South Asia, Islam in

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South Asia is commonly known as the "Indian Subcontinent" or the "Indo-Pak Subcontinent." Its core is the landmass south of the Himalaya and Hindukush mountain ranges: the Ganges and Indus river plains and the peninsula (now the nations of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh). Included in South Asia are the mountainous regions (Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma, Tibet) whose societies have been in close contact with the Indus and Ganges plains. Also in the South Asian cultural zone are islands of the Indian Ocean (Sri Lanka, Lakshadweep, Andaman, Nicobar, and the Maldives).

South Asia is a distinctive area with complex relations to other parts of Asia. The world's highest mountains separate South Asia from China, Central Asian steppes, and the Iranian plateau; yet mountain passes provided conduits for trade, religious and cultural exchange, migration, and invasion. Sea lanes connect South Asia to the "Middle Eastern" lands of the Persian Gulf and Red Sea and to islands of Indonesia and the Malay peninsula. South Asia developed complex agrarian societies, political empires, and highly developed religious systems (from local cults to Brahmanical Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism).

Islam in South Asia

These geographic boundaries and connections shaped the growth of Muslim communities in South Asia, which contains a diversity of Muslim groups. Muslims in South Asia include all major sectarian groups and different legal schools, and speak many regional languages. If the populations of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are combined, the South Asian core area has the highest population of Muslims globally.

Early Muslims in South Asia

Commerce, conquest, and conversion led to the growth of Muslim communities in South Asia. Maritime commerce first established a Muslim presence in South Asia. The western coast of South Asia had intimate commercial and political relations with the "Middle East" long before the time of Muhammad (died 632 c.e.). The southwest of Malabar (from Ma˓bar, Arabic for "place of crossing," now Kerala) housed merchants and settlers from pre-Islamic Arab, Jewish, and Christian communities.

The advent of Islam transformed Arab settlers into Muslim settlers. At first, this may not have dramatically changed their relation with rulers or local populations. Arab merchants married local women and were recognized as a distinct caste with high status. Muslim Arab traders built mosques and acted as overseas commercial agents of local rulers and political advisors. Tamil-speaking Muslims on the southern tip of the peninsula are known as Marakkayar, meaning "sailors" (possibly derived from Arabic Markab or ship).

Arabic literacy raised the status of Muslim Arabs in Malabar, as the Islamic empire in the Middle East and the Iranian plateau established Arabic as the commercial lingua franca in the Indian Ocean basin. Children of Arab merchants and South Asian women were raised Muslim, creating the nucleus for a more indigenous Muslim community; in addition Hindu rulers appointed children to Arab families to learn techniques of the seafaring trade. According to legend, a Hindu ruler converted to Islam during Muhammad's lifetime and traveled to Medina, leaving his Hindu descendants to rule by delegation from the disappeared "Muslim king." This legend provided a mythic explanation of the cooperative relationship between Hindu kings and Arab-Muslim trade communities.

The Conquest of Sindh (711–997 c.e.)

Unlike Malabar, the northwest coast was not hospitable to Arab and Persian merchant settlers. The Hindu communities of Sindh and Gujarat were already engaged in maritime trade; Arab settlements were competition, not complement. As the Islamic community expanded into an empire in the seventh century, it conquered the Sassanid empire and absorbed the Iranian potential to dominate the Indian Ocean basin.

The Umayyad dynasty initiated diplomatic and commercial relations with Sri Lanka and the Indonesian archipelago, coming into conflict with Hindu rulers in Sindh over pirates' interference in sea routes. Sindhi rulers failed to control piracy (or perhaps profited by it). In 711, when Sindhi pirates captured a ship bound from Sri Lanka to the Umayyad ruler with royal gifts, the Arab-Islamic empire mounted a naval expedition that conquered Sindh.

The expedition leader, Muhammad ibn Qasim, established the first Arab-Islamic polity in South Asia. Sectarian feuds in Sindh facilitated conquest; Mahayana Buddhists struggled for political supremacy against Brahmanical Hindus, and may have colluded with Arab Muslims in order to displace them. Muhammad ibn Qasim extended dhimmi status to Brahmanical Hindus and Buddhists: the first example in Islamic history of "protected religious community" applied to groups not mentioned in the Qur˒an. Despite this, Arab rulers justified their conquest of Sindh with a call for conversion to Islam. There is no evidence of a sustained effort to convert local populations (as in the Umayyad empire as a whole). After conquest, Brahmanical temples functioned and Hindu communities administered revenue collection.

The Arab conquerors founded Mansura as a garrison and the capital city (from approximately 730). Multan became the second Islamic urban center, though it had been a major city and Hindu temple site before the Arab conquest. After the Abbasid empire transferred the caliphal capital to Baghdad, cultural, religious, and scientific contact between South Asians and Muslims in the central Islamic lands increased.

Political strife in the central Islamic lands affected Sindh. As the Fatimids established a revolutionary counter-caliphate at Cairo, Isma˓ili missionaries (da˓is) in Sindh engineered a coup. Sunnis were driven underground and Sindh became a satellite of Fatimid rule. Isma˓ili missionaries drew equivalence between Islamic beliefs and those of native populations to facilitate conversion and gain support beyond urban centers. Allah was pictured as equivalent to Brahma, while Adam was an incarnation or avatar of Shiva and ˓Ali was an avatar of Vishnu. Beyond political strategy, this syncretic theology promoted the idea that Hindu theism was compatible with or equivalent to Islam.

The Ghaznavid Sultanate (997–1175 c.e.

Initial contact between Islam and South Asia came via sea routes, but more sustained contact came though land routes. During the Abbasid period Central Asia, Khurasan, and Afghanistan became important regions of the Islamic empire. When Abbasid rule became weak, Turkic slave-soldiers (mamluks) governing outlying territories asserted independence as sultans, beginning with the sultanate of Ghazna in 962. With its capital of Ghazayn (in Afghanistan), the sultanate bridged the land routes between the Iran plateau and South Asia.

Mahmud of Ghazna ruled this sultanate from 998–1030, creating a Turkic aristocracy with Persian court rituals and strong loyalty to Sunni sectarianism. He expanded westward into Khurasan and eastward into Punjab, establishing Lahore as a frontier garrison town and important center of Islamic scholarship. Mahmud patronized Abu Rayhan al-Biruni, a scholar who authored a study of the religions and sciences of South Asia (Kitab al-Hind).

Mahmud participated in larger political and religious rivalries. He invaded Sindh, opposing the Isma ili Fatimid presence there. He raided far into the Ganges plain; political chronicles attribute to him a policy of plundering the wealth of Hindu temples. Historians argue over the extent of his plunder and whether iconoclastic desecration was a religious justification for military campaigns. All agree, however, that plunder funded westward campaigns rather than ruling South Asia beyond Lahore.

Sufi organizations began to move into Ghaznavid-controlled territories and acted as missionaries for Sunni allegiance. Suhrawardi Sufis were active in opposing the Isma ili presence: These include Baha˒uddin Zakariya, who created a devotional center in Multan; Sayyid Jalal Bukhari in Uchh; and Ali Hujwiri (known as Data Ganj Bakhsh) in Lahore. Sufis continued the Isma˓ili effort to convert South Asians to Islam by preaching, teaching, and healing.

The Sultanates of Delhi (1175–1526 c.e.

Ghaznavid rule allowed further Turkic slave-soldier regimes to invade. In 1175, Muhammad ibn Sam invaded from Afghanistan into Punjab. Unlike the Ghaznavids, he conquered Delhi and set up a lasting administration in the South Asian heartland. This administration, known as the sultanate of Delhi, was ruled by a succession of slave-soldier regimes: Ghuri (1193–1290), Khalji (1290–1320), Tughluq (1320–1398), Sayyid (1414–1450), and Lodi (1451–1526).

Despite rapid dynastic change, these sultans created a stable political structure. In their rhetoric, "Islam" meant the political dominance of the Sunni Turkic and Afghan elite. This rhetoric (preserved in coinage, monumental architecture, and historical chronicles) should not obscure the fact that local Muslim communities were growing outside state control. Hindu kings (rajas) who fought against the Turkic dynasties employed South Asian Muslims as soldiers, just as Hindu soldiers fought with the Turkic armies. Political conflict between Turkic sultans and Hindu rajas was not a clash between two religions or two incompatible civilizations despite claims of colonial-era and contemporary nationalist histories.

The Delhi sultanates introduced new forms of political administration (the iqta˓ or jagirdari system), military organization, architecture, coinage, and patronage of literature and music. These last two cultural spheres involved syncretic creativity between Hindus and Muslims. The system of North Indian (Hindustani) classical music was shaped by Muslim innovations through court patronage; Amir Khosrow (died 1325), an innovator in Hindustani music, was involved in Sufism and court life.

The Delhi sultanate expanded across the Ganges plain to Bengal, and southward to Rajasthan and Gujarat, encompassing the Deccan region of peninsular South Asia in 1310 c.e. The Delhi sultans' profound military success was against Mongol incursions, turning South Asia into a haven for Islamic rule while Iran, Iraq, and Syria were devastated.

Because of this continuity, Muslim artisans, intellectuals, and religious leaders immigrated to South Asia, causing Sufism, Islamic scholarship, and literary and fine arts to flourish. Official structure of the administration included religious leaders: A shaykh al-Islam, who was the most authoritative Islamic scholar in each city or region, presided over qadis, who acted as judges and notaries drawn from the ranks of scholars trained in jurisprudence (fiqh) and theology (usul al-din). Although the sultans of Delhi favored the Shafi i school of law, most South Asian Muslims adhered to the Hanafi school (as did Turkic peoples in Central Asia). Muslims of the southern coasts like Malabar continued to follow the Shafi˓i school.

Religious life outside state control was vibrant. Sufis established mosques and hospices (khanaqa or jama˓at-khana) in smaller towns as devotional, educational, and charitable centers. Discourses of Sufi masters introduced new intellectual disciplines and scholarly knowledge. The Chishti Sufi, Nizam al-Din Awliya˒ (died 1325 c.e.), was one of the first in South Asia to debate religious topics through constant reference to prophetic hadith. Although state officials and Sufi leaders debated issues of religious practice, they were not diametrically opposed. Especially outside the capital, tacit cooperation between qadis and Sufi leaders was the norm.

Regional Islamic Kingdoms (1338–1687 c.e.

The Delhi sultanate became weak in the mid-fourteenth century; governors asserted independence, creating regional Islamic dynasties. The Ilyas Shahi dynasty built a kingdom in Bengal from 1342 with its capital at Lakhnawti, while the Bahmani dynasty threw off Delhi's rule in the Deccan in 1347. Thereafter, the Deccan split into five small Islamic states: Golkonda, Khandesh, Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, and Berar. In 1401 in Gujarat, the Zafar Shahi dynasty created its local capital at Ahmadabad. These smaller Islamicate dynasties created distinctive regional Islamic societies and literature in local languages beyond Persian.

Regional dynasties justified independence from Delhi by patronizing local Sufi leaders or adopting Shi˓ite loyalties. In Gujarat, the Zafar Shahi dynasty built the tomb of Shaykh Ahmad Khattu, after whom they named Ahmadabad. In the Deccan, the Bahmani dynasty built a tomb for the Chishti Shaykh, Muhammad Hussayni Gesu Daraz, at Gulbarga. The Faruqi dynasty of Kandesh named their capital Burhanpur after the Chishti Sufi master, Burhan al-Din Gharib. These Sufi leaders migrated from Delhi as central power of the Delhi sultanate broke down. Some of the Deccani dynasties were Shi˓a and fostered cultural and commercial relationships with Iran.

This centrifugal process accelerated when Timur (Tamerlane) invaded South Asia and sacked Delhi in 1389. Timur did not occupy Delhi, but a chieftain of Chaghatai Turks who claimed descent from Timur did. Zahir al-Din Muhammad Babur, a Turkic warlord from the Ferghana Valley (now Tajikistan), invaded South Asia to rebuild his fortune until he could reconquer Ferghana, defeating Ibrahim Lodi, the last ruler of the Delhi sultanate, in 1526.

The Mogul Timurid Empire (1526–1857 c.e.

Babur died five years after his conquest of Delhi, yet his descendants build the largest and strongest agrarian empire of the early modern world. His son, Humayun (ruled 1530–1556), consolidated Mogul rule against Afghan nobles. Military remnants of the Lodi regime rallied under the leadership of Sher Shah Suri, an Afghan leader in Bihar. Sher Shah Suri defeated Humayun's armies in 1540, drove the Moguls into exile in Safavid Iran, and reestablished the Delhi sultanate under a new Suri dynasty. The Safavid ruler, Shah Isma il, supported Humayun who reinvaded South Asia in 1555, defeated the Suri regime, and established Mogul rule. Humayun began conquering regional dynasties in Bengal and Gujarat.

Jalal al-Din Akbar (ruled 1556–1605 c.e.) continued this expansion, giving Mogul rule stability and ideological maturity. Akbar conquered Rajputana, Sindh, and Kashmir. Later Mogul rulers Nur al-Din Jahangir (ruled 1605–1627), Shah Jahan (1628–1658), and Aurangzeb (1658–1689) pushed Mogul rule southward into the Deccan and eastward into Sikkim and Burma.

The Mogul empire succeeded because of some unique administrative features. The army and court moved with the emperor on a circuit of urban fortress-cities like Lahore and Agra, and tent-cities in the provinces. This mobility facilitated central rule and tax collection. An elaborate system of promotions in court and military kept administrators dependent on following centralized policy. Assignments for administration and tax collection were routinely rotated, preventing governors from building independent power. From the time of Akbar, the Mogul ruling class absorbed Rajput (Hindu) warlords through promotion and marriage. The Mogul empire was ideologically open to sharing power with Hindu elites and Ithna ˓Ashari (Twelver) Shi˓ite nobles, diffusing the insistance on Sunni and Turkic supremacy that had sustained the Delhi sultanate.

Religious Life in the Mogul Empire

To manage the multiethnic and multireligious court elite, Akbar elevated the emperor into a divinely guided figure (through an eclectic blending of Sufi, Mahdawi, and Shi˓ite ideas). Courtiers experimented with a new cult of devotion to the emperor, the Din-e Ilahi or Universal Religion of God. Shahjahan and later emperors discontinued it and restored traditional Islamic titles and symbols. Islamic scholars and Sufis argued that Akbar's experiment was heretical, but in reality, once Rajput and Shi˓ite nobles integrated into court life, the cult was no longer needed.

Chaghatai Turkish was the native tongue of Mogul royal family, but Persian was the language of court chronicles, secular poetry, and Sufi devotional literature. Cooperation and intermarriage between Muslim and Rajput Hindu elites created new syncretic possibilities in literature. Urdu, the language of the army camp, formed with Hindawi grammar absorbing vocabulary from Persian and Turkish and became the common language of the Gangetic plain and a literary language complementing Persian. Sufis innovated in devotional literature in vernacular Indic languages. Shah Hussayn (1539–1599) expanded Sufi poetry in Punjabi. Sayyid Sultan (late sixteenth century) composed the Nabibhanmsa, a mythic retelling of the prophet Muhammad's life, in Bengali. Such vernacular literatures bridged the gap between elite Persian poetry and folk traditions, drawing equivalencies between Islamic theological concepts and local Indic images.

Vernacular compositions reveal increasing conversion of local South Asians to Islam. Castes of artisans (like weavers) joined Muslim communities, giving rise to syncretic and iconoclastic religious leaders like Kabir of Banares (1440–1518). While many Sufis advocated the inviolability of the shari˓a, the Mogul era witnessed a rise of Sufis who ignored or disparaged Islamic communal norms. New Sufi communities came to prominence in the Mogul era; the Shattari around Muhammad Ghawth Gwaliori (1501–1562) and the Sabiri-Chishti around ˓Abd al-Quddus Gangohi (died 1537) explored yogic exercises and images that were common to Hindus and Muslims. The Mogul elite cultivated ties to Sufi communities, and some Mogul nobles were outspoken "unifiers" (muwahhid) who believed that Islamic and Hindu theology were compatible rather than contradictory. Prince Dara Shikoh argued the ultimate identity of Hindu and Islamic theological concepts. The Mogul court patronized Persian translations of the Upanishads, Ramayana, and Mahabharata.

In contrast, this relaxation of communal boundaries inspired Muslim reformers who called for a return to the shari˓a. Naqshbandi Sufis, like Baqi Billah (died 1603) and his disciple, Ahmad Sirhindi (1562–1624), tried to influence Mogul nobles. However, reformers came from many communities. In Ahmadabad, ˓Ali Muttaqi (1480–1575) strove to reform Sufism and advocated the centrality of the Prophet's example. His follower, ˓Abd al-Haqq Dihlawi (1551–1642), established a reformist madrasa in Delhi in friendly competition with the Naqshbandis. Even earlier, Sayyid Muhammad Jawnpuri (1443–1505) led a reform movement by declaring himself the Mahdi. The Mahdawi movement was a Sunnainspired reform movement that conflicted with Sunni elites and led to violent conflicts in Gujarat, where it was especially strong.

Reformers gained popularity under the emperor Aurangzeb. Naqshbandis like Shah Wali Allah (1703–1762) strove to integrate Sufism with study of the Qur˒an, hadith, and Islamic law to strengthen allegiance to shari˓a among South Asia Muslims. He urged Muslims to avoid sectarian extremes and blind adherence to legal schools by reviving independent legal reasoning (ijtihad). Two of his grandsons, ˓Abd al-Qadir (d. 1813) and Rafi al-Din (d. 1818), translated the Qur˒an into Urdu.

British Dominance and Muslim Reaction

After the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, weaker Mogul rulers could not hold the empire together. Local powers grew in strength: Sikhs in Punjab, Marathas in the Deccan, and Shi˓ite nobles in Lucknow and Hyderabad. Later Mogul rulers grew so weak that the Safavid emperor, Nadir Shah, sacked Delhi in 1739. The Afghan ruler, Ahmad Shah Abdali Durrani, plundered it again in 1761.

Chaos in the Mogul capital facilitated European expansion in South Asia. The British East India Company (EIC) grew from a trading post to a regional military power based at Calcutta. By 1765, the EIC's governor general had assumed the title of Diwan of Bengal with rights of taxation and fiscal administration. Though a nominal "vassal" of the Mogul emperor, the EIC began military and commercial expansion into Bihar and Orissa. The British acted as mercenaries and political advisors to surrounding Muslim rulers, such as the Nawab of Awadh (Oudh). Orientalist scholars in the EIC, like William Jones and Charles Hamilton, translated Persian and Arabic texts into English. After the "Permanent Settlement" of land-ownership regulations in 1793, the EIC administered Islamic law to Muslims in the territories it controlled, and synthesized Islamic and British legal norms in Anglo-Muhammadan Law.

By 1840, the British controlled most Mogul dominions directly or indirectly. After conquering the Sikh kingdom in 1849, the British integrated the local rulers under their control. When the EIC deposed the Nawab of Oudh in 1856, Muslim and Hindu soldiers in the EIC army revolted in the first Anglo-Indian war (called the Sepoy Mutiny). Rebel soldiers and nobles rallied around the Mogul emperor, Bahadur Shah II. A proclamation issued in his name read, "In this age the people of Hindustan, both Hindus and Muslims, are being ruined under the tyranny and oppression of the infidel and treacherous English. It is therefore the bounded duty of all wealthy people of India to stake their lives and property for the well being of the public." By 1857, the EIC army reconquered Delhi and executed or exiled the Mogul royal family, and EIC rights were transferred to the British crown.

Some Muslim leaders opposed British expansion and tried to restore Islamic rule militarily. Sayyid Ahmad Barelwi (1786–1831), a Sufi leader and soldier, declared South Asia to no longer be Dar al-Islam (realm of Islamic rule). He allied with Wali Allah's family and was ghayr muqallad (independent in legal and ritual rulings), abandoning conformity with the Hanafi legal school. Organizing his followers into a militia, he waged a struggle (that he called jihad) against the Sikh kingdom, and was killed in 1831. Hajji Shari˓atullah (1780–1839) organized a similar movement among peasants in Bengal, known as Fara˒idi (The Obligatory Duties). He declared Bengal to no longer be Dar al-Islam since the British ruled it through landlords. He urged Bengali Muslims to reform and conform more closely to the sunna of Muhammad, which he identified with the Arabian practices of Mecca. His son politicized the movement, attacking Hindu landlords, resisting British taxation, and subverting Anglo-Muhammadan courts. Many Islamic leaders participated in the 1857 rebellion, like the Sabiri-Chishti leader, Hajji ˓Imdadullah (1817–1899). Under threat of arrest, he lived in exile in Mecca while guiding disciples in South Asia who founded the Deoband Academy (see below).

Other Islamic leaders did not oppose British colonization after the war of 1857. Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817–1898) founded the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College (now Aligarh Muslim University). To the British, he demonstrated the loyalty of Muslim educated classes; with Muslim elites, he urged cooperation with Christians, politically and theologically. Through the journal Tahdhib al-akhlaq (The refinement of morals), he sought to reconcile rationalism, science, and Islamic theology while promoting the education of Muslim women. More conservative Islamic scholars founded a competing school, Dar al-˓Ulum (known as the Deoband Academy), in 1960 to preserve Islamic law and education after the destruction of Mogul patronage.

Political modernists like Jamal al-Din Afghani (1838–1897) and Muhammad Iqbal (1876–1938) criticized both the Aligarh movement's acceptance of colonialism and the Deoband movement's traditionalism. They agitated for cultural revival and political self-rule for Muslims in South Asia through "nationalism" and "Pan-Islamism." Exemplary of this movement, Amir ˓Ali's Spirit of Islam presented Islam as a more "liberal" civilizing force than European Christianity. Epic poems of Altaf Husayn Hali ("The ebb and flow of Islam" in 1879) and Iqbal ("Complaint and answer" in 1909) popularized these sentiments in Urdu. Islamic modernists blamed "despotic" Mogul rule, Sufi mysticism, and "effeminate" Persian culture for the political weakness of South Asian Islam.

With the First World War, these sentiments crystalized in an anticolonial movement. South Asian Muslim elites protested when Britain imposed the Treaty of Sevres on Ottoman Turkey in 1920. The Khilafat movement aimed to preserve the authority of the caliph in Turkey, spreading anti-British sentiment and inviting Muslim leaders into Gandhi's "Non-Cooperation Movement." The Jam˓iyat-e ˓Ulamae Hind (JUH), the Indian Congress of Islamic Scholars, formed to support the Khilafat movement. Students and faculty withdrew from Aligarh Muslim University and founded a "nationalist" Muslim University, Jami a Milliya Islamiya.

Islamic anticolonial activity was split between two groups. The first group felt Muslims had to join Hindus, Sikhs, and other South Asians to oppose British domination and create a "secular" and multireligious nation. They can be called "Islamic integrationists" (they have been traditionally labeled "Islamic Nationalists"). These include Abd al-Ghaffar Khan (1890–1988), a Pashto-speaking educator in the North West Frontier Province who led the nonviolent Khudai Khidmatgar movement ("Servants of God") and Abul Kalam Azad (known as Maulana Azad, 1888–1958), an Urdu-speaking theologian and journalist from Calcutta. Such leaders cooperated with Gandhi and Nehru in the activities of the Indian National Congress (INC).

The second group felt Muslims should form an exclusive community based on religious identity and communal ethics, and that Muslims could not coexist in an independent nation with a Hindu-majority. They can be called "Islamic exclusivists" (they have traditionally been labeled "Islamic Communalists"). This group included leaders of the Muslim League, a political party organized in 1906 by landholding Muslims to seek concessions from the British. Muhammad ˓Ali Jinnah reorganized the League in 1936 to stand provincial elections, rivaling the INC. In 1940 the Muslim League declared that a constitutional government for Independent India was not possible, demanding that Muslim-majority provinces be formed into "autonomous and sovereign" states.

Partition and Independence of India and Pakistan

British policies placed Muslims and Hindus into two separate and irreconcilable "communal" groups. British histories and ethnographies since the eighteenth century portrayed these groups in racial terms as opposites. After 1857, British policy suppressed upper-class Muslim communities while promoting Hindus who embraced colonial education and bureaucracy. The colonial acquiescence to parliamentary representation for South Asians in 1937 raised questions of "proportional representation" and quotas, polarizing communal relations between Muslims and Hindus.

The British administration experimented with partition to organize colonial subjects by communal identity. In 1905, the administration tried to partition Bengal into Eastern "Hindu-majority" and Western "Muslim-majority" portions, sparking riots and resistance. As the anticolonial movement gained momentum after 1917, the British used concern over rights of "minority" communities to stall discussions of impending independence. The Muslim League at first advocated that Muslim-majority provinces become autonomous regions within a federal government of independent India. Later, the League advocated the "two-nation" solution: British India would be partitioned and Muslim-majority provinces would form the separate state of Pakistan.

Despite opposition by the INC and some Islamic leaders, partition became a political reality in 1947. Partition uprooted millions as Sikhs and Hindus fled Muslim-majority areas of the Punjab and Sindh, while Muslims in Hindu-majority areas of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Bengal experienced a similar displacement. Communal riots erupted on both sides, resulting in countless murders, looting, and destruction of property.

Partition did not solve the political complexities of South Asia's multireligious population. Many Muslims refused or were unable to move to Pakistan, including those loyal to the INC's "secular" democracy, those more rooted in their local community than in Islamic nationalism, or those without economic resources to move. Muslims remain the largest religious minority in independent India.

In 1947, Pakistan began as one nation with two noncontiguous territories. Its western territory included West Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, Kashmir, and North-West Frontier; its eastern territory included East Bengal. The Awami League, a political party stressing language and cultural distinctiveness of Bengali Pakistanis, succeeded in democratic elections in 1970 and pressed for Bengali autonomy. West Pakistan leaders stalled implementation of the election results, leading to a civil war in 1971. The Indian military intervened, allowing former East Pakistan independence as Bangladesh.

Partition created geopolitical crises, such as in Kashmir. The British ruled most of South Asia directly, but ruled many regions indirectly through 570 "princely states." The largest was Kashmir where a Hindu prince, the Dogra of Kashmir, governed a 75 percent Muslim population. He negotiated for autonomy, but faced an ultimatum to choose between India or Pakistan. A Muslim Kashmiri leader, Shaykh Muhammad ˓Abdallah (born 1905), demanded democratic representation, made acute by a Muslim peasants' insurrection. In reaction, the Dogra declared Kashmir annexed to India without a popular referendum with his majority-Muslim population. The Pakistani government saw this as a betrayal of the principle of partition, while the Indian government saw it as legal annexation of integral territory. Military stalemate created a "line of control," with Pakistan occupying one-third of Kashmir and India occupying two-thirds, which includes the heavily populated valleys of Srinagar and Jammu. The "line of control" exists up until the present, though both nations claim the entire territory. The United Nations mandated a popular referendum about Indian annexation, but the Indian government has never executed this. Since the 1980s, some Kashmiri Muslims have resisted Indian military occupation through civil disobedience and violence.

Religious Communalism and Radicalism

India built a multireligious and multiethnic democratic state. However, communalist Hindu forces advocate a Hindu India in which Muslims (and other religious minorities) would be excluded from full citizenship. A member of the paramilitary Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) assassinated Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, claiming that he "capitulated" to Muslim concerns. Leaders who sympathized with the RSS ruled Maharastra, furthering Hindu communal politics. The Bharata Janata Party (BJP) organized a national party combining Hindu communalist ideology (commonly called "Hindutva"), neo-liberal capitalist economics, and opposition to the INC.

To capture power in parliament, the BJP raised a controversy, claiming that the Babri Mosque was built (in the sixteenth century) over the site of a destroyed Hindu temple at the birthplace of Rama at Ayodya. Calling for destroying the mosque and rebuilding the temple, the BJP came to national power. A coalition of Hindu communalist organizations demolished the Babri Mosque in 1993, leading to communalist riots in Bombay and other urban centers. Hindu communalist militancy (and Hindu middle-class support of it) compromises the promise of democratic citizenship for all religious minorities and threatens the life and welfare of Indian Muslims in particular.

Muslims in South Asia have also formed communalist organizations. The Tablighi Jama ˓at or "Missionary Party" is a communalist religious movement that is largely apolitical. Maulana Muhammad Ilyas (died 1944) began a missionary movement to properly "Islamize" Indian Muslims, in reaction to Hindu missionary movements, like the Arya Samaj, that viewed them as "lapsed Hindus" who must re-convert (shuddhi) to "Hinduism." The movement advocated religious revival and abandoning participation in "secular" projects like modern education and critical inquiry into religious tradition. It has become international, one of the largest Islamic organizations worldwide.

The journalist turned political theologian, Abu l-A˓la˒ Maududi (died 1979), organized the Jama˓at-e Islami as a radical political party to forge Pakistan into an Islamic state. The party has not succeeded in parliamentary elections, but formulates "Islamist" ideology. The Jama˓at spread internationally to Bangladesh, Britain, and North America. Along with al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun in Egypt, the Jama˓at is the oldest and most institutionalized radical political association calling for Islamic revolution in postcolonial nation states. Both the Jama˓at-e Islami and Tablighi Jama˓at question the legitimacy of the parliamentary democratic governments of Pakistan and Bangladesh, especially since the election of women as prime ministers (Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan and Khalida Zia in Bangladesh).

A reproduction of a painting captures Mogul emperor Shah Jahan on a peacock throne in the volume two color insert.

See alsoSouth Asian Culture and Islam.


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Scott A. Kugle

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