? And was force the only way to Islam ? Let us discuss this one by one.

Islam first came to the western coast of India with Arab traders as early as the 7th century AD to coastal Malabar and the Gujarat- Konkan coast. As we already discussed, Islam also came into existence in the 7th century itself. Cheramun Juma Masjid in Kerela is thought to be the first mosque in India, built in 629 AD by Malik Ibn Dinar. Who is Malik Ibn Dinar? He is one of the first propagators of Islam to come to India. He was born in Kufa, Iraq. He mostly preached in South India. That's the first advent of Islam in India. By an aulia (wali Allah = friend of Allah) in a peaceful manner. His mazaar (shrine), known as dargah to most, is in Kerela. While on the topic of first advent of Muslims to India, let us also mention the traders from Persian gulf, Kabul and other parts of south Arabia who came to India for business and settled on the Gujarat and Konkan coast. This was initiated by the then governor of Bahrain, who started a trading expedition to Bharuch in 7 AD. So, Islam had already arrived in India on the western coast and south India, much before Mughals came to India. The main spreaders of the Islamic faith/ religion in India were the aulias (also called the Sufi Saints). Around 10th/ 11th century AD, the Sufi saints brought Islam to entire South Asia (including India) from Persia. Malik Ibn Dinar was the first one to do so in southern parts of India much earlier. In the northern parts of India and some parts of Bengal, the sufi saints / wali-Allah become prominent in 10/11th century, during the reign of the Delhi Sultanate. So, Islam came to India and other parts of South Asia with the advent of the Sufi saints. The numerous dargahs (which are shrines of Sufi Saints) in India bear testimony of their love and appeal to the masses even today, as you see even non-Muslims flocking to take their blessings and pay them respect. They showed love, compassion and preached the goodness of Islam to the people. And the people in turn accepted them and their faith. The most well known sufi saint of India is Khwaja Gareeb Nawaz, who shrine is in Ajmer Shareef, and at his shrine people of all faiths from across the world, flock in large numbers.

So who are these Mughals ? When did they come to India ? What was their role in converting Muslims?  Mughal is a corruption of the word Mongol and they came from Central Asia. Babur was the founder of the Mughal Empire and and his kingdom extended from Uzbekistan to Persia and much beyond. Prior to the Mughal rule, Delhi Sultanate was ruled by the Lodhi Dynasty (Afghan origin). Some Indian governer took the help of Babur to fight the Lodhi king. Babur started his conquests through Delhi and slowly his descendants spread their rule much inside India over a period of time. They came to India in the 16th century and their empire lasted till the end of 19th century. Babur was quite brutal and did cause damage. But so were most emperors across the world. I am not denying that few people might have got converted forcibly as well. The later Mughal kings, however lived in harmony with the Hindus. Akbar formed a new harmonious faith and also had a Rajput Hindu wife. His later generations took forward the tradition of harmony with Indians. Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal king also united several Indian rulers under him to fight the British invasion in India. They left a rich heritage behind as well. And before they came, Islam had already arrived in India.

Another point raised by the person in question is that only Arabs are original Muslims and all Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indonesian (yes, he included them as well) Muslims have converted from Hinduism. There is no concept of original and later Muslims in Islam. Any person who believes that there is only one God and that Muhammed is His Messenger and last Prophet, is a Muslim. Quran mentions that there have been more than a lakh prophets since humans existed on this earth. And in this 1.25 lac approx prophets who brought the word of Allah (God) to the people on the earth, Buddha, Mahavir, Ram might have also been included. Quran only mentions some 25 important prophets by name. Quran starts from Adam (first person on Earth) and covers Moses to Noah to Abraham to Mohammed and so on. And some of the verses tally with the Bible and Torah as well. There is no concept of conversion to Islam. It is more of acceptance of concept of One God and Mohammed PBUH as his Messenger.

And ancestors of Indian or Pakistani or Bangladeshi or other people could have originally been anything - Jains, Buddhists, Hindus or some religion which does not exist today. But does that matter?

Pic courtesy : www.muslimvillage.com, www.historydiscussion.net

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