Islam in India- Origins, Politics, Philosophies, and Books

Islam is one of the major religions of the world with total followers of 1.9 billion. It is approximately 24% of the whole world population. Approximately 14% of the total Indian population follows Islam which makes it the second-largest religious group in the country. Unlike the others, Islam is a new religion that dates back to 600 CE. It was founded by the Prophet Muhammad. Islam is a monotheistic religion that promotes the one sole creator, sustainer, and reformer of the word- Allah. For note, there are more than 50+ countries with Muslims as a dominant population. As a monotheist, Islam promotes the idea of one true God & one true way. Islam has woven their spirituality into its lifestyle. Their faith deeply affects their social & economic cultures. We can see their community value system based on Islamic Laws. There is one very popular term ‘Jihaad’ that literally means ‘The Holy War’. 

Islam- Origins & Growth:

The Prophet Mohammad founded Islam in 6 CE and taught it to a small group of people. Surprisingly the small group turned into a massive population where people embraced Islam rapidly in many countries including Africa, the Middle East, China, Europe, Indian Subcontinent, and Peninsula. From the very beginning, Islam promoted brotherhood and a bond of faith among all the followers of Islam. Mohammad called himself the last of the prophets listed as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Solomon, Jesus, and Mohammad. 

India had strong trading relationships with foreign lands. Arab was one of them. Not only the trades but both countries used to share knowledge & words of wisdom. It was Arabs who transmitted the numeral system developed by Indian mathematicians to the Middle East & further to Europe. By the 8th century, Arabs translated several Sanskrit books into Arabic. Not all Arabs were Muslims at that time. By the time Islam was founded, we see social relations between India & Arabs as some married Indian girls & settled here only. 

When Islam invaded the Arab faith, the traders came to India not only with commerce but a faith to share. The land of India welcomed them, allowed them to share their message, and even married Indian women. This woven the inter-cultural community in the land. 

Political History of Islam in India:

We see confusion among historians about the oldest mosque in India. There are three famous legends about it. The first one tells the story of Ubaidullah who came to the Malabar coast in 661 CE. It is said that he brought Islam to India. The second story goes back to 624 CE when the last ruler of the Chera Dynasty converted to Islam and built a mosque during his reign in the same year. Notable at this time, Prophet Mohammad was alive. Some historians argue that the first mosque was built between 610 CE- 623 CE at Malabar. 

The first Muslim general who invaded India was Muhammad bin Qasim in 672 CE. Then in 971-1030 CE, Mahmud Ghazni invaded India. Finally, with Ghurids, Muslims established the Delhi Sultanate in 1206. The complete mediaeval era of Indian history is filled with continuous wars and different dynasties at the throne of Delhi and nearby states such as Bengal, Maharashtra, Deccan etc. Shah Mir was the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir in 1339. 

By the 16th century, we see the intervention of the Mughals. Though they came here to rule they established a balanced society & effective administrative system here. We hear about near God status king Akbar. Further, when the Dutch and British came to India, a new era started. 

Islam- Philosophies:

When Mohammad died in 632 CE, a dispute emerged among his followers for establishing his successor. The first group, today known as Sunni wanted to establish the right people who studied under the direct supervision of Mohammad and the other group Shia said that only a bloodline successor should rule over the whole community. This difference led to the Battle of Jamai, the Battle of Siffin, and the Battle of Karbala. In the last battle, Husayn ibn Ali, the cousin & son-in-law of Mohammad was killed by the ruling Umayyad Caliph 1. Today, there are more than 70 sects in Islam. 

Although both sects of Islam believe in the Quran and the sayings of Mohammad, there are a few differences between them. 

  • Their point of view on the succession of Mohammad is different. 
  • Sunnis have a simpler religious hierarchy allowing the best to be the leader whereas Shia Muslims believe the divine blessings on Ali’s descendants.
  • Their afterlife beliefs have differences. Sunni believes that even after believing in Mohammad, Allah, and performing all the good deeds, it is upon Allah to let you enter heaven. On the other hand, Shia believe that once you accept Mohammad as the last prophet & twelve Imams, heaven’s door is open for you. 
  • Sunni Muslims say each of the five prayers separately in a day for the completion of the 5-time prayer routine. Shia Muslims recite all the prayers at once 3 times a day. 
  • Sunni and Shia have several different societal beliefs about marriages, prayers at the grave, self-flagellation, and angels. 

Islam- Holy Books:

Being so strict about their fundamental beliefs, Islam is one of the largest religious groups in the world. Islam shares the common belief about the creation of the world and human beings with Christianity & Jewish. Three of them share the title of ‘Abrahamic religion’. There are 7 Holy books in Islam of which 4 hold a major place. 

A. Quran: 

The Quran is the centre of Islam’s beliefs & laws. The community considers it as the revelation from God himself through the Prophet Mohammad. It is considered proof of Mohammad’s prophethood and the finest work in Arabic literature. 

B. Torah: 

The Torah or Tawrah in Arabic is the second holiest book in Islam. Muslim believe that Allah sends these books to different prophets & messengers among the children of Israel. 

C. Zabur (Psalms): 

The book of Psalms or Zabur is the book of songs that King David composed during his reign. Psalms is not an administrative book but a collection of songs of praise. 

D. Injil (Gospel): 

According to Muslims, Injil was the book given to Jesus Christ and is the new testament of the Bible. Many Muslim believe the whole New Testament as Injil whereas others don’t believe in the whole but a single Gospel of Jesus. 

Along with these four, Islam has Hadith- the sayings of Mohammad, the scrolls given to Moses, and the scrolls given to Abraham as their holy books. 


India is home to the 3rd largest Muslim population in the world. This land shares a history with Islam as the cultural fundamentals have become an inseparable part of Indian society. From poets to Presidents, we have Muslim people at all levels of society that share a common value of brotherhood and love. 

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