ISLAMIC IMPERIALISM’S IMPACT ON INDIA’S SOCIAL, INTELLECTUAL, CULTURAL, RELIGIOUS & ECONOMIC LIFE.

Preface

Prior to the coming of Islam in India, India was one of the world’s top civilisations. India possessed significant achievements in Science, Mathematics, Literature, Philosophy, Medicine, Astronomy, Architecture. Scholars have described medieval India as “history’s most richly imaginative culture and one of the five most advanced civilisations of all times“. Its architecture and artistry, the “most awe-inspiring, ornate and spell-binding found anywhere in the world” much so that “no artist of any historical civilization has ever revealed the same genius as ancient Hindustan’s artists and artisans”. Even when India’s rulers engaged in warfare – which was relatively infrequent – the highest moral code of conduct was duly observed, in comparison to any other known civilisation in mankind’s history. It was this India that Muslim armies crossed the Indus and invaded. Islam was exported to India as an imperialist enemy of polytheism. Islam arrived in India thunderously, on an iconoclastic evangelical mission, to impose the ways of the Islamic God on the indigenous peoples of the Indian Subcontinent. Qasim invaded Sindh with a 6,000-strong Syrian Muslim army. With the approval of Caliph Al-Walid I of Damascus and stern instruction of Governor Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf of Baghdad, he captured Sindh in 712, but not without slaughtering tens of thousands of Indian defenders and enslaving approximately 300,000 Indian infidels in just three years! Governor Hajjaj’s military strategy outlined in a letter sent to Qasim was thus:

“My ruling is given: Kill anyone belonging to the combatants (ahl-i-harb); arrest their sons and daughters for hostages and imprison them. Whoever does not fight against us..grant them aman (safety) and settle their tribute (amwal) as dhimmah (protected person)…”

In keeping with Islam’s model of Jihad economics, one-fifth of all the proceeds (including slaves) from Qasim’s conquests was sent to the Caliphate seat in Damascus. During the Prophet’s time, one-fifth of all jihadi proceeds was allocated to Muhammad himself.

Indian National Flag.

Islamic conquests wherever they take place – in Arabia, the Levant, India and beyond – are effected to establish the blood-sucking imperial seat of Allah.

Hindutva founding father and Indian nationalist Vinayak Damodar Savarkar described this conquest as a force “overwhelmingly furious, that took India by surprise the day Mohammad crossed the Indus and invaded her”.

Sultan Mahmud’s 11th century onslaught, Ghuarivid invasions and later Aurangzeb’s were just as exploitative as Qasim’s. Forced conversions systematically took place and the non-converted had onerous taxes imposed on them. India, once a vibrant civilisation with outstanding achievements, now became the doormat upon which jihadi warlords and Muslim slave merchants wiped their blood-drenched feet! The impact of Islam in India was such that there was large scale massacre of India’s non-Muslims, enslavement of infidel women and children in great numbers, a swelling in the Muslim populace and shrinking in the indigenous populace, wholesale destruction of religious places, systematic eradication of non-Muslim educational institutions causing a great civilisational loss and serious decline in science and learning, and the extreme economic exploitation of non-Muslims reducing them to tax-imposed humiliation and abject poverty! The legacy of the Muslim community’s successive and standardised plunder of India remains visible till this day. Lands have been partitioned and renationalised for Islamic privilege, at the expense of indigenous dignity. British rule in India fulfilled a policy of economic exploitation and generated plenteous revenue for the British treasury. When that exploitation ran its course, the Brits stopped taxing India and left. But when India’s Natives equally demanded an end to Islamic imperialism, India was partitioned and in Pakistan an Islamic colony was established espousing the same traditions that were so brutally imposed on the subcontinent’s ancestral peoples. In Kashmir, the Hindu Kashmiri Pandit minority have been subjected to a most thorough institutionalised ethnic cleansing. Expelled from their own homeland by Islamic militants, their numbers reportedly shrunk from an estimated 140,000 in the late 1980s to 19,865 by 1998. There are now fewer than 3,400 Pandits in Kashmir this very moment – possibly around 2,700. In a separate pogrom, Kashmiri Pandit temples were repeatedly razed. Data collected showed that a total of over 90 out of 500 temples were destroyed between 1986-1992. Other reports estimate as many as 208 Hindu temples vandalised in the last two decades, as a direct or indirect result of this pogrom. In truth, Islamic imperialism in India shows no sign of receding. The impact of Islamic imperialism there has been such that customs and identities indigenous to the land have steadily dwindled over the course of centuries, while an Islamic supremacist imperial order has dutifully flourished!

In the book Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Imperialism, Forced Conversion and Slavery, M. A. Khan discusses the impact of Islamic imperialism on the social, intellectual, cultural, religious and economic life of Indians. It is noted that even when British imperialists arrived in India, they witnessed for themselves, Aurangzeb fanatically destroying Hindu temples. He destroyed as many as 5,000 in total, 200 in 1679 alone. Featured below is an excerpt from Chapter VI of M. A. Khan’s book.

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ISLAMIC IMPERIALISM’S IMPACT ON INDIA’S
SOCIAL, INTELLECTUAL, CULTURAL, RELIGIOUS & ECONOMIC LIFE.

The worst impacts of Islamic colonialism in India were the widespread violence against non-Muslims, crushing economic exploitation of them and their enslavement on a grand scale (see next chapter) by the Muslim invaders and rulers. Moreover, many existing social and cultural ills of the Indian society—sati, child marriage and caste system etc.—worsened under the Muslim rule. Islamic rule also engendered new social ills, such as the thuggee cult and jauhar, in India. After the British takeover, some of these, namely jauhar, and thuggee cult, disappeared; the British also made serious efforts to abolish or suppress the rest of India’s social afflictions. Islamic rule also had a crippling impact on the health of education and learning in India.

On Education and learning

Education and learning was one of the worst victims of the Islamic colonialism in India. Muslim rulers and invaders destroyed India’s indigenous education system. For education, they built mosques and madrasas, solely for Muslims. It is noted already that pre-Islamic India had high standards in education, literature, science and medicine, and founded famous centers of learning, namely at Nalanda (427–1197), Taxila, Kanchi, Vikramasheela, Jagaddala and Odanthapura. Situated at the then Buddhist center of learning in today’s Bihar, the Nalanda University was one of the world’s first residential universities with dormitories for students. In its heyday, it accommodated over 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers. It had a huge nine-storey library, where meticulous copies of texts were produced and preserved. Nalanda was also the most global university of its time, attracting pupils and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey.604 In 1197, Bakhtiyar Khilji destroyed the University, slaughtered all of its shaven-head Buddhist teachers, and burned its immensely rich library. Prior to the Muslim conquest of India, many Muslim students from Baghdad came to Taxila University to study Medicine in particular. All these reputed universities were destroyed by Muslim invaders and rulers; they ceased to exist after the Muslim occupation of India. On the impact of Islamic invasions on science and learning in India, said Alberuni (noted already) that Hindu sciences and learning had retired far away from the Muslim-occupied areas.605 During the relatively liberal rule of Akbar, Hindus had rebuilt thousands of temples, which also acted as Hindu schools. Later on Aurangzeb, having noticed that Muslim pupils also attended those temple-schools, filling their minds with sinful kuffar (un-Islamic) teachings, ordered their destruction, thereby destroying the revived Hindu education system. Other Muslim rulers, such as Sultan Ahmad Shah Bahmani in the South, broke “idolatrous temples” and “destroyed the colleges of the Brahmins”.606

The Muslim invaders, instead of building schools for secular education and learning, frequently destroyed the non-Muslim centers of learning they came across. When Caliph Omar conquered Egypt (641), the great Library of Alexandria was destroyed.607 They burned the royal Zoroastrian library at Ctesiphon after the conquest of Persia. Similar spectacle befell the libraries in Damascus (Syria) and Spain. In 1171, Sultan Saladin destroyed the great Library of Cairo, after ousting the heretical Fatimid rulers. Destruction of libraries and universities in India has been mentioned.

Muslim rulers in India built only Islamic schools, namely muktabs and madrasas, often linked to mosques, solely for training Muslim students in their religion and other crafts for administrative and military duty, useful for the Muslim state. Learning Arabic and Persian language and memorizing the Quran, prophetic tradition and Islamic laws were the major subjects of study. Limited training was also given in agriculture, accountancy, astrology, astronomy, history, geography and mathematics, needed for running the state.608 The students of a madrasa, recorded Islamic historian and poet Allam Shibli (d. 1914), were provided with room, carpet, food, oil, pen and paper, sweets and fruits. Ibn Battutah on his travels across India sometimes stayed in madrasas. In one madrasa of 300 rooms, he found students being taught the Quran and provided with daily food and yearly allowance of clothes. He found in another madrasa, where he lodged for sixteen days, that the students were daily served excellent foods: chicken loaves, Poloo and Korma (meat dishes) and plate of sweets.609

These schools were exclusive preserves for Muslim pupils; non-Muslim students had no access to them. Muslim rulers only engaged Muslims in their administration. Educating the Hindus was, therefore, unnecessary. Most importantly, the filthy non-Muslims were not allowed to enter the perimeter of religious palaces, like madrasas and mosques; it remains the practice even today. Later on, when apostate Akbar opened his administration to employment of people of all creeds, he opened the door of madrasas to non- Muslim students and incorporated the study of Sanskrit and Hindu religious scriptures, such as Upanishad.610 Akbar even unbelievably tried to dispense with the study of Arabic, the language of the Prophet and the Quran, in the context that he promulgated his own new religion, Din-i-Ilahi.611 Islamic education was now irrelevant.

In the 630–650s, Hiuen Tsang, the famous Chinese pilgrim to Nalanda University, found Indian education system quite well-organized: both boys and girls, at the age of seven, started the study of five Shastras—Grammar, Science of arts and crafts, Medicine, Logic, and Philosophy. From Hiuen Tsang’s account, notes Nehru, ‘it appears that primary education was comparatively widespread, as all the monks and priests were teachers, and there is no lack of them. Hiuen Tsang was much struck by the love of learning of the Indian people…612 It is no wonder then that Indian civilization had achieved such great height in her intellectual endeavors, even affirmed by many Muslim historians, including Alberuni and al-Andalusi. The coming of Alexander to the Indus valley brought India in contact with classical Greek civilization; India absorbed latter’s achievements, particularly in art. With classical Greece in decay, India exceled the world in science, learning and other human endeavors at the time of Islam’s birth. It is noted that many Arab students came to the Taxila University in the early Abbasid period. Large numbers of Indian mathematicians and physicians were engaged by Caliph Harun al-Rashid (d. 813); Indian physicians set up hospitals and medical schools in Baghdad.613

Even Nehru, always eager to say good things about Islam, complained that Muslim rulers did not build one good college in eight centuries. They took very little interest in secular education, especially in science. Even enlightened Akbar the Great, who was illiterate, undertook no major interest in promoting science; in philosophy, he solely focused on founding his own religion of no secular or practical value. Except widening the madrasa curricula to include Indian language and Hindu scriptures, he built no major schools, universities and research centers for promoting science, philosophy and other creative learning, when great things were happening in Europe. Although Akbar reduced the burden of taxes and offered toleration to all subjects, ‘his mind was not directed to raising the general level of education and training,’ writes Nehru.614 Sitting on one of the world’s greatest and wealthiest seat of power, Akbar received clocks from the Portuguese and the British mercenaries; he received printed books from the Portuguese Jesuits of his courts; but his mind was never curious to find out how these technologies worked. Muslim rulers, including Akbar, built only sumptuous monuments, citadels and palaces to commemorate and perpetuate their vain greatness, often much outdoing their counterparts of vigorous Europe in the age of Renaissance. It is no wonder then that India, despite being a creative and learned civilization previously, made no notable contribution to science, philosophy and literature during the Muslim rule.

Caste system worsened

The most emphatic claim, Muslims make, about Islam’s contribution to India, is that it brought egalitarianism; in Islam, every body is equal: no high or low, no high-caste or outcaste. Seeing this liberty and equality, claim Muslims, large numbers of low-caste Hindus eagerly converted to Islam; this saved them from the oppressed and ignominious life offered by the Hindu society.

The issue of the conversion of low-caste Hindus has already been discussed. However, the conversion did not elevate their social standing in the Muslim community. Fazl-i Rabbi, following European leads, was the first Muslim to try to make a case for the willing conversion of the low-caste Hindus to Islam. He, however, found that conversion to Islam did not change their social position and the family status; they still could associate with Muslims of similar status only.615 Similarly, Ashraf—who sees Islam as a religion of “equality and fraternity” and that it opened doors to low-caste Hindus for rising higher in society—found, based on mostly Islamic sources, that ‘With his conversion to Islam, the average Muslim did not change his old environment, which was deeply influenced by caste distinction and general social exclusiveness.616 Wise witnessed in Bengal that some Bediya outcastes of the Hindu society had converted some thirty years ago (c. 1850) and become practising Muslims, ‘but they cannot enter the public mosque or find a place in the public graveyard. From a social point of view they are still aliens with whom no gentleman will associate or eat. The treatment of the Chandal by the Sudra is in no respect more rigorous or harsh than that of the Bediyas by the upper ranks of Muhammadans.’617

In sum, the converted low-caste Hindus socially remained the same in the Muslim community. Even today, they are outcaste, a socially degraded people. They are no better off than their Hindu counterparts, probably rather worse. Conversion to Islam did not uplift their overall caste-sufferance; instead, it has probably worsened their overall situation because, Muslims in India, including converts from the upper caste, continue falling behind economically and intellectually. They also commit human rights violation within their community, including suppression of women’s rights and honor killing.

Islam, in fact, worsened the overall caste situation in India. The caste system, as horrible as it is, was a reality in pre-Islamic India. However, ancient manuscripts, namely Arthashastra of Kautilya and Nitisara, suggest that it was not so rigid. The social structure in the middle ages, notes Nehru, ‘may have been open to merit or capacity, as the Nitisara says… Occasionally men from the lower castes made good. Sudras were even known to become kings… A more frequent method of rising in the social scale was for a whole sub-caste to go a step up.’ Sometimes, there were power-struggles between the upper and lower caste and ‘more often they ruled jointly and accommodated each other,’ adds Nehru.618 The dominant reality was, however, that the Brahmins and Khasttriyahs, the two castes at the top, ruled and the rest toiled. But the coming of Islam to India, argues Nehru, ‘made its caste system, which till then had an element of flexibility in it, more rigid and fixed.619

Islam also worsened the standing of the caste system in India by driving larges number of upper caste Hindus down the ladder. There are numerous examples of destitute Hindus taking refuse in jungles all over India either to wage rebellion against Muslim oppressions or to escape torture of the tax-collectors for failing to meet the crushing tax demands. During the reign of Ghiyasuddin Balban (aka Ulugh Khan Balban, r. 1265–85), hundreds of thousands of Hindus, whose wealth and abode had been plundered and ravaged and families decimated, had taken refuge in the jungle settlements and engaged in night-time robbery. The Sultan resolved to decimate these bandits and rebels (Muwattis), first in the jungles and hills around Delhi. He directed his chiefs ‘to slay the men, to make prisoners of the women and children, to clear away the jungles and to suppress all lawless proceedings,’ records Barani.620 In the campaigns to suppress these rebels, ‘one hundred thousand of the royal army were slain by the Muwattis,’ while ‘great number of the Muwattis were put to the sword’.621 The Sultan then marched out of Delhi proceeding to the neighborhood of Kampil and Pattiali, where he spent five to six months putting the Muwattis to the sword. He then on marched to Katehar to exterminate the turbulent rebels surrounding the districts of Badaun and Amroha, where ‘the blood of the rioters ran in streams, heaps of slain were to be seen near every village and jungle, and the stench of the dead reached as far as the Ganges,’ adds Barani.622

Sultan Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq (1320–25) had applied a taxation policy that left the Hindu peasants to bare subsistence. His successor Muhammad Tughlaq (1325–51) increased the tribute by another 5–10 percent. This reduced the farmers to desperate poverty and they ‘threw off their allegiance and betook themselves in the jungles,’ causing failure of cultivation and reduced grain production; a situation of general famines and ‘thousands upon thousands of people perished of want (of food),’ records Barani.623 When he sent a force to exterminate the rebels of the mountain of Kara-jal, the rebels cut off the passage of their retreat and the ‘whole force was thus destroyed at one stroke, and out of all these chosen body of men, only ten horsemen could return to Delhi.’624 The country of Doab near Delhi, when reduced to ruin through “heavy taxation” and brutal campaigns, desperate Hindus formed bands and took refuge in the jungles, leaving the country in ruins. The sultan hunted them down from their jungle hide-outs: ‘the whole of that country was plundered and laid waste and the heads of the Hindus were brought in and hung upon the ramparts of the fort of Baran,’ recounts Barani.625

According to British indigo merchant William Finch who came to India in 1611, Emperor Jahangir (d. 1628) used to go on hunting with thousands of his favorite soldiers every year, which lasted for months. He order to encircle a large tract of jungle or desert and ‘whatever is taken in this enclosure is called the King’s sykar or game, whether man! Or beast and whatever let aught escape loses his life, unless pardoned by the king. All the beasts thus taken, if man’s meat, are sold, and the money given to the poor.’626 Obviously, a large number of these miserable jungle dwellers got killed in Jahangir hunting game. Still, another 200,000 were caught in 1619–20 and he sent them to Iran for selling.627

Even in the reign of tolerant and kind-hearted Akbar, large numbers of Hindus had been living in jungles. According to Akbar Nama, in the twenty-seventh year of his reign, he ordered his officers that ‘if the occupants of the hill forts, trusting in the security of their fastness, should engage in freebooting,’ they should be admonished, chastised and, if necessary, ‘their country was to be laid waste.’628

This clearly shows that large numbers of non-Muslims—hundreds of thousands, probably millions— took shelter in jungles away from the normal social life. These jungle dwellers of all classes and creeds lived and waged revolts together and survived on whatever came their way: wild fruits, leaves, grains and animals. Together, they became the new untouchables: there was no going back to the society; they won’t be accepted either. One major reason for their rejection could have been their eating meats of wild animals in desperate hunger. Once consumed meat, there is no place for them back in the society, particularly in the upper castes. The lower caste, therefore, naturally swelled further under the Muslim rule.

In sum, Muslims probably took away a chunk of Indian outcastes out of Hindu fold, and socially kept them where they previously had been, but in a different community. At the same time, Muslim rule worsened the institution by making it more rigid as well as by pushing a large number of Hindus down the social ladder.

Islam created the practice of Jauhar

Jauhar was a custom amongst Hindu women of committing suicide by jumping into fire in order to avoid capture for enslavement and sexual violation by the Muslim invaders and raiders. This practice was unknown in pre-Islamic India. Since Muslim armies started attacking the borders of India in 634; they, if successful, plundered the wealth and drove away women and children as slaves. The Islamic marauders had launched eight more plundering and enslaving forays on the borders of India before Qasim, by conquering Sindh in 712, brought to the India proper the prophetic tradition of kidnapping and enslaving the womenfolk of the vanquished for keeping as sex-slaves. In his three-year tenure in Sindh, he had enslaved a few hundred thousand women and children. Sultan Mahmud had carried away 500,000 captives from India in 1001–02 and large numbers of them on other occasions. When Qasim conquered Sindh, women in the palace set themselves on fire in order to avoid capture and sexual violation. This trend continued even into the reign of enlightened Akbar. In his conquest of Chittor (1568), when Akbar ordered enslavement of the women of the 8,000 slain Rajput soldiers,629 some 8,000 of them committed Jauhar to avoid dishonor and sexual slavery. Chittor witnessed three major occurrences of Jauhar when it was attacked by Alauddin Khilji (1303), Bahadur Shah of Gujarat (1535) and Akbar (1568). In fact, the practice continued into the days of 1947 Partition, when many Hindu and Sikh women saved their honor by setting themselves on fire, jumping into wells and consuming poisons as already noted.

Sati worsened under the Muslim rule

Sati, the Hindu funeral ritual of burning the wives alive with their dead husbands, was a pre-Islamic custom in India. Muslim rulers took no serious initiative to ban or suppress the practice. Only Akbar, the distinguished apostate of Islam until then, was opposed to the practice but made no effort to abolish it. According to Akbar Nama, he only tried ‘to prevent any woman being forcibly burnt.’630

The institution of sati undoubtedly worsened under the Muslim rule. According to Ibn Battutah, it was an optional practice as he writes, ‘The burning of the wife after her husband’s death is regarded by them as commendable act, but not compulsory… she is not forced to burn herself.’631 However, the practice became heightened during the Muslim invasions and rule in India; for, the continuous warfare that Muslims ignited in India, in which they killed Hindus (men) in large numbers as a matter of great pride, the wives of the slain, who survived enslavement, obviously embrace sati. Ibn Battutah leaves an eyewitness testimony of this: ‘Once in the town of Amjari (Amjhera near Dhar) I saw three women whose husbands had been killed in battle and who had agreed to burn themselves… I rode out with my companions to see the way in which the burning was carried out.632

There is another reason that might have aggravated the practice of sati under the Muslim rule. Because of the prohibition of widow marriage in Hindu tradition, these women, if still young, obviously became the target of rape, kidnapping or enslavement by Muslims. It should be understood that kidnapping of Hindus by Muslims, often for selling, were common. In Malabar, never occupied by Muslims, the Mopla Muslims had a rather small presence. Still they used to kidnap Hindus, particularly the children, in the eighteenth century and sell them to European traders, especially in the Dutch port of Cochin.633 This factor, undoubtedly, had made the widows embrace sati in larger numbers and created greater social pressure to do so.

Islam promoted child-marriage

Muslim’s abduction and enslavement of Hindu women for subjecting them to rape and sex-slavery encouraged Hindu parents to marry off their daughters at younger age. This must have had worsened the tradition of child-marriage in India under the Muslim rule. Dhan Gopal Mukerji, author of Caste and Outcast, argues that the oppressive Muslim rule in India forced Hindus to abandon some of their well-evolved traditions. According to him, before reaching the age of maturity, girls were betrothed to young Hindu boys, so that they could be protected from Muslim predators. The Muslim rule, therefore, aggravated the institution of child-marriage in India. The British rulers went to great lengths to suppress the institution.

Even today, this is a reality for the Hindu minorities (and other non-Muslims) in Bangladesh and Pakistan, where there are high rates of kidnapping and rape of Hindu women. The incidence of kidnapping and rape of Hindu women in Pakistan and Bangladesh has been discussed already. According to my contacts with secular-minded Muslims and Hindus from Bangladesh, Hindu girls, especially the beautiful ones, are often married off at younger age or sent over to India to save them from being kidnapped or raped by thuggish Muslims. According to the Pakistan Minorities Concern network, nearly 50 Hindu and 20 Christian girls were kidnapped in 2005; the majority of them were forcibly converted to Islam. Similar abduction and forced conversion of non-Muslim girls and their forced marriage to Muslims occur in Palestine and Egypt etc. on a regular basis. If not for the pressure on Muslim governments to protect the human rights of their citizens from international organizations (e.g., the E.U. and U.N.), foreign governments (the U.S. in particular) and human rights bodies, the fates of non-Muslim women in Islamic countries would have been quite different from what they are today. Slavery and sexual exploitation of non-Muslim women are still alive and well in certain Muslim countries in Africa and the Middle East (see next chapter).

Islam created the deadly thuggee cult

Thuggees were a religio-cultural cult of the Hindu goddess Kali, which the British crushed in the 1830s. They used to engage in night-time robbery and strangle their victims—often the wayfarers and travelers—to death. They filled the streets of India with lawlessness and terror at nightfall. They had murdered tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of people. The British eradicated the cult through a process of selective assassination, covert operation, infiltration, solid police work and a clemency for former thuggees who cooperated and surrendered.634

The name thag (thuggee) first appears in Ziauddin Barani’s Tahrikh-I Firoz Shahi. In the reign of Sultan Jalaluddin Feroz Shah Khilji (1290–96), records Barani, the sultan had captured one thousands thags by befriending a member of their community. He pardoned them and deported to Lakhnauti.635 The thuggee cult seems to have originated very early after Islamic depredators started their devastating assaults on the population of India. We have noted that hundreds of thousands of Hindus had taken refuge in jungles during the Muslim rule. The rowdy and daring ones amongst them had taken to the profession of night-time robbery of highway caravans and travelers. Almost all medieval Islamic chronicles make mention of rebels—having taken refuge in the jungle hideouts and fastness of mountains—taken into highway robbery. Their homes and properties plundered and burned down and the women and children carried away, they took to the jungle. Others, failing to meet the demand of exorbitant taxes, joined them. For survival, these jungle-dwellers took to robbery; Muslim chroniclers and rulers call them despicable highway robbers. In time, they likely mixed religious inspirations to give their desperate profession a boost. They often assembled under a spiritual head, a Hindu monk.

Ibn Battutah records that their caravan, consisting of ‘twenty-two horsemen, partly Arabs and partly Persian and Turks,’ was attacked by a band of Hindu rebels including two horsemen, coming down from the inaccessible mountains of Multan. ‘My companions were men of courage and ability and we fought stoutly with them killing one of the horsemen and about twelve of the foot-soldiers. I was hit by an arrow… We carried the heads of the slain to the castle of Abu Bak’har… and suspended them from wall,’ adds Battutah.636 These were obviously thuggees, although Battutah was probably not familiar with their local name. Emperor Jahangir hunted down 200,000 jungle-dwelling rebels just noted above. Many of those rebels were obviously engaged in the profession of thuggee. Nicholas Withington who traveled in India during 1612–14, while awed by Jahangir’s wealth, witnessed extreme poverty amongst common folks and many had taken into robbery for making a living. His group was caught by one such robber, obviously a thuggee, who took away their belongings and weapons. Withington leaves the ‘first competent account of the Indian thugs at a time when the Mughal Empire was in the heyday of its power,’ says RC Prasad.637

The thuggee cult was obviously a Muslim creation, which, with the British effort, quickly disappeared. In 629, at the time of Islam’s birth in Arabia, Hiuen Tsang traveled thousands of miles from China to arrive at Nalanda. Of the ordinary people of India, he wrote: ‘‘In money matters, they are without craft, and in administering justice, they are considerate… They are not deceitful or treacherous in their conduct and are faithful in their oaths and promises… With respect to criminals, these are few in numbers, and only occasionally troublesome.’’638 The Muslim invaders had driven these peaceful and highly ethical people in large numbers into jungles; they had no way but to fill the streets of India at night-time to engage in robbery for survival, and thus causing terror to caravans and travelers.

These are but a few instances of Islam’s impact on the social, cultural and intellectual life of India. In other instances, for example, Hiuen Tsang witnessed girls in India taking part in education alongside the boys. India’s greatest mathematical achievement, the decimal system that we use today, was the work of three great mathematicians: Bhashkaracharya, Lilavati and Brahmagupta; Lilavati was a woman, daughter of Bhashkaracharya.639 Marco Polo of Venice, visiting South India twice (1288 & 1293), witnessed a very praiseworthy woman, named Rudramani Devi, who was the ruler of the Telugu country. She ruled for forty years.640 The Muslim invaders—who engaged in widespread enslavement, kidnapping and rape—drove India’s womenfolk from the social life into the confines of homes. The coming of Islam to India ‘reduced the freedom of its women folks,’ notes Nehru, adding that Hindus put their women behind the purdah (veil) by Muslim influence.641

At about the time of establishing Muslim rule in India, the vigor of Indian civilization in creativity had been stagnating. It happened with any civilization in those times; the dazzle of ancient Greece did not last long. ‘India was too much in a rut. It was becoming unchanging and unprogressive,’ says Nehru.642 On the positive influence of Islam, which came to India through Sultan Mahmud’s brutal invasions, writes Nehru: ‘Islam shook up India. It introduced vitality and an impulse for progress in a society which was becoming wholly unprogressive. Hindu art, which had become decadent and morbid, and heavy with repetition and detail, undergoes a change in the North. A new art grows up, which might be called Indo-Muslim, full of energy and vitality. The old Indian master-builders draw inspiration from the new ideas brought by the Muslims.’643

Nehru’s assertion that Islam brought a civilization-changing vitality to India is quite hyperbolic, if not unfounded. We do not see anything worth noting. Alberuni, an eyewitness of Sultan Mahmud’s invasions, has left a totally opposite opinion on the issue as already noted. Nehru himself says that it was the Indian master-builders who used their brains and labor to build what the Muslim invaders wanted reflecting their religious symbols; and many aspects of this, too, were usurped by Muslims from the pre-Islamic Persian, Egyptian and Byzantine civilizations. Nehru himself says that Mahmud took large numbers of Indian architects and builders with him to Ghazni for building a magnificent mosque there.644 Obviously, Muslim invaders even did not know how to build what they wanted. No doubt, it was the Indian brain, Indian labor (in the form of wretched slaves), and Indian wealth (obtained through reinless plunder and exorbitant taxes) were most liberally poured into these useless follies of no values to India’s natives. These institutions, instead, became the strong fortress from where horrible persecution and exploitation of the common masses were unleashed over the centuries.

Nehru is probably correct that Indian civilization was stagnating. This may give one an impression that Indian civilization had become obscurantist, which so easily turned to darkness and gave way to numerous social ills with the coming of Muslim invaders. It did not know how to rejuvenate and progress. There is, however, no ground for such an assumption. On the basis of what Muslim invaders wanted, Indian builders, craftsmen and artisans created magnificent buildings and monuments, the so-called Indo-Muslim architecture. And as soon as the British came with progressive ideas—freedom, secular education, rule of law, democracy and human rights—non-Muslim Indians quickly embraced them with open arms, a hallmark of Indian civilization since ancient times. ‘The Hindus, especially in Bengal, welcomed the New Learning of Europe and the institutions the British brought. The Muslims… out of old religious scruples stood aside,’ notes Naipaul.645 Historically speaking, Muslims took very little interest in secular education and learning. During the British rule, Muslims staunchly resisted modernity and did not avail themselves of the British- instituted modern education and learning. They considered secular learning un-Islamic and assiduously avoided it. Consequently, they were left behind, while the Hindus, availing of the new learning opportunities, progressed and prospered. In East Bengal for example, Hindus were the minority prior to the Partition, but the ‘educational institutions of East Bengal were almost entirely built by the Hindus… 90 percent of the teachers were Hindus.’646

The British Raj, having gained control of most of India in about 1850, albeit with the disturbances of Sepoy Mutiny of 1857–58 in some areas, started reorganizing India’s education system by founding three universities in 1857: in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. In the new environment of educational, scientific and cultural intellectualism, India’s literary and scientific geniuses, mostly Hindus, bloomed within a short time. In about half a century, Indian poets and scientists were vying for the Nobel Prize. India’s greatest minds—for example the Nobel laureates, namely Rabindranath Tagore, the Chandra Shekhars, Hargobind Khorana and Abdus Salam, and other literary and scientific luminaries, namely Jagadish Chandra Bosu, Satyan Bose, Prafulla Chandra Roy, Nazrul Islam, and Allama Iqbal et al.—all bloomed in the new intellectual environment, many within a very short time. The great reformers of religion, tradition and culture of Indian society, namely Raja Ram Mohan Roy (d. 1833), Swami Vivekananda (d. 1902) and Ishwar Chandra Bidyasagar (d. 1891) et al., also bloomed very quickly under the British-fostered socio-political atmosphere, creative intellectualism and culture of freedom. These factors clearly suggest that the vigorous and creative civilization of India, brutally suppressed and deprived of opportunities by Muslim invaders and rulers, was eagerly waiting to flourish at the earliest opportunity.

No doubt there was some resistance amongst Hindus to the British-initiated social and cultural reforms in India, but it was meek at best. Overall, the Hindus quickly understood that institutions of sati, female infanticide, child marriage, prohibition of widow marriage and caste system, which had lasted hundreds to thousands of years, were unconscionable ills of their society. Thuggees, the lawless ruffians, persistently roamed the streets of India throughout the period of Muslim rule, despite their killing and capturing in hundreds of thousands by Muslim rulers. But under the British rule, they quickly understood that the age-old brutality was gone; they quickly returned to civilian life after the new rulers took civilized measures to rein them. The relatively short period of British rule, lasting less than 100 to 190 years in different areas, had created a heightened degree of awareness amongst low-caste Hindus about their degraded social status and affronted dignity, opposed to what they deserved as respectable human beings. This awareness had become so strong that they, under Ambedkar’s leadership, even launched a campaign in the 1940s for an independent state for themselves, free from upper-caste Hindus.647 Some of those ills—female infanticide, child-marriage, caste discrimination—still persist to some extent in Indian society; they are, however, legally banned and there is a universal understanding amongst all Indians that those are ethically wrong. It is only about time, they will disappear.

ISLAM’S IMPACT ON RELIGIOUS DEMOGRAPHICS: PAST & PRESENT

The conversion of the Hindus and other non-Muslims into Islam through terror, enslavement and coercive economic compulsion during the Muslim rule has been addressed already. Undoubtedly, without the British interference, the religious demography of the population in Bangladesh, Pakistan and India would have looked very different from what it is today. The demographics of Muslim versus non-Muslim populations in countries like Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Turkey and Syria, where European colonists exerted no or short-lived political power, would tell it all. One must take into account that even in the course of 1947 Partition, a few million Hindus and Sikhs were forcibly converted to Islam.

On the Muslim rulers’ failure to effectively Islamize India, despite their brutal and economically crushing measures, says Fernand Braudel, ‘India survived only by virtue of its patience, its superhuman power and its immense size.’648 Indeed, the Muslim invaders never really got a complete and effective hold over vast India, preventing its extensive Islamization. It was not anti-Islam resistance of the Hindus, and their love for Indian culture and religion alone that helped the Hindu civilization to survive. The Islamic sultanate was founded in India at a time when the Islamic power-house at Baghdad was in a state of decline; the political authority had been split amongst regimes based in Baghdad, Egypt and Spain. Then, there came the Mongols, reducing Muslim powers in Central Asia and Baghdad to rubbles. The Muslim rulers of India also maintained their relative independence from central Islamic powers, offering only loose allegiance to the caliphs of Baghdad, Egypt and Samarkand. The absence of a strong central Islamic power when Muslim invaders came to India was a handicap in exerting effective Muslim authority over vast India.

Afghanistan was historically an integral province of India, which Sultan Mahmud brought under permanent Muslim sovereignty in 1000 CE. The stamp of Islamic power has kept a firm hold over Afghanistan ever since, and one can see the change in Muslim versus non-Muslim demographics there. The same applies to Pakistan, where Muslim invaders set up the first Islamic colony and Islam has kept a strong hold over it ever since. According to a 1998 census, Pakistan is demographically 96.28 percent Muslim.

A tangible Muslim sovereignty over most parts of India was established only in the reign Emperor Akbar (r. 1556–1605), leaving some southern-most part (Malabar, Goa etc.) aside. But Akbar undertook a policy of secularization; he even tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to supersede Islam with his own syncretic religion. Islam undoubtedly experienced a decline in his reign. Akbar’s policy was slowly reversed in the reign of his son Jahangir (1605–27) and grandson Shah Jahan (1627–58) gradually reviving Islamization. Interrupted for a century, Islamization returned to full-force in the reign of Aurangzeb (1658–1707). It is already noted that Aurangzeb’s reign was instrumental in converting bulk of the Muslim population of North India. Soon after Aurangzeb’s death, the British mercenaries started consolidating power, eventually ending forced conversion and creeping Islamization in India. Even Aurangzeb’s reign witnessed ceaseless revolts all over India; the Muslim authority was falling apart at the time of his death. The half-a-century of somewhat effective Islamization over most parts of India under Aurangzeb has contributed substantially to the shaping of current demography of Muslim population, particularly in Northern India. Hence, it will be easy to understand how continued Islamic rule, without the British interruption, would have impacted the Muslim versus non-Muslim demographics in the subcontinent.

The change of religious demographics in the Muslim-dominated Bangladesh and Pakistan since 1947 will give one a clear idea of how an uninterrupted Muslim rule would have changed the overall religious demographics in the subcontinent. In East Pakistan (Bangladesh), Hindus, 25–30 percent of the population after the Partition, are now about 10 percent. In Pakistan, Hindus constituted about 10 percent of the population after the Partition; their number dwindled to 1.6 percent in 1998. A large number of them were either forcibly converted or driven out in the new wave of violence in 1950 (and thereafter) over Pakistan’s failure in Kashmir. Today, it is frequently reported that Hindu (also Christian) girls are routinely kidnapped by Muslims in Pakistan, convert them to Islam, and force them to marry Muslims. According to Pakistan Minorities Rights groups, some 600 Hindus, Sikhs and Christians are forcibly converted to Islam every year.649 This and a host of other social problems and psychological pressure on the Hindus force them either to convert to Islam or relocate to India. This has effected the change in religious demographics in Pakistan over the past six decades as noted above.

Similar circumstances cause the decline of Hindu population in Bangladesh. After the 2001 general election in Bangladesh, the winning pro-Islam Bangladesh Nationalist Party, allied with the Islamist Jamaat- e-Islami Party, unleashed a wave of persecution—including humiliation, torture, rape and even murder—of Hindus for supporting the defeated somewhat-secular Awamy League Party. One investigative report in the leading Daily Star newspaper in Dhaka documented nearly 1,000 rapes of Hindu women in the district of Bhola alone. The victims ‘included eight-year-old Rita Rani and seventy-year-old Paru Bala.’650 This pogrom forced an estimated 500,000 Hindus to flee Bangladesh and take refuge in India in the aftermath of the 2001 election.651

MUSLIM RULE AND POVERTY

From historical data, it becomes evident that the predominant contribution of Islam to India was the large- scale massacre of India’s non-Muslims, the enslavement of their women and children in great numbers, the wholesale destruction of religious places, the eradication of non-Muslim educational institutions causing serious decline in science and learning, and the reduction of non-Muslims to abject poverty through extreme economic exploitation. The Hindus of prosperous of India were begging at the doors of Muslims as early as in the reign of Alauddin Khalji (1296–1316), just nine decades after the founding of Islamic rule in Delhi.

The British occupation later brought some kind of relief to the savagery, destruction and plunder wrought by Muslim invaders and rulers upon India’s non-Muslims. The British rule, however, did not attenuate the economic misery of Indians to any significant extent. The British rule was based on a policy of economic exploitation, aimed at generating revenue for the British treasury. Javier Cuenca Esteban estimates that the ‘net financial transfers from India to Britain reached a peak of £1,014,000 annually in 1784–1792 before declining to £477,000 in 1808–1815.’652 The British did not engage in plundering the households, temples etc. as did the Muslim rulers, but they imposed high taxes on India’s farmers. Taxes were high, about one-third of the produce. This was the same rate on paper charged by Sultan Alauddin Khilji, who indeed charged 50 percent in order to reduce the peasantry to extreme poverty for preventing disaffection and rebellion amongst Hindus. Taxation became the worst under Muhammad Tughlaq (1325–51) reducing the peasantry to extreme poverty and beggary; in the Mughal reign, taxes could reach as high as three quarters in some areas.

Under the British, the situation was badly worsened by the homegrown zamindars, the tax-collectors for the Raj; they charged another one-third for their own keeping. This was mindless, because, the British invested a good part of the revenues in education, healthcare, development of infrastructures and running the state-machinery, but the amount collected by the zamindars was entirely for their own keeping. However, the British must take as much responsibility for their failure to regulate those policies of the zamindars. The British also forced the peasants to change cultivation from food-crops to cash-crops: indigo, jute, cotton, and tea etc., useful for the booming industries in Britain. As a result, the production of food-crops for local consumption reduced. The British traders also flooded India’s market with cheaper industrial products from Britain, causing a decline of the archaic indigenous industries; this caused further economic hardships to a large number of people. All these factors caused hardships to Indians under the British rule. However, one must take into consideration that the archaic industry of India was going to collapse anyway as the world was irreversibly changing to capitalist industrialization.

The British occupation of India undoubtedly came at a much less brutality and bloodbath. They, nonetheless, committed their share of brutality mainly in the course of the Sepoy Mutiny (1857–58). The British atrocity in the Sepoy Mutiny was gory; but atrocities were committed by both sides. The British became more brutal after the cruel betrayal of Nana Sahib at Cawnpore (Kanpur). On 5 July 1857, some 210 British women and children, left in Nana’s custody, were butchered, hacked to pieces and thrown down the well.653 The mutineers also slaughtered innocent children and raped the white women in Lucknow. These incidents of cold-blooded murder of innocent women and children and rapes enraged the British, including the public in Britain. The British soldiers committed shameful, disproportionate atrocities in revenge on the mutineers. However, the unarmed civilian population, particularly the women and children, a prime target for enslavement by Muslim invaders and rulers, rarely suffered British cruelties. In the course of the independence movement, British atrocities were minimal; the Jalianwala Bagh massacre was the major incidence, killing a few hundred people.

Undoubtedly, the Islamic rule in India was much more devastating and debilitating than the British one. But defying all logic and reason, Muslims as well as non-Muslim secular-Marxists of the subcontinent see the advent of Islam in India as a great blessing, while the British rule as the greatest curse. Islam allegedly brought, they say, equality, justice, emancipation, art, culture, architecture, and prosperity, in which India should take great pride. In glorifying Arab imperialism that extended to India, respected Marxist historian MN Roy calls the Arab Empire a magnificent monument to the memory of Muhammad.

Contrary to this Marxist assessment, it has been made abundantly clear that the Arabs—the founders of Islam—had nothing to contribute to the more developed outside world, except in poetry, which, too, became prohibited in Islam. Nehru, who keeps contradicting himself, also negates this Marxist view-point in saying, ‘The Afghans brought no new element of progress; they represented a backward feudal and tribal order.654 Naipaul, slamming the Marxist assessment, asserts that Hindu civilization was left “terrorized”, “wounded” and “destroyed” by Islamic invasions. He says, ‘Islamic rule in India was at least as catastrophic as the later Christian (British) rule. The Christians created massive poverty in what was a most prosperous country; the Muslims created a terrorized civilization out of what was the most creative culture that ever existed.’655

Like Naipaul, the Marxist-socialist historians, Nehru included, predominantly focus on the poverty caused by the British in their history writing. Fair enough! That is indeed an indisputable fact. What is conspicuously absent in their writings is the impact of Islam on the poverty in India. What was the effect of Islamic rule on poverty?

Many mentions have been made of how astonished the Muslim invaders and chroniclers were by the riches of India. About the riches in pre-Islamic India, wrote Abdullah Wassaf in his Tazjiyatul Amsar (1300 CE), ‘the charms of the country and the softness of the air, together with the variety of its wealth, precious metal, stones, and other abundant productions, are beyond description.’ In a poetical note, he adds, ‘If it is asserted that Paradise is in India; Be not surprised because Paradise itself is not comparable to it.’656 Hajjaj was so awed by the one-fifth share of the booty received from Qasim on one occasion that he ‘prostrated himself before God, offered thanksgiving and praises, for, he said, he had in reality obtained all the wealth and treasures and dominion of the world.’657 In 1311, Malik Kafur returned after sacking South India; his loot, according to Nehru, included ‘50,000 maunds (1 maund = 37.3 kg) of gold, a vast quantity of jewels and pearls, and 20,000 horses and 312 elephants.658 According to Barani,659 Malik Kafur’s booty was so immense that the ‘old inhabitants of Delhi remarked that so many elephants and so much gold had never before been brought to Delhi. No one could remember anything like it, nor was there anything like it recorded in history.’660

The Islamic invaders came to a country of such riches to unleash terrible plundering, looting and exploitation, causing great misery and sufferings to the people. Alauddin Khilji (d. 1316) sucked the peasantry to such an extent that they were left with enough for bare sustenance; the rest was taken away in all kinds of taxes. Alauddin had reduced Indian peasants to such misery that Maulana Shamsuddin Turk, a Sufi saint from Egypt, wrote in delight, ‘the Hindu women and children went out begging at the doors of the Musalmans.’ Such miserable condition forced many peasants to sell their wives and children for paying up the taxes.661 Later on, Sultan Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq (r. 1320–25) continued the exploitation such that ‘there should be left only so much to the Hindus that neither, on the one hand, they should become arrogant on account of their wealth, nor, on the other, desert their land in despair,’ wrote Barani. Next Muhammad bin Tughlaq (r. 1325–51) increased the tax further, forcing the peasants to leave their lands and take refuge in jungles, from where he hunted them down like wild beasts. As noted already, in the glorious days of Mughal rule, kind-hearted Jahangir had hunted down 200,000 jungle-dwellers in 1619–20. Twenty-seven years into kind-hearted Akbar’s reign, numerous Hindus lived in the fastness of mountains as noted above. This means desperate poverty persisted in India even throughout the glorious Mughal rule.

The policy of extreme exploitation of the non-Muslim peasantry, except probably with some measure of relief under Akbar, continued through the reign of Jahangir and beyond. On Muslim rulers’ deliberate policy of causing crushing impoverishment of the peasants, notes Fernand Braudel, ‘The levies it (Hindus) had to pay were so crushing that one catastrophic harvest was enough to unleash famines and epidemics capable of killing a million people at a time. Appalling poverty was the constant counterpart of the conquerors’ opulence, including the splendor of palaces and feasts in Delhi.662 The situation got worse under the reign of Shahjahan (d. 1658) and Aurangzeb (d. 1707). The Muslim rulers ‘founded its luxury on India’s general poverty’ and India, under the Muslim rule, experienced ‘a series of famine, a fabulous death-rate…,’ adds Braudel.663

LEGACY

It is already explained that the erasure of the contemptuous pre-Islamic jahiliyah heritage is an essential part of the fundamental Islamic doctrine. It is incumbent upon “true believers” to blot out the vestiges of erroneous, obsolete pre-Islamic religious, cultural and civilizational traits and acquisitions from the lands they live in. Therefore, after Islam took control of the Middle East in the seventh century, notes Lewis, ‘The most ancient languages—the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Hittite, old Persian, and the rest—were abandoned and remained unknown until they were exhumed, deciphered, interpreted and restored by Orientalist scholars to history… For a long time, the effort was exclusively the work of the non-Middle Easterners, and it remains predominantly so.664 In agreement, writes Ibn Warraq, ‘the sciences of Egyptology, Assyriology, and Iranology were the exclusive concerns of the European and American scholars. It was left to the dedicated archeologists to recover and give back to mankind a part of its glorious past.665

However, in recent years, the fundamentalist Muslims, in Egypt for example, are seeking to destroy those revived past glories by destroying the pyramids and other archeological and architectural treasures of the pre-Islamic era. The Taliban fundamentalists in Afghanistan obliterated the pre-Islamic Bamiyan Buddha statues. The Islamic regime in Iran has been systematically obliterating the great pre-Islamic Persian heritage under one excuse or another over the past three decades. This campaign has been gaining strength and will, in all likelihood, expand and intensify in Islamic countries in the coming decades.

Indisputably, the Portuguese and Spaniards amongst European colonists, wrought havoc upon the colonized peoples, such as in South America and the Portuguese-controlled Goa in India. But, if the records of medieval Muslim historians and rulers are taken into consideration, the Muslim invaders undoubtedly committed no lesser atrocity against the colonized people. They killed an estimated eighty million natives in India, a similar number in the Middle East and Central Asia, a larger number in Africa and more in Europe. The Spanish and Portuguese imperialism was obviously cruel, but the Islamic one was no less cruel as far as atrocities against the colonized are concerned. Other European colonial powers—with notable exception, such as in Australia—behaved reasonably well for that time.

What are the continued legacies of European and Islamic colonialism—in the subcontinent, for example? In India, the positive impact of the British-instituted education, legal and healthcare systems, roads, railway and irrigation systems, secular-democracy, rule of law and telecommunication, along with their efforts to abolish a whole host of social ills cannot be discounted in today’s India. But what can India boast of about Islam’s beneficial legacy? Indian Muslim friends tell me that India had nothing before the Muslim invasion. ‘Islam gave India the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort,’ they say. Islam ‘inspired the king of what was then the world’s wealthiest empire to build a tomb—the Taj Mahal—in honour of his wife,’ argues Irfan Yusuf.666 India’s pre-Islamic standing in science, art and architecture has been discussed already. Also discussed, how these fanciful follies, the so-called great Islamic contributions, were built by sucking the blood of the colonized people, and of course, by their brain and labor, too. Most importantly, without these follies, India will be as great a nation today, but not without the legacy of the British Raj. Naipaul writes on the distinction between the British and Islamic legacies in Pakistan that,

The Moguls had built forts, places, mosques, and tombs. The British in the second half of the nineteenth century had put up buildings to house institutions. Lahore was rich in the monuments of both periods. Ironically, for a country that talks so much about Islamic identity, and even claimed to be a successor to Mogul power, it was the Mogul monuments that were in decay: the fort, Shah Jehan’s mosque, the Shalimar Gardens, the tombs of both Emperor Jehangir and his great consort Noor-Jehan… The British administrative buildings live on. The institutions they were meant to house are still more or less the institutions the country depends on.667

Waleed Iqbal, a grandson of Muhammad Iqbal, the man behind the Pakistan idea, told Naipaul that ‘going back further to the times of the Mogul, the law was simply dictatorial. The British-given courts, and the British procedural laws of 1898 and 1908, were still all that the country had. They met a need; that was why they had lasted.668

This does not mean that the British occupation was essential for these ideas and institutions to come to India. Since ancient times, Indian civilization, while being creative itself, was very assimilative of foreign ideas. The developments of the Renaissance and Enlightenment Europe would have trickled into India with relative ease. However, Islam’s hold on India, if continued, would have been an impediment. The Muslim power was decaying in India and many would believe that the Hindus and Sikhs were about to displace Muslims from power. That was very much a possibility. However, it must be taken into consideration that, nowhere in the world, the Muslim colonists were dislodged from power without foreign interference. Muslim power had decayed in India a few times previously. Amir Timur had thoroughly devastated the already decaying Islamic power in Delhi; Muslims still came back and asserted their political control. If not with internal power, with foreign reinforcements, Muslim could still keep their hold on power. Did not Ahmad Shah Abadali, upon fervent appeals from India’s pious Muslims, like great Sufi master Shah Walliullah, come to India thrice to wreak havoc and decimate the Maratha opposition in his last foray in 1761? Earlier, amidst chaotic political situation in India, Muslims had appealed for outside help; responding to it, Babur came from Central Asia and founded the powerful Mughal Empire.

The overall impact of the Islamic imperialism on India was undoubtedly worse than the British one. A look at the current mess in Islamic Bangladesh and Pakistan clearly shows the continued legacy of Islamic imperialism in the subcontinent. The Hindu India, absorbing progressive European ideas, has steadily marched ahead after gaining independence. Pakistan and Bangladesh, the heirs of the legacy of Islamic imperialism, have harked back to Islam and regressed. If European imperialism deserves condemnation, Islamic imperialism deserves no less.

The negative impact of the European imperialism on the former colonies of Africa, Americas, Asia and elsewhere has now ended with their withdrawal. But the footprints, left behind by the Islamic imperialism, continue to cause misery, even havoc, in the lands Muslims had conquered. Muslim converts’ failure to cope up with the rest of the citizens, such as in India, has been discussed already. There is no end in sight for this ongoing pernicious impact of Islam. On the contrary, wherever the European colonists have left their footprints, namely as settlers in Canada, United States, Australasia and South Africa among other places, they have been an asset for those nations.

Critics and historians, who engage in evaluating the impact of the Islamic and British rules in India, should pay heed to what India’s latest Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said about the British and Islamic impact on India. In a speech at Oxford in 2005, Singh, breaking tradition, said of his assessment of the British impact on India, ‘Today, with the balance and perspective offered by the passage of time and the benefit of hindsight, it is possible for an Indian prime minister to assert that India’s experience with Britain had its beneficial consequences too.’ He added: ‘Our notions of the rule of law, of a constitutional government, of a free press, of a professional civil service, of modern universities and research laboratories have all been fashioned in the crucible where an age-old civilization met the dominant Empire of the day.669

Nehru, on the other hand, rather reluctantly drew the unavoidable conclusion on Islam’s impact on India that ‘Islam did not bring any great social revolution in its train which might have put an end to a large extent to the exploitation of masses. But it did lessen this exploitation so far as the Muslims are concerned…670 Nehru’s appreciation of Muslim rulers’ racist policy of relieving exploitation of the miniscule Muslim population was possible only by sucking the blood, heart and soul of the much larger non-Muslim population.

References.

604. Nehru (1989), p. 122; also Nalanda in Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nalanda

605. Sachau (2002), p. 6

606. Ferishtah, Vol. II, p. 248

607. Some modern scholars, such as Phillip K Hitti, deny this on the ground that the Library of Alexandria could not exist because it was destroyed during the invasion of Julius Caesar in 48 BC. But, according to Theodore Vrettos (Alexandria, City of the Western Mind, The Free Press, New York, 2001, p. 93-94): ‘Caesar’s soldiers set fire to the Egyptian ships, and the flames, spreading rapidly in the driving wind, consumed most of the dockyard, many structures near the palace, and also several thousand books that were housed in one of the buildings. From this incident, historians mistakingly assumed that the Great Library of Alexandria had been destroyed, but the Library was nowhere near the docks… Some 40,000 book scrolls were destroyed in the fire, which were not at all connected with the Great Library; they were account books and ledgers containing records of Alexandria’s export goods bound for Rome and other cities throughout the world.’

608. Ghosh, p. 22

609. Ibid, p. 23

610. Ibid, p. 22

611. Ibid, p. 29

612. Ibid, p. 124
613. Nehru (1989), p. 154,151

614. Ibid, p. 313
615. Rabbi, p. 60–61

616. Ashraf KM (1935), Life and Condition of the People of Hindustan (1220–1550 A.D.), Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal, Letters, p. 191.

617. Wise J (1894) The Muhammadans of Eastern Bengal, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. 63, 3:1, p. 61
618. Nehru (1989), p. 132
619. Ibid, p. 157

620 Elliot and Dawson, Vol. III, p. 105

621 Ibid, p. 104–05
622 Ibid, p. 105–06

623 Ibid, p. 238
624. Ibid, p. 241–42
625. Ibid, p. 242
626. Ibid, Vol. VI, p. 516
627. Levi, p. 283–84
628. Elliot & Downson, Vol. VI, p. 64

629. Nizami KA (1989) Akbar and Religion, Idarah-i-Adabiyat-i-Delhi, New Delhi, p. 107,383–84

630. Elliot & Downson, Vol. VI, p. 68–69
631. Gibb, p. 191-2
632. Ibid, p. 192

633. Clarence-Smith, p. 30

634. Thugee, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thugee

635. Elliot & Dowson, Vol. III, p. 141

636. Gibb, p. 190–91
637. Prasad RC (1980) Early Travels in India, Motilal Banarsidass, New Delhi, p. 261–66 638. Nehru (1989), p. 123–24
639. Ibid, p. 132
640. Ibid, p. 210–11
641. Ibid, p. 157,149
642. Ibid, p. 208
643. Ibid, p. 209

644. Ibid, p. 155
645. Naipaul (1998), p. 247

646. Kamra, p. 3

647. Bandyopadhyay S (1998) Changing Borders, Shifting Loyalties: Religion, Caste and the Partition of Bengal in 1947, Asian Studies Institute, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, p. 4-5

648. Braudel, p. 232

649. Pakistani Christians asked to choose between ‘conversion’ or ‘death’, Christian Today, Australia, 11 Sept 2008; http://au.christiantoday.com/article/pakistani/4282.htm

650. Harrowing tales of depravity, Daily Star (Dhaka), 10 November 2001
651. Lundström J (2006) Rape as Genocide under International Criminal Law, The Case of Bangladesh, Global Human Rights Defense, Lund University, p. 29-30

652. Clingingsmith D & Williamson JG (2005) India’s Deindustrialization in the 18th and 19th Centuries, Harvard University, p. 9

653. Nehru (1989), p. 414; also Indian Rebellion of 1857, Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Rebellion_of_1857

654. Nehru (1946), p. 261
655. Outlook India, V.S. Naipual interview , 15 November 1999
656. Elliot & Dawson, Vol. III, p. 29
657. Sharma, p. 95
658. Nehru (1989), p. 213; also Ferishtah, Vol. I, p. 204
659. Barani puts the number of elephants at 612, the amount of gold at 96,000 maunds. 660. Elliot & Dawson, Vol. III, p. 204
661. Lal (1994), p. 128–131

662. Braudel, p. 232
663. Ibid, p. 233–34
664. Lewis (2000), p. 245

665. Ibn Warraq, p. 202

666. Yusuf I, Violence against women won’t stop until men speak out, New Zealand Herald, 12 Sept. 2008

667. Naipaul (1998), p. 255–56
668. Ibid, p. 256

669. Rediff.com, British Raj was beneficial: PM, 9 July 2005; http://us.rediff.com/news/2005/jul/09pm1.htm

670. Nehru (1989), p. 145

©2013. Secular African Society. All Rights Reserved.

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One thought on “ISLAMIC IMPERIALISM’S IMPACT ON INDIA’S SOCIAL, INTELLECTUAL, CULTURAL, RELIGIOUS & ECONOMIC LIFE.

  1. “The British occupation later brought some kind of relief to the savagery, destruction and plunder wrought by Muslim invaders and rulers upon India’s non-Muslims.” Wow, colonialism sure left its mark on you.

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