Chapter 8 - The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India
The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India
�Muslim rule should not attract any criticism. Mention of destruction of temples by Muslim invaders and rulers should not be mentioned.�
The end of Muslim rule in India was as spasmodic as its beginning. It took five hundred years for its establishment (712-1206) and one hundred and fifty years for its decline and fall (1707-1857). The benchmarks of its establishment are C.E. 712 when Muhammad bin Qasim invaded Sind, 1000 when Mahmud of Ghazni embarked upon a series of expeditions against Hindustan, 1192-1206 when Prithviraj Chauhan lost to Muhammad Ghauri and Qutbuddin Aibak set up the Turki Sultanate at Delhi, and 1296 when Alauddin Khalji pushed into the Deccan. The stages of its downfall are 1707 when Aurangzeb died, 1739 when a trembling Mughal Emperor stood as a suppliant before the Persian invader Nadir Shah, 1803 when Delhi was captured by the British, and 1858 when the last Mughal ruler was sent to Rangoon as a prisoner of the �Raj�.
For five centuries-thirteenth to seventeenth-however, most parts of India were under Muslim rule, though with varying degrees of effectiveness in different regions of the country. But at no single point of time was the whole country ruled exclusively by the Muslims. On the other hand the five hundred year long Muslim rule did not fail to influence Indian political and cultural life in all its facets. Muslim rule apart, Muslim contact with India can be counted from the seventh century itself. Naturally, the interaction of Muslim culture with the Hindu way of life, backed by the superimposition of Muslim rule in India, gave rise to a sort of a common Indian culture. But only a sort of, there is a superficial veneer about it. On the face of it the influence of Islam on Indian culture is to be seen in all spheres of life, in architecture, painting, music, and literature; in social institutions like marriage ceremonies, in eating habits, in gourmet and cuisine, sartorial fashions and so on. In actual fact, Hindus and Muslims lead their own lives, mostly in isolation from one another�s, except for personal friendships. Even living together for a thousand years has not welded Hindus and Muslims into one people. Why is it so?
Because Islam believes in dividing humanity into believers and Kafirs, the Muslim community (Ummah) is enjoined not to cooperate on the basis of equality or peaceful coexistence with Kafirs. To them it offers some alternatives-conversion to Islam, or death, or slavery. At the most it allows survival on payment of a poll-tax, Jiziyah, and acceptance of a second class status, that of Zimmi. As a matter of fact, Muhammadans invaded India to turn it into a land of Islam and spread their culture. Islamic culture is carrier culture, borrowed from exotic streams. The main contribution of Islamic culture is Quran and Hadis. It invaded Indian culture not to co-exist with it but to wipe it out. Its declared aim was Islamization through Jihad. But in spite of repeated endeavours through invasions and centuries of Muslim rule, India could not be turned into a Muslim country. Had India been completely converted to Islam, its people, like those of Iran or Libya, would have taken pride in organising Islamic revolutions, spearheading pan-Islamic movements and espousing right-or-wrong Islamic causes. Or, had Hindus the determination and the wherewithal to throw out Islam from India as was done by the Christians in some countries like Spain, there would have been no Muslim problem in India today. But here Muslims stay put, and yet a thousand years of Muslim contact failed to Islamize India. India, therefore, provides a good study to evaluate the achievements and failures, atrocities and beneficences, fundamentalism and �secularism� of Muslim rule and Muslim people. In the appraisement of Muslim rule, Muslim religion also cannot escape scrutiny, for the former was guided by the latter, the one being inseparable from the other. This makes the assessment of the legacy of Muslim rule in India an extremely controversial subject. Its contribution comprises of both bitterness and distrust on the one hand and on the other a composite common culture. We shall take up the common culture first.
So much has already been written about the development of Indo-Muslim composite culture, its �give and take� and its heritage, that it is neither necessary nor possible to touch upon all its aspects. Therefore only a few areas may be taken up-like music and architecture-in which Muslims have made special and substantial contribution. In other branches of fine arts like painting, the story too is familiar. Many Mughal paintings bear the touch of Ajanta or its regional variations, while Rajput and Pahari Qalam adopted a lot from Muslim miniature style and art of portraiture. Equally important is the Muslim contribution in the sphere of jewellery, textiles, pottery etc. In the fields of sport and athletics, again, Muslim participation has been both extensive and praiseworthy.
It is in the domain of music in particular that the contribution of Muslims is the greatest. It is, however, difficult to claim that it is really Muslim. What they have practised since medieval times is Hindu classical music with its Guru-Shishya parampara. The gharana (school) system is the extension of this parampara or tradition. Most of the great Muslim musicians were and are originally Hindu and they have continued with the tradition of singing an invocation to goddess Saraswati or other deities before starting their performance.
Be that as it may, all Muslim rulers and nobles had musicians - singers and players on instruments - in their courts. They patronised the meritorious by giving them high salaries and rich rewards. They got a number of books on music translated from Sanskrit into Persian. Some of them used to get so much involved in poetry and music that sometimes it was done at the cost of state work. There are many reasons for this phenomenon. The Indian system of notation is perhaps the oldest and most elaborate. There are ragas meant to be sung in winter, in summer, in rains and in autumn. There are month-wise ragas meant to be sung during the twelve months of the year (baramasa). There are ragas meant for singing in the morning, early noon, afternoon and in the evenings. There are ragas, it is claimed, that can light a lamp or bring about downpour of rain. Then there are ragas and raginis designated for dance. Dance in its art form is as elaborate as music, and is based on Hindu natya-shastra. Sculptures of dancers and musicians carved on ancient and medieval temples, now mostly surviving in south India, bear testimony to their excellence, popularity and widespread practice.
In such a situation Muslims could add little to this art from outside. Officially music and dance are banned in Islam. Muslim ruling classes therefore could only patronise Hindu classical music in its original form. Some rulers were patrons of artistes, others practised it themselves, many others collected musicians from all over the country. That is how Mian Tansen could earn so much renown. Amir Khusrau is also credited with composing songs some of which are popular to this day. Under the Khaljis there were concerts and competitions arranged between Hindustani and Karnatak musicians. Indian classical music flourished throughout the medieval period, although classical Indian dancing drifted from the aesthetic and religious sphere into the salons of courtesans and dancing girls.
Abul Fazl writes about the Mughal emperor Akbar that �His Majesty pays much attention to music and is the patron of all who practice this enchanting art�. About Tansen he says that �a singer like him had not been in India for the last one thousand years.� Tansen was originally a Gaur Brahman of Gwalior and he had been trained in the school established by Raja Man Singh Tomar of Gwalior (C.E. 1486-1518). The Raja was the author of a treatise on music entitled Man Kutuhal. He also got the Ragadarpan translated into Persian. Similarly, during the reign of Firoz Tughlaq (1351-88) was composed Ghunyat-ul-Munya by a Muslim scholar of Gujarat. Under the patronage of Sikandar Lodi was written the Lahjat-i-Sikandar Shahi by one Umar Yahiya. Yahiya was a scholar of Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit and his work is based on many Sanskrit treatises like Sangit Ratnakar, Nritya Ratnakar, Sangit Kalpataru and the works of Matang.
Most Muslim rulers, nobles and elite passionately patronised Indian classical music and dance and therefore there is no need to mention their names or those of their musicians. But Vincent Smith aptly notes that �the fact that many of the names are Hindu, with the title Khan added, indicates that the professional artists at a Muhammadan court often found it convenient and profitable to conform to Islam.� There is another interesting fact noticeable. The Indian classical music which became �national� music about the time of Akbar in Agra holds the field even to this day. Political or religious barriers have failed to divide musicians and lovers of music into narrow or antagonistic camps, as the Hindu classical music remains the common legacy of both Hindus and Muslims.
But if music unites, many monuments of the medieval period revive bitter memories in the Hindu mind. These are found almost in every city, every town and even in many villages either in a dilapidated state or under preservation by the Archaeological Survey of India. Many of these have been converted from Hindu temples and now are extant in the shape of mosques, Idgahs, Dargahs, Ziarats (shrines) Sarais and Mazars (tombs) Madrasas and Maktabs. Throughout the Muslim rule destruction of Hindu shrines and construction of mosques and other building from their materials and at their very sites went on as a normal practice. From the Quwwal-ul-Islam mosque in Delhi built out of twenty-seven Hindu and Jain temples in the twelfth century to the Taj-ul-Masajid built from hundreds of Hindu and Jain temples at Bhopal in the eighteenth century, the story is the same everywhere.
For temples were not broken only during war, but in times of peace too. Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq writes: �I destroyed their idol temples, and instead thereof raised mosques� where infidels and idolaters worshipped idols, Musalmans now, by God�s mercy, perform their devotion to the true God.� And so said and did Sikandar Lodi, Shahjahan, Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan. Shams Siraj Afif writes that some sovereigns like Muhammad Tughlaq and Firoz Tughlaq were �specially chosen by the Al-mighty from among the faithful, and in the whole course of their reigns, whenever they took an idol temple, they broke and destroyed it.�
Why did Muslim conquerors and rulers break temples? They destroyed temples because it is enjoined by their scriptures. In the history of Islam, iconoclasm and razing other peoples� temples are central to the faith. They derive their justification and validity from the Quranic Revelation and the Prophet�s Sunna or practice. Shrines and idols of unbelievers began to be destroyed during the Prophet�s own time and, indeed at his behest. Sirat-un-Nabi, the first pious biography of the Prophet, tells us how during the earliest days of Islam, young men at Medina influenced by Islamic teachings used to break idols. However, desecration and destruction began in earnest when Mecca was conquered. Umar was chosen for destroying the pictures on the walls of the shrine at Kabah.Tarikh-i-Tabari tells us that raiding parties were sent in all directions to destroy the images of deities held in special veneration by different tribes including the images of al-Manat, al-Lat and al-Uzza. Because of early successes at home, Islam developed a full-fledged theory of iconoclasm. India too suffered terribly. Thousands of Hindu shrines and edifices disappeared in northern India by the time of Sikandar Lodi and Babur. Since the wreckage of Hindu temples became scarcer and scarcer to obtain, from the time of Akbar onwards many Muslim buildings began to be constructed, not from the debris of Hindu temples, but from materials specially prepared for them like pillars, screens etc. Alauddin Khalji�s Alai Darwaza at Delhi, Akbar�s Buland Darwaza at Fatehpur Sikri and Adil Shah�s Gol Gumbaz at Bijapur are marvels of massive elegance, while Humayun�s tomb at Delhi and Taj Mahal at Agra are beauteous monuments in stone and marble. Any people would be proud of such monuments, and the Indians are too. But for an if. If there was no reckless vandalism in breaking temples and utilizing their materials in constructing Muslim buildings which lie scattered throught the country, Hindu psyche would not be hurt. Will Durant rightly laments in Story of Civilization that �We can never know from looking at India to-day, what grandeur and beauty she once possessed.� Thus in the field of architecture, the legacy is a mix of pride and dejection. With impressive Muslim monuments, there is a large sprinkling of converted monuments which are an eye-sore to the vast majority of the population.
Conversions and Tabligh
Similar is the hurt felt about forcible conversions to Islam, another legacy of Muslim conquest and rule in Hindustan.
Impatient of delay, Muslim invaders, conquerors and kings openly and unscrupulously converted people to Islam by force. Muhammad bin Qasim invaded Sind in C.E. 712. Whatever place he captured like Alor, Nirun, Debal, Sawandari, Kiraj, and Multan, therein he forcibly converted people to Islam. Mahmud Ghaznavi invaded Hindustan seventeen times, and every time he came he converted people from Peshawar to Mathura and Kashmir to Somnath. Such was the insistence on the conversion of the vanquished Hindu princes that many rulers just fled before Mahmud even without giving a battle. Al Qazwini writes in his Asar-ul-Bilad that when Mahmud went �to wage religious war against India, he made great efforts to capture and destroy Somnath, in the hope that the Hindus would then become Muhammadans�. The exploits of Mahmud Ghaznavi in the field of forced proselytization were cherished for long. His example was presented as the model before all good Muslim rulers, as early as the fourteenth century by Ziyauddin Barani in his Fatawa-i-Jahandari and as late as the close of the eighteenth century by Muhammad Aslam in his Farhat-un-Nazirin. There were forcible conversion both during the war and in peace. Sikandar Butshikan in Kashmir to Tipu Sultan in Mysore, Mahmud Beghara in Gujarat to Jalaluddin Muhammad in Bengal, all Muslim rulers carried on large-scale forcible conversions through jihad.
This jihad never ceased in India and forcible conversions continued to take place, not only in the time of Mahmud Ghaznavi, Timur or Aurangzeb, but throughout the medieval period. It is argued that the aim of Muhammadans is to spread Islam, and it is nowhere laid down that it should be propagated only through peaceful means. Others point out that a choice was always there-Islam or death. Some others, seeking civilizational modes, assert that conversions were effected in peaceful ways by Sufi Mashaikh. Many others say that Sufis were not interested in proselytization. Whatever the means employed, Islam being a proselytizing religion, Muslim conquerors, rulers, nobles, Sufis, Maulvis, traders and soldiers all worked as its missionaries in one way or the other. But the most abundant, extensive and overwhelming evidence in contemporary Persian chronicles is about forced conversions.
During the medieval period, forcible and hurried conversions to Islam left most of the neo-Muslims half-Hindus. With his conversion to Islam the average Muslim did not change his old Hindu environment and tenor of life. The neo-Muslims� love of Hinduism was because of their attachment to their old faith and culture. High class converted Hindus sometimes went back to Hinduism and their old privileges. At others the various classes of which the new Muslim community was composed began to live in separate quarters in the same city as described by Mukundram in the case of Bengal. Their isolation gave them some sort of security against external interference. On the other hand �Indian Islam slowly began to assimilate the broad features of Hinduism�. Such a scenario obtained throughout the country. A few examples would suffice to bring out the picture dearly.
In the northwest part of the country the Ismaili Khojas of the Panjbhai community were followers of the Agha Khan. They paid zakat to the Agha Khan, but regarded Ali as the tenth incarnation of Vishnu. Instead of the Quran, they read a manual prepared by one of their Pirs, Sadr-ud-din. Their prayers contained a mixture of Hindu and Islamic terms. The Zikris and Dais of Makran in Baluchistan, read the Quran, but regarded the commands of Muhammad to have been superseded by those of the Mahdi, whom they followed. They set up their Kaba at Koh-i-Murad, and went there on pilgrimage at the same time as the orthodox Muslims went to Mecca.
In Gujarat, where Islam appeared early in the medieval period, besides Khojas and Mahdawis, there were a number of tribal or sectarian groups like Sidis, Molislams, Kasbatis, Rathors, Ghanchis, Husaini Brahmans, Shaikhs and Kamaliyas whose beliefs and practices could not be fitted into any Islamic pattern. The Sidis were descendants of Africans imported as slaves mainly from Somaliland. The Molislams, Rathors and Kasbatis were segments of converted Rajput tribes, who did not give up worshipping their Hindu gods or observing their Hindu festivals. The Rathors claimed to be Sunnis but did not perform the daily prayers or read the Quran. The Ghanchis found mainly around Godhra were believed to abhor all other Muslims and to be well inclined towards Hindus. Near Ahmedabad, the Shaikhs and Shaikhzadas of Gujarat adopted both Hindu and Muslim rituals in marriage, employing the services of a Faqir and a Brahman. The half-converted Sunni Rathors of Gujarat intermarried with Hindus and Muslims, which was characteristic of Kasbatis also. In Gujarat, north of Ahmedabad, tribals like Kolis, Bhils, Sindhis, though converted to Islam, remained aboriginals in customs and habits.
In the coastal towns and western Rajasthan, the Husaini Brahmans called themselves followers of Atharvaveda and derived their names from Imam Husain. They did not eat beef. The men dressed like Muslims, but put on tilak. They did not practice circumcision. At the same time they fasted during Ramzan and followed other Muslim practices. They held Khwaja Muin-ud-din Chishti of Ajmer in special reverence. The Shaikhs and Shaikh-zadas did not practice circumcision but put on tilak mark. They did not eat with the Muslims but buried their dead like the Muslims. The Kamaliyas did not circumcise, and except that they buried the dead all their ceremonies were Hindu. The Momnas of Cutch professed to belong to the Shia sect of the Muslims but they did not eat flesh, did not practice circumcision, did not say the daily prayers or keep the fast of Ramzan.
In Madhya Pradesh, in district Nimar, was a sect known as Pirzada. Their supreme deity was the tenth incarnation of Vishnu. Their religious book was compiled from the religious literature of the Hindus and Muslims. The Pirzadas were Muslims, though for all intents and purposes they were Hindus. �Of the Muslims living in the rural areas of what was formerly known as the Central Provinces and Berar, and in the districts of Thana, Ahmadnagar and Bijapur, it could be said generally that they were three-fourths Hindu.� The Qasais of Thana, Ahmadnagar and Bijapur abhorred beef-eating to such an extent that they would not even touch a beef-butcher, and they avoided mixing with Muslims, though a Qazi was engaged for marriage ceremonies and funerals. In Ahmadnagar, the butchers or Baqar Qasabs and the Pinjaras or cotton carders still worshipped Hindu gods and had idols in their houses. In Bijapur, in addition to the Qasabs and Pinjaras, the Baghbans (gardeners), Kanjars, poulterers, rope-makers and grass-cutters, though professing to be Muslim, had such strong attachment to their old faith, that they did not associate with other Muslims and openly worshipped Hindu gods. This was not so only with the very low classes. Some Deshmukhs and Deshpandes of Buldana professed the Muslim religion, but employed Brahmans in secret to worship their old tutelar deities.
In Southern India, especially along the sea-coast, Islam came directly from Arabia through Arab traders. Still the Muslims were very largely affected by environment generally in dress and food, manners and customs. The South does not, of course, form a homogeneous unit, the Muslims of Mysore and Bangalore being much closer culturally to those of Hyderabad than to the Moplahs and Navayats of Kerala, who are geographically much nearer. But the divergence is in manners and customs, and not in belief.
In Uttar Pradesh, and in the central parts of Bihar, there were fairly large semi-converted neo-Muslim tribes. North of the Ganga in the district of Purnea, while there were educated and orthodox Muslims also, the dividing line between the religious beliefs and practices of the lower class Hindus and Muslims was very thin indeed. In every village could be found a shrine dedicated to the worship of goddess Kali and almost in every house a Khudai Ghar, and in their prayers the names of both Allah and Kali were invoked. A part of the Muslim marriage ceremony was performed at the shrine of the goddess Bhagwati. The most popular deity among both Hindus and Muslims was Devata Maharaj. In the Barasat and Bashirhat sub-divisions of 24-Parganas the Muslim woodcutters and fishermen venerated Mubrah (Mubarak?) Ghazi. In the Chittagong district, Pir Badar was venerated by Hindu as well as Muslim sailors as their guardian saint.
In western India, midway between Thatta and Mirpur Sakro in Sind was followed the cult of Pir Jhariyon, saint of trees. In the east, in 24-Parganas, Rakshaya Chandi (Kali) was worshipped in the form of trees which would be smeared with vermillion. Between the two extreme points tree worship was common throughout the country. There was snake worship too. The Hindus celebrated Nag Panchami, the Bengali sub-caste of Muslims living in the Kishangunj sub-division built shrines for Baishahari, the snake-goddess.
Back in the west, in Karnal a large number of Muslim peasants were, till 1865, worshipping their old village deities, though as Muslims they repeated the kalima and practised circumcision. In Bharatpur and Alwar, Meos and Minas continued with their Hindu names or suffixed them with Khan, and celebrated not only Diwali and Dashehra but most important Janamashtami. Because of geohistoric traditions of proximity to Mathura and Vrindavan, Krishna is integrated into Muslim consciousness at folk level in the Brij and Mewat area - but not eleswhere. Few Meos and Minas could recite the kalima, but they went on pilgrimage to the tombs of Salar Mas�ud Ghazi at Bahraich and Muin-ud-din Chishti at Ajmer. The Meos, like the Hindus, did not marry within the gotra or family group having the same surname, and their daughters were not entitled to inherit. The Minas worshipped Bhairon, a form of Shiva, and Hanuman. A little to the south, in Jaora in Central India, Muslim cultivators followed Hindu customs in their marriages, worshipped Shitla or deity of small-pox and fixed toran (decorated band) on the door during wedding. In Central India, again, around Indore, Muslim Patels and Mirdhas had Hindu names, dressed exactly like Hindus and some of them recognised Bhawani and other Hindu deities. The Nayatas of Khajrana, converted by their urban neighbours, continued with their Hindu ways.
This is an assortment of the religious beliefs of mainly uneducated, lower class, rural-based Indian Muslims. But the facts have been placed in the past tense, because conditions may have changed during the last few years for as a religious community Indian Muslims are being continuously turned into firm believers in �pure� Islam. Ordinarily there should be nothing unusual or strange in the above picture. There are local, environmental and traditional influences among Muslims everywhere. Even in urban areas, even among educated Muslims, such distinctions exist, and Muslims of Aligarh, Hyderabad and Srinagar are different from each other in many ways. Many Christians of Eastern Europe had converted to Islam during the period of the Ottoman empire. They have not discarded their European way of life. In India, however, Muslims who continue to retain their old traditions and habits are considered to be only half-converted. If left alone they might help in religious syncretization which is traditional to India. But persistent efforts are made by upper class educated Muslims to turn them into pucca (confirmed) Musalmans. The process is called Tabligh. This is due as much to the fear of these half-converts reverting to their old faith as to the determination to turn Indian Muslims into the Arabic brand.
Only one or two cases of tablighi endeavour may be discussed in some detail. We have spoken of the Molislams of Gujarat. Molislams or Maula-i-Salaam are so called as they bear the Mohar or stamp of Islam. Else they are Hindus and are known as Garasiyas. Originally Rajputs, they were converted in the time of Sultan Mahmud Beghara (1458-1511). They are about two lakhs in number and live mainly in Bharuch, Kheda and Ahmedabad. Many of the Garasiyas have both Hindu and Muslim names. They have retained their Hindu customs and traditions. In their marriages mandap-setting ceremony and garba-type dance are prominent. Their marriages are performed both by Maulvis and Brahmans. But recently efforts have been made to wean them away from their Hindu ways and turn them into confirmed Muslims.
Similarly, in Mewat, converts to Islam have ever remained half-Hindu. Many such converts do not have even Muslim names: they have only Hindu names like �Ram Singh, Ram Din and Jai Singh�. Islamic fundamentalists fearing that some of them might revert to their original faith have organised repeated preachings to make them into pucca Muslims. Some modern works throw light on this activity. Shah Muhammad Ramzan (1769-1825) was a crusading tablighi of Haryana. He found that the converted Rajputs and Jats (Muslim Rajputs and Maula Jats) were in no way different from their Hindu counterparts in culture, customs and celebrations of religious festivals. They were not only pir-parast (Guru-worshippers) and qabr-parast (Grave-worshippers); they were also idol-worshippers. Muslim Rajputs worshipped in Thakurdwaras. They celebrated Holi, Diwali and other Hindu festivals with zeal and dressed in the Hindu fashion. Shah Muhammad Ramzan used to sojourn in areas inhabited by such converted Rajputs, dissuade them from practising Hindu rites and persuade them to marry their cousins (real uncle�s daughters which converts persistently refused to do). They equally detested eating cow�s flesh. To induce them to eat beef, he introduced new festivals like Mariyam ka Roza and �Rot-bot�. On this day, observed on 17 Rajjab, a �pao� of roasted beef placed on a fried bread, was distributed amongst relatives and near and dear ones. Shah Muhammad also encouraged such people to build mosques in large numbers. Such endeavours have ruled out the possibility of reconversion and have helped in the �Islamization� of neo-Muslims. Curiously enough, this tablighi was killed by his co-religionist Bohras at Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh.
Another tablighi, Muhammad Abdul Shakur, was more vituperative against the prevalence of Hindu customs among the Muslims. He raved against the barbarous (wahshiana) dress of the Hindus like dhoti, ghaghra and angia and advocated wearing of �kurta, amama, kurti, pyjama and orhni (or long Chadar)�. He attacked Hindu marriage customs practised by Muslims and warned women against participating in marriages with their faces uncovered. He insisted on women observing parda and was shocked to find that even after a thousand years of their conversion during the expeditions of Mahmud of Ghazni, Indian Muslims were living like Hindus. In the end he exhorted the senior Mewati Muslims thus: �Oh Muslims, the older people of Mewat, I appeal to you in a friendly way, doing my tablighi duty, to give up all idolatrous and illegal (mushrikana) ways of the Hindus� Islam has laid down rules for all social and cultural conduct� follow them.�
Such tablighis are still busy in their mission in Mewat and other regions. Along with this, fresh conversions to Islam are also going on from Ladakh to Gujarat and from Kerala to Assam, creating tensions in society. A report in the Times of India datelined New Delhi 14 August 1989 says: �When Pakistan zindabad slogans were raised first time on the streets of Leh recently, it came as a shock to the Buddhist people of Ladakh. Said Mr. P. Stobdan, a scholar from Ladakh now working in Delhi: �For centuries, the Ladakhi Buddhists and Muslims lived together in harmony. Even inter-marriages were common among them. What had destroyed the secular tradition of Ladakh was the systematic attempt at conversion of Buddhists to Islam.� But above all was the fear of the proselytizing drive which threatened to �eliminate the 84 per cent Buddhists as a religious group�. Within the framework of this new consciousness, according to Mr. Stobden, �the Ladakhis considered themselves to be patriotic citizens of India, the land of the Buddha. However, because of the policy of appeasement of the Centre towards the Kashmiris and the consequent neglect of Ladakhis, a sense of disillusionment was growing among people of the region.�
In Assam and other regions of the east, Bangladeshis are being brought in large numbers to raise Muslim numbers. In Kerala and Tamilnadu, Gulf money is being openly utilized for proselytization work. The 1980 conversions in Meenakshipuram provide a classic example.
There are stages of conversion and exploitation. First, non-Muslims are converted to Islam through means which are neither mysterious nor edifying. Then, after conversion, they are treated as inferior Muslims or riff-raff. No effort is made to improve their economic condition. The sole concentration is on increasing Muslim numbers through more and more conversions and unrestricted procreation. Lastly, their leaders inculcate in them a spirit of alienation towards their ancestral society, culture and religion as well as their native land.
It would be worthwhile to note that a substantial number of Muslim students start their education in madrasas attached to mosques. Most of those in other schools do not proceed beyond the IInd or IIIrd class. And the remaining drop out after matriculation. There may be various reasons for it but primarily they are religious, for money received from abroad is spent on building mosques and making converts rather than on secular education. The Muslim child from the first day learns of �momins� and �kafirs�. He is taught that the main aim of his life is devotion to Islam which obliquely tells him of �Dar-ul-Islam� and �Dar-ul-Harb�. In a very subtle way he learns that to kill or convert a kafir is a �kar-e-sawab�, a pious act. A tempting picture of heaven is projected before his mind and he learns about the fairies waiting for him there if he goes there as a �ghazi� or martyr. Indian Muslims do not always attempt to sort out their problems within the country. They look to Pakistan for inspiration and support. Through Pakistan they look to the whole Umma. That is what makes them aggressive and violent even when they are in a minority. That is why they dare break temples in Kashmir and Bangladesh even to-day. For accomplishing such tasks petrodollars received from abroad and fundamentalism at home are brought into full play. The tensions generated by this process in various parts of the country is a permanent legacy of Muslim rule in India.
Iconoclasm, proselytization, tabligh and Islamization in general have been due to Muslim fundamentalism. Muslim fundamentalism finds no virtue in any non-Muslim culture, it only believes in destroying every other culture and superimposing Muslim culture.
It is, therefore, necessary to understand the meaning of the word �fundamentalism� because it is loosely and unintelligibly applied to both Hindu and Muslim faiths and their followers are unwittingly called fundamentalists day in and day out. The Oxford Concise Dictionary defines fundamentalism as �maintenance, in opposition to modernism, of traditional orthodox beliefs such as the inerrancy of scripture�� and fundamental as �base or foundation, essential, primary, original�. Hindus and Muslims can both be fanatics, but it is only Muslims (and Christians) who can be fundamentalists. For the Muslim sticks to the �traditional orthodox belief� that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet. No Muslim can question this belief. As Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi says: �The Quran is believed by every Muslim to be the Word of God revealed to his Prophet Muhammad.� This Word of God cannot be amended, it cannot be changed, because �Not even the Prophet could change the revelation�. �There are no local variations of the Muslim Law.� It is this which is fundamentalism. There is nothing compared to it in Hinduism where every thing can be questioned and all kinds of religious innovations and digressions are accepted. �This (Muslim) Law was the sovereign in Muslim lands: no one was above it, and all were ruled by it.� Under Islamic law a non-Muslim could not be accorded full citizenship of the state. Only against payment of Jiziyah could he receive protection of life. Jiziyah also seems to have been an instrument of humiliation for the Zimmis (non-Muslims). Muslim rulers not only followed the Islamic law to the best of their own ability and the knowledge of the Ulama, they kept the non-Muslims under all kinds of disabilities and thraldom.
It is not widely known that the Turco-Mughal Muslim rule saw to it that Muslims should not come closer to the Hindus, and that the one should dominate the other. Ziyauddin Barani the historian, Ibn Battuta the foreign traveller and Vidyapati the poet did not fail to notice the insulting attitude of the Muslims towards the Hindus. The inferior status accorded to the non-Muslims under Islamic law kept the Hindus and the Muslims apart. For example, although monotheism, iconoclasm and proselytization have no spiritual sanction or superiority, the Muslim rulers turned temples into mosques and converted people to Islam by force. But the Hindus were not permitted to convert Muslims to Hinduism. Such was the policy of the Muslim rulers in this regard that even if a Hindu proclaimed or preached that Hinduism was as good as Islam, he was awarded capital punishment. This was the general policy. Only Akbar was liberal insofar as he permitted those Hindus who had been forcibly converted to Islam and wished to return to their original faith, to go back to Hinduism. But only Akbar, not even all his officers in his extensive empire. Jahangir did not permit people to embrace Hinduism even of their own free Will. Under Shahjahan, apostasy from Islam had again become a capital crime, and so also any critical comment on Muhammad.
Inter-communal marriages would have encouraged equality but these were partially banned in the medieval period, partially insofar as that while Muslims married Hindu women freely, the rulers would not permit Muslim girls to marry Hindus. Contrary to general belief, Hindus have had no inhibitions about marrying women of other nationalities and religions. There is the well-known instance of Chandragupta Maurya marrying the daughter of Seleucus Nikotor. Of course, Chandragupta was a king and kings used to contract such alliances. But throughout the medieval period, Hindus used to marry non-Hindus and foreigners without prejudice in Southeast Asia or countries to which they migrated. Even today Hindus marry in America, Britain, Germany and other countries which they visit or to which they migrate. Similarly, they had no hesitation in marrying Muslim women in the medieval period. As has been pointed out on many occasions earlier, handsome women captives were kept mainly for sex. They were known as kanchanis, kanizes and concubines. Their exchange among Muslim nobles too was common. Even Hindu nobles were glad to take Muslim women. According to The Delhi Sultanate, quoting Nizamuddin Ahmad, Musalman women were taken by the Rajputs and sometimes taught the art of dancing and singing and were made to join the akharas. Muslim women from the palace of Malwa Sultan entered, between 1512-1518, the household of his nayak or captain Medini Rai. Sultan Mahmud Sharqi (1436-58) was accused of handing over Muslim women to his kafir captains. Similarly, the Muslim ruler of Kalpi and Chanderi, shortly after 1443, had made over Muslim women to some of his Hindu captains. �Clearly Malwa was not an exception.� In Kashmir, according to Jonraj, Shah Mir had gone to the extent of marrying his daughters to his Brahman chiefs.44 This shared pleasure cemented the bonds of friendship.
But Muslim rulers were more strongly entrenched, and they, from the very beginning, discouraged Hindus from taking Muslim women. Even Sher Shah, who is considered to be a liberal king, broke his promise with Puran Mal of Raisen because of the latter�s �gravest of all offences against Islam� in keeping some Muslim women in his harem. The Mughals freely married Hindu princesses, but there is not a single instance of a Mughal princess being married to a Rajput prince, although so many Mughal princesses died as spinsters. Akbar discouraged all types of inter-communal marriages. When Jahangir learnt that the Hindus and Muslims intermarried freely in Kashmir, �and both give and take girls, (he ordered that) taking them is good but giving them, God forbid�. And any violation of this order was to be visited with capital punishment. Shahjahan�s orders in this regard were that the Hindus could keep their Muslim wives only if they converted to Islam. Consequently, during his reign, 4,000 to 5,000 Hindus converted in Bhadnor alone. 70 such cases were found in Gujarat and 400 in the Punjab.
Sometimes Hindus took back Hindu girls forcibly married to Muslims. Many Hindu Rajas and elite kept Muslim women in their seraglios, sometimes as a reprisal as it were. Hindus continued to take Muslim women wherever they felt strong. Such were the Marathas. Khafi Khan and Manucci both affirm that the Marathas used to capture Muslim women because, according to them, �the Mahomedans had interfered with Hindu women in (their) territories�. So did the Sikhs. But marriages are not made this way. The dominance of the Muslims kept matrimonial engagements a one-way traffic. There was no option for the Hindus but to scruplously avoid marrying Muslim women. How long could they go on suffering humiliation on this account? With all their weaknesses, the Hindus have after all been a proud people. Centuries of Muslim rulers� policy brought rigidity in Hindu behaviour also. He stopped marrying Muslim women and shut his door to reentry of Muslim converts. Today it is observed that the Hindu has a closed mind. He does not marry a Muslim woman for even if he does so, she would not be welcome in his family. The genesis of this situation is the result of centuries of Muslim rulers� practice of prohibiting Hindus from marrying Muslim girls.
In short, the policy of Muslim rulers was to keep the Muslim minority in a privileged position and see to it that there was no integration between the two communities. Muslim rulers were so allergic to the prosperity of the Hindus that they expressed open resentment at the Hindus dressing well, riding horses or travelling in palanquins like Muslims. Many rulers of the Sultanate and Mughal time enforced regulations requiring Hindus to wear distinguishing marks on their dresses so that they may not be mistaken for Muslims. Qazvini say that Shahjahan had ordered that Hindus should not be allowed to dress like Muslims. The Fatawa-i-Alamgiri also recommended that the Hindus should not be allowed to look like Muslims. Many local officers also issued similar orders in their Jagirs. All these regulations were in accordance with the tenets of Islam. The order of the Prophet was, �Do the opposite of the polytheists and let your beard grow long.�
Partition of the Country
During the eighteenth century the Mughal empire fell on bad days; in the nineteenth it rapidly declined. But the Muslims could not forget the privileged position they had enjoyed in the medieval period. With the decline of the Muslim political power at the Centre and in Muslim ruled provinces, a dilemma stared them in the face. They had to live on terms of equality with the Hindus. Worse still, these Hindus were in a majority. They could not think of living under the �dominance� of the Hindu majority. Three examples of this attitude, one each from the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century will suffice to illustrate the point.
(1) After Aurangzeb�s death when Muslim power started to disintegrate, the Sufi scholar Shah Waliullah (1703-1763) wrote to the Afghan King Ahmad Shah Abdali, inviting him to invade India to help the Muslims. The letter said: ��In short the Moslem community is in a pitiable condition. All control of the machinery of the government is in the hands of the Hindus because they are the only people who are capable and industrious. Wealth and prosperity are concentrated in their hands, while the share of Moslems is nothing but poverty and misery� At this time you are the only king who is powerful, farsighted and capable of defeating the enemy forces. Certainly it is incumbent upon you to march to India, destroy Maratha domination and rescue weak and old Moslems from the clutches of non-Moslems. If, Allah forbid, domination by infidels continues, Moslems will forget Islam and within a short time, become such a nation that there will be nothing left to distinguish them from non-Moslems.�
(2) Nawab Wiqar-ul-Mulk (1841-1917) of the Aligarh School of Muslim Politics who is generally regarded as one of the makers of modern Muslim India, was Sir Syed Ahmed�s loyal follower. He also became the Secretary of the Aligarh College. According to Tazkirah-i-Wiqar the Wiqar-ul-Mulk said: �We are numerically one-fifth of the other community. If, at any time, the British Government ceases to exist in India, we shall have to live as the subjects of the Hindus, and our lives, our property, our self-respect and our religion will all be in danger� If there is any device by which we can escape this it is by the continuance of the British Raj, and our interests can be safeguarded only if we ensure the continuance of the British Government.�
(3) About half a century later, Laiqat Ali Khan voiced his demand at a meeting with Lord Wavell on 24 January 1946 that the British resolve the transfer of power problem by imposing a solution on the basis of Pakistan. Wavell told him in reply that in such a case, the British would have to stay on in India to enforce this imposed solution. According to an entry in Wavell�s journal of the same date Liaqat Ali said that �in any event we (the British) would have to stop for many years yet, and that the Moslems were not at all anxious that we should go.�
Thus highly educated and important Muslim leaders like Shah Waliullah, Wiqar-ul-Mulk and Liaqat Ali Khan preferred to live under the rule of foreigners like the Afghans and the British than to live as a free people with the Hindus just because the latter happened to be in a majority. Is it therefore any wonder that the majority of Muslims were not interested in joining the freedom struggle for India's independence? The leadership of Mahatma Gandhi was acceptable to them only in the context of the Khilaft movement. Else, he was declared as a leader of the Hindus only. And what the Ali brothers said about the Mahatma vis-a-vis an ordinary or even an anti-social Muslim has become proverbial as indicative of the Muslim attitude towards non-Muslims in India. Of course, today Muslims in India swear by democracy and secularism
The idea of Pakistan was as old as the Muslim rule in India. M.A. Jinnah is reported to have said that the seeds of Pakistan were planted when the first Hindu converted to Islam in India. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto reiterated the same conclusion in still clearer terms. Wrote he, �The starting point of Pakistan goes back a thousand years to when Mohammed-bin-Qasim set foot on the soil of Sind and introduced Islam in the sub-continent� The study of Mughal and British periods will show that the seeds of Pakistan took root in the sub-continent from the time Muslims consolidated their position in India. The creation of two sovereign states of India and Pakistan merely formalised this existing division.� Jinnah and Bhutto were not historians. But Aziz Ahmad in a historical analysis in his Studies in Islamic Culture in the Indian Environment arrives at the same conclusion. However, whatever the point of time or the genesis of Partition, never before was India geographically divided on religious basis in the course of its long history. The creation of Pakistan in 1947 showed the way to other ambitious or aggrieved identities in Kashmir, Punjab and Assam to clamour for secession. The partition of the country may, perhaps, have been the logical legacy of Muslim rule in India, but the cinder fuelled by the original separatists is posing an unsurmountable problem for India's unity and integrity.
One of the immediate causes of Partition was the Direct Action or the unleashing of widespread communal violence in the country. But there was nothing new or unique about it. The history of communal riots is synchronous with the advent of Muslims in India. For the next hundreds of years invaders and rulers committed all sorts of atrocities on the people and the atmosphere was surcharged with aggression and violence. But one day the Hindus struck back. The opportunity came when Nasiruddin Khusrau Shah ascended the throne of Delhi (1320). Khusrau Shah was a Hindu convert. He belonged to the Barwari class of Gujarat and they were known for their bravery. Qutbuddin was very much �enamoured� of him. It was customary in those days, says Ibn Battuta, that when a Hindu accepted Islam, the sultan used to present him with a robe of honour and a gold bangle. Khusrau Khan pleaded with the sultan that some of his relations wanted to embrace Islam and in this way collected about 40,000 Barwaris in the capital. One day they killed Qutbuddin Khalji and started rioting and killing. Copies of the Quran were tom to pieces and used as seats for idols which were placed in the niches (mehrabs) of the mosques. A later but otherwise reliable chronicler, Nizamuddin Ahmad, says that some mosques were also broken. The Barwaris had known the Muslims breaking temples and destroying religious books of the Hindus. This they had done on a large scale in Gujarat itself about twenty years ago. In the Delhi rioting, they paid the Muslims back in the same coin. Their King Khusrau Shah even forbade cow-slaughter. But in the end this rioting was brought under control by Gazi Malik.
It is often asserted that unlike during British rule, there were no communal riots under Muslim rule. This is only partially true; firstly, because the Hindus could not always respond to Muslim violence with symmetrical force in the medieval period; and secondly, details given by chroniclers about communal conflicts cannot be easily separated from those of perennial political strife and resistance during Muslim rule. Persian chroniclers repeatedly aver that Muslims were dominant and domineering during the medieval period while the Hindus were kept systematically suppressed. But just because of this, because of the treatment accorded to non-Muslims and sometimes their reaction to it, there were Hindu-Muslim riots. And this situation is understandable. But why were there Shia-Sunni riots under Muslim rule just as they have always been there. It is for the reason that a psyche geared to aggression and violence cannot rest in peace without fighting. When non-Muslims are not there to fight, Sunnis and Shias call each other Kafir and attack each other.
But ultimately the brunt of all such riots was borne by the Hindus. For instance, this is how Pelsaert describes the situation prevalent in the time of Jahangir (1605-27) during Muharram. �The outcry (of mourning) lasts till the first quarter of the day; the coffins (Tazias) are brought to the river, and if the two parties meet carrying their biers (it is worse on that day), and one will not give place to the other, then if they are evenly matched, they may kill each other as if they were enemies at open war, for they run with naked swords like madmen. No Hindu can venture into the streets before midday, for even if they should escape with their life, at the least their arms and legs would be broken to pieces��
Jafar Sharif�s description of the Muharram scene for the eighteenth-nineteenth century is still more detailed. Writes he: �Whenever the Muharram� chances to coincide with Hindu festivals, such as the Ramnavmi or the birth of Rama, the Charakhpuja, or swing festival, or the Dasahra, serious riots have occurred as the processions meet in front of a mosque or Hindu temple, or when an attempt is made to cut the branches of some sacred fig-tree which impedes the passage of the cenotaphs. Such riots, for instance occurred at Cuddapa in Madras in 1821, at Bhiwandi in the Thana District, Bombay, in 1837. In the case of some disturbances at Hyderabad, it is said that Hindus, who act as Muharram Faqirs (who erect them, Tazias, themselves and become Faqirs during Muharram), sometimes take the part of Mussulmans against their coreligionists.�
According to a contemporary Sufi, Shaikh Abdur Rahman Chishti, the �the subservience of the Hindus to Islam� under Shahjahan was thorough and complete. However, communal riots had become common from the time of Aurangzeb because of his religious policy. Rioting went on for days together in Varanasi when Vishvanath and other temples were destroyed there in 1669. Here is the description of the communal riots as narrated in a contemporary work:
�The infidels demolished a mosque,� writes the author of the Ganj-i-Arshadi, �that was under construction and wounded the artisans. When the news reached Shah Yasin, he came to Banaras from Mandyawa and collecting the Muslim weavers, demolished the big temple. A Sayyid who was an artisan by profession agreed with one Abdul Rasul to build a mosque at Banaras and accordingly the foundation was laid. Near the place there was a temple and many houses belonging to it were in the occupation of the Rajputs. The infidels decided that the construction of a mosque in the locality was not proper and that it should be razed to the ground. At night the walls of the mosque were found demolished. Next day the wall was rebuilt but it was again destroyed. This happened three or four times. At last the Sayyid hid himself in a corner. With the advent of night the infidels came to achieve their nefarious purpose. When Abdul Rasul gave the alarm, the infidels began to fight and the Sayyid was wounded by the Rajputs. In the meantime, the Mussulman residents of the neighbourhood arrived at the spot and the infidels took to their heels. The wounded Muslims were taken to Shah Yasin who, determined to vindicate the cause of Islam. When he came to the mosque, people collected from the neighbourhood. The civil officers were outwardly inclined to side with the saint but in reality they were afraid of the royal displeasure on account of the Raja, who was a courtier of the Emperor and had built the temple (near which the mosque was under construction). Shah Yasin, however, took up the sword and started for Jihad. The civil officers sent him a message that such a grave step should not be taken without the Emperor�s permission. Shah Yasin, paying no heed, sallied forth till he reached Bazar Chau Khamba through a fusillade of stones� The doors (of temples) were forced open and the idols thrown down. The weavers and other Mussulmans demolished about 500 temples. They desired to destroy the temple of Beni Madho, but as lanes were barricaded, they desisted from going further.�
Temple destruction in Mathura, Ujjain, Rajasthan and many other parts of the country was always followed by communal rioting. �In March, 1671, it was reported that a Muslim officer who had been sent to demolish Hindu temples in and around Ujjain was killed with many of his followers in the riot that had followed his attempts at destroying the temples there. He had succeeded in destroying some of the temples, but in one place, a Rajput chief had opposed this wanton destruction of his religious places. He overpowered the Mughal forces and destroyed its leader and many of his men. In Gujarat somewhere near Ahmedabad, Kolis seem to have taken possession of a mosque probably built on the site of a temple and prevented reading of Friday prayers there. Imperial orders were thereupon issued to the provincial officers in Gujarat to secure the use of the mosque for Friday prayers�. So, as a measure of retaliation sometimes mosques were destroyed by Hindus and Sikhs when their shrines were desecrated and razed. This was done as seen earlier by the Satnamis and by the Sikhs when they rose against the fanatical policy of Aurangzeb. Hindus had learnt to do it in imitation of their Muslim rulers since the days of Sultan Nasiruddin Khusrau Shah.
Attack on Hindu honour and religion were common, evoking, naturally, violent response. Jadunath Sarkar writes: �The prime minister�s grandson, Mirza Tafakhkhur used to sally forth from his mansion in Delhi with his ruffians, plunder the shops in the bazar, kidnap Hindu women passing through the public streets in litters or going to the river, and dishonour them; and yet there was no judge strong enough to punish him, no police to prevent such crimes.� Such ruffians were dealt with directly by the Hindu public, resulting in communal rioting. The king was busy in suppression of Hindu religion, and the Hindus in fighting for their rights. In brief, as noted by Sharma, "The Holi ceased to be celebrated by imperial orders issued on 20 November, 1665. It was not a police order alone, promulgated for the purpose of keeping peace and order during the Holi days as Sir Jadunath Sarkar has suggested. Raja Bhim of Banera and Kishen Singh while serving in south India in 1692, made arrangements for the celebration of the Holi. The censor tried to stop the celebration (but failed). He reported the matter to the emperor by whose orders the celebrations were stopped. In 1704, 200 soldiers were placed at the disposal of the censor for the purpose of preventing the celebration of the Holi. Of course the emperor was not always able to stop the celebrations� as the people had learnt to fight back in the streets. And their resistance was not always easy to crush. �In the South where he spent the last twenty-seven years of his reign, Aurangzeb was usually content with leaving many Hindu temples standing as he was afraid of arousing the feelings of his Hindu subjects in the Deccan where the suppression of rebellions was not an easy matter. An idol in a niche in the fort of Golkunda is said to have been spared by Aurangzeb. But the discontent occasioned by his orders could not thus be brought to an end.�
From then on to this day Hindu-Muslim communal riots have gone on and on. The occasions are the same. Coincidence of a Hindu and a Muslim festival falling on the same day, music before mosque, chance sprinkling of coloured-water