History of Islam in India


‘Islamization’ of India did not occur as a result of mass conversions. The process took several centuries. Though the province of Sindh was conquered in early 8th century it was not until the incursions of Mahmud of Ghazni and Muhammad of Ghor that serious settlement of the subcontinent with Muslims took place. Even then contrary to belief it was not the forced conversions that increased the number of Muslims in India. Of course, the unfair taxes called jizya of all non-Muslims had an effect. Many Hindus were forced to convert to Islam to escape from the punishing taxes. The invading sultans like Qutb ud-din Aibak and Ala-ud-din Khilji often offered clemency to the enemy after their defeat if they converted to Islam. Many of these local rulers switched back to Hinduism as soon as the sultans turned their backs and returned to Delhi. The major reason for mass settlement of India by Muslims was the invasion of Mongols into central Asia. Genghis Khan, his grandsons and later Timurlane wreaked havoc in the Central Asian countries causing migration of countless number of people seeking refuge in the relative safety of India.

Just how disastrous Muslim conquest was for India and how much resistance had been offered to preserve its heritage by Hindu rulers are controversial subjects. Much of the history was written by Muslim historians and could be biased. The little history documented by Indians was also written with an eye towards glorifying their kings. These as well could be simply exaggerations. Hindu writers write about countless accounts of heroism by their warrior, some of them mere boys in their teens. Some of the fiercest resistance probably came from lesser tribes and simply went undocumented. However, it is clear that the Muslim conquest of India took several centuries. Idolatry was condemned but many sultans simply ignored the practice by the Hindus and did not impose Islam on them forcibly. Better results were obtained by imposing taxes on non-Muslims, although the Brahmins and some Buddhists were exempt form it until the rule of Feroz Shah Tughlaq in the latter half of 14th century. When the Mughals established their empire, the whole of India was almost completely under the Muslim rule, especially during the rule of Aurangazeb. Religious fanaticism of Aurangazeb, unlike his ancestor Mughals finally led to the cessation of Muslim control of India. As a consequence of his intolerance, the Mughal Empire weakened precipitously after his death and steadily shrank in size over the next century and a half, to finally be taken over by another foreign force in the nineteenth century, the British. What Akbar had achieved with tolerance and reconciliation was reversed by Aurangzeb’s zeal to force Islam on Hindus.

The religion of Islam stormed into India in a similar manner as it did in the Arabian countries. Powerful regimes succumbed to the religion at a remarkably fast pace as evidenced by the fact that within a century after its inception, it had spread to the entire Middle East and Northern Africa. But in India, Islam had a more difficult time to insinuate into the Hindu and Buddhist societies. Even then, ‘Islamization’ of India took several centuries and was never complete. The barbaric nature of the sultanates rule and the invasion of Mongols may have had a negative effect on the Hindu practitioners. The earlier Mughals had breeched the division somewhat, but Aurangzeb in his zeal to turn India into an Islamic nation alienated all other religions. From then onward ‘moderate Muslim rule’ was an oxymoron. It is also apparent that the Hindus revered their idols much more than the Muslim conquerors estimated. A sweep of India never occurred and India remained predominantly Hindu, with only about twenty percent of its population as Muslims, at any given time in its history.

Greater India once included Pakistan and Afghanistan. Gandhara is mentioned in Mahabharata epic (Gandhari, wife of Drtarashtra hailed from Gandhara). Ashoka and Kanishka ruled Afghanistan and it was an integral part of India until it was lost to Islam. Afghanistan had been lost to India for many centuries until Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire, united it with India. Lost to Shah of Persia by Humayun, Akbar had re established the sovereignty in Afghanistan by conquering both Kabul valley and Kandahar. Then Jahangir and Shah Jahan lost Kandahar forever to the Shah of Iran, never to be regained though Kabul remained in Mughal hands until the reign of Aurangzeb. Even the British in the nineteenth century were unable to re-conquer it. India lost further territory when Pakistan and Bangladesh were lost to India in the modern era, in the middle of twentieth century.

As you read this article it will surely dispel the myth that the Mughals were more detrimental to Hindu dominance of India than any other dynasty. If destruction of Hindu temples is any measure the Sultans of Delhi did far worse damage than the Mughals (except Aurangzeb). The marauders like the Mahmud of Ghazni, Muhammad of Ghor, Timurlane, Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali did loot and destroy idols in the temples all over the North, but the rulers like Aibak, Iltumish, Khilji and Feroz Shah Tughlaq, continued to do the desecration of temples in the name of cleansing the religion of Hindus and Buddhists over a long period of time in a sustained way. A large library of Buddhist literature was set ablaze by Khilji in Odantapuri, even before knowing what they contained.

As I researched for this article, I realized that there were many unsung heroes in the history who bravely confronted the attackers. Their stories are forgotten because Indians never developed the habit of writing down history. They relied on their memory to remember events (just as the Vedas had been memorized for generations). But this was regretful, as history shows that the Hindus eventually forgot their history and made the mistake of repeating it, often committing the same mistakes over and over again. This folly was exploited fully by the invading Muslims as well the British at a later date. 

Next:  The Marauders who Came in from the Mountains 


More by :  Dr. Neria H. Hebbar

Top | History

Views: 3400      Comments: 9

Comment i do believe that coercion has never done good to mankind. one needs to be free to decide whch way to go, individually and collectivley as human race. this perhaps explains the truncation of the mughals after aurangzeb's non accomodative and akbar's accomodative nature

20-Sep-2015 11:12 AM

Comment Dear Dr. Hebbar,

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An immediate purpose of my writing to you is to secure your permission to use one or more of your well-researched essays in a book titled "A Collection of Excerpts from the Scriptures of Major World Religions," which is ready for publication by XLIBRIS (USA).

In particular, I seek your kind permission to reprint your Essay or article titled "The Influence of the Upanishads in the West." Your permission, at your earliest convenience, please, would add especial value to this book presenting a collection of excerpts from Hinduism (the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Geeta), Buddhism (the Dhammapad), Jainism (the Agams), Sikhism (the Guru Granth Saheb), Judaism (the Old Testament, Talmud), Christianity (the New Testament, Bible), and Islam (Koran). I'd greatly like to include your article (Influence of the Upanishads in the West), with your name as the author, of course, and possibly with reference to the www.boloji.com website to enable the reader to access your other works.

In future also, I'd like to include some of your other essays and articles as part of other books, as appropriate, with full reference to the source and credit to you, subject to your permission to do the same. I'll be more than delighted to send a copy of the book after its publication (expected within a few days.) Your earliest possible attention to my request would be gratefully acknowledged.

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Ashok Sinha
(408) 610-9832

Dr. Ashok K. Sinha
30-Dec-2013 04:30 AM

Comment best

ubaid ansari
01-Nov-2013 05:41 AM

Comment Nice
But not maching absalutaly in history... All

Faseeh rahman
03-Jul-2013 10:43 AM

Comment Much of the history was written by Muslim historians and could be biased.
you mentioned that and you acted like MUSLIMS not mentioning the role and sacrifices of Sikhs to save and protect India from becoming a MUSLIM COUNTRY
in the year 1699,SHAME on you.
Here is a Massage to the Indians, if they love and want to save the Country and Religions, Hinduism and Sikhism, then They have to increase their Number, no matter what.
ISLAM is just like a WEED or AJGAR and one day will swallow every one.

27-Jan-2013 06:16 AM

Comment Hindu ( the term is coined by fellows visiting Bharatvarsha from west), does not believe in keeping the useless history with them.

The correct term is Sanatan Dharma i.e. the always existing principles for humanity.

The needed history has been kept in the memory (as mentioned by you in the article), while others are fit to be discarded, as the whole universe is continually undergoing change.

One may refer to article by Shri Yukteshwar ji (Shri Paramhans Yogananda's Guru) : "The Holy Science", as well as the Sanatan Dharma scriptures.

02-Nov-2012 04:53 AM

Comment I am surprised,if not pained, to see no mention made in this article of the sacrifices made by the sikhs and their gurus in protecting India from invaders many of whom were followers of Islam..
I am not a sikh myself, but I firmly believe that islamization of India did not take place because of the resistance put up by the sikhs. Had Guru Govind Singh not created the Khalsa,there would have been no Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Had there been no Ranjit Singh there would be no India as we know it.

India owes a great debt to Guru Gobind Singh and the sikhs. Alas, this part of our history is not taught to children in our schools and even scholars tend to overlook it while recounting history.

Inder Kapur
18-Aug-2012 20:45 PM

Comment Happy ramadan 2012 to all my friend . May this holy and auspicious month of ramadan bring lots of happiness. Get ramadan 2012 schedule (Iftar & sehri ) at http://www.ipad89.com

19-Jul-2012 16:24 PM

Comment Sir,
Your observation is regretfully true. As an Indian i feel proud to be part of such a great civilisation, but at the same time we see ourselves repeating the same mistake even today, even when we have started writing history!

02-Sep-2011 10:01 AM

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