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influence. The position changes considerably when we come to Kabir and Nanak and their successors, one of whom was a Muslim and the other the product of a predominantly Muslim atmosphere. But while studying the mutual influence of Islam and Hinduism in relation to early Hindu thinkers, it must not be forgotten that, according to European scholars like Nicholson, Islam and particularly sufi thought had been exposed to direct and indirect Hindu and Buddhist influence earlier, and Hinduism was only receiving back in a revivified and elaborate form what it had already given. It is worth mentioning that most modern Hindus do not share Dr.Tara Chand’s views regarding influence of Islam on Hinduism, as Muslim writers object to what he quotes from Nicholson and other regarding influences on sufism. Aziz Ahmed has summed up the position by saying:
”It would be as erroneous to overrate the Muslim influences on Vedanta and the Classical Bhakti as to overemphasize the elements borrowed in Sufism, directly or indirectly, from Hindu Buddhist mystical systems.”16
Kabir and Dadu. The religious thinkers we have discussed so far were Hindus, but some of the leading figures of the socalled Bhakti movement were Muslims. It is now generally recognised that Kabir was born in a Muslim julaha (weaver) family. His name as well as the name of his son, Kamal, is Muslim, and he was a disciple of Shaikh Taqi and other Muslim sufis. His grave at Maghar has always been in the keeping of Muslims, though the Kabir Panthis have also put up a Samadhi in the neighbourhood. The cult which Kabir preached was adopted mainly by the Hindu lower classes, and with the shift from the syncretic to the sectional approach during later centuries, Kabir’s life-story has been embellished with legends which obscure his origin and true self. In the light of recent studies as Rev. Westcott, Professor Kshitimohan Sen and Dr Mohan Singh, however, the fair conclusion seems to be to regard him as a Muslim sufi, who came under Ramananda’s influence, accepted some Hindu ideas and tried to reconcile the Hindu and Muslim points of view. Much of what is attributed
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[ Ch. 13
now to Kabir is not his17 but h e was all along critical of the formalities in religion emphasized by their rigid orthodox champions. Muslim biographers, writing about Kabir during the Mughal period, describe both Hindu and Muslim influences in his life, but have no hesitation in treating him as a Muslim sufi. The author of Mirat al-Asrar (manuscript), written during the days of Shah Jahan, says about Kabir and his son Kamal: ”And a-nother successor of Makhdum Bhika was Kabir, the malamatiya. At first, he became a disciple fo Shaikh Taqi, son of Shaikh Ramzan Hayk Suhra\wardi, who is buried in the town of Jusi near Allahabad. After that, he came in contact with Ramanand Bairagi, and undertook strenuous mystical disciplinary exercises. The cult, of Tauhid dominated him, his discerning eye completely gave up any consideration for the people caring for externals, and began to speak without the veil. TTie supricificial people 1 inked him with heresy, but the agnostics with inner light considered him a sincere Muwahid.18 He foil owed the free malamatiya, mode of thought. At last, he wore the garments of the Fi rdausi Order at the hands of Makhd um Shah Bhika, and attained poise in the cult of Peace for All. His sacred tomb, in the town of Maghar, in Gorakhpur sarkar attracts many visitors.” The book contains the following entry about Kabir’s son: ”Shaikh Kamal, son of Shaikh Kabir, the malamatiya, received training under his father. He also followed the malamatiya cult and was even more audacious than h is father, he went towards the province of Gujrat, and was held in great esteem by Hazcat Shah Alam-peace be on him. -After this, he achieved! great fame and his tomb in Ahmadabad, Gujarat, is well ksnown.”
According to the popular Tadhkirah-i Auliya’~i Hind (”Lives of Indian Muslim Saints”), Kabir (1440-1518) was a disciple of Shaikh Taqi Suhrawardi, studied the art of Hindi versification under Ramananda and later became a disciple of Shaikh Bhika Chishti.
Mirat al-Asrar contains ttie earliest authentic biography of Kabir (though Ma’araj al-Vfilayat, written slightly later,
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contains another account), but subsequently the history of this remarkable personality has been subjected to a strange process. Professor Kshitimohan Sen observes in this context:
”Sadhakas of the Indian Mediaeval age were mostly from the lower strata of the society, but the sects which their teachings gave rise to have tried afterwards to pass them as men of higher castes. Thus many sayings of such sadhakas had either to be left out or distorted.
”An enquire into the family history of Kabir and Dadu will make this process very clear. The fact that Kabir was the son of a Muhammadan weaver has been sought to be obliterated by many absurd stories. But historical criticism has mercilessly exposed such frauds. It cannot now be doubted that Kabir was born in a Jolaha family.”19
The same process has been at work for Dadu, the founder of Dadu Panth, whose life and teachings are the subject of an able monograph by the Reverend Orr. Dadu is stated by his later followers to have been the son of Nagar Brahman, but recent researches have shown that he was born in a family of Muslim cotton-carder*. This is borne out by his own works and the fact that all the members of his family bear Muslim names. ”His father’s name was Lodi, his mother’s Basi or Basiran. His sons were Garib and Miskin, and his grandson, son of Miskin Faqir.”20 His teacher, Shaikh Budhan, was a Muslim saint of the Qadri order, whose descendants at Sambhar continued, prior to 1931, to send ”a cotton robe, a turban and other articles of attire”21 at the time of the installation of the new Mahant of Dadu panthis. The early followers of Dadu were not disturbed by the knowledge that he was Muslim by birth, but the new legend about his Brahmanical origin made its first appearance in a commentary on the Bhaktamala, written as late as 1800 by a Brahman. The Reverend Orr has no difficulty in declaring Dadu to be a Muslim by birth, and modern Hindu scholars have come to the same conclusion. Professor Kshitimohan Sen, after saying that, apart from other authorities on the subject, the researches of Chandrika Prasad
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Tripathi leave no doubt about this, and adds that ”the keepers of these Maths, which furnished him with documents in the shape of old manuscripts, have now begun to burn, in their anger, those old and rare works.”22
The metamorphosis to which the life-story and teachings of Kabir and Dadu have been subjected is not merely the work of those keepers of Maths who were anxious to secure for their heroes high lineage and link them with Hinduism. It is really symptomatic of the general movement of separation, which, about the seventeenth century, began to gain ground in dominant circles amongst both Hindus and Muslims. The success of the Naqshbandiyyah Mujaddidiyyah order and the increase of orthodoxy amongst Muslims led them to turn away from figures like Kabir and Dadu, who were absorbed more and more in the Hindu system of thought and sainthood.
Kabir’s teachings have been analysed by Dr. Tara Chand who says:
”The expression of Kabir’s teachings was shaped by that of Sufi Saints and poets. In the Hindi language he had no precursor, and the only models which he could follow were Muslim ones, e.g. Pandnama of Farid-ud-din ’Attar; A comparison of the headings of the poems of both brings that out clearly. He must also have heard the poems of Jala! udniin Rumi and Sa’di besides the teachings of other Sufis, for there are echoes of them in his works.”23
A number of books are attributed to Kabir, some of which, like the Das Muqam-i Rekhtah have never been published. With many of his works not available for study, and serious doubts existing about the genuineness of others, it is difficult to assess Kabir properly.
The sect which calls itself Kabir Panthis after him was founded by one of his followers, Dharmadas (the name whether original or adopted later is significant). This sect refers to itself as Hindu and the works of Kabir which have been published or utilised by modern writers have been in its custody. According
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to some of these works, Kabir’s knowledge of Islam, compared to that of Hinduism, appears to be superficial and wanting in accuracy, but, as pointed out by Dr. Yusuf Husain, Kabir’s teaching ”does not give preference to either Hindus or Muslims. He admires all that is good in the two cults and condemns all that is dogmatic.”24 He often uses Hindu or rather Hindi nomenclature (e.g. Rama) for God,25 and is equally at home in Hindu as well as Muslim religious thought, but there is no doubt that the most salient feature of his teachings is ”a campaign against polytheism, idolatry and caste.” He is equally unsparing in his condemnation of Muslim formalism, but this he shares with most Muslim sufis and even poets like Hafiz and Sa’di. Kabir did not confine his spiritual education to Muslim teachers; he certainly was influenced by Ramananda, though, as has been stated by Dr.Tara Chand, ”Ramananda passes out of Kabir’s legends quite early and leaves only a shady impression upon the development of his ideas.’ He also had no attachment for formal Muslim religion and his constant effort was to break down the barriers that separated Hindus from Muslims.
Dadu was deeply influenced by Kabir’s teachings, but he was a man of a different temperament. ”In Dadu there is less of the fierce iconoclast, and more of the quiet mysitc; less fondness for the bold conceit and startling paradox, and more for the great simple truths that shine by their own light; less delight in the keen battle of wits, the rapier thrust and skilful parry, and more in the patient undermining by instruction, warning, and appeal, of the false defences in which the soul is tempted to take refuge.” Dadu, who was born in Hindu Rajputana, shows less influence of Islam in the background of his religious thought, but according to Orr, ”his fierce intolerance of caste and idolatry... his vivid consciousness of God as Creator. Ruler, and Judge, and his emphasis on moral freedom and responsibilty, are part of his Muslim inheritance.”26
261 Interaction of Islam and Hinduism r Q, 13
We have referred to the writings of Hinau Bhagats, and to the influence of religious teachers like Kabir and Dadu. Perhaps even more important than the influence of the individual teachers have been the permeating effect of Muslim conception of God on Hindu masses, especially in Northern India. The learned Brahmans might be the votaries of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, but for the common masses the ancient belief in Hindu Trinity is overshadowed by the consciousness of an omnipotent, universal creator, remembered by different names, Ishwar, Permaeshwar, Hari, etc. Even the personal name Ram is really a symbol for transcendental divinity. Thus subtle but basic change in the Hindu concept of Godhead was not a little due to the influence of Islam and of teachers like Kabir.
The So-Called Bhakti Movement. It is usual to group various religious and cultural activities, which gained momentum as a direct or indirect result of contact with Islam, under the heading ”Bhakti Movement”. But is this correct? Are there any solid historical links between such movements in various areas? Did Chaitanya, Kabir and Nanak have the same objectives or outlook?
If the writings and activities of these teachers are carefully studied and analysed, it will be found that Hindu thinkers and religious leaders of the period had two different, almost opposit, points of view with regard to contemporary Muslim thought and institutions. One group accepted what was congenial to it in the new spiritual system, while the other group adopted a few elements from the spiritual structure of the dominant power in order to strengthen Hinduism and to close a few fissures which had widened and to make it better able to withstand Islam. The two trends are similar to the growth of the tolerant, cosmopolitan Brahmo Samaj and the militant Arya Samaj, when Hinduism was confronted with a similar problem in relation to Christianity in the nineteenth century. Guru Nanak, Kabir, Dadu and other founders of
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syncretic sects belong to the first group, while the movement in Bengal mirrors the second tendency.
A full study of the movement in Maharashtra has yet to be made, but it appears that the religious attitude there was closer to that of Kabir and Nanak than to that of the Bengal Vaishnavas. We have already quoted from Tukaram’s hymns. This attitude of the Marathas to Muslim saints was one of respect and goodwill. As Duff records in his History of the Marathas, Shivaji’s grandfather had great faith in a Muslim saint of Ahmadnagar, Shah Sharif, and named his two sons, Shahji, and Sharifji-which are not Hindu names-after the saint whose prayers were believed to have been responsible for the gift of these sons. Writing about Shivaji’s grandfather (Malloji), Duff writes:
”He had no children for many years, which is considered a great misfortune amongst Hindoos. He was a rigid votary of the deity Mahdeo, and the goddess Dewee Bhowanee of Toolijapoor was the Koolswamy of his family; but both deities had been invoked in vain to grant an heir. A celebrated Mahomedan saint or peer, named Shah Shuref, residing at Ahmednugur, was engaged to offer up prayers to this desirable fnd; and Mallojee’s wife having shortly after given birth to a son, in platitude to the peer’s supposed benediction, the child was named after him, Shah, with the Mahratta adjunct of respect, jee; and in the ensuing year a second son was in like manner named Shureefjee.”27
Kincaid, following the Shivdigvijaya and Shedgavkar Bakhars, states that Malloji and his wife prayed at the tomb of Shah Sharif, who had long been dead. Grant Duff’s statements, however, is supported by Mankar in his introduction to the Sabhased Bakhar (of Krishnaji Anant) in the words: ”At last a renowned Muslaman saint, named Shah Sharif from Ahmadnagar, was engaged to offer his devotions for the birth of an heir.”28 Efforts are being made in modern times by Brahman writers to obscure and blur the original Maratha attitude, but the true position seems to be that the Hindu
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[ Ch. 13
reaction in Maharashtra, led originally by the ancient landowning and ruling groups, found expression in political action, rather than in the field of religious revivalism and separatism. With spiritual and literary activities which characterised the new movement, and new development in Hindu religious life in which the masses could enthusiastically participate, a new life was created in the area, and the intellectual and the spiritual basis for the rise of the Marathas was provided. The reasons which made the followers of Nanak, the Hindu teacher, closest to Islam, the most uncompromising enemy of the later Muslim rulers were of a different nature, and we shall deal with them separately, but there is considerable justification for Garrett’s remark that but for the religious movements of the fifteenth century ”it is most improbable that either the Marathas or the Sikhs would have formed themselves into the powerful combinations which they afterwards became.”29
Chaitanya ’s Movement Revivalistic and Not Syncretic. On the other hand, Chaitanya’s movement in Bengal was,a revivalist and not a syncretic movement. A good deal of work had been done on this movement by Bengali scholars, and it appears safe to infer that it was essentially a defensive movement against the sweeping success which Islam was having in the area. Thinking Hindu could see only with dismay that their policy of denying spiritual food to the lower classes was, in the changed conditions, driving them into the Muslim fold, and they also realised that the sufi approach, with its institutions like Qawwali, producing religious ecstasy and fervour, as also the congregational prayers of Muslims made more powerful appeal of the masses than the meditations of the Hindu rishis. Qawwali was, therefore, answered by kirtan processions, which engendered a new spiritual fervour in Hindu countryside, and all castes amongst the Hindu and even non-Hindus were admitted to the new spiritual life. With the great organising genius of Chaitanya and able men like Rupa and Santana whom he was able to inspire, the movement soon
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passed from the defensive to the offensive and, according to a modern Hindu writer, ”Vaishnavas who took the lead in converting Muslims achieved considerable success.”30
Growse, the historian of Mathura, has dealt at length with the problem with which Hinduism was faced owing to Muslim success and the manner in which the Hindu religious leadership reacted. His statement is worded in the offensive language in which Western writers spoke of Islam and Muslim till very recently, but it brings out clearly the role of Hindu Bengal and is worth reproducing at length. He says:
”Similarly in the East, the Muhammadan invasion and the consequent contact with new races and new modes of thought brought home to the Indian moralist that his old basis of faith was too narrow; that the division of the human species into the four Manava castes and an outer world of barbarians was too much at variance with facts to be accepted as satisfactory, and that the ancient inspired oracles, if rightly interpreted, must disclose some means of salvation applicable to all men alike, without respect to colour or nationality.... In upper India the tyranny of the Muhammadans was too tangible a fact to allow of the hope, or even the wish, that conquerors and conquered could ever coalesce in one common faith; but in the Dakhin and the remote regions of Eastern Bengal, to which the sword of Islam had been scarcely extended, and where no inveterate antipathy had been created, the contingency appeared less improbable. Accordingly it was in these parts of India that the great teachers of reformed Vaishnava creed first meditated and reduced to system those doctrines which it was one object of all their later life to promulgate throughout Hindustan. It was their ambition to elaborate a scheme so broad and yet so orthodox that it might satisfy the requirements of the Hindu and yet not exclude the Muhammadan, who was to be admitted on equal terms into the new fraternity, all mankind becoming one great family and every caste distinction being utterly abolished.”31
265 Interaction of Islam and Hinduism [ Ch, 13
The attitude of the Bengal Vaishnavas towards Islam and -lira was a complete antithesis of the attitude advocated by ”rid Nanak. As Professor T. Roychaudhuri says:
”That there was an element of oppositions to Muslim
influence in Chaitanyaism seems almost certain. The influence in j ihe
*• ^option of Musli.
by Brahmins as one of the *pecis of the mamfold degradaUotxs characteristic of Kali age.”32
Even economic pressure was brought against Muslims. ”Saysmananda, who converted a number of Muslims. . . asked the Raia of Narayonaged not to employ Muslim porters as was Se u u/cusuJ there.”33 Even those Vaishnavas whom the Muslim rulers had exalted to the highest offices ,„ the State regarded their patrons as Mlechchas and considerd themselves L fallen because of their contact with the Mushms. Rupa and Lfana one of whom was Dabir-i JOto (Private Secretary) Of SuS ’Ala-ud-din Husain Shah of Gaur, abstained from vising tne temple of Jagannath because of such , considerations.34
A modern Hindu scholar has summed up the difference between Chaitanya’s movement and the movement in Northern India ”Faith in the unity of the Deity, tolerance and respect for slam and an open challenge to the caste system were: the most moortant” features of the movement associated with Namdeva, Sir Nanak and Dadu. ”These, however, were not in any wav the strong points of Chaitanyaism. Unity of the godheadTnthf sense in which either the Upanishads or the Quran nreached it-- was no part of Bengal Vaishnavaism. The Chaitanvaites on the contrary, were eager to prove the suoeriority of Krishna to other gods and goddesses of the Zdu Pantheon. As regards their attitude to Islam it was one
2? XaTe, -er consisted a dire, challenge to the
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age-old social organisation of Hindu India.”35 As a matter of fact, the movement in Bengal was ”marked by comparative indiffrence to social problems and inequities which were among the chief concerns of the movements originating from the composite influences of Hinduism and Islam.”36
Bengali Vaishnavaism was a Hindu revivalist movements, a counter-attack against Islam,and was able to slow down the process of conversion of Hindus, particularly in West Bengal ”In West Bengal the very classes, whose counterparts in the east were converted to Islam in large numbers, remained with the Hindu fold, due no doubt to a great extent to Vaishnava influence.”37 But the Vaishnava success was even greater. They not only arrested the spread of Islam in West Bengal, but, what was perhaps even more remarkable, the spiritual and the literary renaissance created by the Vaishnava sadhus and poets created an atmosphere in which the local Muslims, as contrasted with those in the distant north where a different situation prevailed, came under Hindu influences, and outside the cities, Muslim orthodoxy did not spread till the nineteenth century.
Indian Medieval Ranaissance. An attempt to group together revivalist movements and syncretic efforts under the same name ”Bhakti” has inevitably obscured the true nature of these movements. It has hindered an objective study oi the subject in other ways also. It was confined to what purport^ to be a story of ”composite influences” of Hinduism and Isl >n to the work of Hindu seekers after God only, or at best 10 Muslims like Kabir and Dadu, who, in order to conform to the Bhakti requirements, have undergone a transformation, necessitating a falsification of history. The extensive nonmissionary approach of Muslim sufis or common HinduMuslim approach to spiritual problems which prevailed in centers like Manakpur, and paved the way for the rise of Kabir, have also been ignored.
An even more serious drawback resulting from adopting narrow nomenclature has been that the phrase ”Bhakti
267 Interaction of Islam and Hinduism [ ch. 13
Movements” is taken to include all the spiritual and cultural activities in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent which gained prominence primarily as a result of interaction of HinduMuslim civilisations. Professor Mukerjee has stated that in view of the influence which the ”Bhakti Movement” had on religion, the development of regional literature, and the growth of Indian music, it may almost be compared to the ”European Renaissance”.38 The Indian medieval renaissance differed in several respects from its counterpart in Europe, or from the modern Indian renaissance, brought about by the impact with the West. Similar forces operating in different periods and areas seldom produce identical results. In India, owing to local traditions, activity in spiritual sphere was predominant, and, although there was a great lessening of the bonds of traditional thinking, there was not the same mode of the freeing of the intellect, associated with the European Renaissance. Professor Mukerjee is, however, justified in emphasising the broad and general aspects of the Indian movement. Apart from freedom from traditional thinking and lossening of the old bonds of social organisation, there was the same general intellectual and spiritual ferment, the same rise of the new vernaculars, the growth of new literatures, the development of new forms of music, bold experiments in architecture, which we see in Europe during the Renaissance. Amongst general historians, Moreland and Chatterjee have not failed to sense the wider and the deeper significance of what is popularly called the Bhakti Movement. They pointed out that the subject had not been adequately studied and did not suggest a new nomenclature, but in a brief general history of India they brought out, more clearly than had been done before, the importance of the developments which took place in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In the chapter headed ”The Results of the Turkish Rule, After dealing with the spread of the doctrine of Bhakti, they wrote:
”The story of this development is not known in detail, but the fifteenth century was marked by an extraordinary outburst
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of devotional poetry inspired by these doctrines, and thus stands out as one of the great formative periods in the history of northern India, a period in which on the one hand the modern languages were firmly established as vehicles of literary expression, and on the other the faith of the people was permeated by new ideas ”39
They further explained the far-reaching changes which took place during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries:
”On the literary side then, this epoch furnished all over northern India the great bulk of the poetry which, read or recited in the villages, has ever since formed the basis of the imaginative life of the people. On the religious side it furnished new ideas which permeated, rather than superseded, the sacrificial cults of the temples; and, when we take both sides into account, the effect of the literature produced during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries may justly be compared to that of the Bible in the life of England--for the common people the one great accessible source of inspiration as of consolation. The peasant may still follow scrupulously the ancient ritual appropriate to the worship of this deity or that; but in his mind, or rather in his heart, there is the. idea of something larger and more universal, and when his feelings find expression, it is in an appeal to Parmeshwar, the one Supreme Being, whom he had been led by this literature to know and love.”40
Dr K.M. Munshi has referred at some place to the ”Bhakti Renaissance,” but generally the importance of this great formative period has been obscured by treating the widespread religious, intellectual and cultural activity of the Middle Ages as the ”Bhakti Movement”. It has resulted in lack of attention to non-spiritual activities, and to the contribution of those who were not bhaktas. Did not the laity-the rulers, who patronized regional languages, the poets, the musicians, and their patrons like Raja Man Singh of Gwalior and Sultan Husain Sharqi of Jaunpur-make any contribution to this renaissance? The truth is that the activities in the Middle Ages covered a wide field
Interaction of Islam and Hinduism
and were the result of the activities of large groups of people of bhaktas and sufi saints, of lay people, of poets, of musicians, of builders, and, of some worldly rulers, who responded to the call of the times. A comprehensive and objective study of the subject can only be on broad and general lines, and will really begin after scholars approach the subject not merely as a study of the Bhakti Movement, which is only one fact of a general renaissance.
Influence of Hinduism on Ham The interaction of Islam and Hinduism did not operate in one direction only. The Muslim society was also deeply influenced and purely local influences left a mark, at least temporarily, on Islam in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent Some Western writers have even stated that Islam was influenced more by Hinduism than was Hinduism by Islam. They seem to assume that Islam in India was originally pure and orthodox, but due to Hindu influences absorbed many un-Islamic features. This, however, was not the historical order of things. The peculiar features were not incorporated at a later stage, but were the result of what may be called the original incomplete conversion. Indian Muslims did not start with orthodox Islam, but began by taking only a few things and only in the course of centuries, particularly during the last two centuries, have they became more orthodox. The process is not absolutely complete in some lower classes, or those groups which, like the Khojas, adopted a composite form of religion, but as Rev. Titus says, the ”situation today is far better than it was a century ago, as a result of the reform efforts of Muslim preachers, the more general diffusion of education, and the extensive revival of Islamic spirit and learning in connection with the modern reform movements.”41
According to Goldziher and Von Kramer, Islam was subjected to Indian influences even before Muslims came to Lahore and Delhi. Many Indians held posts in the financial department at Basra under the early Umayyads; the Caliph Muawiya is reported to have planted an Indian colony in Syria, especially at Antioch, and Hajjaj is said to have established
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them in Kashgar. The black-eyed and olive complexioned Hindus were brushing their shoulders against those of Muslims in the cities of the Caliphate. The eastern dominions of the empire, that is Khorasan, Afghanistan, Sistan and Baluchistan, were Buddhist or Hindu before they were converted. Balkh had a large monastery (Vihara), whose superintendent was known as the Barmak. His descendants became the famous Barmakide wazirs of the Abbasid Caliphate.”42
After the Arab conquest of Sind, there were closer contacts between Hindu scholars and the Abbasid Baghdad. The results of these contacts have been described elsewhere, but other features like the consideration given to caste by Indian Muslims were due to local influences. Foreign writers have commented on the way the Indian Muslims classify themselves as Sayyid, Shaikh, Mughal and Pathan, but the loose manner in which this operated even in the eleventh/seventeenth century, was commented on by Bernier. He said, in the heyday of the Mughals, that anybody who put on a white turban began to call himself a Mughal. An old saying underlines the same process: ”Last year, I was Julaha (weaver); this year Shaikh; and next year, if the harvest be good, I shall be a Sayyid.” This would show that even in the past, the caste system was not such a binding factor among Indian Muslims. Besides, although the system may have counted for something in social relations, when it came to worship, all influences of Brahmanical origin disappeared, and, in the mosque, the Islamic ideals of brotherhood and equality remained triumphant.
Muslims in India also adopted the Hindu practice of early marriage and the Hindu objection to widow marriage. Some social ceremonies connected with births, deaths and marriages may also be traced to a Hindu origin. But the reform movements initiated by Shah Wali Allah, Sayyid Ahmad Brelvi and by the Wahhabi preachers have concentrated on the eradications of these usages, which are disappearing. Some writers think that reverence for pirs and their graves, a marked
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feature of popular Indian Islam, is a carry-over of Hind idolatrous practices. This seems to ignore the fact that even outside India pirs and their tombs are objects of great attention and veneration.
Limited Results of Mutual Interaction. During the middle ages there was considerable interaction of Islam and Hinduism but, as pointed out at length by Professor R.C. Majumdar, it touched merely the fringe and the external elements of life and even as such,43 the influence was confined to a small section of Hindus and Muslims of India. Taken as a whole, ”there was no rapprochement in respect of popular or national traditions, and those social and religious ideas, beliefs, practices, and institutions which touch the deeper chord of life and give it a distinctive form, tone, and vigour. In short, the reciprocal influences were too superficial in character to affect materially the fundamental differences between the two communities in respect of almost everything that is deep-seated in human nature and makes life worth living. So the two great communities, although they lived side by side, rnoved each in its own orbit, and there as yet no sign that the ”twain shall ever meet”.44
In the beginning of the fifth/eleventh century, al-Biruni had made a fair and sympathetic study of Hindu society, but even he was constrained to remark regarding their attitude towards the foreigners: ”All their fanaticism is directed against those who do not belong to them-against all foreigners. They call them malechha. i.e., impure, and forbid having any connection with them, be it by intermarriage or any other kind of relationship, or by sitting, eating, and drinking with them, because thereby, they think, they would be polluted.”45
This was the Hindu attitude towards all foreigners. It probably arose during the invasions of the Huns, Sakas, and other invaders from Central Asia, and had fully crystallised by the time of al-Biruni, i.e. long before the establishment of the Muslim Empire at Delhi. The gulf which divided the Muslims from the Hindus was bigger than what separated the latter from
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most other foreigners. To quote al-Biruni again: ”The Hindus entirely differ from us in every respect.” Firstly, there was the difference of language. ”Secondly, they totally differ from us in religion as we believe in nothing in which they believe, and vice versa. . . .
”In the third place, in all manners and usages, they differ from us to such a degree as to frighten their children with us, with our dress, and our ways and customs, and as to declare us to be the devil’s bread, and our doing as the very opposit of all that is good and proper.”46 This aversion increased manifold, when Muslims conquered the country. Fair and impartial alBiruni writes: ”Mahmud utterly ruined the prosperity of the country, and performed there wonderful exploits, by which the Hindus became like atoms of dust scattered in all directions, and like a tale of old in the mouth of the people. Their scattered remains cherish of course, the most inveterate aversion towards all Muslims.”47
This was the position in 421/1030, when Kitab al-Hind was completed. Nearly three hundred years later another traveller, Ibn Battutah, visited the Indo-Pak subcontinent, and, although he was not a trained scientist and scholar like alBiruni, he was a fair and humane observer. He records two occasions, when Muhammad Tughluq ordered the executioner to inflict punishment on certain Hindus brought before him. On one occasion Ibn BattuUh turned away his eyes while the punishment was being inflicted, and on the other he left the place on the pretence of saying his prayers Professor Majumdar remaiks: ”Ibn Battutah’s attitude on both the occasion does credit to him.” These were not the only occasions when Ibn Battutah indicated his sympathy and appreciation for the Hindus. He pointedly remarks that when he reached the camp of the Muslim ruler of Ma’bar, he found that he had to appear at the court in full stockings. He did not possess any, and it was a Hindu who provided him with the same. He comments: ”There were a number of Muslims there and I was astonished to find on infidel show greater courtesy
Interaction of Islam and Hinduism
than they did.”48 There is no doubt that Ibn Battutah’s account of the conditions in the subcontinent is that of a fair-minded and largehearted, impartial observer. The state of the relationship between Hindus and Muslims, which he describes, however, shows that the situation, if anything, had worsened since the days of al-Biruni. Hindus and Muslims lived in separate quarters and as entirely separate communities. The Hindus maintained no social intercourse with the Muslims by way of interdining or intermarriage. They regarded the touch of the Muslims or ”even the scent of their food as pollution”. If an innocent child happened to eat anything of which a Muslim had partaken, the Hindu elders ”would beat him and compel him to eat cow’s dung which, according to their belief, purifies.”49 Ibn Battutah, who suffered serious inconveniences from the Hindu attitude towards Muslims during his journeys in the Hindu areas, gives many instances of the treatment he received and contrasts with the behaviour of the non-Muslims of Ceylon.
In such an atmosphere, a real rapprochement between Hindus and Muslims was impossible. A ”Chinese wall” divided the two communities, in spite of the work of saints, sufis and savants like Amir Khusrau. The number of people directly affected by sufi and mystic movements was not very large. ”The number dwindled very appreciably in course of time and the two orthodox religions showed no visible sign of being seriously affected by the sudden intrusion of radical elements. They porsued their event tenor, resembling the two banks of a river separated by the stream that flows between them. Attempts were made to build a bridge connecting the two, but ended in failure. Even if there were any temporary bridge, it collapsed in no time.” Dr.Qureshi says: ”In the political and administrative sphere, in so far as the Bhakti movement strengthened the forces of conciliation between the rulers and the ruled, it rendered great service.” It also made it possible to communicate the main message of Islam to Hindu masses, but the sum total of its achievements was limited. The efforts of
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the reformers ended in the rise of a few, small sects, some of which even turned against Islam. The path of sincere syncretism also ended in a blind alley. They way for HinduMuslim harmony was not through integration but through peaceful co-existence. The path which was followed by alBiruni a few centuries earlier and was to be shown by Mazhar Jan-i Janan and Shah Abd al- Aziz, a few centuries later, alone had any possibilities. It recognised the separateness of the two cultures but was also based on knowledge and understanding. Essentially it was this approach which the Mujaddid, disgusted with Akbar’s ill advised attempts at syncretism, advocated.
Interaction of Islam and Hinduism