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INDIA. The Muslim population of the Republic of India, which came into existence in 1947 as a successor state, along with Pakistan, to British India, consists of some 12 percent of the population as a whole; Indian Muslims thus number more than ioo million people and constitute one of the largest Muslim populations in the world, smaller only than Indonesia and roughly equal to the Muslim populations of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Muslims have always been spread unevenly throughout India. Today in the old Mughal heartland of the Gangetic plain they are no more than 15 percent of the population; in Kashmir they form a majority; and in Malabar in the southwest they are about one-quarter of the population. The areas of dense Muslim population in the northwest and northeast of British India, largely agricultural communities whose religious identification was linked to sedentarization during the period of Muslim rule, were assigned to Pakistan at the time of partition.

india before partition

Muslims in India are characterized by diversity in economic and political status. Broadly speaking, they have been affected by India-wide forces like land reform, the Green Revolution, economic opportunities for merchants and artisans linked to industrialization and improved communications, and internal and external migration. Muslims have suffered particularly, however, from the loss of substantial numbers of the more prosperous and better educated to Pakistan, coupled with substantial resentment against them as a minority. Despite the success of some individuals and groups, and the visibility of such figures as Indian presidents Dr. Zakir Husain and Fakhruddin `Ali Ahmad, Muslims on the whole have not done well since independence in such areas as literacy or government service. By the early 19gos the intensity of anti-Muslim behavior had increased, and influential Hindu nationalists spoke of revenge against Muslims for presumed historical misdeeds and called on Muslims to assimilate or leave.

Socially, the Muslims of India are divided by regional and linguistic affiliations such as Bengali, Deccani, Gujarati, Hindustani, Mappila, Oriyya, and Punjabi. Muslims typically marry within their region, and most prefer to marry within endogamous descent/status groups that are hierarchically ranked.

Most Indian Muslims are Sunni and of these most are Hanafi, with some Shafi’i in the south (reflecting ocean trade connections to the Middle East). About io percent are Shi’i-mostly Ithna `Ashari. A small but significant Shi’i community is the Isma’ili, whose leader, the Aga Khan, made Bombay his home in the late nineteenth century; the core Isma’ili population are traders based in that western area. Most Sunni Muslims in the subcontinent have participated in the institutions of the Sufi orders: the Chishtiyah, Suhrawardiyah, Qadiriyah, and Nagshbandiyah have been particularly strong in this area. The subcontinent has had great traditions, continuing to the present, of both scholarly and spiritual leadership. [See Ithna `Ashariyah; Isma’iliyah; Chishtiyah; Qadiriyah; and Naqshbandiyah.]

The variety of changes that have taken place among Muslims in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the diversity of their cultural, religious, and political movements span the spectrum of patterns characteristic of Muslims worldwide. Several thinkers and leadersamong them Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817-1898), Mawland Abu al-A’la Mawdudi (1903-1979), the poet Muhammad Igbal (c. 1877-1938), Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas (1885-1944), and Mawlana Abulhasan `Ali Nadvi (b. 1914)-have been influential beyond the subcontinent as well. Over all, Islam (like Hinduism in this context) has become the basis of horizontal or “censusbased” community and a central focus of social identity: Islamic symbols have been debated and objectified as part of public life in ways that are characteristic of modern times and modern state structures in particular. A variety of movements have shared the goal of defining, or even standardizing, Islam, and they have largely focused their concern on the category, emergent in this period, of “Indian Muslim.”

Eighteenth Century. This is increasingly recognized as a period of far-reaching changes in regionalization of power, of monetarization and long-distance trade, and of widening social networks of groups like traders, financial agents, and religious specialists. It was also a period of rich cultural change. These changes have been obscured by the emphasis on “decline,” “decay,” and “confusion,” beloved of British and in turn of nationalist historians. That view stems from an understandable focus on Delhi and the decline of imperial power, made especially dramatic by attacks on this imperial city by the Persian Nadir Shah in 1739 as well as by Afghan rulers, for whom North India was a familiar area, in mid-century.

Among those caught up in the crises of the Delhi court was Shah Wali Allah (1703-1762), whom virtually every Islamic movement in modern India has regarded as a forebear. Scion of a family of religious scholars patronized by the Delhi court, he was part of the scholarly circles based in the Hejaz that were concerned with setting a new standard of fidelity to hadith. He himself linked the need for renewal to the political confusions of his day and expected religious reform to usher in worldly order as well. He urged scholars to draw freely from the four traditional legal schools instead of following blind imitation of one school. A spiritual leader in the Naqshband! tradition, he was also known for his visions and piety.

Unlike leaders of later movements, Shah Wal! Allah was not concerned with popular influence but rather with playing the traditional role of the `ulama’ in offering guidance to princes. Faced with the decline of central authority and the disruptions of competitors for power in the new regional configurations that were emerging, he sought the power of Muslim princes like the Afghan Shah Abdali, who he believed could restore order. His disciples and sons, particularly Shah `Abd al `Aziz (1746-1824), continued his scholarly work on hadith. Notable among the latter’s contributions was a collection of advisory opinions (fatwas), one of the first of many collections produced by scholars throughout this period. These were to become an increasingly important method for disseminating religious guidance and particular styles of interpretation to ever larger numbers of Muslims, particularly with the utilization, from the 18206 on, of lithographic presses. Also notable were translations of the Qur’an into Urdu prepared by members of this family. Such works contributed to the growing importance of Urdu, a regional language, among the courtly elite: Urdu incorporated vocabulary and utilized themes and genres from the cosmopolitan Persian it was rapidly replacing. [See the biographies of Wali Allah and `Abd al-`Aziz.].

A second major North Indian family of `ulama’ that emerged in this period were those associated with a center in Lucknow known as Farangi Mahall. The Farang! Mahallis pioneered a course of study known as the darsi nizdmi that became standard for training religious specialists. Like the Wal! Allah! family, the Farangi Mahallis were both learned scholars and spiritual leaders in the Sfifi tradition. Among the new social formations emerging in the fluid world of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was that of `ulama’ whose ties to family and to scholarly centers increased in importance as court patronage declined.

Not only scholarly leadership but also Sfifi leadership changed in significant ways in this period. The Chisht! leadership in particular developed a parallel emphasis on new attention to scriptural sources. The Sfifi leadership also contributed to the newly significant regional configurations of the period through development of regional languages. Thus in both Punjab and Sind poets used the regional languages to express the themes of Persian mystical poetry; Shah `Abdullatlf Bhita’! (16891752) and Bullhe Shah (168o-1758) are particularly notable in this regard. Among the great poets of Urdu writing mystical love poetry in the Persian style were Mir Taq! Mir (1’723-1810) and Khvajah Mir Dard (1720-1785). [See Urdu Literature.]

Although the East India Company had established themselves in 1803 as overlords of the Mughal in Delhi as they moved north from their base in Bengal, the most significant Islamic movement of this period, led by Sayyid Ahmad Barelw! (178o-i831) can be seen as an example of the regional state-building characteristic of the preceding century. A sometime soldier for the Nawwab of Tonk who had established a small kingdom southwest of Delhi, as well as a disciple and student of the Wal! Allah! family in Delhi, Sayyid Ahmad sought to carve out a state where Muslim life could flourish. His was the first Islamic movement to utilize inexpensive publications to disseminate religious teachings, in this case intended to call Muslims to correct belief and practice and away from the corruptions of what were seen as false Sufism and Shiism that compromised the unity of God. Following tours throughout North India and a hail undertaken in 1824, he launched a jihad in 1826 directed primarily against the Sikh kingdom of Ranjit Singh on the frontier; this movement collapsed as much from internal differences among the tribesmen as from Sikh resistance. Both Sayyid Ahmad Barelw! and his associate Mawlana Isma’!1 were killed in 1831, and only embers of their movement remained. Their religious teachings and spiritual leadership, however, were disseminated across North India and into Bengal. [See the biography of Barelwi.]

In Bengal, at about the same time as Sayyid Ahmad began his preaching, an independent reform movement also rose. It was known as the Fara’izi because of its emphasis on religious obligations (farz). Led by Hajji Sharicatullah (1781-1840), who returned in 1821 from some twenty years in Mecca, the movement stressed reform of individual practice in a context of British power. After his death subsequent leadership, including his son known as Dudhu Miyan, took up the cause of the Muslim peasantry against the Hindu landlords and resorted to military uprisings. These were suppressed in the 1830s with British help. The teachings of the movement, communicated in part by Bengali tracts, helped disseminate Islamic knowledge to ever larger numbers.

Nineteenth Century and Establishment of British Institutions. One of the most significant developments of the nineteenth century was the crystallization of the social category of ashraf, the well born or privileged. This was typically marked by command of standard Urdu, embodiment of hierarchically correct behavior, and claims to descent from historically distinguished ancestors. Those claiming such descent took the titles of sayyid, a descendent of the Prophet; shaykh, a descendent of his companions; Mughal, a descendent of the Turco-Mongol ruling or military class; and Pathan, a descendent of the Afghan ruling or military class. Ashraf families typically owned some land and might place some of their sons in government service; some might also be trained as religious specialists. By the end of the century the major cultural division of subcontinental society-that between the English-educated with their distinctive housing, habits, and skills, and all others-had begun to create a significant division within the elite.

The first major institution established for elite education in the Delhi area, however, contributed to the use of Urdu among the ashraf. Delhi College, founded in 1825 and destroyed in the anti-British mutiny of 1857, introduced members of the Muslim elite to new patterns of institutional organization for education: a formal staff, a set curriculum, classrooms, examinations, and so forth. The presence of teachers and students associated with reformist circles meant that such educational patterns became known to the `ulama’.

Reprisals against Muslims after the Mutiny were particularly severe because they were regarded as the displaced rulers. The Mughal Empire came to a formal end, and with it an important symbol of Muslim political dominance; the last emperor was exiled, and the British crown claimed sovereignty in place of the East India Company. Some distinguished religious leaders moved to the Hejaz, maintaining their influence through correspondence, publications, and visits during the hajj, which was to become increasingly important with improving transportation. As part of the post-Mutiny settlement the British identified people they considered “natural leaders,” among them princes and large landlords, and moved to secure their positions as a loyal and conservative force throughout the empire. Notable among the Muslim princes were the Shi’! talugdars of Oudh and the nawab of Rampur as well as the Sunni nizam of Hyderabad. These aristocrats were an important source of patronage for Islamic learning, music, and Greco-Arabic medicine, which flourished in the Indian subcontinent (ultimately in a rationalized, modern form) as nowhere else. (That school of medicine, Yunani tibb, is today supported by the philanthropic Hamdard Foundation and to a limited extent by government agencies.) [See Medicine, article on Traditional Practice; and Hamdard Foundation.]

Central to the British idiom of rule was the notion that India was fundamentally divided into communities, above all the two great religious communities of “Hindu” and “Muslim.” The emphasis on religion was in part a reflection of the British assumption that India represented an earlier stage of human culture, and that religion made a society “traditional” and not “modern.” The framework set by that assumption helped created the reality. On the Muslim side, the leadership of Sayyid Ahmad Khan, later knighted as Sir Sayyid, responded to the opportunity to argue that Muslims, far from being potentially disloyal, could be a base of support-well suited to cooperate in governing because of their former experience as the area’s rulers and well able to relate to British culture on the basis of shared monotheism. In 1875 he founded the Mohammedan AngloOriental College, later Aligarh Muslim University, modeled on Cambridge and Oxford and intended to produce English-educated gentlemen assimilated to British patterns. Sayyid Ahmad Khan traced his intellectual heritage to the Wali Allah! reformers. His overriding goal, however, was to show the fundamental harmony of Qur’anic revelation and modern science, stripping away from Islam the elements contingent in particular times and places and maintaining only what was essential. He embraced ijtihad to replace historic interpretations.

Among those sharing his modernist position were Chiragh `Ali (1844-1895), whose apologetic writing focused on jihad and Ottoman reforms; the poet Altaf Husain Hal! (1837-1914), whose didactic poetry contributed to the idealization of past historic glory as a spur to change; the Sh!`! thinker Ameer Ali (18491928), whose best-known work was tellingly entitled The Spirit of Islam; the novelist Nazlr Ahmad (18301912), who wrote instructive Urdu novels for girls; and Shibl! Nu’man! (1857-1914), a distinguished essayist on Islamic topics, closely associated with the Nadvatul `Ulama’ (an academy meant to produce reformed religious leaders), fluent in Arabic and linked to the Middle East, who would play a role in the councils of government. [See the biographies of Ahmad Khan, Chiragh ‘Ali, and Ameer Ali.]

Leaders of the `ulama’ also responded to the changed situation that followed the Mutiny. In 1867 a group of `ulama’ associated with Wall Allahl reform and familiar with British institutions through Delhi College and government service founded the Dar al-`Ulum at Deoband. Deoband was intended to provide bureaucratically organized training in the traditional learning of the `ulama’. Students followed a six-year course, moving through a fixed syllabus, taking formal exams, and participating in a convocation. The school was particularly distinguished for its work in hadith and by the end of the century had established a network of schools that has continued to grow to the present. Deoband also pioneered the use of widespread fundraising in an era when scholars could not depend on state patronage. The Deoband `ulama’ sought to be apolitical and to devote themselves wholly to disseminating correct guidance through training teachers, prayer leaders, trustees of endowments, writers, and so on. Deoband, like Aligarh, helped make Urdu a lingua franca for Muslims throughout the subcontinent. [See Deobandis; Aligarh.]

Rivals to the school’s reformist style included the Ahli Hadith, who favored direct use of sources instead of following the Hanafi or any other law school, and the “Barelwis” (who would ultimately identify themselves simply as the Ahl-i Sunnat va Jama’at) associated with Mawlana Ahmad Riza Khan Barelwi (1856-1921); the latter were also Hanafi but were supportive of the customary practices associated, above all, with Sufi shrines. [See Barelwis.] All attempted to define Islam, made Islamic issues a subject of debate, and utilized the new technology of inexpensive publications for tracts and fatwas; all these activities contributed to a dissemination of Islamic teaching and a role for Islamic symbols as central to social identity. These `ulama’ debated with one another, with the Aligarh reformers, and with Hindu groups like the Arya Samaj who were also attempting to eliminate present practice in favor of an ideal past as well as to reconvert non-Hindus to their presumably original Hinduism. The groups of `ulama’ also debated with, and fiercely opposed, a movement that emerged at the end of the century under the leadership of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1839-19o8) of the Punjab town of Qadian. Claiming that he was the promised Mahdi of the Muslims, the Messiah of the Christians, and an avatar of Krishna, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad created a Sfifi-like, highly demarcated community whose members were notable for their mutual support, high educational level, and successful missionary work throughout the world. (In 1974 the Ahmadiyah was declared nonMuslim by the National Assembly in Pakistan.) [See Ahmadiyah. ]

By the end of the century, at a national level stimulated by the foundation of the Indian National Congress in 1885, issues regarded as “Muslim” had entered into public discussion. Muslim leaders, following Sir Sayyid, argued that the proposed democratic elections were inappropriate in a society with a minority like themselves, the former rulers, who should be influential beyond their numbers. Issues of contention often revolved around what later would be called an “arithmetic” of communalism: the number of Muslims in schools, the number of Muslims in public employment, and so on. The three-part competition-Hindu, Muslim, and British “mediator”-also entailed issues like observation of holidays and adjudication of routes for religious processions. A major issue for Muslims at the end of the century was the status of Urdu as an official language, a status it enjoyed not only in the United Provinces but also in Bihar and Punjab. In igoo Urdu, with its Persian heritage and Arabo-Persian script, was displaced as the sole indigenous official language for the United Provinces and made to share official status with Hindi, written in the Devanagari script associated with Sanskrit. The public symbols of Muslims-the Urdu language, processions, and mosques-were more the contribution of the politically active, many associated with Aligarh, than of the `ulama’.

Twentieth Century to Partition. Three issues were embraced in the early years of the twentieth century that focused a distinctively Muslim political agenda and intensified India-wide networks among a politicized Muslim elite. In 1905 the Government of India announced the division of the large state of Bengal into two new states, the eastern half emerging as a Muslimmajority area. The protests of Bengali nationalists, who saw this move as a way to narrow their base, produced a reaction defending the division and its opportunities for Muslims; indeed, the issue of creating Muslimmajority provinces was to be part of the arithmetic of communalism for the rest of British rule. In 1911 the British reunited the province and, as with the status of Urdu, the politicized Muslim elite felt that their assumed privileged position had been undermined.

A second issue of this decade was the announcement of the first of three occasions before independence of reforms to enhance Indian participation in the various councils of government. As a prelude to these reforms a delegation of Muslims, led by the navvdb of Dhaka and made up of other landed and aristocratic leaders, pressed the viceroy to acknowledge the particular place of Muslims. British rule operated in terms of various corporate groups and welcomed this initiative. The most important principle established in the Morley-Minto Reforms of i 9o9 was that not only would seats be reserved for Muslims, but separate electorates would also be established in which only Muslims could vote for Muslim representatives. The delegation took institutional shape as the All-India Muslim League. [See All-India Muslim League.]

The third issue was that of Pan-Islamic concerns regarding the political fate of Muslims beyond India, above all in the weakened Ottoman Empire and in what were seen as incursions on Muslim rule in the Balkans and in the holy places. Muslim concern had been evident as early as the Russo-Turkish war of 1878 and was stimulated by Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838-1897), who visited India several times. An organization to press for the defense of Muslim interests in the Hejaz (Anjuman-i Khuddam-i Ka’bah) was formed in 1913, as was a medical mission to the Balkans. These concerns forged a persistant alliance between some of the `ulama’ and the secularly educated leadership. An incident defending the washing place of a mosque in Kanpur in 1912, where the municipality planned to build a road, showed the extent of new networks as leaders from outside converged in a successful protest. By World War I there was a distinct Muslim intelligentsia linked not by a single organization but by a shared concern for certain public Muslim symbols and by an agenda of Muslim interests. They communicated through new media including the Urdu newspapers produced by intellectuals like Mawlana Abu al-Kalam Azad (1888-1958), who would become one of the most prominent Congress Muslims and India’s first minister of education. [See the biography of Azdd.]

By the end of World War I the expectations of Indian political leaders had been raised by British promises, by a glimpse of European weakness, and by their own success during the war in forging platforms like the socalled Lucknow Pact between the Congress and the League. The British countered with continuation of wartime emergency legislation, and they announced very limited constitutional reform, not the hoped-for self-rule, in the Montagu Chelmsford Reforms of 1919.

The Muslim leadership was particularly aggrieved at Britain’s role in the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire. In response the Khilafat movement sought to defend the position of the Ottoman sultan as the caliph of all Muslims. The movement engaged a wide Muslim leadership, created a new level of mass support, and provided an occasion for Congress leadership-in particular Mohandas Gandhi with his new program of noncooperation-to embrace a Muslim issue. The movement was led jointly by the Aligarh-trained brothers Muhammad `All and Shaukat ‘Ali, who adopted a religious style and dress, along with their spiritual guide Mawlana `Abdulbari (d. 1925/26), a saintly and scholarly man associated with Farangi Mahall. The Khilafat movement, while eliciting non-Muslim support, underlined and even reinforced the very differences (often articulated through religious symbols) between the League and the Congress. The cause of the caliphate proved a chimera when the Turks on their own initiative abolished the caliphate in 1924 under Atatiirk’s modernizing policy. At the height of Khilafat-Congress cooperation a group associated with Aligarh, dismayed by the institution’s political loyalty, broke off to form a new “national” Muslim university infused with Gandhian idealism, the Jamfah Milfiyah Islamiyah in Delhi. [See Khilafat Movement.]

As plans for a further round of reforms continued, Muslim political leaders continued to focus on protecting Muslim interests, for example in the League’s “Fourteen Points” of 1929. Some important issues were separate electorates and reserved seats, “weightage” in Muslim minority provinces, the number of provinces where Muslims dominated, and the degree of provincial power in relation to the center. In the Punjab and Bengal landlord parties emerged that expressed a powerful class rather than religious interest. The period witnessed an intensification of Muslim-Hindu friction at the popular level and competition that often manifested itself in communal riots. In this period three movements led by religious leaders took shape, all of them influential in the subcontinent to the present day.

The Jam’iyatul `Ulama’-i Hind was founded in 1921 as an association of `ulama’, among them Mawlana Husain Ahmad Madan-1 (1897-1959) and others from the seminary at Deoband. They turned from their long history of apoliticism to join with the Congress in their shared goal of expelling the British from India. Deobandi `ulama’, if not the school, had been caught up in politics over the previous decade, particularly in relation to Muslim interests abroad. The `ulama’ had little interest in political negotiations as such: their primary concern was the end of British rule as a prelude (they hoped) to the opportunity for Muslims to order their community lives on Islamic terms and in so doing to draw non-Muslims to convert. They envisaged an independent India in which Muslims would control their own educational and jurisprudential lives. The Jam`iyat (in an interesting parallel to traditionally educated Jewish leaders’ position on the establishment of Israel) opposed partition. [See Jam’Iyatul `Ulama’-i Hind.]

The two other noteworthy religious movements of the period each extended the nature of religious leadership beyond that of the traditionally educated. The Tablighi Jama`at was one of a number of movements in the 19206 that focused on tabligh, a neologism conveying the enunciation or pronouncement of Islamic teaching with the goal of guidance or proselytization. Most proved ephemeral, but one-led by Mawlana Muhammad Ilyas, associated with the Deobandis, and based in Delhi-flourished and is today one of the most influential Muslim movements in the subcontinent as well as in the diaspora. Ilyas’s movement came into being in competition with Hindu movements trying to “reconvert” Muslims; however, it was radically apolitical and nonconfrontational, directed only at Muslims and providing gentle guidance in a nonjudgmental mode. His innovation was to engage everyone in similar teaching; the teachers thus teach themselves and assume a role that had heretofore been limited to the learned and spiritually connected. Although the movement always tried to enlist the learned `ulama’, it also insisted on the obligation of even the humblest Muslim to teach others. [See Tablighi Jama’at.]

The Jama’at-i Islami, founded by Mawlana Abu alA’15 Mawdudi, widened the scope of religious leadership in yet another way, turning to people like Mawdudi who were secularly educated but who had acquired Islamic authority without the traditional training of the madrasah. Convinced that Muslims needed to abandon the medieval interpretations of their faith and focus on Qur’an and h, adith, Mawdudi taught a scripturalist, nonSufi style of Islam, explicitly proposing Islam as a “system,” “a complete way of life,” in contrast to the decadent, materialist West that was epitomized above all by the unregulated lives of women. The Jama’at-i Islami was founded in 1941 as a highly selective core group who could bring society-wide change. Mawdudi’s vision of Islam, the party, and the state-explicitly anti Western-replicated many characteristics of the capitalism and communism it opposed: the idea of a system, the cell-like organization explicitly copied from European fascism and communism, and even the elaboration of an essential female specificity based on European “science.” Mawdudi opposed partition but ultimately emigrated to Pakistan, where the party, although small, has been influential. His writings have been widely circulated outside India but are of marginal importance within. [See Jama’at-i Islam! and the biography of Mawdudi.]

By the time of elections following the third constitutional reform, the Government of India Act of 1935, the Muslim League found itself with little electoral appeal and with its concerns marginalized in the Congressdominated provincial assemblies that took power in several states in 1937. At this point Mohammad Ali Jinnah, a Bombay lawyer who had been active in the Congress and had cooperated with it even after he joined the Muslim League, now determined to assert the League as a mass party and as the single voice of Muslims. His cause was helped by his expression of loyalty during World War II, when much of the Congress leadership were imprisoned for their unwillingness to participate in a war they had not been allowed to enter independently as well as for their participation in the “Quit India” movement of 1942. Jinnah was profoundly influenced by the great poet Muhammad Igbal who drew on European philosophy and Islamic theology to celebrate Islamic history and the ummah but used nationalism as a context for the Islamic dynamism he enjoined. During the war the League persuaded Muslim leaders in Punjab and Bengal that a united, independent government with Congress at its center would not protect Muslim interests. At the conclusion of the war and following various constitutional proposals, a divided India gained independence on 15 August 1947. The “Muslim state” excluded the areas where most of the All-India leadership were based. [See Muslim League and the biographies of Iqbal and, jinnah.]

Although Hindu nationalist ideology by the 19gos vilified the League, and Jinnah in particular, as responsible for the “vivisection” of India, many hands were involved in that outcome. For decades religio-political movements had drawn ever sharper boundaries around communities. For decades too politicians had negotiated on the basis of community, to the point that some have argued that Jinnah used the ambiguous demand for a separate state (first articulated by the League in the Lahore Resolution of 1940) as a bargaining ploy, never expecting it to materialize. Many in the Congress, moreover, in the end welcomed the result: partition removed the claim for decentralized federalism that would, they thought, stand in the way of a socialist pattern of development. Similarly, it removed a powerful conservative force in the landlords of the League; finally, it was hoped in vain that partition would stabilize community relations.

In the horrific aftermath of partition, when as many as ten million people migrated and perhaps a million were killed, communal relations in the years until around the death of Nehru (1964) were marked by quiescence. India rejected separate electorates or reservation on religious grounds, and there emerged no single party or organization to speak for Muslim interests. At first Muslims largely supported the Congress party, who espoused secularism and wooed Muslim votes. Congress’s decline, coupled with increased riots in the 196os and fear for Muslim interests, led to new Muslim parties, including the Majlis-i Mushavarat (founded in Uttar Pradesh in 1964 but now dormant) and a revived Muslim League that has proven successful in Kerala. The former princely state of Kashmir, with its Muslim majority and a Hindu ruler who declared the state part of India, has been fought over in political councils and on the ground among India, Pakistan, and the Kashmiris themselves since 1947. By the late i98os the central government could no longer control Kashmir, overtaken by a separatist movement, and the state has been under siege. [See Kashmir.]

Muslim interests have increasingly focused on protection of life and the complicity of local police and civil authority in anti-Muslim violence, particularly from the early 198os. Culturally Urdu, once so important to Muslim ashrdf and even to community identity, has largely been eclipsed as a political symbol and a written form. The primary focus of Muslim leadership in cultural terms has been the preservation of a separate Muslim civil code, increasingly seen by Hindu nationalists as unacceptable in their goal of assimilating all Indians to a fundamentally Hindu culture (and contrary to the constitution’s Directive Principle, Article 44, that calls for a common civil code, although no such code has yet been enacted). That issue came to a head over the case of an elderly Muslim woman, Shah Banu, who in 1985 sued for long-term maintenance from her estranged husband, despite the fact that such support is traditionally limited in Islamic law to a fixed period. The Supreme Court, following the Civil Procedure Code of 1973, ultimately required the husband to provide long-term maintenance. Some Muslims protested this modification of Muslim law on the part of the courts. Subsequently Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, seeking Muslim support (as he had done in ushering in the first ban on Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses), pushed through parliament the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act of 1986, reasserting a separate Muslim code. This ruling intensified the backlash against Muslims.

Beginning in 1984, antagonism toward Muslims focused on the existence of a mosque built by a Muslim general of the Emperor Babur in the sixteenth century, commonly called the Babarl Masjid and situated in the northern Indian town of Ayodhya. Hindu activists insisted that the mosque marked the birthplace of the god Rama and that Babur had destroyed a Hindu temple to build the mosque. The mosque was closed to Muslim worship after a statue of Rama was surreptitiously placed inside it in 1949, and Hindu puja ceremonies took place in close proximity. Led by the Vishva Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Organization or VHP) and often supported by the political party Bharata Janata Parishad (BJP), the conflict drew national attention. In response a Muslim organization, the All India Babari Masjid Action Committee, argued that there was no evidence for the birthplace or for a temple on that site and organized to defend the mosque. VHP-led mass actions-for example, All-India processions transporting bricks to rebuild the temple-led to far-reaching antiMuslim violence. On 6 December 1992 activists succeeded in tearing down the entire stone mosque. This action was followed by many episodes of local violence in which the vast majority of victims were Muslim.

Although many decry this violence as a betrayal of Indian values and a distraction from pressing socioeconomic issues, for other Indians Muslims have become an essential element in defining what is seen as a moral response to an immoral and increasingly intrusive state structure. Muslims are imagined much as other minorities who have played similar roles in other countries: they are a vested interest with special privileges granted by a government whose very relation to them proves governmental immorality; they are disloyal to the Indian state, with connections to “foreign” interests in Pakistan, the Gulf, and elsewhere; and they refuse to assimilate to the values of Hindu morality. In short, Muslims for many Indians today stand for what is wrong in society-a role not of their choosing and not susceptible to refutation by reason.

Most Muslims in India are as rooted where they are as anyone else. They vary radically, particularly by region-a Muslim in Kashmir has very different prospects today from a Muslim in relatively prosperous and stable Kerala-by education, and by class. As a large minority, widely scattered and embedded in all segments of society, they will continue as a substantial presence in the nation.


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Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/india/

  • writerPosted On: April 21, 2014
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