What was the population of Muslims in the Indian subcontinent in 1800 AD?

What was the population of Muslims in the Indian subcontinent in 1800 AD?

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To put it in broader perspective, Muslim population has steadily grown from 13% in 1800 to 16% in 1850 to 20% in 1900 to 25% in 1947 and anywhere between 30 to 33% today taking into account the geographical area of pre-partitioned India. These statistics are available from various sources.

It doesn't provide any reference that I can check.

This book estimates that India's population may have been 185 million in 1800 AD.

But it doesn't give any estimate of the Muslim population.

13% of 185 million = 24.05 million. Is it a correct estimate?

According to most widely accepted estimate by historians, What was the population of Muslims in the Indian subcontinent in 1800 AD?

(If such data is not available, I would be happy with estimates of between 1800 and 1850)

The Muslim proportion in "undivided India" - today's India, Pakistan and Bangladesh - has risen from 21% in the late 19th century to about 31½% today, but there can be little doubt that the rate of increase was slower in the C19, much of the 20th-century growth being concentrated in the area now forming Pakistan which saw exceptional agricultural development from the 1880s. This is consistent with experience elsewhere: past populations were on the whole less mobile and less subject to rapid economic transformation than in recent times.

A tentative reconstruction for c.1850 based on McEvedy's breakdown into today's areas (Atlas of world population history, Penguin 1978) suggests about 11 million Muslims in what is now Pakistan, 23m in today's India and 15m in Bangladesh (against 15m, 29m and 19m respectively in 1901) - in all roughly a fifth. In 1800 with a total population of 190-200m we're probably looking at a Muslim contribution of 35-40 million (about a fifth of them in Pakistan, a half in India and 30% in Bangladesh) as there is no reason to assume any disproportionate advance in areas of predominantly Muslim settlement. It's certainly a good deal more than 25m or the first source's 13%, numbers derived from extending 20th-century trends into the 19th where they simply don't apply.

Of the three present-day states, Bangladesh has shown the least change in its share of the subcontinent's Muslim population, rising to 32% in the 1960s before falling back to 27% today: population movements at the time of partition raised Pakistan's share from under a quarter to more than a third while lowering India's from 45% to 35%: today Pakistan and India each contribute 36-37%.

India's first (& most reliable) census was from 1867 to 1871, known as the 1872 Census of India. The Government of India confirms this in their census history. So, there is no data prior to this census, hence all numbers below are estimates.

In terms of estimated population, circa 1800 to 1850, The Cambridge Economic History of India, Volume 2, c.1751-c.1970 provides estimates on p.466, Table 5.1 (the range is from different authors' estimates):

  • 1800: 157 to 214 million
  • 1850: 183 to 247 million

I cannot find any information on estimates of Muslim population circa 1800 to 1850, but hopefully the range of total population might come in useful.

Your estimated Muslim population of 13% is extremely close to the Government of India's (2001 Census Data) estimate: 13.4%.

The graph in this answer to another question puts the population of the Indian subcontinent in 1800 at around 190 million. 13% of that would be 24.7 million, which corresponds very closely to your estimate of 24.05 million. So "25 million" is probably the right order of magnitude.

India’s Muslims and the Price of Partition

NEW DELHI — Seventy years after independence, India’s Muslim population has begun to fear that the dark fantasies of the Muslims led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the Muslim League in the 1930s and 1940s — who fought for the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan as a homeland for the subcontinent’s Muslims — could well be coming true.

The Muslim League, a party established by Muslim landlords and the educated middle class, claimed that it alone had the right to represent Muslims and their interests. This brought it into conflict with the Indian National Congress of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, who argued that they represented all Indians.

In 1936-7, the British decided to conduct elections to 11 provincial legislatures. A large measure of administrative powers was to be transferred to the governments thus elected. The Congress, the League and a slew of provincial parties participated in the polls. Despite its claim of representing Muslims’ aspirations, the Muslim League polled less than 5 percent of their votes, which inspired fantasies and fears.

The League began to argue that the Hindu majority of undivided India would swamp Muslims and suppress their religion and culture. As evidence, the League pointed to Hindu-Muslim riots in the northern states of Bihar and the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh), both ruled by the Congress, as an ominous portent. They argued that the movement to ban the slaughter of cows, led by an assortment of religious leaders, Hindu nationalist groups and some members of the Congress, was aimed at subverting Muslim culture. Unlike Muslims, Christians, Jews and animists, a segment of Hindus worship the cow and don’t eat its meat.

In 1937, Congress adopted as the national song of India some verses from “Vande Mataram,” or “I praise you, Mother,” a poem written in the 1870s by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, a Bengali poet and novelist, as an ode to the Hindu goddess Durga. The League objected to its singing as it depicted India as Mother Goddess, which the League construed to promote idolatry, anathema to Muslims.

Over the last three years, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party government, some of the League’s fears in the 1930s and ’40s have returned to haunt India’s Muslims — who acount for 172 million of India’s 1.3 billion citizens.

Punishment for cow slaughter, which is proscribed in most states of India, has become more severe. A conviction can lead to sentences ranging from five years to life imprisonment.

The foot soldiers of Mr. Modi’s party and its affiliates have run aggressive campaigns demanding that, apart from giving up beef, India’s Muslims must not date or marry Hindu girls or women. They should reconvert to Hinduism, the B.J.P. and like-minded others say, because their ancestors were Hindus who were forcibly converted by medieval Muslim rulers. They must sing “Vande Mataram,” the national song, these proponents say, to prove their loyalty to India, and their children must perform yoga in schools to show respect for India’s culture.

Since some medieval Muslim kings demolished temples to build mosques, the B.J.P. and affiliates say, Muslims in modern, democratic India should voluntarily hand over various mosques and shrines to the Hindus.

The most alarming trend has been the lynching of Muslims suspected of possessing beef, for ferrying home cattle purchased legitimately from cattle markets elsewhere.

The markers of Muslim identity — beards, skullcaps and head scarves — invite frowns, even violence, in India. On a late June afternoon, Junaid Khan, a 15-year-old Muslim boy, was stabbed to death on a train near New Delhi. Mr. Khan was traveling with his older brother and two friends. They were identified as Muslim because of their clothes and skullcaps. After an argument over a train seat, their fellow passengers threw religious slurs at them, killed Mr. Khan and injured the other boys.

Hindu nationalists haven’t forgiven Muslims for the partition of India, but their fury is a little misguided.

Despite the mass violence and displacement of the partition, around 35 million Muslims stayed in India after the creation of Pakistan, which was carved out of Muslim majority provinces. Some of them might have subscribed to Pakistan but chose India because they didn’t wish to forfeit properties or sever ties with their extended families. Many might not have had any political opinion whatsoever. Many Indian Muslims, including religious scholars, ferociously opposed the Muslim League’s demand for Pakistan.

Hindu nationalist ideologues have argued that Muslims can’t be loyal to India, as it might be their motherland, but it is not their holy land.

India’s Muslims have evolved their own survival strategy since 1989 and the rise of the Hindu nationalist politics under the banner of the B.J.P. They combined with other social groups to vote for the party best placed to defeat the B.J.P., but this strategy has yielded diminishing returns. Mr. Modi’s B.J.P. won the national elections in 2014 despite being mostly rejected by Muslim voters.

In an unconscious imitation of the strategy that is the obverse of what the Muslim League adopted between 1937 and 1947, the B.J.P. has propagated fictitious ideas of Muslim assertion. These ideas have acquired traction because of widespread Islamophobia and the insurgency in Muslim-majority Kashmir. Although Muslims outside Kashmir do not identify with the demand for independence that their culturally different co-religionists are waging, these factors have fanned the insecurities of a substantial number of Hindus. They perceive the B.J.P. as their savior, which was how a large segment of Muslims saw the Muslim League in 1946.

India’s Muslims didn’t feel secure and weren’t flourishing before the B.J.P.’s rise. There were Hindu-Muslim riots then as well Muslims were targeted and discriminated against. Their representation in elite government services has been less than 5 percent, according to the Indian government report in 2006.

Today India’s Muslims are apprehensive. Before sectarian violence was often orchestrated to win elections in a clutch of seats, almost always followed by a process of reconciliation. The Hindu-Muslim rivalry never constituted the political language of the Congress Party, the principal recipient of Muslim votes for much of India’s 70 years. The B.J.P. seeks to permanently consolidate Hindus against Muslims and keep the social caldron simmering.

For India’s Muslims, their recompense is that their status is better than that of Hindus and Christians in Pakistan and Bangladesh. That is no consolation for Muslims whose ancestors did not succumb to the Muslim League’s fears and fantasies, which seem to be slowly spinning their way into the orbit of Indian reality.

Islamic Invasion Of India: The Greatest Genocide In History

The genocide· suffered by the Hindus and Sikhs of India at the hands· of Arab , Turkish , Mughal and Afghan occupying forces for a period· of 800 years· is as yet formally unrecognised by the World .

The only similar genocide· in the recent past· was that of the Jewish people· at the hands· of the Nazis .

The holocaust of the Hindus in India was of even greater proportions , the only difference· was that it continued for 800 years· , till the brutal· regimes were effectively overpowered in a life· and death· struggle· by the Sikhs in the Punjab and the Hindu Maratha armies in other parts of India in the late· 1700 ’s .

We have· elaborate· literary evidence· of the World’s biggest holocaust from existing historical· contemporary eyewitness accounts . The historians and biographers of the invading armies and subsequent rulers of India have· left quite detailed records of the atrocities they committed in their day-to-day encounters with India’s Hindus .

Paintings by Edwin Lord Weeks.

These contemporary records boasted about and glorified the crimes that were committed – and the genocide· of tens of millions of Hindus , mass· rapes of Hindu women and the destruction· of thousands of ancient Hindu / Buddhist temples and libraries have· been well documented and provide· solid· proof· of the World’s biggest holocaust .

Dr . Koenraad Elst in his article· “Was There an Islamic Genocide of Hindus ? ” states:

“There is no official· estimate of the total· death· toll· of Hindus at the hands· of Islam . A first· glance at important· testimonies by Muslim chroniclers suggests that , over 13 centuries and a territory· as vast as the Subcontinent , Muslim Holy Warriors easily killed more Hindus than the 6 million of the Holocaust . Ferishtha lists several occasions when the Bahmani sultans in central· India ( 1347 – 1528 ) killed a hundred thousand Hindus , which they set as a minimum goal· whenever they felt like punishing the Hindus and they were only a third-rank provincial dynasty .

The biggest slaughters took place· during the raids of Mahmud Ghaznavi (ca . 1000 CE) during the actual conquest· of North India by Mohammed Ghori and his lieutenants ( 1192 ff . ) and under the Delhi Sultanate ( 1206 – 1526 ) . ”

He also writes in his book· “Negation in India”:

“The Muslim conquests , down to the 16 th century , were for the Hindus a pure· struggle· of life· and death· . Entire cities were burnt down and the populations massacred , with hundreds of thousands killed in every campaign , and similar numbers deported as slaves . Every new invader made (often literally) his hills of Hindus skulls . Thus , the conquest· of Afghanistan in the year 1000 was followed by the annihilation of the Hindu population the region· is still called the Hindu Kush , i . e . Hindu slaughter· . ”

Will Durant argued in his 1935 book· “The Story of Civilisation: Our Oriental Heritage” (page 459 ):

“The Mohammedan conquest· of India is probably the bloodiest story· in history· . The Islamic historians and scholars have· recorded with great· glee· and pride· the slaughters of Hindus , forced conversions , abduction of Hindu women and children to slave markets and the destruction· of temples carried out by the warriors of Islam during 800 AD to 1700 AD . Millions of Hindus were converted to Islam by sword· during this period· . ”

Francois Gautier in his book· ‘Rewriting Indian History’ ( 1996 ) wrote:

“The massacres perpetuated by Muslims in India are unparalleled· in history· , bigger than the Holocaust of the Jews by the Nazis or the massacre· of the Armenians by the Turks more extensive even than the slaughter· of the South American native· populations by the invading Spanish and Portuguese . ”

Writer Fernand Braudel wrote in A History of Civilisations ( 1995 ) , that Islamic rule· in India as a

“colonial experiment” was “extremely violent” , and “the Muslims could not rule· the country· except by systematic terror· . Cruelty was the norm· – burnings , summary· executions , crucifixions or impalements , inventive· tortures . Hindu temples were destroyed to make· way· for mosques . On occasion· there were forced conversions . If ever there were an uprising , it was instantly and savagely repressed: houses were burned , the countryside was laid waste· , men· were slaughtered and women were taken as slaves . ”

Alain Danielou in his book· , Histoire de l’ Inde writes:

“From the time· Muslims started arriving , around 632 AD , the history· of India becomes a long· , monotonous· series· of murders , massacres , spoliations , and destructions . It is , as usual , in the name· of ‘a holy war’ of their faith· , of their sole God , that the barbarians have· destroyed civilizations , wiped out entire· races . ”

Irfan Husain in his article· “Demons from the Past” observes:

“While historical· events should be· judged in the context of their times , it cannot be· denied that even in that bloody period· of history· , no mercy· was shown to the Hindus unfortunate enough to be· in the path· of either the Arab conquerors of Sindh and south Punjab , or the Central Asians who swept in from Afghanistan…The Muslim heroes who figure· larger than life· in our history· books committed some dreadful· crimes . Mahmud of Ghazni , Qutb-ud-Din Aibak , Balban , Mohammed bin Qasim , and Sultan Mohammad Tughlak , all have blood-stained hands· that the passage· of years· has not cleansed . . Seen through Hindu eyes , the Muslim invasion· of their homeland was an unmitigated disaster· .

“Their temples were razed , their idols smashed , their women raped , their men· killed or taken slaves . When Mahmud of Ghazni entered Somnath on one of his annual raids , he slaughtered all 50 , 000 inhabitants . Aibak killed and enslaved hundreds of thousands . The list· of horrors is long· and painful· . These conquerors justified their deeds by claiming it was their religious duty· to smite non-believers . Cloaking themselves in the banner of Islam , they claimed they were fighting for their faith· when , in reality , they were indulging in straightforward slaughter· and pillage…”

A sample of contemporary eyewitness accounts of the invaders and rulers, during the Indian conquests.

The Afghan ruler· Mahmud al-Ghazni invaded India no less than seventeen times between 1001 – 1026 AD . The book· ‘Tarikh-i-Yamini’ – written by his secretary· documents several episodes of his bloody military campaigns :

“The blood· of the infidels flowed so copiously [at the Indian city· of Thanesar] that the stream· was discoloured , notwithstanding its purity , and people· were unable· to drink· it…the infidels deserted the fort and tried to cross· the foaming river…but many of them were slain , taken or drowned… Nearly fifty thousand men· were killed . ”

In the contemporary record· – ‘ Taj-ul-Ma’asir’ by Hassn Nizam-i-Naishapuri , it is stated that when Qutb-ul- Din Aibak (of Turko – Afghan origin· and the First Sultan of Delhi 1194 – 1210 AD) conquered Meerat , he demolished all the Hindu temples of the city· and erected mosques on their sites . In the city· of Aligarh , he converted Hindu inhabitants to Islam by the sword· and beheaded all those who adhered to their own religion· .

The Persian historian Wassaf writes in his book· ‘Tazjiyat-ul-Amsar wa Tajriyat ul Asar’ that when the Alaul-Din Khilji (An Afghan of Turkish origin· and second· ruler· of the Khilji Dynasty in India 1295 – 1316 AD) captured the city· of Kambayat at the head· of the gulf of Cambay , he killed the adult· male· Hindu inhabitants for the glory· of Islam , set flowing rivers of blood· , sent the women of the country· with all their gold , silver , and jewels , to his own home· , and made about twentv thousand Hindu maidens his private slaves .

India has a deep· , long· cultural· history· . Hinduism began there around 1 , 500 BC and Buddhism around the 6 th century BC . This culture· had evolved impressive intellectual· , religious and artistic· pursuits . Pre and post· the early days of Islam , Indian scholars took their works in science· , maths (zero , algebra , geometry , the decimal system· , so-called ‘Arabic’ numbers are actually Hindu ones ! ) , medicine· , philosophy· etc to the courts of others (including Muslims eg Baghdad) .

Others came to study· in India’s established universities . Indian children (boys and girls) were educated in the relatively widespread education· system· in a wide variety· of subjects eg science· , medicine· and philosophy· . India’s art· and architecture was magnificent . They were a prosperous· people· .Then came Islam – slaughter· , slavery· , rape , violence , pillage destruction· of religious sites , art· and architecture poverty· , exploitation , humiliation· , famine· , forced conversion· , decline· in intellectual· pursuits , social destruction· and a worsening of social ills .To Islam , anything that is not Islamic is from a time· of ignorance –Jahiliyya- and must be· destroyed (or appropriated and called Islam’s ! ) . The onslaught· created the Roma (gypsies) , destroyed ‘Hindu’ Afghanistan and formed Pakistan (Kashmir) and Bangladesh .

The cost· of the Muslim invasions is massive· in lives , wealth· and culture· . Estimates suggest· that 60 – 80 MILLION died at the hands· of Muslim invaders and rulers between 1000 and 1525 alone (ie over 500 years-the population FELL) . (Lal cited in Khan p 216 ) Impossible you think· ? In the war of Independence of Bangladesh , 1971 , the Muslim Pakistani army killed 1.5 – 3 million people· (mainly Muslims …) in just 9 MONTHS . (Khan p 216 ) . The world looked the other way—but don’t we always when it’s Muslims committing the violence ! [*The actual number· of Hindus brutally slaughtered by Muslims were around 400 million , not 60 – 80 million , according to Firishta [ 1560 – 1620 ] , the author· of the Tarikh-i Firishta and the Gulshan-i Ibrahim] .

Based on the figures that are available , the number· of Indians enslaved is enormous !

The Muslim conquest· of India was probably the bloodiest in history:

The Islamic historians and scholars have· recorded with utmost glee· and pride· of the slaughters of Hindus , forced conversions , abduction of Hindu women and children to slave-markets , and the destruction· of temples carried out by the warriors of Islam during 800 AD to 1700 AD . Millions of Hindus were converted to Islam by the sword· in this period” (historian Durant cited in Khan p 201 )

And Rizwan Salim (1997) writes what the Arab invaders really did:

‘ savages at a very low· level· of civilisation and no culture· worth the name· , from Arabia and West Asia , began entering India from the early century onwards· . Islamic invaders demolished countless· Hindu temples , shattered uncountable sculpture· and idols , plundered innumerable· forts and palaces of Hindu kings , killed vast numbers of Hindu men· and carried off Hindu women . ………but many Indians do· not seem· to recognize· that the alien· Muslim marauders destroyed the historical· evolution of the earth’s most mentally advanced civilisation , the most richly imaginative· culture· , and the most vigorously creative society· . ” (cited in Khan p 179 )

Of course· Indians pre-Islam , fought , but it was NOT the practice· to enslave or ravage· , or massacre· , or destroy· religious sites , or damage· crops and farmers . Battles were usually conducted on open· soil· between military personnel· . (Khan p 205 – 207 ) There was no concept· of ‘booty’ so Indians were unprepared for Islam’s onslaught· . Indigenous Indians were forced to flee· to jungles and mountains , or face· gruelling exploitation and taxes , slaughter· or enslavement while their society· was demeaned and destroyed . Muslims constantly attacked the indigenous· , idolatrous population and also fought against each other in ceaseless· revolts by generals , chiefs and princes during the entire· time· of Islamic rule· (Khan p 205 ) .

Slavery: Initially ‘India’ included part· of today’s Pakistan (Sindh) , Bangladesh/Bengal and Kashmir . Hinduism and Buddhism flourished in Afghanistan pre the Islamic takeover· ( 7 th century) . In the 16 th century Afghanistan was divided between the Muslim Mogul (Mughal) Empire of India and the Safavids of Persia .

Initially the godless Umayyads , allowed Hindus dhimmi status· – possibly because of their large· numbers , resistance· to Islam and their value· as a source· of tax income· . This violates Islamic text· and law· which demands death· or conversion· for idolaters and polytheists . When Sultan Iltutmish (d 1236 ) was asked why Hindus weren’t given the choice· between death· and Islam , he replied:

“but at the moment· in India…the Muslims are so few that they are like salt· (in a large· dish) …however after a few years· when in the capital· and the regions and all the small· towns , when the Muslims are well established and the troops are larger… . it would be· possible· to give· Hindus the choice· of death· or Islam” (cited in Lal [c] p 538 ) (Can we learn· anything from this)

Despite their supposed ‘dhimmi’ status· , mass· slaughter· , mass· forced conversion· and mass· enslavement with the resulting forced conversion· to Islam were practised throughout Islamic rule· and into the 20 th century as many demanded the idolaters/polytheists convert· or die· . Hindu fighters and males were slaughtered with women and children enslaved . Eunuch slavery· was practised on young· boys .

Often actual numbers aren’t given , just comments like ‘countless captives/slaves , ’ or ‘all the women and children were taken . ’ Where numbers are recorded , they are terrifying . Along with people· , the Muslims took everything they could—coins , jewels , cloths , clothes , furniture· , idols , animals , grain· etc or destroyed it .

Muslim rulers were foreigners . Until the 13 th century , most slaves were sent out of India but following the Sultanate of Delhi ( 1206 ) they were retained to work· for the sultanate , sold in India or sent elsewhere . Slaves from elsewhere were imported and Muslim armies were composed of a wide array· of foreign· slave groups ‘converted’ to Islam and ‘Hindus’ and Indian ‘converts . ’

Slaves were the promised booty· from Allah and obtaining them was a strong· motivation· for jihad .

“slaves were so plentiful· that they became very cheap men…were degraded… . but this is the goodness· of Allah , who bestows honours on his own religion· and degrades infidelity” . (Muslim chronicler Utbi on Sultan Subuktigin of Ghazni’s slave raid· [ 942 – 997 ] in Sookdheo p 166 )

In Sindh (first area· attacked successfully) the early ‘Muslim’ community· was composed mainly of slaves forced into Islam and a small· number· of Arab masters (Khan p 299 ) . Initially slaves were forced out of India eg Qasim (Arab) , the conquerer of Sindh sent by Hajjaj bin Yusuf Sakifi in the caliphate of Walid I , took 300 , 000 from a 3 year campaign in 712 – 715 (Khan p 299 , Trifkovic p 109 ) . Muslim fighters came from everywhere to partake in this ‘jihad . ’ Qasim was suddenly recalled and executed (possibly by being sown in an animal’s hide) for supposedly violating 2 Sindhi princesses destined for the caliph’s harem ! ! (Lal [c] p 439 )

The Ghaznivids-Turks from Ghazni, Afghanistan (997-1206) who subdued the Punjab.

From 17 raids ( 997 – 1030 ) Sultan Muhmud Ghazni (Turk from Afghanistan , 997 – 1030 ) sent hundreds of thousands of slaves to Ghanzi (Afghanistan) resulting in a loss· of about 2 million people· via slaughter· or enslavement and sale outside India (Khan p 315 ) . Chroniclers (eg Utbi , the sultan’s secretary) provide· some numbers eg -from Thanesar , the Muslim army brought 200 , 000 captives back to Ghazni (Afghanistan) . In 1019 , 53 , 000 were taken . At one time· the caliph’s 1 / 5 th share· was 150 , 000 suggesting 750 , 000 captives . 500 , 000 were taken in one campaign (at Waihind)(Lal [c] p 551 ) Mahmud’s secretary· al-Utbi records:

“Swords flashed like lightening amid the blackness of clouds , and fountains of blood· flowed like the fall· of setting star· . The friends of god· defeated their opponents… . the Musalmans wreaked their vengeance· on the infidel enemies of god· killing 15 , 000 of them…making them food· of the beasts and birds of prey… . god· also bestowed on his friends such an amount· of booty· as was beyond all bounds· and calculations , including 500 , 000 slaves beautiful men· and women” (Khan p 191 )

The Ghaznivid’s ruled in the ‘Islamic sultanate of the Punjab’ till 1186 . Attacks in Kashmir , Hansi , and districts of the Punjab resulted in mass· slaughter· and enslavement eg 100 , 000 in a 1079 attack· in the Punjab (Tarik –i-Alfi in Khan p 276 – 7 , Lal [d] p 553

Under the Ghaurivid rulers (Turks) eg Muhammad Ghauri (Afghani) and his military commander then ruler· , Qutbuddin Aibak (r 1206 – 1210 ) , the Delhi sultanate was set up . Mass beheadings , enslavements , forced conversions , plunder· and the destruction· of temples continued . Slaves were incredibly plentiful· . In 1195 , Aibak took 20 , 000 slaves from Raja Bhim and 50 , 000 at Kalinjar ( 1202 ) (Lal [c] p 536 ) .

“even the poor· (Muslim) householder became owner of numerous slaves . ’ (Khan 103 , Lal [c] p 537 ) .

Through the 13 / 14 th century ruled by the Khilji (Khaljis) and Tughlaq’s , slavery· grew as Islam spread· . Thousands of slaves were sold at a low· price· everyday· (Khan p 280 ) . Alauddin Khilji’s (r 1296 – 1316 ) capture· of slaves was stupendous· and he shackled , chained and humiliated slaves (Lal [c] p 540 ) . In the sack· of Somnath alone he:

“took captive a great· number· of handsome· and elegant maidens , amounting to 20 , 000 and children of both sexes . . more than the pen· can enumerate . The Mohammadan army brought the country· to utter· ruin· , destroyed the lives of inhabitants , and plundered the cities and captured their offspring . ” (historian cited in Bostom p 641 , Lal [c] p 540 )

Many thousands were massacred . Alauddin Khilji (r 1296 – 1316 ) had 50 , 000 slave BOYS in his personal service· and 70 , 000 slaves worked continuously on his buildings . (Lal [c] p 541 )

Women practised Jauhar (burning or killing oneself to avoid· enslavement and rape) and sati .

The Sufi Amir Khusrau notes “the Turks , whenever they please· , can seize· , buy· or sell· any Hindu” (Lal [c] p 541)

Enslaved and Castrated

Eunuchs: All over the Islamic world , the conquered were castrated , including in India . This was done so men· could guard harems , provide· carnal· indulgence· for rulers , give· devotion· to the ruler· as they had no hope of a family of their own and of course· , this quickly reduced the breeding stock· of the conquered .Castration was a common· practice· throughout Muslim rule· possibly contributing to the DECLINE in India’s population from 200 million in 1000 CE to 170 million in 1500 CE (Khan p 314)

Once Sultan Bakhtiyar Khilji conquered Bengal in 1205 , it became a leading supplier· of castrated slaves . This remained the case· into the Mogul period· ( 1526 – 1857 ) .

Akbar the Great ( 1556 – 1605 ) owned eunuchs . Said Khan Chaghtai owned 1 , 200 eunuchs (an official· of Akbar’s son Jahangir) ! In Aurangzeb’s reign· , in 1659 at Golkunda (Hyderabad) , 22 , 000 boys were emasculated and given to Muslim rulers and governors or sold . (Khan 313 ) .

Sultan Alauddin Khilji (r 1296 – 1316 ) had 50 , 000 boys in his personal service Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq (r 1325 – 51 ) had 20 , 000 and Sultan Firoz Tughlaq (r 1351 – 1388 ) had 40 , 000 (Firoz Tulghlaq liked to collect· boys in any way· and had 180 , 000 slaves in total· (Lal [c] p 542 ) . Several commanders under various· sultans were eunuchs . Muslim historians record· the ‘infatuation’ of sultans Mahmud Ghazni , Qutbuddin Aibak , and Sikandar Lodi –for handsome· young· boys ! Sultan Mahmud was infatuated by his Hindu commander Tilak (Khan p 314 )

Conclusion:The inhuman· behaviour· applied to the whole· Indian population by Muslims was the same whether the Muslims were Sufis , Arabs , Afghanis , Turks , or Mogul as all followed Islam’s laws , text· and the fine example· of Mohammad . It should also be· noted that the violence and enslavement continued even after they had virtual· control· over India because the aim· was not merely to conquer· but to force· all into Islam . Muslims did not come· to join· Indian society· , they came to wipe it out and replace· it with Islam—which tells them that they own everything because it’s the booty· promised by allah . The pagans/idolaters , polytheists had to convert· or die· and only then could there be· (Islamic) peace· ! Slaves were the just reward for Islam’s fighters–part of the booty· promised by allah .

What was the population of Muslims in the Indian subcontinent in 1800 AD? - History

"Muslims in Guyana: History, Traditions, and Conflict and Change " is a modest attempt to begin recording the history and traditions of Guyanese Muslims. To this day, nothing has ever been published on this subject. This paper traces the origins of the Muslims, their cultural heritage and their "Indo-Iranian" practices that came under scrutiny after "Arabization" or the orthodox movement, which began in the seventies. "Muslims in Guyana: History, Traditions, Conflicts and Change" brings to light aspects of the "Indo-Iranian" traditions that are controversial and have often divided the Muslims into two camps-- the "Indo-Iranian" and the "Arab." Opponents of "Indo-Iranian" traditions such as Milad-un-Nabi (Melaad-Sharief), Tazim, and the singing of Qasida call these practices Bidah or Innovation.

It is impossible to disconnect Guyanese Muslims from the Sub-Continent since it is their ancestral home. Hence,"Muslims in Guyana: History, Traditions, Conflict and Change," returned to medieval Islamic India in order to understand the cultural and political landscape of this fascinating land of the Mughals who built the famous Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar and the Shalimar Gardens. In light of this, the history of Urdu was incorporated since it is impossible to discuss Islamic India without Urdu. Urdu and Islam "go hand in hand" in the Sub-Continent. In conclusion, the connection between Guyanese Muslims and the Sub-Continent, in particular Pakistan, since 1947 was discussed. The history of Guyanese Muslims began not in Guyana in 1838, but in India since A.D 711. India reached its cultural zenith during the Muslim rule. This great Tahzib (Civilization) is something that every Guyanese Muslim can call his/her own and be proud of.


The birth of Islam in Arabia and its later spread to South Asia and Africa had rippling effects not only on that region's social and political history, but international ramifications as it spread from there to other parts of the world, including Guyana. Islam travelled to the shores of Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad largely because of the institutions of slavery and indentureship.

Guyana is a multi-ethnic republic situated on the northern coast of South America (see Figure 1). The country is inhabited by nearly one million people who are heterogeneous in terms of ethnicity and religious affiliation. Amerindians are the indigenous people of Guyana. In the seventeenth century the country became populated by waves of immigrants brought in under colonialism which introduced plantation slavery and the indenture system. Thus the Dutch and later the British colonial mercantile interests shaped the socio-cultural environment of the country. Guyana remained a British colony until 1966 when it achieved independence, which marked the transfer of political power to the Afro-Christian population. However, the majority are of South Asian descent and form roughly 51% of the population (see Figure 2). Yet, they remained disenfranchised until the 1992 general elections.

South Asians, who are mostly Hindus and Muslims, have always had a cordial relationship among themselves. It would seem that these two groups had come to a mutual understanding of respecting each other's space while culturally and even linguistically identifying with each other. In fact, Hindus and Muslims share a history of indentured labour, both having been recruited to work in the sugar cane plantations. They came from rural districts of British India and arrived in the same ships. Furthermore, Muslims and Hindus in Guyana did not experience the bloody history of partition as did their brethren back in the subcontinent. Also, the lack of Hindu/Muslim friction in Guyana may be attributed to the Cold War and to their common foe--the Afro dominated government, which practised discrimination against them (for religious composition, see Figure 3).

MAP: Fig. 1. Guyana: administrative divisions, 1991.

According to the Central Islamic Organization of Guyana (CIOG), there are about 125 masjids scattered throughout Guyana. Muslims form about 12% of the total population. Today in Guyana there are several active Islamic groups which include the Central Islamic Organization of Guyana (CIOG), the Hujjatul Ulamaa, the Muslim Youth Organization (MYO), the Guyana Islamic Trust (GIT), the Guyana Muslim Mission Limited (GMML), the Guyana United Sad'r Islamic Anjuman (GUSIA), the Tabligh Jammat, the Rose Hall Town Islamic Center, and the Salafi Group, among others. Two Islamic holidays are nationally recognized in Guyana: Eid-ul-Azha or Bakra Eid and Youman Nabi or Eid-Milad-Nabi. In mid-1998 Guyana became the 56th permanent member of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). Guyana's neighbour to the east, Suriname, with a Muslim population of 25%, is also an OIC member state.

The Arrival of Islam in Guyana

Islam was formally reintroduced in Guyana with the arrival of South Asian Muslims in the year 1838.(n1) Yet one cannot dismiss the fact that there was a Muslim presence in Guyana even earlier than that date.(n2) There were Muslims among African slaves who were brought to Guyana. Mandingo and Fulani Muslims were first brought from West Africa to work in Guyana's sugar plantations. It is also said that in the 1763 rebellion led by Guyanese national hero Cuffy, that the terms and conditions for peace that Cuffy sent to the Dutch were written in Arabic and this would indicate that there were Muslims among Cuffy's group or that Cuffy himself might have been a Muslim.

However, the cruelty of slavery neutralized the Muslims and the practice of Islam vanished until the arrival of South Asians from the Indian subcontinent in the year 1838. However, to this day Muslims in Guyana are referred to as Fula, linking them to their West African ancestry. Mircea Elida writes that ` from 1835-1917, over 240,000 East Indians, mostly illiterate, Urdu-speaking villagers, were brought to Guyana. Of these 84% were Hindus, but 16% were Sunni Muslims.'(n3) There has also been a Shia and later an Ahmadiyya presence in Guyana. However, their numbers are minuscule and too insignificant to cause any friction.

Immigration records indicate that the majority of Muslims who migrated to Guyana and Suriname came from the urban centres of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, Agra, Fyzabad, Ghazipur, Rampur, Basti and Sultanpur. Small batches also came from Karachi in Sind, Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi in the Punjab, Hyderabad, in the Deccan, Srinagar in Kashmir, and Peshawar and Mardan in the Northwest Frontier (Afghan areas). Immigration certificates reveals major details of Muslim migrants. Their origins such as District and villages, colour, height, and caste are all indicated. Under caste Muslims are identified as Musulman, Mosulman, Musulman, Musalman, Sheik Musulman, Mahomedaan, Sheik, Jolaba, Pattian, (Pathan), and Musulman (Pathan). Religion and caste identified many Muslims. From looking at their district of origin one can tell of their ethnicity, whether they were Sindis, Biharis, Punjabi, Pathans or Kashmiri. Their physical profile on the Immigration Certificate also help in recognizing their ethnicity. There are enormous spelling mistakes on the Immigration Certificates. Musulman, the Urdu world for Muslim is spelled many different ways and sometimes Muslims were referred to as Mahomedaan. Districts, Police Depot and villages are frequently misspelled, for example Peshawar is spelled Peshaur and Nowsherra is Nachera, among many others.

The Afghan Pathan clan also were among the indentured immigrants. Immigration Certificates clearly indicate under the category of "caste" Pathans, Pattan, Pattian or "Musulman Pathan." The fact there were Pathans settlements in northern India, explains this migration. Also as indicated by Immigration Certificates, Pathans migrated from the Northwest Frontier and Kashmir. One of Guyana's oldest Mosques, the Queenstown Jama Masjid, was founded by the Afghan community, which had apparently arrived in this country via India. (n4) Afghan and Indian Muslims living in this area laid the foundation for the Masjid. Thus according to several accounts,(n5) there were educated Muslims among these early arrivals. One Imam reports there were two hafizul Qur'an who were `residing in Clonbrook, East Coast Damerara, bearing the last name Khan'.(n6)

The South Asian Connection

The history of Guyanese Muslims is directly linked to the Indian subcontinent, but it is a history that has been ignored by Caribbean scholars of East Indian history. One aspect of this history that has drawn much debate among the different scholars and Islamic organizations in Guyana is the ` Indo-Iranian' connection. When this term is used in this article it refers to the linguistic and cultural aspects that the Guyanese Muslims inherited from West and South Asia (Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Central Asia). Iran and Central Asia played a key role in the history and civilization of South Asian Muslims. The spread of Islam to India is attributed to the Central Asian Turks who adopted Persian as the official language of the Mughal Court in India. If Islam did not travel to the subcontinent it would have never had such an impact in Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad. Persianized Central Asian Turks under the leadership of Muhammad Zahiruddin Babur established the Mughal dynasty and brought cultural ambassadors from Iran, Turkey and Central Asia to India.

Today in Guyana there is much controversy as to the cultural aspects that Muslims brought from the subcontinent beginning with their migration in the year 1838. There exist two camps in Guyana, one comprising the younger generation who prefer to get rid of the `Indo-Iranian' heritage, and the other the older generation who would like to preserve this tradition. Some link this tradition to Hinduism and a continuous attempt is being made to purge `cultural Islam' of `un-Islamic' innovations (bida'). Van der Veer notes that these forms, brought by the indentured immigrants to the Caribbean, were heavily influenced by the cultural patterns of the subcontinent, as opposed to those of the Middle East.(n7) Aeysha Khan quotes Samaroo: `in modern day Trinidad and Guyana, where there are substantial Muslim populations, there is much confusion, often conflict, between the two types of Islam'.(n8) In Guyana today the younger generation who have studied in the Arabic-speaking world prefer Arabic over Urdu and view South Asian traditions as un-Islamic. In the subcontinent Urdu helps to define a South Asian Muslim. In fact, Urdu and Islam for South Asian Muslims define one's cultural identities.

Urdu, a common language developed in the Indian subcontinent as a result of a cultural and linguistic synthesis, was brought to Guyana by South Asian Muslims from the subcontinent where its history goes further. After the Mughal invasion of India, the mingling of Arabic, Turkic, Persian and Sanskrit languages developed into a new `camp' language called Urdu. The word `Ordu' or Urdu, which is Turkish in origin, means `camp' and is mostly associated with an army camp. It was towards the end of the Mughal rule in India that Urdu language was given a national status. The language was nurtured at three centres in India: the Deccan, Delhi and Lucknow. Once Urdu was adopted as the medium of literary expression by the writers in these metropolises, its development was rapid, and it soon replaced Persian as the court language and principal language of Muslim India.(n9) However, in the 1930s Urdu suffered reverses with the resurgence of Hindu nationalism in India. A new people's language was developed replacing the Persian script with the Devangari script and it was called Hindi.

Urdu, distinguished from Hindi by its Persian script and vocabulary, is today the national language of Pakistan and one of the official languages of India. It is one of the most popular spoken languages of South Asia, and has acquired a wide distribution in other parts of the world, notably the UK, where it is regarded as the major cultural language by most subcontinent Muslims.

In Guyana today, Urdu is popular among the Indo-Guyanese who watch films and listen to music from the Bombay film industry. Contributing to its role as the chief vehicle of Muslim culture in South Asia is its important secular literature and poetry, which is closely based on Persian models. However, Urdu is taking a backstage in Guyana due to English language proliferation and the Muslim orthodox movement leading to a focus on Arabic.

Only one Islamic organization in Guyana today, the United Sad'r Islamic Anjuman (which is also the oldest surviving Islamic organization in Guyana), offers Urdu in its instructional programme for teaching the qasida (hymns that sing praises to God and the Prophet). They regularly hold qasida competitions throughout the country and award prizes to encourage participation. Qasida is part of the `Indo-Iranian' legacy. It is an attempt by the Anjuman to preserve the uniqueness of Guyana's Muslim heritage. Though the students were generally told that they were learning Arabic, it was Urdu that was being taught.

Having migrated to New York, an ustad (teacher) from a village in Guyana remarked to the author `the Arabic here is different than that which I was teaching at the madrasah in Guyana'. Little did he realize that it was Urdu and not Arabic that he was teaching back in Guyana. Some are embarrassed to say that they were teaching Urdu while calling it Arabic. This is one of many stories that echo throughout Guyana.

One remembers hearing the so called Arabic alphabet: `alif, be, pe, se, jim che, he. zabar', and `pesh '. In Arabic there is no `pe', `che', `zabar', and `pesh'. After familiarizing oneself with Urdu, one realizes that it was Urdu that was being taught in Guyana. Ahmad Khan a trustee of the Queenstown Jama Masjid says that for most Guyanese Muslims their mother tongue was Urdu.(n10) However, by 1950 Urdu started fading with the introduction of Islamic texts in English and it has now almost disappeared.(n11) According to Pat Dial, a Guyanese historian, during the early twentieth century Urdu and Arabic were taught in the madrasah annex of the Jama Masjid and the young were introduced to the Namaz. In those early years, far more people spoke Urdu than English.(n12)

Some Questionable Traditions

In any civilization, there is cultural synthesis. The usage of Urdu is by no means related to Hinduism. Even though it is indigenous to the subcontinent it remains a legacy of the Muslim period. Other aspects of this heritage include the tradition of qasidas, tazim-o-tawqir, milaad-sharief, the dua and the nikkah, all performed in Urdu. In Guyana, as in Trinidad, as well as in other countries in the Caribbean, Muslims are saying the fatiha over food, celebrating the Prophet's birthday (milad-un-nabi) and ascension (miraj) and singing qasida, all in Urdu.(n13) However, the debate over these very rituals has created deep frictions among Guyanese Muslims. Similar traditions are prevalent in the subcontinent, as well as in Central Asia, the Caucasus region, Turkey, Iran and other Islamic lands. The different Sufi orders that were responsible for the spread of Islam in many parts of the world had patronized these traditions. Their orthodoxy or unorthodoxy has become the subject of major debates everywhere. We shall review below some of these `questionable' traditions.

The Urdu term tazim is well known among Guyanese Muslims and it constitutes an established practice inherited from their forefathers. However, if one asks what is the meaning of the word tazim, one gets many different answers. But if one asks what is tazim, they will say it is the standing and reciting of `ya nabi salaam aleika, ya rasul salaam aleika, ya habib salaam aleika. ' However, tazim is much more than standing and reciting thanks and praises to the Prophet. It is about respect, honour and reverence.

Supporters of tazim-o-tawqir say that it is essential for every believing Muslim, to practice tazim-o-tawqir but within a frame work that it does not become an evil bida'. Tazim has all along been observed in Guyana, but today there is much controversy over this practice. The educated person who is knowledgeable of Islam sees this practice as un-Islamic. Most others see no problem with it and continue with its practice. Still others see the practice as bida'-e-hasanah or a good innovation.

Three maulanas from the subcontinent who are highly regarded in Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad have all endorsed this practice. Their support of tazim carries heavy weight because of their piety, education and unselfish dedication to the upliftment of Muslims. Maulana Noorani Siddique has called upon those who oppose tazim to provide the proof why it should not be practised. He has challenged the critics that tazim is in accordance with the Sunni Hanafi madhab and is not in conflict with the Qur'an and the Sunnah.

Supporters of milad-un-nabi say that the celebration is the commemoration and observance of the birth, life, achievements and favours for the Prophet. Many Sufi orders such as the Chishtiyah and Naqshbandiyah support this celebration. They say that expressions of love of the Prophet by the ummah in the form of milad-un-nabi is a humble effort by the ummah to show gratitude to Allah for His favour of blessing man with such a nabi (Prophet), and to the Nabi for bringing man out of the darkness of ignorance (jahiliyah). The essence of milad-un-nabi is to remember and observe, discuss and recite the event of the birth and the advent of the Prophet.(n14) Many argue that these practices are all in keeping with Qur'anic directives and assert that great ulema-e-haqq such as Ibn Hajar Haitami Hafiz, Ibn Hajar Asqalani, Ibn Jawzi, Imam Sakhaawi, and Imam Sayyuti have regarded milaad-un-nabi as mustahab (good deed).(n15)

Opponents of milad-un-nabi have called this practice a bida' or an innovation. Some argue that there are two types of bida': bida-e-hasanah and bida'-e-sayiah (good innovations and evil innovations). Proponents argue, `if the objection is to the current information [sic] that the observance of milad-un-nabi takes, and is thus regarded as an evil bida', then there are many other bida' which came about after the era of the tabii taabioon as well, which given the requirements of the era were necessary.(n16)

They argue that following this logic the compilation and classification of Hadith is also a bida' which originated after the era of the sahaaba, taabioon and tabie taabioon (quroon-e-thalaatah). `The current form of Hadith is also an innovation. Books of Hadith, principles of Hadith, principles of jurisprudence, the schools of fiqh are all bida' and innovations which originated two centuries or more later'.(n17) However, they agreed that these are good bida' from which the ummah has benefited greatly. In discussing the survival of Islam in Guyana, Hamid says, `They were able to do this (maintain Islam) through Qur'anic and milaad functions, and other regular social interactions, in spite of distance and the demands of indentured ships'.(n18)

In arguing for the legitimacy of milad-un-nabi, M. W. Ismail refers to several Islamic scholars who have agreed that milad-un-nabi is a good bida' or bida' hassanah. He quotes the following from Imam Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani who in explaining Sahih Bukhari says: `Every action which was not in practice at the Prophet's time is called or known as innovation, however, there are those which are classified as good and there are those which are contrary to that'.(n19) Ismail then made reference to Fatmid Egypt (909-1171 AD) and quoted Imam Ibn Kathir from his book, Al-Bidaya (Vol. 13, p. 136): `Sultan Muzafar used to arrange the celebration of melaad sharief with honour, glory, dignity and grandeur. In this connection he used to arrange a magnificent festival'.(n20) Imam Kathir continued, `He was a pure hearted, grave and wise aalim and a just ruler, may Allah shower his mercy upon him and grant him an exalted status'.(n21)

In trying to prove the validity of milad-un-nabi, the Sheikh quoted Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar who when asked about the celebration said, ` meelad shareef is, in fact, an innovation which was not transmitted from any pious predecessor in the first three centuries. Nevertheless, both acts of virtue as well as acts of abomination are found in it'.(n22) Opponents argue that the Prophet Muhammad (SWS) said, `Whoever brings forth an innovation into our religion which is not part of it, it is rejected'.(n23)

They further quote the Prophet: `Beware of inventive matters for every invention is an innovation and every innovation is evil'.(n24) Supporters respond that those who quote these two Hadiths and claim that all innovation is bida' and reprehensible have in fact accused Muslim learned men, including the Caliph Umer, of committing `evil' innovations.(n25) This would include many other `innovations' which are widely accepted and practised by Muslims today such as the tarawih prayers, the introduction of the second adhan during Friday's congregational prayers, the introduction of reading `bismillah al-rahman al-rahim before commencing tashahud, and sending praise and salaams upon the Prophet.

The Anjuman Hifazatul Islam and the West Demerara Muslim Youth Organization have recently been in the forefront promoting Milad-un-Nabi , Meraj-un-Nabi and Muharram programmes. The Muslim Journal, the voice of the Anjuman Hifazatul Islam and the West Demerara Muslim Youth Organization, express concern that consorted efforts have been made to eradicate Milad-un-Nabi observation in Guyana. "For over twenty years, continuos efforts have been made to destroy Milad programmes from our community, and after all these efforts and years, two thousand persons have still turned out to support qaseeda" (1999, p. 2).

The qasida (hymn of praise) has always been a part of the Arab tradition, and it spread from the heart of Arabia to the Islamic periphery. Arabic language impacted heavily on the vocabulary, the grammar and the literary prose of other languages such as Persian, Urdu, Turkish, Bosniak, Hausa and Swahili among others. Its contribution to the literature of these languages helped their revival. Today qasidas are written in Arabic but also in other languages spoken by Muslims and have become a part of the Islamic cultural expression.

There are four types of qasida, which are characterized according to their evolution. The pre-Islamic qasida, rooted in the ancient Arab tribal code the panegyric qasida, expressing an ideal vision of a just Islamic government the religious qasida, exhorting different types of commendable religious conduct and the modern qasida, influenced by secular, nationalist, or humanist ideals.

These many varieties of qasida greatly influenced the development of public discourse in many Muslim countries. Guyanese Muslims have only been exposed to religious qasidas. However, in Guyana today there is no formal school of qasida teaching. What Guyanese Muslims know about qasida is what has been handed down from one generation to another. It is not a written tradition, but rather an oral one which inevitably has lost its scholarly character. No one today learns the prose and the grammar of qasida and there is no one to question nor to maintain the standard of good qasida. Madrasahs do not teach qasida, but a few Islamic organizations in Guyana do hold qasida competitions.

The question remains, who sets the standards for winning and what are the criteria for winning? This aspect of cultural Islam no doubt has been influenced by the host environment. Today in Guyana there is a movement among a handful to resurrect this tradition. However, the lack of enthusiasm from the younger generation, many of whom have studied in the Arab world, compounded with its questionable Islamic legitimacy, will soon make these traditions extinct.

In 1999 the Anjuman Hifazatul Islam, the Muslim Youth League, and the Sadr Islamic Anjuman in conjunction with the CIOG held a national qaseeda competition. County level compition was held in Berbice, Essequibo and Demerara. In its editorial, the Muslim Journal writes, "then it was announced on television that Qaseeda and Mowlood is an "Indian" something and therefore has nothing to do with Islam." (1999, p.2). With two thousand people attending the final Qaseeda competition, the Journal writes, " The people have spoken, and no Shaikh, Maulana, Qari, Hafiz or self proclaimed Islamic scholars can deny the voice of the people" (2).

The visits of several Maulanas to the Caribbean, notably Maulana Fazlur Rahman Ansari, Maulana Abdul Aleem Siddique and his son Maulana Ahmad Shah Noorani Siddique, provided opportunity to the Guyanese Muslims to seek clarification from these scholars of the Hanafi madhab regarding the practice of tazim, milad-un-nabi and qasida. These scholars endorsed these practices and refuted claims that these are evil innovations. They were able to convince the locals that based on the Qur'an, Hadith and the fiqh, tazim, milad-un-nabi and qasida were within the parameters of Islam, and if kept within the boundaries of Islam these practices are good bida'.

Arabization and the Sunnification Process

Before the 1960s, Muslim missionaries who visited Guyana came almost exclusively from the Indian subcontinent and visited frequently. This influx of missionaries and the Islamic literature they brought with them helped to promote and maintain the Sunni Hanafi madhab. It was not until the 1960s that Guyanese Muslims made contacts with the Arabic-speaking world. After Guyana's independence in 1966, the younger generation of Muslims were keen to make these contacts. Guyana established diplomatic relations with many Arab countries. Egypt, Iraq and Libya opened embassies in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana.

Many Muslim youths went to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Libya to study Islamic theology and the Arabic language. Eventually Arabic-speaking Muslims began to take an interest in Guyana and many travelled there to render assistance to their Muslim brethren.

In 1977 Libyan Charge d'Affaire Mr Ahmad Ibrahim Ehwass arrived in Guyana. He introduced many activities to benefit the Muslim community, especially the youth. Many scholarships were given to young Guyanese Muslims to study in Libya, and in 1978 he was responsible for the formation of the Guyana Islamic Trust (GIT). In 1996 the late President Cheddi Jagan of Guyana toured several Middle Eastern countries and appointed a Middle Eastern envoy. His official visits took him to Syria, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon.

The 1979 Islamic Revolution of Iran marked a new beginning of Guyana/Iranian relationship. Guyana and Iran established diplomatic relationship in the 80's and through various multilateral organization such as the UN, the Group of 77, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the OIC cooperated on various issues. Iran appoints a non-resident ambassador to Guyana, who is based in Caracas.

With the Islamic Republic severing ties with Israel and South Africa in 1979, relationship with Guyana improved tremendously. Guyana and Iran among other developing nations fought against the racist regimes in Israel and South Africa. Guyana like Iran at the UN, voted for General Assembly Resolution branding Zionism as racism.

Dr. Cheddi Jagan and the Iranian Foreign Minister Mr. Ali Akbar Velayati held a bilateral meeting in Colombia on 18th of October 1995, during the Non- Aligned Summit. Jagan said, "The Islamic Republic of Iran has made significant gains in many areas and we are interested in having close cooperation with Iran at International forums." (Iranian News Agency). Dr. Jagan extended an invitation to the Iranian Foreign Minister to visit Georgetown. In July of 1997, Special Envoy and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran, Mr. Mahmood Vaezi visited Guyana. Guyana in December of 1997 attended the OIC heads of government summit in Teheran. In July of 2000 an Iranian trade fair and exhibition was held in Georgetown. The exhibition was meant to acquaint Guyanese with Iranian goods, while the Iranians examined local items for export, and it was intended to encourage Iranian-Guyanese joint ventures.

It was also in 1996 that Guyana officially became a permanent observer in the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). This further strengthened Guyana's ties with the Middle East, coupled with its traditional support for a Palestinian homeland. In 1997, during the 8th Summit of the OIC in Teheran, Iran, Dr Mohammed Ali Odeen Ishmael, Guyana's Ambassador to Washington, represented Guyana. Guyana's application for permanent membership in the OIC was accepted in 1998 and Guyana became the 56th member state of the OIC that year. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Clement Rohee was head of the Guyanese delegation to the OIC heads of government summit in Doha, Qatar in 2000.

Dr. Ishmael was a member of the Doha delegation as well. The Ambassador has attended all OIC Heads of States Summit and Foreign Minister Summit since Guyana's membership. In June of 1999 Ambassador Odeen Ishmael led Guyana's delegation to the twenty-sixth session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso. Dr. Odeen Ishmael was also head of the Guyanese delegation in June of 2000 at the 27th session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Most recently, in June of 2001, the Washington based diplomat was once again head of the delegation of Guyana to the 28th Session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers in Bamako, Mali. He is indeed the unofficial ambassador of Guyana to the OIC.

At the Bamako Conference Guyana made a call for international observers in Palestine. The Palestinian delegation in Mali was very pleased with Guyana's call for international observers, and actually the Guyanese delegation was the only delegation that made this demand. In his speech, Odeen Ishmael said, "In this regard, effective mechanisms must be identified to implement the relevant proposals aimed at achieving a lasting settlement to the situation. Guyana supports the call for international observers to be positioned in Palestinian territory to monitor the situation" (www.guyana.org).

The ambassador has represented Guyana's interest in this organization and has helped forged stronger ties with Islamic nations. He is very familiar with member states and the politics of the organization. At the OIC and at the UN Guyana continue to champion the fight for a Palestinian homeland. Guyana also supports UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, and has called on Israel to implement them. At the Doha Summit, Chairman Arafat held discussion with Ambassador Odeen Ishmael. The Chairman acknowledged Guyana's continued support towards the Palestinian cause.

However, Guyanese Muslims returning from the Arab world to Guyana began introducing changes that irked the local Muslims. They advocated changes that they believed were more authentic to Islam as well as to the Arab world. Many who studied in Arabia were highly influenced by Wahabism, and thus a new interpretation of Islam was brought to Guyana which confused the locals. Wahabism's interpretation of Islam came in conflict with some aspects of the Muslim culture of the subcontinent.(n26) One scholar notes that the `Guyanese have not really benefited from the scholarships granted to students to study in Arabia, India or Pakistan because only a few have returned home, and even of the few who have returned home, an even lesser number have made positive contributions. Some have needlessly raised juristic issues which serve only to create division and confusion in the community'.(n27)

In the 1970s Guyanese Muslims began a movement toward greater homogenization and uniformity. Greater orthodoxy or sunnification accompanied this tendency toward uniformity. Sunnification means the abandonment of local and sectarian practices in favour of a uniform orthodox practice. The position of Muslims as a minority group in Guyana has assisted this process but the emergence of Muslim countries and the work of Muslim missionaries who have visited Guyana have also aided it. The establishment of Muslim colleges to train imams and the generosity of Muslim governments to provide scholarships for young Muslim Guyanese have been helping to produce a uniform orthodox practice. In essence, denying one's Indian-ness helps to bring one closer to the `Arab-ness' of Islam. Arabic and Arab-ness, it would seem today in Guyana, legitimizes Islam, and South Asian `cultural Islam' is now viewed as un-Islamic and polluted with innovations.

As in Mauritius, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, the process of sunnification in Guyana took place under political competition between Hindus and Muslims. This process of Islamization or the revivalist movement, whose impact has been felt since the 1979 Iranian-Islamic revolution, is an expression of a need for a separate identity. In many of these countries Hindus and Muslims have had an antagonistic relationship.

The revivalist movement is an expression of political dominance. Muslims refused to be dominated by Christians or Hindus in Guyana. Some Muslims in Guyana have entertained the idea of forming a Muslim political party for some time. This indeed happened in the 1970s with the formation of the Guyana United Muslim Party (GUMP) by Ghanie. The party founder was hoping to capture five seats in the Parliament. But he was unsuccessful in rallying the Muslim vote. Guyana's two main political parties have always courted the Muslims. Nevertheless, most Guyanese Muslims today believe that aligning themselves with political parties does them no good.

The tendency toward orthodoxy seems to have affected local religious practices, as seen in the gradual disappearance of the observance of Muharram, which is associated with the Shia Muslim tradition. The tazia or the tadjah (a procession of mourners marking the anniversary of the assassination of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet) was an annual event in which Muslims as well as non-Muslims participated. However, orthodox Muslims in Guyana began to see the celebration of tazia as un-Islamic.

Some agreed that it was just a time to congregate for the sake of socializing. Hindus, it seems, also participated in this festival which later came under heavy criticism from pious Muslims of the Hanafi madhab. According to Basdeo Mangru, there was hardly any evidence of conflict between the Hindus and Muslims to suggest a lack of social cohesion which had prevailed between the Africans and the Creoles under slavery.(n28) However, pressures increased from many sources to end this practice. Muslims wanted the state authorities to recognize the more orthodox holidays such as the two Eids and Youman-Nabi.

By 1996, when Guyana achieved independence, the taziya was history. Today Muslim leaders are constantly stressing orthodoxy. Religious personalities both in Guyana and those returning from overseas preach strongly against what are considered un-Islamic practices. There are many disputes between orthodox and traditionalists in which the former accuse the latter of pagan practices.

This is in contrast to the earlier period when, as one scholar notes, `Guyana did not experience any major juristic problems within the period 1838-1920s. At no time were there more than 750 Shia and by 1950 they seemed to have been absorbed into the Sunni Muslim group'.(n29) However, after the Iranian revolution of 1979 and with the coming to power of Imam Khomeini in Iran, there was a sudden upsurge of Shiism across the world. Soon thereafter following the arrival of a Shia missionary in Guyana, two groups were established, one in Linden, Demerara and another in Canje, Berbice. During Muharram in 1994 a Shia organization, the Bilal Muslim Mission of North America sent a couple of people to visit Guyana. Shia Muslims feel resented by the main Muslim body merely because of Wahhabis "propaganda".

Since then BMMA has been paying regular visits to Trinidad and Guyana. BMMA sent hundreds of copies of Quran translated by S.V. Mir Ahmad Ali and other literature. BMMA also supplied the small community in Trinidad and Guyana with TV, VCR, computer, printer and fax machines. BMMA also financially supports the running of Madressah in Guyana and dispatches reading material and other literature on regular basis. However, the impact of Shiism in Guyana is yet to be determined.

Beginning in the 1970s, the Guyanese Muslims who returned from Arab educational institutions began a process of reconstructing the past. They tried to de-emphasize their Indian cultural heritage by reconstructing or redefining their history. Much of it was an effort to distinguish themselves from the Hindus in order to promote a separate Muslim identity.

Although the majority are descendants of South Asian indentured labourers, they presented themselves as descendants of Arabs. While their mother tongue was Urdu, many claimed that it was Arabic. During the mid-1970s a powerful Arabization movement had emerged, and it became more attractive for the orthodox Muslims in Guyana to be part of this movement than to trace one's roots in Pakistan or India. This movement to create a purer Islamic identity was contested by other traditionalists, especially the older generation.

Today in Guyana many Muslims are concerned with the spread of other madhahib. The Director of Education and Dawah of the CIOG, Ahmad Hamid says, `As from 1977, Muslims in Guyana saw the introduction of the teaching of other madhahibs. These were new to the local Muslims and created some serious problems'.(n30) A trustee of the Queenstown Jama Masjid, Ayube Khan, is also concerned about this division and regretted that too many dissentions have occurred `because of infiltration of disruptive elements'.(n31) This same concern was raised by the Imam of the Queenstown Jama Masjid, Haji Shaheed Mohammed, who says that ` With petty misunderstandings, the exuberance of the youths and the need for general guidance to see that the Jamaat remains on the Hanafi madhab, being Imam of the Queenstown Jama Masjid can be a trying task'.(n32)

The shift from Urdu to Arabic and the emphasis to do away with traditional practices illustrates the attempts to emphasize cultural identity. They link these practices to Hinduism, hence, would like to purge Islam of these `innovations'. The association of Arabic with Muslims is new in Guyana and the demand for Arabic illustrates the emphasis to differentiate from the Hindus. Muslim children are taught Arabic and Urdu during the evening at Muslim schools (madrasah). These languages are restricted to religious contexts because all Guyanese Muslims speak English. There has been a movement recently in Guyana to introduce Hindi into the national curriculum.

If this becomes a reality Muslims will demand Arabic or Urdu as well. A Hindu dominated government in Guyana will create tension with the Muslims. Muslims in Guyana are concerned with safeguarding the interests of their own community. They are better organized than the Hindus. Muslim religious associations and mutual aid societies support those in the community who need help. The mosque constitutes the focal point of the local Muslim community and Islamic teachings at the mosque and the vernacular schools aid in the adherence to Islam and its precepts. Guyanese Muslims are an endogamous group kinship and marriage bonds further support group solidarity. The few inter-religious marriages that do occur are due to the openness of Guyanese society, the lack of purdah, and Muslim women's participation in the labor market.

New elements derived from Middle Eastern culture, such as architecture of the mosque and its dome, have been introduced as part of the Islamization process. Nevertheless, `Indo-Iranian' architecture is still very pronounced in the style of mosques throughout Guyana. Another influence is the manner of greeting among Muslim men, particularly after prayers at the mosque, which involves embracing and shaking hands. The incorporation of Arabic words and terms instead of Urdu words and terms is very evident today. For example, instead of using the Urdu word bhai (brother) many use the Arabic term akhee. Guyanese Muslim who can afford it do make the pilgrimage to Makkah. Some men have started wearing the long shirts (jilbab) which they acquired after the pilgrimage and sport long beards. Some women have started wearing the hijab, or head scarf.

There is a move toward a more literary tradition in conformity with Islam at the expense of local traditions. In this religious discourse, the interpretation provided by orthodox Muslims relying on the scriptural tradition seems to become more hegemonic, creating religious authority itself. There is stronger emphasis on the need to learn Arabic for the namaz (daily worship) and on correct pronunciation, as well as the ability to recite, and understand the Qur'an. In Guyana today the emphasis is on practicing orthodox and Sunni Islam. This is voiced by many imams who advocate strict adherence to the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet.

However, while the newly returned men tend to convey that they have a monopoly on religious affairs, they have so far failed to institutionalize positive changes. Even their Bedouin garb intimidated the local Muslim population, and drew more fear rather than respect for them.

These `learned' men were soon forced to abandon one mosque for another and an entire realignment took place in Guyana. New organizations were formed which sought to make changes that they perceived were in line with the authentic Islam of Arabia. The cleansing of the `Indo-Iranian' traditions was high on their agenda, and continues to be so.

In 1994 at the 78 Corentyne Mosque, during one Eid, two separate Eid Namaz were held. The CIOG's official publication Al-Bayan writes, `For Eid-ul-Azha 1994, the Muslims witnessed a very sad incident that clearly indicated that the #78 Jamaat is definitely divided into two factions'.(n33) A younger imam who returned from Arabia was expelled from that mosque. This division led to the resignation of Al-Haj Mohamed Ballie as imam. Today one faction is building a new mosque nearby. Al-Bayan cited a similar incident at the Shieldstown Jamat in 1992: `One brother was physically removed from the masjid because he refused to comply with the ruling of the Jamaat'. (n34)

Most Guyanese Muslims agree that it would be wise if the opponents and proponents of the Indo-Iranian tradition seek their answers from the Qur'an, the Sunnah and ijma' (consensus), instead of seeking drastic changes. ` Despite their shortcomings and lack of formal education, the early Muslims played a dynamic role in maintaining the Islamic society and paved the way for us to enjoy the benefits'.(n35)

For the younger generation everything that is different from the Arab world is wrong. They fail to contemplate that from Albania to Zanzibar the Muslim world speaks many languages and hails from many different traditions. Here in Guyana, they tried to replace Urdu with Arabic. Instead it would have been easier to build upon what the Guyanese Muslims had knowledge of and that is Urdu. When the Muslims arrived in Guyana their medium of communication was Urdu, and only a handful could read and write Arabic. In fact for the early Muslims Urdu provided the basis for their understanding of Islam and the Qur'an. Urdu today is a dying language in Guyana, while in India it is being held hostage by Hindu zealots. On the other hand, Arabic has not made any significant impact among the Muslims in Guyana.

Thus, it would seem unrealistic of the younger generations of Guyanese Muslims who have returned to Guyana from the Arab world to demand the cleansing of established traditions, which has caused great tension in the community. Guyanese Muslims themselves have come to Guyana from a region with a rich history in art, architecture, literature, math, music, science, philosophy and theology, and so, they have a rich heritage of their own. This should be recognized by the `learned men'. They should strive for unity in preserving the uniqueness of Guyanese Muslim culture. Speaking Arabic or dressing like an Arab won't make one an Arab or a Muslim. It only reinforces low self-esteem and erects a barrier between them and other Muslims as well as non-Muslims.

Muslim Political Participation and the Subcontinent Connection

Muslim missionaries from Pakistan and India have regularly visited the Islamic communities in Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad, where they were often received with euphoria. Consistently they have tried to unite the different Islamic organizations, and have tried to mediate in order to bridge differences among the Muslims in these countries. They have also helped in providing Islamic literature, teachers and scholarships to the Caribbean Muslims. In 1937 Maulana Shamsuddeen visited Guyana. This was followed by Maulana Fazlur Rahman Ansari, Maulana M. Aleem Siddique in 1959 and Maulana Ahmad Shah Noorani Siddique in 1968.

Pakistani missionaries helped to revive Islamic communities in the Caribbean and were particularly successful in Suriname and Trinidad. Trinidad's most popular mosque, the Jinnah Memorial, is testimony of this strong relationship between the Muslims of Trinidad and Pakistan's Islamic community. When Maulana Noorani visited Suriname he was successful in bringing the Surinamese Muslims together. He was there when the foundations were laid to build the Caribbean's largest mosque, the Djama Masjid, a grand piece of Islamic architecture with four towering minarets. The Djama Masjid school is named after Maulana Noorani. The Trinidad Muslim League was founded on Pakistan Day and when Pakistan's first Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr Isfahani, visited Trinidad he received a warm welcome.

However, the tensions and rivalries between the various Guyanese Islamic organizations greatly damaged the general welfare of the Muslims and affected their relationship with the Muslim communities in the subcontinent. In 1934, the Jamiati Ulama was formed as an independent organization but this lasted only briefly.

The name was changed in 1941 to Khadaam-ud-din. However, after reaching a consensus among the Imams, the name was changed to Jamiatul Ulama-E-Deen of Guyana. By the 1950s the Jamiat along with the British Guyana Muslim Youth Organization and the Anjuman Hifazatul Islam became aligned with the United Sad'r Islamic Anjuman. Another Islamic organization, the Islamic Association of British Guyana (IABG), was established in 1936 in order to serve the needs of the Guyanese Muslims. In the same year, the IABG published the first Islamic journal, Nur-E-Islam.

At Queenstown Masjid on 20 June 1937 during the visit of Maulana Shamsuddeen to Guyana, the Sad'r-E-Anjuman was formed. The Maulana tried to unite the IABG and the Sad'r-E-Anjuman. These two organizations were rivals. They both claimed to represent the Muslims. This antagonistic relationship culminated in the Sad'r-E-Anjuman's withdrawal of its members from the Queenstown Masjid in 1941. Sad'r-E-Anjuman moved to Kitty where it built its own mosque, the Sad'r Masjid, on Sandy Babb Street.

The United Sad'r Islamic Anjuman was established in 1949 after four years of discussions. The IABG and the Sad'r merged to form the United Sad'r Islamic Anjuman (USIA). Their two journals, Nur-E-Islam and Islam, were combined. The USIA was the representative of Muslims from 1950 to 1960. Its strong leadership greatly influenced society at all levels--governmental and non-governmental. Sadly, soon after independence the Anjuman succumbed to political intrigues and rivalries.

As Guyana was approaching independence, Muslims were taking positions based on ideologies and aligning themselves with political parties. Muslims were found in both the People's Progressive Party (PPP) and the People's National Congress (PNC), which were Guyana's two main political parties. In 1964, Abdool Majeed, President of the Sad'r, accepted the chairmanship of the United Forces Party. His vacancy was filled by Yacoob Ally who was a PPP Parliamentarian. Naturally this led to division among the Muslim community. This division was obvious on several occasions. On one such occasion in 1967, when Maulana Noorani was coming to Guyana from Suriname the USIA, Hifaz and Ulama-E-Deen sent him a joint cable which read: `Your visit is most unwelcome. Should you come to Guyana there would be violent eruption'. The Sad'r later aligned itself closely with the ruling PNC government.

The next year when Maulana Fazlur Rahman Ansari from Pakistan visited Guyana, he failed to get any support from the USIA, Hifaz and Ulama-E-Deen when he stated publicly at the Town Hall the Islamic position with regard to socialism and communism. The division of the Muslim organizations along political lines eroded the strong relationship that Pakistan had always enjoyed with the Guyanese Muslims. On the other hand, Suriname and Trinidad were able to unite and take advantage of the generosity from Pakistani and Indian Muslims. After 1969 there has been no other high level Muslim visits from either Pakistan or India to Guyana.

Nevertheless, the Caribbean East Indian connection to the subcontinent is deep-rooted. Brinsley Samaroo observes: `There has been a marked closeness between the Muslims in this part of the world and India up to 1947, and with Pakistan since that time'.(n36) In Guyana up to the 1960s, the Muslim leadership came exclusively from Muslims of South Asian descent who had studied in either Pakistan or India. In Suriname the South Asian Muslims referred to themselves as Pakistanis. While referring to Trinidad, Samaroo writes that `indeed the Trinidad Muslim League (TML) was found precisely on Pakistan Day, that is 15th of August 1947, to underline this connection with the Subcontinent'.(n37) According to Samaroo, `From this time not only religious visits continue, but there was great rejoicing when civil or political personalities form Pakistan visited the Caribbean'.(n38)

Pakistan attended Guyana's independence celebration in 1966 and presented an oriental rug to the new nation. A few years later the two countries established diplomatic ties and in the 1980s they exchanged honorary consuls in Georgetown and in Karachi.

The Pakistani High Commissioner to Canada, who is accredited to Guyana, frequently visits the Muslim Communities in Guyana. In January of 1994, Pakistan's Deputy High Commissioner to Guyana, Mr Arif Kamal, visited the Secretariat of the CIOG. `Special attention was paid to the areas in which Muslims in Guyana can benefit from social, cultural and educational programmes of Pakistan'.(n39)

During his visit CIOG sent a letter to former Pakistan Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, requesting places at Pakistani universities for Guyanese Muslims to pursue higher education. In February of 1997 Pakistan's High Commissioner to Guyana, Dr Farook Rana, met with the CIOG. According to CIOG's official newsletter, Al-Bayan, Dr Rana promised to provide scholarships for secular studies, Pakistani teachers to work in Guyana, Islamic books, newspapers, etc. In 2001, General Musharraf appointed Mr. Tariq Altaf High commissioner to Guyana Altaf travelled to Guyana and presented his credentials to the Guyana government. He also held a meeting with CIOG's officials.

The Dawah Academy International University in Islamabad, Pakistan, now offers scholarships to Muslim Guyanese. The Director of the Dawah Academy in Islamabad, Dr Anis Ahmad, visited Guyana in 1995 and promised scholarships to the CIOG and the Guyana Islamic Trust (GIT). He indicated specifically the areas in which the Academy could be of assistance which included imams courses, seminars, teachers, training in Pakistan and the affiliation of the proposed Islamic Academy of CIOG with the Da'wah Academy of Pakistan.(n40) To this day Pakistan offers secular and religious scholarships to Guyana in numerous fields of study. However, today among the young people there is greater interest in studying in the Arabic-speaking world.

The movement to purge Islam of Indo-Iranian traditions continues unabated in Guyana today. Friction between the younger and the older generations, or the Arab camp and the Indo-Iranian camp, continue to stifle the full potential of this minority community that has done well for itself in Guyana in the past. Yet another challenge that Guyanese Muslims face in this diverse land is to provide the bridge and reduce polarization of Indians and Blacks. At the same time a rational understanding and appreciation of Indo-Iranian traditions and reconciliation with that of the Arabic-speaking world needs to be reached. The situation is complicated by the fact that a majority of Guyanese Muslims today cannot speak or write either Arabic or Urdu.

Thus, the push to make radical changes stems from the lack of balanced education and informed opinion. If Arab-ness legitimizes everything, as the orthodox movement in Guyana claims, then without knowing, they subscribe to the superiority of the Arab world. Hence, the movement to eradicate reminiscences of the Indo-Iranian traditions is rooted more in the intelligentsia's sense of inferiority rather than their appreciation of orthodoxy. It is ironic that the intelligentsia who went to Arabia after the 1960s and returned to Guyana created more friction and disharmony in the community. It turned into a competition of the hegemonic ambitions of a handful of religious zealots. The opponents of the Indo-Iranian heritage would do well to assert Islamic spirituality and put aside hegemonic ambitions.

Guyanese Muslims who are returning from educational institutions in the Arab world are also encouraging the younger generation to study in the Arabic-speaking countries instead of in Pakistan, India or Malaysia. Many Islamic organizations in Guyana today have their preferences of where they wish to send young people to study. Some of these organizations have forged strong ties with Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iraq, Kuwait and Egypt. However, Muslims still have the opportunities to study in Malaysia, Pakistan or India. But the latter countries are not the top choices of the newer generation of Muslims. The once vibrant relationship with Pakistan and India has now withered. The intelligentsia now looks to the Arabic-speaking world for leadership and religious guidance. However, it is Ironic that to this day Saudi Arabia and Guyana have not established diplomatic relations. This has to happen before the two countries exchange ambassadors and forge diplomatic and cultural ties. This is despite the fact that Guyana and Suriname are today members of the OIC, whose headquarters are based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

(n1.) Dale Bisnauth, History of Religion in the Caribbean, Kingston: Kingston Publications, 1993, pp. 155-164, and Centennial Magazine, brochure, Queenstown Jama Masjid, Georgetown: Guyana, 1995, p. 23.

(n2.) Centennial Magazine, ibid., p. 23.

(n3.) Mircea Eliade, Encyclopedia of Religion, Vol. 7, New York: McMillan Press, 1987, p. 426

(n4.) Centennial Magazine, op. cit., p. 9

(n7.) Peter Van der veer, Nation and Migration, Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Press, 1998, p. 104.

(n9.) S. M. Ikram, Muslim Civilization in India, New York: Columbia University Press, 1965, p. 211.

Chola Empire and Medieval India: 753 - 1190

Rashtrakuta Dynasty controls south and central India, expands northward Chola Empire breaks off from Pallavas Pratihara Empire at its height Chola conquers all of south India Mahmud of Ghazni conquers much of Punjab Raja Raja of Chola builds Brihadeshvara Temple Mahmud of Ghazni sacks Gurjara-Pratihara capital Cholas expand into Southeast Asia Palas Empire peaks under King Mahipala Chalukya Empire breaks into three kingdoms

History of the Rupee

Nikhil Chandwani is an author of 10 Books, TED(x) Speaker, and Founder- Writers' Rescue Centre. He was recently awarded the Rashtriya Gaurav Award in 2019 for excellence in so cial entrepreneurship. His firm, Writers' Rescue Centre has given voice to over 211 individuals in India through a Gurukul System. Nikhil is a believer of Sanatan Dharma and vows to bring back the real history of India. LESS . MORE

The rupee is the common name for the currencies of India, the Maldives, Mauritius, Indonesia, Nepal, Seychelles, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, and of former currencies of Bahrain, Afghanistan, Oman, Kuwait, and the UAE (as the Gulf rupee), Burma, British East Africa, Tibet, and German East Africa.

Around 2 Billion out of 7.5 Billion World Population use ‘Rupee’ as a currency. So, it is imperative to know the origin and history of the world’s oldest surviving currency, right? Let’s explore.

The word “rupee” is derived from the Sanskrit word “rūpya,” which means “wrought silver,” and maybe also something stamped with a coin or an image. As an adjective, it signifies “shapely,” with a more specific meaning of impressed,” “stamped, whence “coin.” It is precisely derived from the noun rūpa, “image, likeness, shape.”

The history of the rupee records back to the ancient Indian subcontinent. The mention of rūpya by Panini, a Sanskrit philologist, grammarian, and revered Hindu scholar, is the most ancient reference in a text about coins in ancient India. Panini uses the term rūpa to signify a piece of precious metal (silver) used as a coin and a rūpya to mean a stamped piece of metal, a currency in the modern sense.

The kingdoms that minted their own rupee in Ancient India included Gandhara, Shakya, Kuru, Kuntala, Magadha, Panchala, Surashtra, and Surasena. They called the currency ‘rūpya.’ So, the origin of the rupee can be traced to circa 1100 BCE.

Indus Valley Civilization from Ancient India used metals of fixed weights such as silver for trade activities. The smallest weight in the Indus Valley civilization was equivalent to eight rattis and was the basis for the weight standards for the original Indian coins in the seventh century BCE.

Arthashastra, written by the Great Chanakya, prime minister to the Maurya emperor Chandragupta Maurya, mentions silver coins as rūpyarūpa, other kinds including suvarṇarūpa (gold coins), tāmrarūpa (copper coins), and sīsarūpa (lead coins) are mentioned.

During his five-year rule from 1540 CE to 1545 CE, Sher Shah Suri set up a new military and civil administration and issued a coin of silver weighing 178 grains, which was also termed Rupiya. Knowing India’s Hindu heritage must be respected to govern the nation, the Mughal ruler issued coins honouring the Hindu deities in 1604 CE–1605 CE and called it ‘Rupiya.’

The coins depicting Mata Sita and Bhagwan Ram were issued in gold and silver minting ended right after Akbar died in 1605 CE.

The Indian rupee was an old silver-based currency during much of the 19th century CE, which had drastic consequences on the expected value of the currency, as more powerful economies were on the gold standard. During British rule and the first few years of Indian independence, the rupee was partitioned into 16 annas. Each anna was split into four pieces. So one rupee was equal to 64 paise (pice), and 192 pies as 1 Pice was equal to 3 pies. In 1957 CE, decimalization occurred, and the rupee was split into 100 naye paise. After a few years, “naye” was dropped.

Yes, around 26% of the world’s population uses a currency with its roots in Sanskrit. I believe language is like nature—the history of nature in the rule of the land. If you forget the history of nature, you will fall. If you forget the language that has given birth to commerce, your civilization will fall. So, perhaps, Sanskrit must emerge as the national language in India, the Maldives, Mauritius, Indonesia, Nepal, Seychelles, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, right? Yes, that must happen as per the law of nature—something to ponder about.


The Dravidian people are any native speakers of the Dravidian languages in the Indian Subcontinent of South Asia. Almost all the Dravidians of India live in the south of India. The five major ethnic groups of Dravidian people in India are Kannadiga, Malayali, Tulu, Tamil, and Telugu.

The ancient Indus Valley civilization in India was believed to have been of Dravidian origin in northern India, but then the Dravidian people were pushed south when the Indo-Aryans came in and the Kuru Kingdom in northern Indian arose. Later south India was dominated by the three Dravidian kingdoms of the Cheras, Cholas, and the Pandyas. These three kingdoms have been shown to sponsor the growth of literature, music, the arts and to have done extensive trading. The three kingdoms also supported and were tolerant of Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism, which is part of the reason why the Dravidian people have a diverse religious following. The Chera kingdom fell to the Rashtrakuta Dynasty over time, and then eventually the Vijayanagara Empire dominated all of south India. Eventually, after a few centuries in power, the Vijayanagara Empire collapsed in 1646 due to rebellions and pressure from the Muslim north. South India then split up into smaller states that were then slowly taken over by colonists from Europe. The major languages spoken by the Dravidian people are Brahui, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu.

Religious history of India

Out of a total population of 100 crore, India has about 80 crore (80%) Hindus and 13 crore (13%) Muslims. In the rest seven crore Christians (2.4%), Sikhs (2.0%), Buddhists (0.7%) and Jains (0.5%) are significant.

In India, Brahmanism is the religion of the majority. It has ancient roots and many of its important religious and philosophical texts were written in the first millennium BC. Two new faiths were introduced around the middle of the first millennium, one by Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, and the other by Buddha. Under Ashoka, in the third century BC, Buddhism enjoyed the royal patronage of the first great Hindu empire, that of the Maurya dynasty, which ruled over most of the Indian subcontinent. However, Buddhism began to decline from the 4th century AD, with the revival of Hinduism under the Gupta dynasty. Meanwhile, another offshoot of Hinduism had developed in Punjab as the religion of the Sikhs.

Islam was introduced into the Indian subcontinent with the Arab conquest of Sind, in the lower Indus valley, in 712 AD. However, the Muslim conquest of northern India began when Mahmud of Ghazni, a Turkish-Afghan warrior chief, invaded Punjab in 1001. Muhammad Ghuri extended the area under Muslim control during the 12th century, leading to the establishment of the Sultanate at Delhi, in 1206. Five Muslim dynasties then ruled at Delhi before the Mughal emperor Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi at Panipat, in 1526, and founded a new empire.

The great Mughal emperors Babur (1526-1530 AD), Humayun (1530- 1556 AD), Akbar (1556-1605 AD), Jehangir (1605-1627 AD) and Shah Jahan (1627-1658 AD) created a vast, powerful and wealthy empire across northern India and governed, for the most part, with a policy of tolerance towards the Hindus and in alliance with the powerful Hindu Rajput princes. While a considerable minority of the people converted to Islam, a large majority continued to follow Hinduism.

However, Shah Jahan's successor, Aurangzeb (1658-1707 AD), an orthodox Sunni Muslim, ended his predecessors' policy of treating the Hindus as equals and alienated the Rajputs. He persecuted Sikhs and got killed the Sikh leader, Tegh Bahadur, in 1675 AD. In 1681 AD, he set out to conquer the remaining independent Hindu kingdoms of the Deccan, the southern upland plateau of peninsular India, and his long wars against the Hindu Marathas helped to empty his treasury.

The Mughal empire started declining after the death of Aurengzeb's son, Bahadur Shah I, in 1712 AD. A Sikh revolt was crushed by Muhammad Shah (1712-1748 AD), in 1716 AD, but the Marathas plundered Delhi in 1738 AD. The following year, the capital was occupied by the Persian emperor, Nadir Shah, who also annexed Kabul. By 1750 AD, Maratha power had spread across central India from coast to coast and Mughal rule in Delhi was only saved when the Marathas were defeated by the Afghan leader, Ahmed Shah Abdali, at Panipat, in 1761 AD.

Meanwhile, Robert Clive's victory at Plassey, in 1757 AD, enabled the English East India Company to wrest control of the wealthy eastern province of Bengal from the local Mughal nawab.

Given the power vacuum at India's centre, the way was now clear for Britain steadily to extend the Company's rule over all of the sub-continent. The Marathas had been reduced by 1818 AD and the Sikhs of the Punjab by 1849 AD. The British maintained the fiction that they were ruling on behalf of the Mughals in Delhi until the Indian Mutiny, in 1857 AD, after which direct British rule replaced that of the East India Company, in 1858 AD, and the last shadowy Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah II, was removed. In 1876 AD, Queen Victoria was proclaimed empress of India and the formal British take-over of the former Mughal raj was complete.

Under the British rule, a considerable number of Indians were converted to Christianity, which had been introduced into India as early as the 1st century AD. Christianity gained many converts, following the arrival of the Portuguese, in the late 15th century, and this process of conversion continued, particularly in the coastal areas, with the successive arrival of the Dutch, English and French.

Christian missionary activities' often caused resentment among both the Hindus and Muslims alike. The Indian National Congress was formed in 1885 AD, partly as a reaction to the British rule in India. The ideas of the European enlightenment and of the French revolution had reached India at the beginning of the nineteenth century, through the likes of Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833 AD), as part of a general intellectual revival, and these affected the policy of the Congress from the beginning. Thus it promoted the ideals of a national representative assembly and the eradication of distinctions based on provincial or religious differences.

By 1928 AD, under such leaders as MK Gandhi and Motilal Nehru, the Congress had begun to demand independence for a united, democratic and secular India. However, as the prospects of independence grew, particularly after the provincial elections of 1937, some within the Muslim minority argued that, without British rule, the position of the Muslims would be prejudiced.

Meanwhile, there were also some Hindus, who did not accept the ideal of a fully secular republic after independence, as propagated by the Indian National Congress. They preferred to give Hinduism an official status within the new republic, similar to that enjoyed by Islam in Pakistan. They considered that obtaining independence from Britain was not enough. They would not accept the fact that India's Muslims were as Indian as they were. In 1951, these people set up a political party called the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (Indian People's Organisation). It was formed from a combination of Hindu traditionalists within the Congress, members of the Hindu Mahasabha and the militant Hindu nationalists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Islamic conquest of India bloodiest in the history

Ahmed only told the story of initial attack of Arabs on India. The ruthlessness of muslim invaders continued for a thousand years.

Will Durant, the famous historian summed it up like this:
"The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex of order and freedom, culture and peace, can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within."

Koenraad Elst , the german historian writes in "Negation in India"

The Muslim conquests, down to the 16th century, were for the Hindus a pure struggle of life and death. Entire cities were burnt down and the populations massacred, with hundreds of thousands killed in every campaign, and similar numbers deported as slaves. Every new invader made (often literally) his hills of Hindus skulls. Thus, the conquest of Afghanistan in the year 1000 was followed by the annihilation of the Hindu population the region is still called the Hindu Kush, i.e. Hindu slaughter. The Bahmani sultans (1347-1480) in central India made it a rule to kill 100,000 captives in a single day, and many more on other occasions. The conquest of the Vijayanagar empire in 1564 left the capital plus large areas of Karnataka depopulated. And so on.

As a contribution to research on the quantity of the Islamic crimes against humanity, we may mention that the Indian (subcontinent) population decreased by 80 million between 1000 (conquest of Afghanistan) and 1525 (end of Delhi Sultanate)..

But the Indian Pagans were far too numerous and never fully surrendered. What some call the Muslim period in Indian history, was in reality a continuous war of occupiers against resisters, in which the Muslim rulers were finally defeated in the 18th century. Against these rebellious Pagans the Muslim rulers preferred to avoid total confrontation, and to accept the compromise which the (in India dominant) Hanifite school of Islamic law made possible. Alone among the four Islamic law schools, the school of Hanifa gave Muslim rulers the right not to offer the Pagans the sole choice between death and conversion, but to allow them toleration as zimmis (protected ones) living under 20 humiliating conditions, and to collect the jizya (toleration tax) from them. Normally the zimmi status was only open to Jews and Christians (and even that concession was condemned by jurists of the Hanbalite school like lbn Taymiya), which explains why these communities have survived in Muslim countries while most other religions have not. On these conditions some of the higher Hindu castes could be found willing to collaborate, so that a more or less stable polity could be set up. Even then, the collaboration of the Rajputs with the Moghul rulers, or of the Kayasthas with the Nawab dynasty, one became a smooth arrangement when enlightened rulers like Akbar (whom orthodox Muslims consider an apostate) cancelled these humiliating conditions and the jizya tax.

It is because of Hanifite law that many Muslim rulers in India considered themselves exempted from the duty to continue the genocide on the Hindus (self-exemption for which they were persistently reprimanded by their mullahs). Moreover, the Turkish and Afghan invaders also fought each other, so they often had to ally themselves with accursed unbelievers against fellow Muslims. After the conquests, Islamic occupation gradually lost its character of a total campaign to destroy the Pagans. Many Muslim rulers preferred to enjoy the revenue from stable and prosperous kingdoms, and were content to extract the jizya tax, and to limit their conversion effort to material incentives and support to the missionary campaigns of sufis and mullahs (in fact, for less zealous rulers, the jizya was an incentive to discourage conversions, as these would mean a loss of revenue).

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Prehistoric era (until c. 1750 BCE)

Stone Age

Isolated remains of Homo erectus in Hathnora in the Narmada Valley in central India indicate that India might have been inhabited since at least the Middle Pleistocene era, somewhere between 500,000 and 200,000 years ago. [31] [32] Tools crafted by proto-humans that have been dated back two million years have been discovered in the northwestern part of the subcontinent. [33] [34] The ancient history of the region includes some of South Asia’s oldest settlements [35] and some of its major civilisations. [36] [37]

The earliest archaeological site in the subcontinent is the Palaeolithic hominid site in the Soan River valley. [38] [39] [40] Soanian sites are found in the Sivalik region across what are now India, Pakistan, and Nepal. [41] [42] [43]

The Mesolithic period in the Indian subcontinent was followed by the Neolithic period, when more extensive settlement of the subcontinent occurred after the end of the last Ice Age approximately 12,000 years ago. The first confirmed semi-permanent settlements appeared 9,000 years ago in the Bhimbetka rock shelters in modern Madhya Pradesh, India.

Early Neolithic culture in the Indian subcontinent is represented by the Bhirrana findings (7570–6200 BCE) in Haryana, India as well as Mehrgarh findings (7000–5000 BCE) in Balochistan, Pakistan. [35] [44] [45]

The Edakkal Caves are pictorial writings believed to date to at least 6,000 BCE, [46] [47] from the Neolithic man, indicating the presence of a prehistoric civilisation or settlement in Kerala. [48] The Stone Age carvings of Edakkal are rare and are the only known examples from South India. [49]

Traces of a Neolithic culture have been alleged to be submerged in the Gulf of Khambat in India, radiocarbon dated to 7500 BCE. [50] Neolithic agricultural cultures sprang up in the Indus Valley region around 5000 BCE, in the lower Gangetic valley around 3000 BCE, and in later South India, spreading southwards and also northwards into Malwa around 1800 BCE. The first urban civilisation of the region began with the Indus Valley Civilisation. [51]


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