The Muslim Element in the Indian Population

Indo-Arab relations may be traced to the period earlier than the establishment of Islam. The merchants of both sides carried on business without any religious or political differences. But with the establishment of Muslims as a political force in Sindh in the beginning of the 8th century the relations of the two communities ceased to be friendly. The Muslims settled in large numbers in Sindh. Their outlook towards Indians was guided by their masters who acted on the behest of the Caliphs. Their hostile attitude made the Indian people change their outlook and the Muslims were regarded as ‘Mlecchas’. This term had, however, been used earlier for all those foreigners who did not share the Indian way of thinking and living. In this connection Al-Biruni remarks, “On the contrary, all their fanaticism is directed against those who do not belong to them-against all foreigners. They call then Mleccha, i.e., impure and forbid having any connection with them, be it by intermarriage, or any other kind of relationship or by sitting, eating and drinking with them because thereby they think they would be polluted.” At another place he says, “All other men except the Candal, as far as they are not Hindus. are called Mlechchha, i.e., unclean all those who kill men and slaughter animals and eat the flesh of cows.” The Candalas are mentioned in the ancient literature of India among the Mlecchas. They were the lowest among the low who were considered outside the social order. In the Chachnama the Muslims are called outcastes and coweaters. In the epigraphical records too the Muslims are mentioned as Mlecchas. The advance of the Muslims in the country was checked from time to time by the Indian rulers, though eventually they failed to stem its tide. In one of the Chauhana records their hatred towards them is recorded in connection with the victory of Vigraharaja IV, who claims to have “Once more made Aryavarta what its name signifies by repeatedly exterminating the Mlechchhas (who had rendered the name meaningless by the occupation of the country).”  However, the Hindus are not wholly to blame for the adoption of such a contemptuous attitude towards the Turks. Al-Biruni criticises the looting and plundering of the Hindu temples and the insult to their gods at the hands of the Muslims and their cruel treatment of the masses. To quote him, “Mahmud utterly ruined the prosperity of the country. This and other acts of Mahmud filled them with the most inveterate aversion toward all Muslims.” The Muslims could not be absorbed in the Hindu social order on account of their different way of life. Before the Muslims, many foreign races had come but lost their identities. Another term used for the Muslims is Turuşka in Hindu inscriptions. They had broken Hindu idols. This type of desecration is described in the Gahadavala Grant of Kumaradevi. Govinda Chandra is credited to have been commissioned by Lord Mahadeva to protect Väränasi from the wicked Turuşka warrior. The Pratihāras are generally described by the Muslim writers as the greatest enemies of the Arabs. However, they were successful in their attempts to conquer a large part of India and settled in the Gahaḍvāla dominion as well as in other parts of the country ruled by different dynasties. The settlement of the Muslims is also proved by the term ‘Turuşka Danda’ which was probably a kind of punitive tax levied on the Muslim settlers in the Gahadavala principality. They were not al- ways treated as enemies by the Hindus. Some of the Hindu rulers employed them in their armies. King Harşha of Kashmir employed the Turks in his army. We are also told that Dahir had a body of 500 Arab troops in his service. King Kalasa of Kashmir employed a Turkish architect to erect a golden parasal over the temple of Kalaseśvara.” The Muslim writers have recorded that the relations of the Rastrakūtas with the Arabs were always friendly unlike the Pratihāras of Kanauj. The Chalukyas of Gujarat contributed to the building of a mosque in their kingdom.

Reclamation of the Hindus

The victorious Muslims either carried a large number of Hindus as slaves to their country or forced them to accept their faith. Sometimes the alternatives placed before them were that either they should ‘go to hell’ or accept Islam. With the establishment of Muslim rule in Sindh, as the Muslim writers say, a large number of Hindus were converted to Islam by the victorious invaders. Some of the converted Hindus tried to escape to India. We have some references to the reclamation of Hindus who had been converted to Islam. Utbi says that “Nawasa Shah, formerly Sukhpal and one of the relations of Jaipal, who had been forcibly converted to Islam, gave up his new faith and was reconverted to Hinduism. Mahmud invaded Sukhpal, defeated him and took him imprisoner, but he did not give up his Hindu religion.” We are informed by Al-Baladuri that “Tanmim’s successor, Hakim found that the people of Hind apostatized and returned to idolatry excepting those of Kassa, and the Muslims had no place of security in which they could live.” This could have been possible if the Hindus accepted them to their old faith. It seems that the reclamation of the Hindus had become a regular feature by the time of Al-Biruni, who refers, for instance, to two different ways in which the Hindus behaved towards the Hindu slaves of war. On falling into Muslim hands they were sent to Muslim countries, but later on escaped to India and wished to return to their old religion. Al-Biruni says, “I have repeatedly been told that when Hindu slaves (in Muslim countries) escape and return to their country and religion, the Hindus order that they should fast by way of expiation, then they bury them in the dung, stale and milk of cows for a certain number of days, till they get into a state of fermentation. Then they drag them out of the dirt and give them similar dirt to eat and more of the like.” A similar description is also provided by Mutahhar bin Tahir Maqdisi who writes, “When some body changes his religion, after having fallen in the hands of Muslim and wants to revert to his former religion, he is not killed but undergoes a religious purification. This is the procedure for that purification. The head and the whole body is shaved. Then they collect five things belonging to cow, its urine, dung, milk, curd and butter (San. Panchagavya ) which he has to eat for several days. He is then taken before a cow and asked to prostrate before it.” In this connection Gardizi writes that no Brah- mana could cross the Ganga. It was forbidden by law not to reach to any one who was not of their seed (dhurn yat). Whoever had left their religion was not readmitted except after he had made himself clean and they had purified him. The purification consisted in shaving his head, his beard, his eye-brows and eye-lashes, and any hair on his body. Then they collected five things: cow-dung, cow’s urine, milk and butter and water of Ganga and mixed all five, giving them to drink in a copper bowl to the amount of one rital of the same water they poured on his head, after which they rubbed (tala) his body, and thus for ten days in proportion to his rebellion and his neglect of religion. Then he approached a cow and prostrated himself before her. This is also confirmed by the contemporary Smṛti writers who prescribe reconversion to the Hindu fold. Deval, who wrote his Smrti in Sindh, refers to persons whose parents had embraced the Mleccha religion as well as to such women as had been ravished and had also conceived. Purificatory rites are prescribed by the Smrti for persons who returned to their country from the Mlecchadeda. The Smrti also mentions fasts like those of Chandrayana and Paraka, and Padakrochra and the use of cow urine and cow dung. This supports Al-Biruni’s statement. As regards the women abducted by the Mlecchas, Atri, Parāśara and the Agni Purana provide for their restoration to the society. Devala forbids visits to some frontier provinces like Sindh, Sauvira, Saurăştra, Borderlands, Kalinga, Konkana and Vanga, which one could do only on pain of performing Suddhi on return. This also cofirnms Al- Biruni’s remark that the Brahmaṇas were forbidden to cross the rivers Sindh in the north and Charmanvati in the South. He was also not allowed to cross either of these frontiers so as to enter the country of the Turks or of the Karnata. How- ever, Devala is liberal and discusses the problem of reconversion at great length and extends the limit of purification to twentyfive years.

Nevertheless, the orthodox section of the society had begun to hesitate about the readmission of converts within its fodl. Al-Biruni was told that even after expiation a Brahmana could not be taken back and there was no expiation possible for such an individual and that he was never allowed to return into those conditions of life in which he was before. Such an expiation was said to be impossible, if a Brahmana ate even in the house of a Sudra for sundry days. He was expelled from his caste and could never regain it. No doubt Al-Biruni’s statement clearly shows the actual state of things. The Hindus, from the very beginning, as noted by Muslim writers, were conservative in outlook. The growing notion of purity and various types of purification or expiation tended to make reconversion extremely difficult. It was one of the reasons for the rapid growth of Islam and for the establishment of Muslim rule in India. The Hindus were following a ‘strange path of narrowness and spirit of exclusiveness.’ The remark of Professor Habib and others that the Hindu society had a narrow outlook and was intolerant towards the low castes, which led to its defeat, suffers from an exaggeration and yet it underlines the fact that the Hindu social organisation lacked cohesion and strength and it had left a large segment in a sad plight.

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