A Shameful Process which began in the 7th century and has continued Ever Since

Islam conversion 7th Century

A news channel recently put on air a new report on conversions in Kerala. Times Now did a groundbreaking expose on the systematic manner in which these conversions are being carried out in Kerala, particularly in one of its Muslim majority district. The reporter travelled to Gaza in the Kasargod district of Kerala and brought out an explosive report on the conversion racket.

The report showed how the conversion mafia has issued rate cards for converting Hindu and Sikh girls to Islam. There was a price of seven lakhs on a Sikh girl and five lakhs on a Hindu Brahmin girl, while the conversion of a Kshatriya girl was to fetch 4.5 lakhs and an OBC/SC/ST Hindu girl is to go at a price of 2 lakhs each.

This report might have been an eye-opener for those who have chosen to remain ignorant about state of affairs in Muslim majority regions across India, however, for those who have been following the turn of events in Kerala closely, this report just provides more fuel to the already established fact of how meticulously and efficiently the conversion game is being played out not only in Kerala but also in other parts of the country.

The pro-conversion lobbyists claim that the conversion of non-Muslims to Islam is an act ordained by the will of God. To put things into perspective, it is important to understand the justification for conversion given in the Quran:

“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jiziya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”

Quran, Sura 9:29

The Holy book of the Muslims, therefore, makes it a religious obligation for the ‘believers’ to either convert the ‘non-believers’ to Islam or force them to pay the discriminatory jiziya tax and reduce them to a position of slavery.

For people who have some knowledge of the history of Islam and its violent antecedents, the Times Now report has not come as a jolt. For these people, few and far between in Indian academia, it is an established fact that Islam has never in its history showed any respect for people espousing other faiths. The clarity with which the verses in the Quran claim that only those who believe in Allah can be accorded respect and the rest must be subjected to a life of submission, provides ample justification for interpreting Islam as an intolerant religion.

It is imperative to realize that religious conversion is a symbol of intolerance, the history of which can be traced back to the 7th century when India first came into contact with the Islamic world. This cataclysmic event not only changed the course of Indian history but also allowed the religion of Islam to take deep roots in the sub-continent, the consequences of which are for everyone to fathom.

The Arab traders who came to India in the 7th century set up bases in two regions—Malabar and Gujarat. In fact, the first mosque in India was built in Kerala in the 7th century by a mercenary, Malik ibn Dinar who came with the sole objective of spreading Islam in India. It is also significant to note that the first converts to Islam in India were the people of Malabar.

The Moplahs who accepted Islam, whether willingly or by force is a matter of debate, became the flag-bearers of the new religion in a Hindu majority Bharat in the 7th century. It is not surprising, therefore, that Kerala is the hot-bead of Islamic radicalism. Historically, the state was the first to be exposed to Islam and it is not an over-statement to claim that the mercenaries of Islam never came to India with an objective of spreading love and brotherhood, they came with just one aim in mind, that is either convert people to Islam or guarantee their submission for life.

It would only be logical to accept that Islamic radicalism in Kerala is a continuation of this process which began in the 7th century. Many ‘liberal’ historians would force us to believe that the Islamic occupation of Kerala had no impact on its religious fabric but it has been proved beyond doubt that wherever Islam was introduced in the country, it impacted not only the religious fabric but also significantly altered the political, cultural, and economic institutions of the region as a whole, be it Kerala, Sindh, Delhi, Bengal or the Deccan.

Following the first Islamic occupation of India in the 7th century, the Arabs led by Muhammad bin Qasim invaded Sindh in the 8th century and established Umayyad paramountcy in the region. Many historians argue that this did not have any far-reaching consequences as the Arabs did not achieve much. Early Orientalist historians like Stanley Lane Pool and Sir Wolseley Haig considered the Arab conquest to be ‘just an episode in the history of India.’ According to some scholars the Arab conquest of Sindh was motivated by religious considerations. A.L. Srivastava pointed out that “The principle source of inspiration for the Arabs was their religious fervour, which made them believe that they had been sent by God to destroy the non-Muslims or kafirs.”

The Arabs were somewhat successful in their religious mission as they were able to win many converts from among the local population. Conversion and submission of the non-believers was thus achieved, a trophy which every Islamic conqueror showed off proudly to his Caliphal masters.

However insignificant the Arab conquest might have been, it definitely paved the way for the future conquest of India by Mahmud Ghazni, the Ghaznavid marauder who invaded and ravaged the frontier regions of India in the 11th century and desecrated the holy shrine of Somnath over and over again. It was in the wake of the Ghaznavid conquests that large-scale conversions were affected in the area of Punjab, Multan, parts of Uttar Pradesh, and other regions.

Ghazi Sayyid Salar Masud, popularly known as Ghazi Miyan, who was a general in the army of Mahmud Ghazni was instrumental in converting many local Hindus to Islam in the 11th century. By the 12th century, he earned immense fame as a warrior-saint and his shrine at Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh, eventually became a place of pilgrimage. The term ‘warrior-saint’ may seem contradictory but in a religion like Islam a warrior can effectively double up as a saint in order to convert people to his faith and fulfill his religious obligation. There is a long list of such warrior-saints in India who were dedicated to the cause of converting non-Muslims to Islam. They disguised themselves as Sufis or men of piety but their sole objective was to convert India from Dar-ul-Harb (Land of the Infidels) to Dar-ul-islam (Land of Islam).

Further, with the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate in the 12th century, and the introduction of a new political order, the Dar-ul-Islam dream was fulfilled to a large extent. In the past, some historians have claimed that the new political dispensation introduced an egalitarian order in the country, particularly in North India, and many people impressed with this egalitarianism converted to Islam.

This was the position of Marxist historians like Mohammad Habib who justified the Turkish conquest of India by claiming that the Turks abolished inequality and established an equitable society. This theory of Habib has, however, received considerable flak by historians who have rightly pointed out that Islam stood for anything but egalitarianism, and there were many prejudicial rules for the new converts to Islam and hence the notion of egalitarianism as a cause of conversion stands falsified. Conversions were carried out per force, and most people converted to Islam because they wanted to escape the unjust jiziya tax, while some were also coaxed and cajoled by ‘holy men’/’warrior saints.’

The rule of the Delhi Sultans was brought to an end when Babur invaded India in 1526, and subsequently established the Mughal rule. The Mughals who ruled over the Indian sub-continent for over three centuries till the coming of the British, founded a dynasty on the guiding principles of shariah, a dynasty which balanced active and passive discrimination against the non-Muslims extremely well. The Sultans had also taken recourse to shariah but the sporadic downfall of dynasties during the Sultanate period meant that political institutions could not take shape the way it was desired by the Sultans. However, this changed with the coming of the Mughals as continuity was maintained between the dynasts and therefore state policy could be implemented with greater force. The first two emperors, Babur and Humayun, had nothing much to offer even as far as political history is concerned, the latter being an ineffective monarch who fled out of the country to save himself. His son, Emperor Akbar, often hailed as a messiah of the Hindus, was a staunch Muslim (and remained so even later) and a heavy-handed monarch until he realized that it was politically not feasible to rule over a Hindu majority nation with a shariah-minded outlook. What historians have not analyzed critically is the fact that Akbar’s policies were purely dictated by political reasons, and he had no special love or affection for the Hindus. Had this been the case, he would not have re-imposed the jiziya, having abolished it in 1564.

The most bigoted ruler of Mughal dynasty was Aurangzeb who left no stone unturned to humiliate the Hindus. He took it upon himself, as a pious Muslim, to make India the Land of Islam, and for doing this he adopted dreadful tactics in order to convert people to Islam. The famous European traveler, Nicola Manucci, who visited India during his reign left an account of how and in what manner the jiziya tax was imposed under Aurangzeb’s reign. Manucci explained in his account that the burden of the tax bore more heavily on the poor Hindus, as a consequence of which many were forced to convert to Islam. The abominable acts of cruelty perpetrated by Aurangzeb against the Hindus demands a separate narration, however, it shall suffice to say that he was a man on a mission, a mission to convert as many Hindus as possible to Islam, and he successfully used the state machinery in achieving his dreams. The naivety with which many historians in the past have tried to twist and turn this historical narrative in order to suit their ideological needs calls for criticism and further analysis.

Looking at the history of conversions in India under Muslim rule, the case of Gaza in Kasargod does not spring a surprise. It just marks continuation of a process which began in the 7th century and has continued ever since, dismantling the socio-cultural and religious fabric of a country like India.