Islam In South Asia

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Islam in South Asia concerns the geopolitical, cultural and historical identity of Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. Muslims of the region constitutes a third of the global Muslim population and are distributed between seven modern-day nations.Template:Sfn


Early history of South Asian Muslims

A small Muslim presence in South Asia was established on the southern coasts of India and Sri Lanka in the early eighth century.Template:Sfn A commercial Middle Eastern presence on South Asia's western coasts pre-dated the emergence of Islam. With the rise of Islam the Arab arrivals became Muslims.Template:Sfn The Muslim mercantile community received patronage from the local non-Muslim rulers. Intermarriages with the local population in addition to further arrivals and conversions increased the Muslim population.Template:Sfn The Muslim population became more indigenous with the birth of children to Arab merchants married with local women.Template:Sfn Moreover, local non-Muslim authorities sent children to the Arabs to have them learn maritime skills.Template:Sfn

In one early, but disputed, account of Islam in the Malabar region, Muslims are described as descendants of a Hindu king who had seen the miracle of the moon splitting performed by the Prophet Muhammad. On a similar note, Tamil Muslims on the eastern coasts also claim that they converted to Islam in the Prophet's lifetime. The local mosques date to the early 700s.Template:Sfn The scholars, rulers, traders and literate Muslims in the south were more predisposed to their Indian Ocean links than to the north's Central Asian connections. The southern Muslims employed Arabic instead of Persian and followed Shafi'i jurisprudence instead of Central Asia's Hanafi jurisprudence.Template:Sfn Because the Islamic authority in the Middle East established Arabic as a lingua franca for the Indian Ocean basin's commercial community, the status of Muslim Arabs in Malabar was raised by Arabic literacy.Template:Sfn

Muslim conquest of Sindh

Unlike the coasts of Malabar, the northwestern coasts were not as receptive to the Middle Eastern arrivals. Hindu merchants in Sindh and Gujarat perceived the Arab merchants to be competitors. The Umayyads came into conflict with Sindh's Hindu rulers over piracy in the maritime trade routes. The rulers of Sindh had failed to control this piracy (or maybe they had benefited from it).Template:Sfn When in 711 the locals seized a ship that was travelling to the Umayyad dynasty, an expedition was sent out by the Umayyads to conquer Sindh.Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn The expedition, led by the young Muhammad Bin Qasim, was made up of both an overland and naval army.Template:Sfn The conquest might have been assisted by Mahayana Buddhists struggling against Brahmins for political reasons.Template:Sfn

The Arab conquerors, contrary to popular beliefs about Muslims, did not have an interest in converting the local populations.Template:Sfn Local Sindhi Hindus and Buddhists were accorded dhimmi status.Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn This was the first instance of this status being conferred upon peoples not mentioned in the Quran.Template:Sfn Although a few select temples were destroyed initially, religious life continued as it had done before.Template:Sfn Eventually, most Sindhis became Muslim.Template:Sfn While Sindh had been ruled by a Brahmin in the early 700s the local population had then also comprised Jains, Buddhists and followers of various cults, contrary to the perception that South Asian Muslims were largely converts from Hinduism.Template:Sfn Evidence about Sindhi conversions during the early period of Arab rule indicates that converts originated from the higher, rather than lower, echelons of local society, choosing to incorporate themselves into the Muslim ruling class by virtue of a common religious identity.Template:Sfn

Ghaznavid Sultanate

With the weakening of the Abbasid Caliphate, mamluks declared themselves independent sultanates.Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn Muslim scholars propounded, especially after the end of the Abbasid Caliphate, that each sultan should assume the role of caliph in their own area, a proposition known to some as the "pious sultan" theory.Template:Sfn Mahmud who ruled the sultanate of Ghazna expanded his rule into Punjab, transforming Lahore into both a border cantonment and vital center for Islamic scholarship.Template:Sfn Mahmud's court was both urbane and sophisticated. He provided patron to works on poetry, science and Sufism. The first Persian Sufi text in South Asia, Kashf al-Mahjub, was composed in Ghaznavid Lahore by Shaykh Abul Hasan 'Ali Hujwiri, whose shrine is one of the most important in South Asia. His work was to become a crucial source for early Sufi philosophy.Template:Sfn

Sufi groups entered the Sultanate as Sunni missionaries; Suhrawardi Sufis actively opposed Ismailis. These included Bahauddin Zakariya, centered in Multan, Sayyid Jalal Bukhari of Uch and Ali Hujwiri of Lahore.Template:Sfn Mahmud also took part in religiopolitical issues. He opposed the Fatimid presence in Sindh and invaded Sindh.Template:Sfn He carried out raids deep in the Gangetic plains and political accounts claim that his policy was to loot Hindu temples.Template:Sfn There is a dispute among historians if religion was a motive for the looting and what the extent of these activities was. There is a consensus, however, that the loot acquired funded campaigns to the west of the Sultanate.Template:Sfn

Delhi Sultanates

Under Muhammad of Ghor's leadership a fresh current of Persianized Turks initiated conquests of Ghaznavid principalities in Punjab. They took Delhi by 1192, and Ajmer and Kanauj afterwards. Quality horses and horsemanship characterized their war arsenal.Template:Sfn Qutubuddin Aibek assumed control over Delhi upon Ghori's demise.Template:Sfn His dynasty came to be referred to as the "Slave dynasty". The Khiljis dynasty extended Delhi's authority into the Deccan and were succeeded by the Tughluq dynasty which fell victim to Timur's raids who moved into Delhi in 1398.Template:Sfn Most of the sultanates' populace continued to live as they did before but important developments took place under the reign of the sultans. These included the development of networks all over South Asia and with Central Asia and the cultivation of Arab and Persian traditions.Template:Sfn

Their military prowess accorded protection to South Asia from upheavals caused by Mongols in the thirteenth-century.Template:Sfn Scholars and others fleeing Mongol despoliation found sanctuary in South Asia.Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn In this period conversions began of Punjab and Bengal's newly settled agriculturists.Template:Sfn The sultans posited that their rule provided stability which allowed Islamic life to prosper.Template:Sfn Their Islamic rhetoric meant the political supremacy of the Afghan and Sunni Turkic elite. Despite such rhetoric, growing South Asian Muslim communities outside the sultanate were recruited into the armies of Hindu kings who were warring against the Turkic sultans. Similarly, the sultanate also included Hindu soldiers in their militaries.Template:Sfn

The Delhi Sultanate favoured the Shafi'i law, although most subcontinental Muslims followed Hanafi jurisprudence. The administration's official structure included authoritative Islamic scholars who guided qadis, or Islamic judges.Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn While the Delhi Sultanate was formally Islamic and appointed Islamic scholars to high offices, their state policy was not based on Islamic law. Their government was based on the pragmatisms surrounding the maintenance of minority rule over a vast populace. The fourteenth century figure Ziya al-Din Barani criticised both Ala al-Din Khalji and Muhammad Tughlug for their lack of concern with Islamic law.Template:Sfn To one Islamic scholar, Ala al-Din asserted that his policies were based on state interest, rather than Islamic injunctions.Template:Sfn Muslim scholars outside India had already effectively accepted the limitation of religious law to family and proprietary matters as long as the rulers did not formally reject the authority of sharia over all aspects of life.Template:Sfn

Regional empires of the 15th century

Regional states emerged in the 1400s and early 1500s, providing for a cultural flowering. While sultans still ruled Delhi, their territorial authority was restricted.Template:Sfn As the Delhi Sultanate weakened, governors in many regions declared independence.Template:Sfn In 1406 Malwa, south of Delhi, became independent. Under the Sharqi dynasty Jaunpur overtook Delhi in importance. Bengal became independent during Firoz Shah Tughluq's rule. These kingdoms all became intellectual centers and housed important Sufis.Template:Sfn The regional dynasties provided patronage to Sufi leaders to justify their independence from Delhi.Template:Sfn

By the middle of the 1300s, the Deccan's Bahmanid dynasty became independent of Delhi. By the beginning of the 1500s this kingdom split further into five smaller kingdoms which continued to exist during the Mughal rule. The development of Dakhni Urdu was a major cultural milestone in this time.Template:Sfn These regional kingdoms often fought each other and also fought against, and sometimes with, the Hindu-ruled Vijayanagar kingdom. They also interacted and came into conflict with the Portuguese, who were on the coasts.Template:Sfn The "long fifteenth century" ended with Muhammad Zahiruddin Babur, later considered the founder of the Mughal empire, defeating the last Lodhi sultan in 1526.Template:Sfn

Mughal Empire

Babur's rule lasted only four years and both him and his successor, Humayun, did little more than to establish frontier garrisons. The Surs, resurgent Afghans who ruled until Humayun retook power in his life's final year, laid the foundation for road infrastructure and agricultural surveys. The Mughal dynasty was to be established as an empire under Humayun's heir, Akbar, who expanded Mughal frontiers.Template:Sfn Akbar sought to build the empire upon an inclusive elite. He initiated his dynasty's custom of taking Rajput brides without converting them to Islam. The Mughal elite also included Shia Persians, some local and Arab Muslims, Rajputs, Brahmins and Marathas. The state's unifying ideology was based on loyalty to the ruler instead of tribal affinities or Islamic identity. The ideology incorporated the mainly non-Muslim lower officials.Template:Sfn

Akbar's teachings, known as din-i-ilahi, drawn from Islam, Hinduism and Zoroastrianism,Template:Sfn were a pivot for a few court members who took Akbar to be their spiritual, in addition to royal, head.Template:Sfn The inner circle included a few Hindus including Birbal and Todal Mal. Opposition came from the court ulama, most famously from Abdul Qadir Badayuni, due to whom Akbar was remembered for apostasy. Akbar supported translating the Sanskrit texts of Mahabharata and the Ramayana into Persian and he abolished the jizya, which was taxed from non-Muslims.Template:Sfn

A major issue concerned assimilation and syncretism. The Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire both generally safeguarded and commissioned Hindus. This tendency was epitomized by the policies of Akbar. A difficult issue was that Hindus who converted to Islam often kept to much of their old beliefs. Even worse, Sufi and Hindu mystics developed proximity. Closer contacts between Sufis and Hindus were encouraged by the influence of Chaitanya, Kabir and Nanak.Template:Sfn These things worried pious Muslims, particularly in the midst of political turbulence. They wrote against mystics and to educate the converts. Syncretism was opposed by Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi,Template:Sfn a popular Naqshbandi leader.Template:Sfn His followers also denounced the mixing of Sufi and Upanishadic philosophies.Template:Sfn

Akbar's religious predispositions continued under Jahangir who was devoted to both the Qadiri saint, Miyan Mir, and the Vaishnava yogi, Gosain Jadrupp.Template:Sfn Initially, Jahangir also enjoyed cordial relations with the Sufi Naqshbandis, who were stricter than the Chishtis. But he could not tolerate criticism from Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi who criticized the government for failing to follow Islamic sharia law.Template:Sfn

One of the reasons for Akbar's success had been his administrative reforms.Template:Sfn Aurangzeb is often blamed for destroying the empire's administrative efficiency and pluralism. He had competed with his brother Dara Shikoh for the throne and the two have been considered ideological adversaries.Template:Sfn Dara Shikoh followed Akbar's tradition and searched for common religious truths from all religions.Template:Sfn Among his works were the translation of the Sanskrit Upanishads and Majmua'u'l-bahrain, a treatise connecting sufi and Upanishadic philosophies. Aurangzeb charged Dara Shikoh with apostasy.Template:Sfn

Aurangzeb created an image of himself as a pious Muslim ruler to disguise his violation of the sharia when he incarcerated his father.Template:Sfn To strengthen his rule Aurangzeb quickly applied a different kind of Islam. This was not easy because his imprisonment of his father had contravened both the sharia and the people's sensibilities. Aurangzeb granted large gifts to the Meccan authorities to improve his image and counter such criticism.Template:Sfn While Aurangzeb did shift the empire's religious policy he did not seriously change it. Aurangzeb supported the ulama and had Islamic judicial opinions compiled in the Fatawa Alamgiri.Template:Sfn

His personal piety led to the court's lifestyle becoming more austere. He banned court music and the use of gold in male clothing. Painting also declined.Template:Sfn He had many mosques constructed, such as the Badshahi mosque which is still the largest in South Asia, and a mosque inside Shah Jahan's fort at Delhi. Aurangzeb also initiated a simpler architectural tradition for tombs.Template:Sfn Aurangzeb imposed jizya, required by sharia, on the non-Muslim population, which drew disdain from the non-Muslim population.Template:Sfn The Islamic orthodoxy played a role in alienating the Rajputs upon whom the dynasty had depended since its beginning.Template:Sfn


Factors leading to the Mughal decline included the challenge to Mughal dominance posed by the emergence of Maratha power, court factionalism, administrative breakdown,Template:Sfn Aurangzeb's extremismTemplate:Sfn and his fixation with the wars in the Deccan.Template:Sfn Aurangzeb's military campaigns had proven costly for the empire and further problems arose with the rural revolts by Marathas, Sikhs and Jats.Template:Sfn By the early 1700s Mughal authority had declined in the face of regional powers,Template:Sfn some of which were breakaway provinces, while others were powerful local heads who had obtained ruling experience under the Mughals. Rajputs, some of whom had already rebelled against Aurangzeb, were the most prominent of these. Others were the Marathas, Sikhs in Punjab and the Jats. The breakaway provinces of Bengal, Hyderabad and Awadh continued pledging a formal allegiance to the Mughals.Template:Sfn

Eighteenth century onwards

Muslim power quickly vaporized in the eighteenth century and was replaced with successor Hindu, Sikh and Muslim states competing for power with the British East India Company.Template:Sfn The loss of Muslim power to non-Muslims such as the Marathas and Sikhs strengthened calls for a "purist Islam."Template:Sfn Shah Wali-Allah, a notable eighteenth century Islamic revivalist,Template:Sfn criticized the way religion was popularly practiced in India at the shrines and emphasized the importance of jihad against infidels. His instruction had minimal impact while he was alive - even drawing poetic satire for his attempt to view the Afghan invader, Ahmad Shah Abdali, as a liberator of Islam in the subcontinent - but they provided an inspiration for Sunni Muslim scholars.Template:Sfn

Despite the defeat at the hands of Ahmad Shah Abdali, at the Battle of Panipat in 1761, the Marathas continued to dominate the subcontinent's western regions until they were finally conquered in 1818 by the British.Template:Sfn After defeating the Marathas the British became the dominant power.Template:Sfn The effect of British rule was different for the various classes of the Muslim population.Template:Sfn For the elite it meant the loss of their culture.Template:Sfn The institution of feudalism had the same impact on Muslim peasants and landlords as it did on non-Muslims. But there were more Muslim peasants in Bengal to be affected. Similarly, most weavers in Dacca were Muslim, so Muslims suffered more even though Hindus weavers had also been affected by the Lancashire competition.Template:Sfn

Islamic scholars reacted slowly to the British rule.Template:Sfn Shah Abdul Aziz, a leading scholar from Delhi, had a good relationship with the British.Template:Sfn He issued an academic ruling that Indian territories governed by the British were dar al-harb, to ease the minds of those who had to live under non-Muslim administrationTemplate:Sfn and to give practical guidance in issues which incur different rulings in a dar ul-harb setting; i.e. interest rates.Template:Sfn Even though anti-colonial nationalists interpreted this fatwa to support jihad against British rule, Shah Abdul Aziz believed that rebellion against the British authority was unlawful because the British had given Muslims religious freedom.Template:Sfn Sayyid Ahmad of Rai Bareilly actively encouraged the defence of Islamic culture, but also refrained from actively resisting the East India Company.Template:Sfn

Saiyid Ahmad's ideas won significant support in northern India and thousands joined his Sufi order.Template:Sfn In 1826 he and his followers departed on a three thousand mile journey, though Rajputana, Sindh, Baluchistan and Afghanistan, and arrived in Charsadda, where he declared jihad against the Sikhs who were ruling Punjab. Nearby Pathan chiefs, including Peshawar's sardars, joined Saiyid Ahmad,Template:Sfn who established a state.Template:Sfn He was declared imam in January 1827 and was given bai'a. However, Saiyid Ahmad's mujahideen were defeated in March after one sardar from Peshawar, Yar Muhammad Khan, betrayed them. Yar Muhammad Khan was later defeated by Saiyid Ahmed who established himself at Peshawar. The Pathans disliked foreign rule, even if it was in Islam's name, and revolted, driving Saiyid Ahmad out and killing many of his tax collectors.Template:Sfn The Sikhs killed Saiyid Ahmad, Shah Ismail and approximately six hundred followers at the Battle of Balakot in 1831.Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn With the Sikhs' own defeat in 1849 by the East India Company, all of the subcontinent was under Company rule.Template:Sfn

1857 and its aftermath

In less than a decade British control was disrupted by an army mutiny and civil unrest in northern and central parts of India. There were many factors feeding the rebellion such as taxes, army conditions and random dismissals of princes. Soldiers rallied around the Mughal emperor Bahaur Shah Zafar, taking him as a symbolic leader. Hindu soldiers were initially dominant and the strongest rebels included Hindu Marathas. Some ulama also supported the revolt but their role was minor. Yet the British reprisals targeted Muslims in particular;Template:Sfn Delhi and Lucknow were treated savagely.Template:Sfn

Many, especially younger, British administrators suspected a Muslim hand behind the uprising. But Hindus had also been prominent.Template:Sfn The first mutinies were caused by Hindus concerned for their caste and honour, civil uprisings were usually led by Hindus and most rebellious taluqdars in Awadh were Hindus.Template:Sfn Furthermore, prominent Muslims such as Sayyid Ahmad Khan were loyal to the British.Template:Sfn There was no support for the revolt from Bengali Muslims and Punjabi Muslims joined the British troops as reinforcements.Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn

The rebellion, rather than being a Muslim revolt, was mainly by those who had felt aggrieved under the British rule.Template:Sfn After the uprising, the British distrusted Muslims. This British position changed by the late nineteenth century when the Muslims sought British protection for their interests from the Hindu population.Template:Sfn Sir Syed Ahmed Khan led the process of Muslim engagement with the BritishTemplate:Sfn and in large part cultivated the new image of Muslims as loyalists of the British.Template:Sfn

Colonial rule and freedom movement

British Bengal was divided for administrative reasons.Template:Sfn The new province contained a Muslim majority.Template:Sfn Dismayed Bengali Hindus agitated against this move, political terrorism characterizing their agitation.Template:Sfn The Muslim leadership, disturbed by Hindu behavior, sought security in the new province.Template:Sfn The formation of the Muslim League was the most significant outcome of the partition.Template:Sfn It was founded by the Muslim elite in Dhaka in 1906 to safeguard Muslim interests.Template:Sfn The League sent a deputation to Lord Minto in 1906 to ask for parliamentary representation for Muslims reflecting their political importance.Template:Sfn The Minto-Morley reforms in 1909 introduced the separate electorates system which reserved seats for Muslims.Template:Sfn

In 1919 prominent ulama campaigned to defend the Ottoman caliphate.Template:Sfn They were backed by Gandhi, partially out of principle and partially to block the use again of Muslims to support British authority.Template:Sfn By the time Gandhi was released from imprisonment in 1924 Hindu Muslim relations had deteriorated.Template:Sfn Jinnah, once ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity and member of both the Congress and Muslim League felt isolated and was unwanted by the Congress.Template:Sfn While in London he encountered and rejected Rahmat Ali's proposal of a Muslim state called Pakistan.Template:Sfn

He returned to IndiaTemplate:Sfn and in the 1936 elections the Muslim League won only a quarter of the Muslim vote, the Congress 6 percent while the remaining 69 percent was won by regional parties in the Muslim majority provinces.Template:Sfn The results demonstrated that neither the League nor the Congress represented Muslims, whose politics were provincially oriented.Template:Sfn Jinnah turned his attention to the Muslim majority provincesTemplate:Sfn and proposed a separate Muslim state at a Muslim League session in Lahore in 1940.Template:Sfn

In the ensuing years of the Lahore resolution Jinnah and the League 's power gradually consolidated.Template:Sfn By the end of World War II the League was a mass movement.Template:Sfn and went into the 1945-1946 elections solely over its Pakistan campaign.Template:Sfn It was victorious and won most provincial and all central Muslim seats; winning the majority of Muslim seats in Bengal and the Muslim minority provinces and a plurality in Punjab.Template:Sfn Many middle class Muslims had voted for the League to escape Hindu competition while others had voted for ambitions about Islamic law and moral authority.Template:Sfn Some ulama, including Deobandi, also backed the Pakistan demand to live under the law of Islam.Template:Sfn

After the election victory had Jinnah gained a strong hand to negotiate with the Congress and the British. The British Cabinet Mission proposed a three-tiered form of government for the Indian Union.Template:Sfn Effectively, the League would have two large semi-autonomous territories inside a loose federation.Template:Sfn Both the League and Congress accepted the planTemplate:Sfn but on 10 July Nehru spurned the notion of provincial groupings which comprised the plan.Template:Sfn To break the impasse British Prime Minister sent the last Viceroy Lord Mountbatten. Frustrated with sharing power with the League in the interim government the Congress agreed to a partition of Punjab and Bengal.Template:Sfn Mountbatten presented the partition plan on 2 June 1947 to the Indian leadership. For Jinnah it was a bitter pill and a disappointment for the League leaders who were embittered with the British and Congress for not granting them six whole provinces.Template:Sfn

After Independence


Muslims in Pakistan found themselves in the only ever "Muslim" homeland.Template:Sfn In the decades preceding partition the character of the new Muslim polity had been uncertain.Template:Sfn Pakistan's new citizens were unprepared by the time of Partition.Template:Sfn Pakistan did not inherit central institutions as India did. The strongest institution the country inherited was the military, attributable to the fact that the British had recruited significantly from northwestern Muslim populations.Template:Sfn The army ruled Pakistan for over half the post-Independence period.Template:Sfn The ideological character of the state has been disputed, with Jinnah's 11 August speech apparently supportive of the notion that the state was formed simply to protect Muslim interests and the ulama envisioning Pakistan as an Islamic state.Template:Sfn Islamist thinker Abul A'la Maududi has been influential in Pakistan and the ulama of the country increasingly shared his thoughts.Template:Sfn Pakistani politics became intertwined with Afghanistan in the 1980s where a communist coup was supported by a Soviet military presence.Template:Sfn

Millions of Afghan refugees and international resources poured in. The regime of military ruler, General Zia ul Haq, was strengthened as he introduced Islamic laws.Template:Sfn Some attribute Zia's Islamization to his Deobandi piety, others to his political interests.Template:Sfn The Jamaat e Islami obtained political mileage under Zia ul Haq. Both the military and the United States saw the backing of jihadi Islam as useful.Template:Sfn Unforeseen consequences of Zia's policies and promotion of jihad included a growth of sectarianism and the civil war in Afghanistan after Soviet withdrawal, which was mostly controlled by the Taliban by the middle of the 1990s. After 9/11 the USA destroyed Taliban's power in Afghanistan with Pakistan's reluctant support.Template:Sfn The country was at the time led by military ruler General Pervez Musharraf who did not share Zia's promotion of Islamic law but support for religious parties grew while he was in power, partially in protest against his pro-US policies. Elections in 2008 brought back major political parties instead of Musharraf or the religious parties.Template:Sfn


Many East Pakistanis soon became disillusioned with the new country, feeling colonised by the predominantly Punjabi army and bureaucracy. The privilege for Urdu and English over Bengali language was also a cause of disturbance. In 1971 Sheikh Mujib's Awami League was denied office in spite of its electoral victory. East Pakistan separated. India, flooded with refugees, sided with Bengal in the violent civil war. The first constitution declared Bangladesh a secular state and proscribed religious parties, in response to the wartime support groups such as the Bengali Jamaat e Islami had given to Pakistan.Template:Sfn

However, Islam became more important after the mid-1970s. This global phenomena, relevant also in Pakistan, was partly a response to the oil boom which was accompanied with opportunities for poorer nations in the Muslim world. Religion also comprised part of the expression of populist governments.Template:Sfn A 1975 coup against Mujib brought in administrations which supported religious institutions and developed closer ties with the Muslim world.Template:Sfn Islam became the state religion by a constitutional amendment in 1988. Bangladeshi politics has been dominated by two parties: the Awami Party and its contender, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.Template:Sfn


For Muslims in India, Pakistan was a triumph which instantly turned into a defeat.Template:Sfn By voting in the 1945-6 elections they had stated that Islam required a state of its own.Template:Sfn But they were to live an Islamic life without fulfillment after 1947.Template:Sfn India, unusually for new countries in the 1950s, successfully sustained a lively democracy. Muslims in the 1960s voted for the Congress, which solicited them, but since then have voted for whichever party appears likely to cater to Muslim interests. Muslims were stereotyped negatively with disloyalty and Pakistani sympathies, particularly after the 1980s. This was partially a tactic to unite Hindus and partly a surrogate for government opposition.Template:Sfn

Hindu nationalist groups and complicit state officials campaigned against the Babri Mosque, allegedly constructed on Ram's birthplace.Template:Sfn A pogrom took place in Gujarat in 2002.Template:Sfn The defeat of the BJP brought in a more accommodating government under which a committee was created on the Muslims' socio-economic status. The committee's Sachar report refuted the perception of Muslim "appeasement" by showing the poor and underrepresented status of India's Muslims. Despite individual cases of success the report pointed out significant barriers faced by the large Muslim population.Template:Sfn


The Islamic ambitions of the sultans and Mughals had concentrated in expanding Muslim power, not in seeking converts. Evidence of the absence of systematic programs for conversion is the concentration of South Asia's Muslim populations outside the main core of the Muslim polities. One view among historians is that converts seeking to escape the Brahmin dominated caste structure were attracted to sufi egalitarianism. But there is no relation between the areas with significant numbers of conversions and those regions with Brahminical influence.Template:Sfn The populations of both Punjab and Bengal had not been assimilated into the Hindu caste structure by the time of Islam's advent there.Template:Sfn

The sufis did not preach egalitarianism, but played an important role in integrating agricultural settlements with the larger contemporary cultures. In areas where Sufis received grants and supervised clearing of forestry they had the role of mediating with worldly and divine authority. Richard Eaton has described the significance of this in the context of West Punjab and East Bengal, the two main areas to develop Muslim majorities.Template:Sfn The partition was eventually made possible because of the concentration of Muslim majorities in northwest and northeast India.Template:Sfn

Richard Eaton states that illiterate populations on the borders of expanding agricultural populations were absorbed into the society's religious ideologies by a two step process of accretion and reform. In the accretion process people add agencies, such as Allah or jinns, to their cosmologies. In the reform process Islamic agencies are affirmed and distinguished from the others who are rejected.Template:Sfn The result of accretion was not total conversion to Islam.Template:Sfn

Punjabis and Bengalis retained their pre-Islamic practices.Template:Sfn The premier challenge to the purity of Islam in medieval South Asia had neither been from the court nor from the Maratha raids, but from the rural converts, who were ignorant of Islamic requirements, and from the insidious influence of Hinduism in their lives.Template:Sfn Punjabis, in the words of Mohammed Mujeeb, relied spiritually on magicTemplate:Sfn while Bengali Muslims were reported to participate in Durga Puja, worship of Sitala and Rakshya Kali and resorting to Hindu astrologers. In both Punjab and Bengal Islam was viewed as just one of several methods to seek redress for ordinary problems.Template:Sfn

These nominal conversions to Islam, brought about by regional Muslim polities, were followed by reforms, especially after the 17th century, in which Muslims integrated with the larger Muslim world. Improved transport services in the nineteenth century brought Muslim masses into contact with Mecca which facilitated reformist movements stressing Quranic literalism and making people aware of the differences between Islamic commands and their actual practices.Template:Sfn

Islamic reformist movements, such as the Fara'izi, in the nineteenth century rural Bengal aimed to remove indigenous folk practices from Bengali Islam and commit the population exclusively to Allah and Muhammad.Template:Sfn Politically the reform aspect of conversion, emphasizing exclusiveness, continued with the Pakistan movement for a separate Muslim stateTemplate:Sfn and a cultural aspect was the assumption of Arab culture.Template:Sfn


Pakistan is the second largest Muslim country in the world.Template:Sfn India, a mainly non-Muslim country, has the third largest Muslim population after Indonesia and Pakistan.Template:Sfn


Indian Muslims were primarily divided ethnically between the Ashraf, descendants of Afghan and Middle Eastern arrivals, and the Ajlaf, who were descended from native converts. The ashraf were distinguished by their urbane culture and they included the Sayeds, Sheikhs, Mughals and Pathans. The highest percentage claiming foreign ancestry was in the UP (where 41.1 percent declared foreign roots in the 1931 census)Template:Sfn with Urdu as their language. The ashraf comprised landowning, administrative and professional echelons of society and are known to be the principal pioneers of Muslim separatism as they would have been impacted most by Hindu domination.Template:Sfn

Most Indian Muslims were ajlaf and spoke regional languages such as Punjabi, Bengali and Gujarati.Template:Sfn They were mainly peasants, merchants and craftsmen such as weavers. Muslims throughout India were mainly agrarian. A feeling of poverty compared to the prosperous Hindu elite and middle class was politically important.Template:Sfn



The British authorities' westernisation policies effectively destroyed the exclusive hold of the ulama over education and curtailed their administrative influence. In an environment where the Muslim community lacked power, the ulama invested their efforts into maintaining the Muslim society. The most significant efforts were spearheaded by those ulama who followed Shah Wali Allah and were inspired by Sayyid Ahmad Barelwi's jihad. However, the failure of the 1857 rebellion and the British reaction ensured that their jihad would take a different form. Following Barelvi's reformism they emphasized sharia and study of the revealed rather than rational sciences.Template:Sfn

They shunned all British, Hindu and Shia influences and only permitted some Sufi practices while completely proscribing the concept of intercession at the shrines. These ulama concentrated at the Deoband madrasa which was established by Muhammad Qasim Nanawtwi and Rashıd Ahmad Gangohi in 1867. They stressed the scripture. According to them knowledge of divine law and expected Muslim behavior was a prerequisite for conserving the Muslim community in the British era.Template:Sfn Lacking state power, they also encouraged the role of the individual conscience to ensure compliance with the law.Template:Sfn They urged followers to ponder over their actions and evoked Judgement Day.Template:Sfn


Pre-reformist conceptions, fueled by resistance to reform, hardened around the late 19th century scholar Ahmad Rada Khan from Bareilly. He justified the customary Islam, associated with obtaining intercession to God from saints, with his scholarly Hanafi credentials. If Deobandis had wanted to preserve Islam as they perceived it to be in the Hanafi texts, the Barelvis desired to preserve Islam as they understood it in the nineteenth century subcontinent. They propagated their ideas eagerly and denunciation, sometimes even violence, characterised their relations with the Ahl i Hadith and Deobandis.Template:Sfn

Ahmad Rada Khan sought to highlight even more highly the status of the Prophet. He emphasised the Sufi belief pertaining to the Prophet's light. By approving the shrines Ahmad Rada Khan catered to the needs of the illiterate rural population. He shared with his contemporaries the emphasis on the Prophet, who stressed emulation of his life.Template:Sfn

Ahl-e Hadith

The Ahl i Hadith shared the Deobandis' reformist and revivalist roots but believed that they did not do enough. Their religious ideas were more radical, more sectarian and they came from a more elite class. They shared the Deobandis' commitment to cleansing Muslim culture of acts not in compliance with the Sharia. But while the Deobandis espoused taqlid and embraced the Islamic scholarship they had inherited, the Ahl i Hadith repudiated it and directly used the textual sources of the Quran and Sunnah and advocated deploying the methodologies used by the original jurists of the Islamic schools of thought. This methodology meant that the followers would have a heavy individual duty. To enforce this duty the Ahl i Hadith completely spurned Sufism. They feared judgement day and the writings of Nawab Siddiq Hasan, a prominent member, reflected fear of doomsday.Template:Sfn