Opinion: Rejoinder to Mohan Bhagwat

Sir, your recent statement at a function in Pune that Islam came to India as invaders is not only erroneous, it is yet another attempt to distort history to defend a political ideology. Just as a human being is entitled to have a memory of his past, so it is with history. A learned person like you would know that there could be many who share the same memory, and when someone fails to remember correctly then there are others to recall the facts. The historical records of the world are contained not only in the newly published books in India, but they are present in a much voluminous quantity all over the world in libraries, universities, personal collections, bookstores, as well as on the worldwide web. 

It is not only I and a large number of Muslims who are at loss by your comment, the Indian History Congress is also much disturbed by the misinformation and biased views that are being propagated to inculcate a feeling of false pride in having a past that only the majority community identifies with.  

In this context, it is understandable that proving the Aryans to be indigenous products of what is now India is crucial for the Hindutva to validate and safeguard their ideology.  However, history does not support that notion. The Harappans were the earliest dwellers in this land and there is no evidence that they were Aryans with whom most of the north Indians relate. The Harappan sites revealed several cultures rather than one conforming to Vedic society. You would be aware that Harappans predated the Vedic civilisation, and same has been established by anthropologists and archeologists. Moreover, the earliest Aryans who came here identified with a common language and not a race or a particular religion. Just as a Hindi-speaking person cannot be deemed to be a Hindu, so it is with the Aryan race. In addition, the genetic configuration of the inhabitants south of central India also differs from the north Indians who are the descendants of the Aryans.

MS Education Academy

Coming to your assertion that Islam came to India as invaders imply to Muslims and not faith because faith cannot travel on its own, especially 1400 years back. At this juncture, we think it is our proprietary right to recall the events of the past as evidence in historical records. 

Even before the advent of Islam in India or Arabia, the Arab traders had been coming to the coastal regions of south India for trade. They used to buy pepper, cinnamon, and cassia in exchange for dates and olive oil. When Prophet Muhammad was asked to spread the message of Islam, he sent his emissaries to various parts of the world. They came to the southern coast too at the beginning of the 7th Century. It was in 629 C.E that Malik Deenar, an associate of the companions of the Prophet came to Kerala with the message of Islam. The Chera King of Kerala heard him and on his instructions, the first mosque was built in Mithala, Kodungullar district, Kerala. That mosque stands there till today, though it was desecrated by the Portuguese in 1504 and then rebuilt. It is pertinent to note that the king, Cheraman Perumal, had also accepted Islam, and that mosque is today known as Cheraman Juma Masjid.

According to some researchers, the name Malabar was given by the Muslims from Arab – mala in Malayalam is a hill, and bar in Persian is for the country. Al-Biruni, a traveller and historian, is the first person to record this region as Malabar. Mapilla Muslims of Malabar trace their origin to Hadhramaut in Yemen. As per Vasudha Narayanan in ‘Religious Vocabulary to Regional Identity’, many Tamils also believe that they are descendants of those who converted to Islam during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad.

It needs to be highlighted here, no wars were fought in this region and no one could have been coerced by a handful of seafarers. On the contrary, the Arabs were warmly welcomed and were given land for settlement by Kolaltiri kings. The Koyas among the Mappila communities emerged through marriages between Arab men and native women, and conversion from upper caste Brahmans and Nayars. Arabs also married Konkans on the Konkan coast, the Tamils on the Coromandel Coast, and the Chinese in the Indonesian Archipelago. The presence of large Muslim communities in Sri Lanka, West Myanmar, South Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia are testimony of the same travelogue in the spread of Islam through its teachings, and not by coercive invasions. 

In the northern part of the Indian peninsula, the reign of the Harsha dynasty spread from North-western India to the Narmada River in the south. But after the defeat of Harshvardhan by Pulakeshin II of the Chalukyas dynasty in the battle of Narmada in 647, Harsha’s kingdom started to disintegrate. And at the beginning of the 8th Century, there had been complete political disintegration and intellectual stagnation. Tribal heads ruled small principalities and no proper administrative control was executed over a region that could be called Bharat or India. 

Merchants from Arabia had also been frequenting coastal Gujarat. The Barmada Mosque that was built in 623 C.E in Ghogha district of Gujarat is prove of this fact. Much later, Muhammad bin Qasim of Ghazni in south-eastern Afghanistan was the first to come and conquer Sindh at the age of 17 and settle in this region. Thereafter, Mahmud of Ghazni established the Delhi Sultanate and ruled here till 1030 C.E. After them, the Delhi Sultanate was ruled by few more dynasties till the Mughals under Babur conquered it in 1526. 

Time and again it is highlighted in Hindutva writings and propaganda that Muslim invaders came to destroy and plunder temples, and forcibly convert Hindus. Historical records reveal that destruction and sacking of temples were rampant even before the advent of Muslims in north India. Temples were destroyed by rival Hindu and Buddhist kings, and when there was a conflict between followers of different deities. Comparatively, attacks on temples during Mughal ruled had declined. 

It is agreed that this subject of destruction is controversial and causes much chagrin, but the progress of a nation is dependent on a conducive environment. Muslim rulers and emigrants had brought with them mechanical technology in the form of water-wheels, cranks, spinning wheels, and many other arts and crafts in weaving, pottery, glassware, inlay work, carpets, embroidery, and embellishments. Formation of highways, making of revenue records, and establishment of administrative machinery are also their contributions. The domain of the Mughal Empire under Aurangzeb was the largest ever in History and its economy was the highest in the world. Mughal India produced a quarter of the world’s economic and industrial output. But sadly, these facts are ignored and Muslims are labelled as invaders and destroyers of temples who converted the Hindus by force. The progress and infrastructural development during the Mughal era is evident and its accruing benefits are still being reaped by the government till today. And these evidences do not suggest communal disharmony and discord.

Once again to set the record straight, the bulk of the Muslims in India are descendants of migrants from Arabia and the Iranian Plateau. The conversions that took place were the result of the spread of the message of Islam through Sufi saints. Swords and spears played no role in the change of hearts. Most of these conversions were due to the prevalent oppressive caste system that was introduced by the third Manu of Hindu Shastra to safeguard the exclusivity of the Aryans race two hundred years after the epic, Ramayana, was written. Effectively, Manu Shastra or Manusmriti that is now the sacred law of Hindu society is of 2300 years, while the first Muslim migrants in India came 1500 years back.

It is agreed some conversions to Islam took place as a means of seeking improved social standing, but these conversions cannot be construed as coercive or an outcome of invasion. Sir, the Indian peninsula has a chequered history that is so unique that it was marvelled upon globally generating a great impetus to tourism. Nowhere in the world can a tourist witness the hustle bustle of Jama Masjid, the grandeur of Taj Mahal, the abounding history of Fatehpur Sikri, and then travel to Mathura to get coloured by the spirit of Holi, and move further to the ghats of Banaras to witness the arti from a boat. Then again the boat rides on the backwaters of Kerala and the Hooghly in Kolkata mesmerise them no end. These are the stories that are talked about all over the world, but, unfortunately, the new stories of that are emerging from this great land show dissension, discord, disagreement, divisiveness, and distortion. 

Let us at the sunset of our respective lifes, please resolve to put an end to all disputes for the sake of leaving behind a platform upon which the next generation gets the chance to live in peace and harmony.

By Syed Rizwan

syedr987@gmail.com; www.wrierizwan.wordpress.com

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