Mohammad Basirul Haq Sinha
RF for MIA, 2006
apparently sudden rise and the dramatic expansion of Mohammedanism constitutes
a most fascinating chapter in the history of mankind. A dispassionate study of
this chapter is of great importance in the present fateful period of the
history of India. The scientific value of the study by itself is great, and the
meritorious quest for knowledge is sure to be handsomely rewarded. But with us,
to-day in India, particularly with the Hindu, a proper understanding of the
historical role of Islam and the contribution it has made to human culture has
acquired a supreme political importance.
country has become the home of a very considerable number of the followers of
the Arabian Prophet. One seldom realizes that many more Mohammedans live in
India than in any single purely Islamic country. Still, after the lapse of many
centuries, this numerous section of the Indian population is generally
considered to be an extraneous element. This curious but extremely regrettable
cleft in the loose national structure of India has its historical cause. The
Mohammedans originally came to India as invaders. They conquered the country
and became its rulers for several hundred years. That relation of the conqueror
and the subjugated has left its mark on the history of our nation which to-day
embraces the both. But the unpleasant memory of the past relation has been
progressively eclipsed by the present companionship in slavery. The effect of
British Imperialism is no less painful and ruinous for the bulk of the Muslim
population than for the masses professing Hinduism. So completely have the
Mohammedans become an integral part of the Indian nation that the annals of the
Muslim rule are justly recorded as chapters of the history of India. Indeed,
Nationalism has gone farther in effacing the painful memory of the past.
practice of seeking consolation for the shame of the present in the real or
legendary glory of the past has dressed the Muslim rulers of India in brilliant
Hindu, who prides in the prosperity of the reign of an Akbar, or boasts of the
architectural accomplishments of a Shahjehan, is even to-day separated most
curiously by an unbridgeable gulf from his next door neighbor belonging to the
race, or professing the faith, of those illustrious monarchs who are believed
to have glorified the history of India. For the orthodox Hindus who constitute
the great majority of the Indian population, the Musalman, even of a noble
birth or high education or admirable cultural attainments, is a
'mlechha'—impure barbarian—who does not deserve a social treatment any better
than accorded to the lowest of the Hindus.
of this singular situation is to be traced in the prejudice born, in the past,
of the hatred a conquered and oppressed people naturally entertained for the
foreign invader. The political relation out of which it sprang is a thing of
the past. But the prejudice still persists not only as an effective obstacle to
national cohesion, but also as a hindrance for a dispassionate view of history.
Indeed, there is no other example of two communities living together in the
same country for so many hundred years, and yet having 50 little appreciation
of each other's culture. No civilized people in the world is so ignorant of
Islamic history and contemptuous of the Mohammedan religion as the Hindus.
Spiritual imperialism is the outstanding feature of our nationalist ideology.
But this nasty spirit is the most pronounced in relation to Mohammedanism. The
current notion of the teachings of the Arabian Prophet is extremely
ill-informed. The average educated Hindu has little knowledge of, and no
appreciation for, the immense revolutionary significance of Islam, and the
great cultural consequences of that revolution. The prevailing notions could be
laughed at as ridiculous, were they not so pregnant with harmful consequences.
These notions should be combated for the sake of the national cohesion of the
Indian people as well as in the interest of science and historical truth. A
proper appreciation of the cultural significance of Islam is of supreme
importance in this crucial period of the history of India.
historian Gibbon describes the rise and expansion of Islam as "one of the
most memorable revolutions which has impressed a new and lasting character on
the nations of the globe." One is simply amazed to contemplate the
incredible rapidity with which the two mightiest empires of the ancient time
were subverted by the comparatively small bands of nomads issuing from the
Arabian Desert, fired with the zeal of a new faith. Hardly fifty years had
passed since Mohammad assumed the role of the singular Prophet spreading his
Message of Peace at the point of the sword, his followers victoriously planted
the banner of Islam on the confines of India, on the one side, and on the shore
of the Atlantic, on the other. The first Khalifs of Damascus reigned over an
Empire which could not be crossed in less than five months on the fleetest
camel. At the end of the first century of the Hegira, the "'Commanders of
the Faithful" were the most powerful rulers of the world.
prophet establishes his pretension by the performance of miracles. On that
token, Mohammad must be recognized as by far the greatest of all prophets, before
or after him. The expansion of Islam is the most miraculous of all miracles.
The Roman Empire of Augustus, as later enlarged by the valiant Trajan, was the
result of great and glorious victories, won over a period of seven hundred
years. Still, it had not attained the proportions of the Arabian Empire
established in less than a century. The Empire of Alexander represented but a
fraction of the vast domain of the Khalifs. For nearly a thousand years, the
Persian Empire resisted the arms of Rome, only to be subdued by the "Sword
of God" in less than a decade. Let a modern historian describe the miracle
of the rise of Islam.
was there a vestige of an Arabian state, of a regular army, or of a common
political ambition. The Arabs were poets, dreamers, fighters, traders; they
were not politicians. Nor had they found in religion a stabilizing or unifying
power. They practiced a low form of polytheism. A hundred years later, these
obscure savages had achieved for themselves a great world power. They had conquered
Syria and Egypt, they had overwhelmed and converted Persia, mastered Western
Turkestan and part of the Punjab. They had wrested Africa from the Byzantines
and the Berbers, Spain from the Visigoths. In the West they threatened France,
in the East Constantinople. Their fleets, built in Alexandria or the Syrian
ports, rode the waters of the Mediterranean, pillaged the Greek islands and
challenged the naval power of the Byzantine Empire. Their success had been won
so easily, the Persians and Berbers of the Atlas Mountains alone offering a
serious resistance, that at the beginning of the eighth century it must have
seemed an open question whether any final obstacle could be opposed to their
victorious course. The Mediterranean had ceased to be a Roman lake. From one
end of Europe to the other, the Christian states found themselves confronted
with the challenge of a new Oriental civilization founded on a new Oriental
faith." (H. A. L. Fisher, "A History of Europe", pp. 137/8.)
that stupendous miracle happen? That has been one of the baffling questions for
historians. To-day the educated world has rejected the vulgar theory that the
rise of Islam was a triumph of fanaticism over sober and tolerant peoples. The
phenomenal success of Islam was primarily due to its revolutionary significance
and its ability to lead the masses out of the hopeless situation created by the
decay of antique civilizations not only of Greece and Rome but of Persia and
China—and of India.
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