Islam In India: The
Early History of Islam in India
Initial contact with Islam occurred in the 8th
century - Arab conquest of Sind in North
West (711 CE)
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.
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)
Mughals: Mughal Empire in India has received more scholarly
attention than any other period of time, Mughals more than any other
group. Partly because of brilliant
cultural legacy of art, music, architecture; also reflects tendency to view
history from the perspective of the most powerful rulers, rather than from the
standpoint of the mass population.
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.
Babur (1483-1530) conquered northern India, established the Mughal empire > whose
culture left a permanent mark on India.
Policies toward non-Muslims
Muhammad and immediate successors: uncompromising, harsh
Muslim invaders pursued a harsh policy toward the local population: Hindus
and Buddhists were not “true believers”, so Muslim warriors plundered and
destroyed many local shrines and killed or drove off the monks and
nuns. Buddhism never quite recovered
from that blow.
conversion to Islam (some forced, some voluntary). Many members of lower
castes sought to escape social discrimination through conversion.
time, Muslim rulers granted more tolerance to Hindus.
Akbar (ruled 1556-1605) Grandson of Babur, extended
<Mughal control over most of India.
Model of religious tolerance.
interest of well being of his subjects: Akbar refused to force Hindus to
convert, he revokes discriminatory laws, decreed universal religious
tolerance. This went far beyond
traditional Islamic law pertaining to non-Muslims.
orthodox Islam. Decreed himself as
infallible, thus able to disregards any feature of Islamic law that he
felt was incompatible with his political requirements.
but interested in comparative religion, found value in other traditions.
Sponsored discussions in his court between representatives of Hinduism,
Islam, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, and Christianity.
that a new religious synthesis was needed.
Called the new faith the “Divine Faith” - a form of monotheism that
combined elements of several traditions.
A religion that could appeal to all of the various subjects of his
empire. Didn’t have much impact.
Two generations later: Shah Jahan (ruled 1628-1658)
restored Islam as the state religion. His reign regarded as the golden age of
Mughal art. Delhi was the seat of his government -
palaces, mosques, forts. Favorite wife
died -- Mumtaz -- Shah Jahan had the Taj Mahal built in Agra as a monument to her. [images] Fell ill, led to a struggle for
succession between his sons.
The victor was Aurangzeb (1658-1707), who imprisoned
his father for the rest of his life.
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, executed the ninth guru of the Sikh tradition for
refusing to convert, earning the enmity of the Sikh community.
Dara Shikoh (died 1659): deeply influenced by Sufism,
had several Hindu scriptures translated in to Persian. 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. When Aurangzeb came into power,
Dara Shikoh was executed for heresy.
Considered a lover of Hinduism and enemy of Islam.
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
Overall: Muslim rulers let Hindus be
not deprive them of their land, did not interfere with their religious
result (says Embree) was indifference on the part of Hindus toward the
Turks and Mughals.
efforts to create a syncretic religion failed
Appeal of Sufism to Hindus in India,
appealing to Hindus = most problematic among Muslims
in conversion of many Hindus
(cf. Vedantic, Sanyasa) and emotionalism (Bhakti)
is closer to him [man] than his jugular vein.