I.  General Features of Islam

Š      Founded in 7th Century by Muhammad Over 1.2 billion adherents, more than 20% of world's population. Second largest and fastest growing religion on the planet. Over 6 million in US.  Largest number of Muslims in Indonesia

Š      The Qur’an: Eternal words of Allah. Divine revelation to Muhammad.


1.     Monotheism: the absolute unity and uniqueness of Allah

a.     Cannot be represented by any image, or likened to anything created (Cf. popularity of divine representation in India)

b.     Has no "associates," no consorts, sons, daughters. "Say, 'He is Allah, one.  Allah, the Eternal.  He has not begotten nor was he begotten, and He has no equal'" (112:1-4).  Also, profession of faith: “No God but God”

c.     Polytheists (e.g., Hindus but here Bedouins): deny the sovereignty of Allah, God's revelation via Muhammad, the Last Judgment. Also: denying one's obligation to Allah, being ungrateful.

2.     The Meaning and purpose of human existence

a.     A meaningful life is fully centered on God.  The purpose of human existence is to serve God in every sphere of life, and to do God's commands.
 Islam = surrender, submission, obedience to God's will.

3.     Social reform

a.     One serves God in one's relationships with other people: the Qur'an is the only reliable basis of personal and social values.

b.     Model yourself on God: compassionate, protective of the weak, just, opposed to evil in all forms.

c.     Attack on authority of old, ancestral patterns of behavior (the Bedouin sunna). De-emphasized importance of kinship,  All human beings created to serve God; all true Muslims are brothers.  Religious loyalty takes precedence over family loyalty.  Personal accountability.

4.     Day of Judgment

a.     People who pursue worldly ends act as though there is no day of reckoning.  Nothing else to hope or fear.

b.     Dead resurrected -- all of life past and present will stand before God to be judged.

c.     Unbelievers, selfish > eternal damnation in hell. Believers who respond to Allah's revelation > everlasting life in paradise.

d.     Body and soul are perishable, but will be resurrected and experience either paradise or hell.

e.     God's creation is good, but less valuable than paradise. = a testing ground for eternity.  One must be ready to sacrifice all this of this world in the promise of eternal fellowship with Allah.

II.  History of Islam in India


1.     Initial contact with Islam occurred in the 8th century - Arab conquest of Sind in North West (711 CE)

a.     No established orthodoxy, more receptivity to influence of other civilizations.  Islam in early formation of intellectual traditions of sciences, theology, history > India had an impact: study of astrology, number systems, decimal system.

2.     Late 10th century: Muslim warriors of Afghan and Turkish origin (Central Asia) conquered northwest India. Established the Delhi Sultanate in 1206, eventually controlled northern India (1211-1526)

3.     Mughals:

a.     Mughals (from “Mongols”): in the tradition of the nomadic warrior clans that periodically swooped down from the grasslands and deserts of Central Asia and either plundered and raided the settled agricultural civilizations or succeeded in conquering them. Not only India, but China, Eastern Europe, and the fertile crescents of the Middle East also experienced such attacks and invasions. Since the nomadic hunter clans lacked agricultural territories that could be tapped for their surplus, the only means to wealth in such parts of the globe were raids on settled civilizations or looting or taxation of trade caravans.

4.     The Mughal Rulers:


Babur (1483-1530) conquered northern India, established the Mughal empire > whose culture left a permanent mark on India.

Initial policies toward non-Muslims: Muhammad and immediate successors were uncompromising, harsh


Akbar (ruled 1556-1605) Grandson of Babur, extended <Mughal control over most of India. Model of religious tolerance.


Shah Jahan (ruled 1628-1658) (two generatinos later) restored Islam as the state religion.

Š      His reign regarded as the golden age of Mughal art.  Delhi was the seat of his government - palaces, mosques, forts. 

Š      Favorite wife died -- Mumtaz -- Shah Jahan had the Taj Mahal built in Agra as a monument to her.

Š      Fell ill, led to a struggle for succession between his sons.


Dara Shikoh (died 1659): deeply influenced by Sufism, had several Hindu scriptures translated in to Persian. 

Š      Collected the results of his studies into a book, The Mingling of the Two Seas.  Believed that the Sufi path and Hindu mysticism led to the same reality.

Š      When Aurangzeb came into power, Dara Shikoh was executed for heresy.  Considered a lover of Hinduism and enemy of Islam.


Aurangzeb was the victor. Imprisoned his father for the rest of his life. 

Š      Initiated a revival of traditional Islamic practice, champion of orthodox Islam, reintroduced system of discriminating among religious communities in favor of Islam.  Poll tax on non-Muslims, mass conversions by force, razed Hindu temples.

Š      Executed the ninth guru of the Sikh tradition for refusing to convert, earning the enmity of the Sikh community.


5.     Decline of the Mughal Empire


Aurangzeb’s efforts to impose Islam weakened rather than strengthened the empire.  Corruption among government officials and oppression of the people led to widespread revolts against the central power.  Delhi was plundered by invader from Iran in 1793, followed by marauders from Afghanistan in 1757.  Sikhs seized power in the Punjab, Hindu and Muslim princes set up semi-independent states within the empire.  Increasing control by the British.  Exile of the last emperor in 1858

II. Overall attitudes towards Non-Muslims in India

Muslim rulers let non-Muslims be


Appeal of Sufism to Hindus in India