The Muslims form one of the most important constituents of the national economy of India. For at least a thousand years, they have, particularly in the North, supplied one of the major forces in the shaping of India's economic, political and social history. Small groups may have trickled into the country at even earlier periods, but about the end of the first millennium, the trickle deepened into a steady stream which ?owed into the land without any sign of sagging for almost eight hundred years. Woven into the intricate pattern of Indian life, the Muslims have yet maintained their individuality. They have contributed to the symphony of Indian life and yet retained a distinct timbre that can be clearly recognized. An essential part of Indian life and yet with a distinctiveness of their own, they present a phenomenon which has few parallels elsewhere. India has assimilated almost all foreign races and cultures that entered the land at different times by broadening her faith and her social structure. In most other countries, Muslims have assimilated the land into the mainstream of Islamic culture. India is the one exception where neither has Islam been overpowered by India nor India absorbed into the Islamic world.In order to understand the Indian Muslim and his place in Indian history, one must remember that two factors have contributed to his mental evolution and make up. On the one hand, there has been the in?uence of Islam and the philosophy of life represented by it. On the other, there has been the pervasive in?uence of Indian culture and civilization. These two forces have acted steadily throughout the centuries and shaped his life and character. If the Indian Muslim is distinct from his counterpart in his distinct of the world, this is due to their interaction at many levels. The fact that the Muslims came to India not in one solid and compact block but in dribblets that were spread through centuries has helped further this process of assimilation between the two different strands.
The main contributions of Islam to the mental make up of Indian Muslims have been the insistence on a militant democracy, liberal rationalism, and an uncompromising monotheism that at times verge on iconoclasm and intolerance. It is generally recognised that Islams democratic urge is perhaps its greatest contribution to world culture. True, there are both Semitic and Aryan parallels, but no other religion has insisted on it so strongly nor succeeded in instilling into its adherents an equal sense of democratic equality among the faithful. In theory, every religion recognizes the principles of fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man. In practice, however, the fatherhood of God often remains an article of faith divorced from the realities of life. Clash of colour and inequalities of birth, station and wealth make the brotherhood of man a mere ideal unrelated to the daily activities of life. Even its worst enemies have however admitted that Islam broke down the barriers of colour and birth absolutely in the formal act of worship and with negligible restrictions in daily social intercourse.
The liberalism of Islam is seen in its comparative freedom from geographic limitations. This is a corollary as much to its emphasis upon equality of men as to its missionary character. A democratic attitude is in a sense direct consequence of rationalism. The human intellect is the same whatever be one’s colour or nationality. Islam's attempt to break away from the domination of priest craft and its comparative freedom from mystical speculation and superstition are other manifestations of its rationalism. It is well-known that the Prophet of Islam himself never claimed any superhuman quality or virtue. He was never tired of insisting that he was a man among men. His precedence over others came not so much from any authority based on Revelation as from the quality of intelligence applied to the solution of the problems of life. Reason is the same for all and insistence upon the universality of spiritual laws was only the obverse of the insistence on the unity of reason. Faith in an ultimate revelation through Mohammed for the spiritual uplift of the whole human race tended to intensify missionary zeal. Islam thus recognized no limitation whatsoever to the application of its laws of spiritual life. The new faith in unitary reason would, therefore, allow of neither exception nor quali?cation. Truth was one and unique and anything which differed from the True must, therefore, be false Consciousness of the value of Truth was, therefore, matched with the repudiation of whatever differed from it. It was inevitable that in such circumstances, the religious Zeal of Islam should, in the application of its relentless logic develop into iconoclasm and beget, at times and specially in some of its earlier phases, narrowness and intolerance.
The Indian Muslims were, however, equally subject to the in?uence of the traditions of India. In some ways these represented an entirely different Outlook on life. If Islam insisted on the unity of Truth, it was the diversity and manifoldness of its manifestations which had their greatest appeal to the Indian intellect. India looked at which caste expressed itself in Indian Muslim society. Early Islam insisted on equality of man and repudiated even family names as these tend to perpetuate distinctions. Indian Muslims could not, therefore, accept a system of caste based on the fact of birth alone. In its place, Muslim society in India evolved a type of caste based on wealth and station.
The Muslim variation of caste is seen most clearly in the institution of feudalism. Inconsistent with the spirit of Islam in India, it became associated especially with the Muslims. Military conquest always tends to produce a feudal society, and in India it became a necessary element in the Muslim system of land administration. Absence of modern means of communication made the control of so vast a country as India from one common centre impossible. It was inevitable that a good deal of authority should be delegated to local representatives of the king. In time, they grew into petty chieftains or kinglings rather than administrators serving a central authority. Social life was dis?gured by the existence of a large number of slaves both male and female in the household of kings and nobles. Indigenous converts often failed to attain the social Status of those who had foreign blood in their veins and in plutocratic regime the poor tended to form separate class. Converts tended to carry over their Caste Prejudices to their new faith. Difference in social esteem among converts from different castes could not thus altogether avoided.
Indian Philosophy has always emphasized the Wholeness of life and brought with it an attitude of toleration and forbearance. Indian Muslims were in?uence by this spirit of catholicity of the traditions of ancient India. It is signi?cant that theattemptsatrapprochement between Islam and Hinduism were as strong from the Muslim side as from that of the Hindus just as the teachings of Chaitanya, Nanak, and Ramananda tended to narrow distinction between Hinduism and Islam, there were also Kabir, Chishti, and Dara Shikoli who attempted understanding and uni?cation from the side of the Muslims. Nor must it be forgotten that though orthodoxy looked askance, one of the supremest architects of this movement for synthesis was Akbar the Great.
The fact that Muslim penetration into India was not a case of wholesale colonization but of successive waves of military attack ensured that each Invading group would, in its turn, be subject to the be subject to the Pervasive influence of Hinduism when it settled down. Small group of men who came as military conquerors were themselves largely conquered culturally. We have also remember that except the original invaders of ‘Sindh the Muslim conquerors were not Arabs, but mainly Turks or Turko-Afghans who had themselves acquired Islamic civilization and culture comparatively recently. Rightly and wrongly, the Arabs were convinced of the superiority of their own culture. Where, however, Islam came to a country through other races, no such cultural supremacy could be established as the conquerors were in many cases inferior in civilization to the people that they conquered. it is a matter of history that where Isla came to a country through Arabs, there was a process of virtual cultural conquest. This was achieved sometimes by partial absorption of some ingredients of local culture, sometimes by imposition of Arab culture on the conquered.
If the conquest of India had been undertaken by Arabs, it is probable that they would have taken over some of the elements of Indian culture. While drawing on India's past, Arab conquest was at the same time likely to have attempted the imposition of Arab culture on the Indian masses. This has been the pattern of Arab cultural conquest in other regions. It must be remembered that even the highly developed civilizations of Iran and Egypt could not withstand the onslaught of the Arab wave like the remnants of Graeco-Roman civilization in Constantinople, the ancient cultures of Egypt and Iran were lost in the Arab wave. Characteristically enough, the Arabs accepted in course of time some of the ancient traditions, heroes and legends of these countries as part of their own national heritage. The fact that a new race was reared by fusion with local converts, male and female, helped the process, for they transmitted their national stories as nursery tales. Thus Alexander is as much an Arab hero as a Greek. The exploits of Rustam have been taken up into the common currency of Muslim tradition. The queen of Sheba and the diverse manifestations of Egyptian civilization were equally absorbed in the general current of Arab history.
Arabs thus tried to impose a composite Arab culture based on their own language and script on the local peoples after absorbing some elements of value in the indigenous civilizations. The Turko-Afghans who in successive waves conquered India followed a different policy. They were at ?rst content to preserve for themselves fragments of the Perso-Arab culture they had inherited: they sought neither to impose it on India nor enrich it by drawing upon the rich heritage of the land. One reason for this may be that they were perhaps not in a Position to attempt a cultural synthesis. The Iranian -Arab culture which they ?aunted was for them comparatively new acquisition and had not entered into the texture of their life and being. They had, however, the zeal of a new convert. For a long period after their advent on the Indian scene, they therefore sought to remain aloof. In course of time, however, the processes of geography an economy proved stronger than such racial exclusiveness. They were slowly woven into the Indian pattern, drawn by the tolerance and responsiveness of the Indian mind and their Own Capacity for absorption and imitation. It is not necessary to describe in detail the consequences which followed from centuries of common life Throughout India, an initial clash was followed by fusion and synthesis. These contacts had a profound in?uence on the way of life of the peoples inhabiting this land. There were far reaching changes in their dress, food, language, literature, art, painting, architecture, music and philosophy. In a way, rapprochement was inevitable from the very nature of the case. Administration cannot be carried on for long by mere force or with the help of imported functionaries. The needs of administration led to innovations which were in almost every case compromises. As a result of living in the land, the Muslim invaders were gradually absorbed into its economy. They developed an attitude, at ?rst of toleration and then of appreciation and love for the culture of the land. There was hardly any racial distinction between the ?rst batch of rulers of the different so-called Pathan dynasties and the later Moghuls. The difference in their approach and Outlook is, however, fundamental and is the inevitable consequence of common life through centuries.
One reason which made a fusion of Hindu and Muslim outlook not only not only easy, but in a. sense inevitable was the fold of the new faith. History tells us that there was no large scale of colonization by the Muslims. It was a case of infiltration of small groups who came in successive waves. In some cases, those who were conquered had the faith and Outlook of their conquerors imposed on them. In many cases, there was no question of any imposition.
There was a willing acceptance of the new faith by large numbers on whom the existing social order progressed heavily. It also attracted those who had developed a sense of dissatisfaction with the prevailing religion of the country. It was therefore not only the oppressed and unprivileged but also a section of the intelligentsia who were drawn by the simplicity and vigour of the new faith. There were no doubt many who were in?uenced by the worldly advantages offered by the new faith. Equally strong must have been its appeal to those whose innate sense of justice and human dignity rebelled against the rigidities of caste. The Muslim saints and faqirs by their example and precept must also have attracted large numbers to the new religion.
By the time of the advent of the Muslims, Hindu society had become ossi?ed with its rigid strata of castes. Earlier attempts to rebel against the authority of the Brahmans had reached their culmination in the great movements of Buddhism and Jainism. For a time, it seemed as if Buddhism with its emphasis on equality common humanity would permanently change the structure of Indian life. By the end of the seventh century Buddhism had, however, spent itself. Neo-Brahmanism began to dominate India about the time of Sankara, but the triumph of neo-Hinduism was not swift oreasy,TheBuddhist tradition continued longest in areas like Bihar, Bengal and Perhaps Sind. Even after the triumph of Brahmnisim, the defeated Buddhists did not give up the fight. They seized opportunities to express their resentment against the unwelcome domination, and actually helped Mohammed Ibn-kasim in defeating the Brahman king Dahir of Sindh.
In the greater part of India, Brahmanical supremacy had been re-established by the seventh or the eighth Century. In Bengal, however, this process was not completed till about the end of ninth Century. When Muslim appeared in Bengal, they found everywhere large disgruntled groups who had been till recently in opposition to, if not more powerful than, the dominating religious group of the day. When one looks at the record of the struggles of this period, one is repeatedly struck by the fact that small groups of Muslims triumphed over very much larger indigenous armies. This cannot be explained in terms of personal valour. The records are clear that in sheer bravery, there was nothing to choose between the protagonists. It may be true that strategy and military tactics often gave the invaders an advantage. It is however obvious that a small group ol' military conquerors could not for long withstand the resistance of a vast mass of local people, especially in a country like India, unless there were elements within the country itself which for some reason or other deserted the local rulers and lent their support to the invaders. This is corroborated by the record of events. In many cases the conqueror from outside had local allies who played an equally important role in the outcome. Local morale may at times have been affected by fear based on the military reputation and the alleged relentlessness of the invaders. The defections were however too widespread to be explained by mere Prudence or love of gain.
Popular interpretation of events in Bengal assumes this theory of internal Support for the Muslims conquerors. For reasons mentioned above, a large number of the people did not accept neo-Brahmanism except under duress. In Bengal, the embers of departed Buddhism were still hot Bengal, the embers of departed Buddhism were still hot when the Muslims came. This is recorded in the ballads and legends of the period. Ballads incorporated among the vemacular religious literature of the land announce that the Muslim conquerors came as the champions of dharma in order to rescue from oppression the masses of the people. There is also a legend that eighteen horsemen sufficed to conquer the last king of the neo-Brahmanics tradition. In the light of later research this legend may be regarded as a crystallization of the fear-motive of this people who had already heard of Khilji’s success in Bihar. Similarly the ballad about dharma coming in the guise of Muslims may be explained as an expression of resentment against the prevailing social structure among those who had been obliged to forsake Buddhism and assigned a lower status in Hindu society. Even if we question their factual content, these ballads and legends prove that a large section of the people was ready to acquiesce in, if not welcome the Pathan conquest of Bengal.
This fact also helps to explain the large proportion of Muslims in the population of Bengal, even though it was so far removed from the center of Pathan or Moghul power. Some Buddhists preferred Hinduism to Islam and were found some sort of a place within the Hindu social system, but there are indications that large numbers accepted the new faith in the new political regime. The fact, however, that large masses were won over to the new faith ensured that the faith itself would be modi?ed by the new converts. Men can change their religion, but it is not so easy to change their ways of life. These neo-Muslims gave to Indian Islam an indigenous temper which made rapprochement between the two religions easy and natural. The process of integration which followed profoundly changed the character of pristine Islam. We have already referred to the growth of feudalism and of a kind of modified caste. Islam has always condemned a separate priesthood but there are unmistakable signs of such a growth among Indian Muslims. They also show a marked fondness for ritual and elaborate ceremony. Islam was iconoclastic, but Indian Muslims often display a veneration of saints and their tombs that reminds one of the worship of relics. Mohammed stressed the uniformity of natural law and laid hardly any store by miracles, but the Indian Muslim felt unhappy till he had built up a halo of sanctity, if not divinity, round his religious heroes. Muslim practice in India thus tended to conform to Hindu religious customs. Members of the two communities also participated in one another’s religious festivals. The Wahhabi movement which sought to develop among Indian Muslims a puritanic outlook challenged such practices. The estrangement was carried further by the growing political rivalry between the two communities.
Such in?uences were not, perhaps cannot be, one-sided. There are reasons for suspecting Muslim in?uence in some of the citadels of Hindu orthodoxy. Sankara is perhaps the greatest architect of modern Hinduism, and yet there are in his thought elements which betoken a spirit of revolt against all pluralism. His extreme monism, his repudiation of the semblance of duality, his attempt to establish this monism on the authority of revealed scripture, his tendency to regard his own activity as mere restoration of the purity of an original truth are all elements which, barring the doctrine of Maya, have strange parallels in Islam. Perhaps every one of these items can by itself be derived from old Upanisadic sources. But do not their synthesis into one body of compact thought and the nature and temper of the synthesis achieved suggest the operation of some new catalytic agent? Was Christianity or Islam a factor in his monistc interpretation or did he derive his inspiration solely from the line of indigenous teachers mentioned by him?
Historical factors do not bar out the possibility of Sankara’s acquaintance with Islamic thought. The first Arab ?eet appeared in Indian waters in A.D 636 but was beaten off. But, according to Rowlandson, the ?rst Muslim Arabs settled in the Malabar coast about the end of the seventh century. Francis Day in his The Land of the Perumals and Sturrock in his South Kanara, Madras District Manuals make similar statements. Elliot’s accounts of the causes of the Arab invasion of Sindh also indicate that Arab settlements had already been established on the West Coast. Innes, in his Malabar and Anjangode District Gazetteer quotes an inscription of a tomb from Kollam of one Ali who died there in 166 Hajira, tie. A.D. 788. Further circumstantial evidence is oflered by the revolt in A.D. 758 of a colony of Muslims established in Canton in China. It is obvious that this colony could not have been foundedwithoutintermediatestations of which the Malabar coast was likely to be one. Caldwell picked up near Kayalapattam in Tinnevelly near the mouth of Tamraparni river a number of Arab coins bearing dates from 71 A.H-,i.e. A.D. 693. Since de?nite ?rsthand information is not available; only guesses and inferences can be made in the absence of incontestable historical data. Some of the facts stated above do however indicate that Arabs had regular trade connection with South India and the religious beliefs and habits may have been known to the local population.
Fawcett in his notes on the people of Malabar in Anthropology, Vol.III, No. 1, draws attention to the growth of the Bhakti cult in the South. He suggests that this was due mainly to the influence of Islam. Grieson, Logan and Bhandarkar had expressed the opinion that this was due to the influence of Christian communities in the South while Carpenter and Burnett regarded this to be due to internal causes. Barth in his Religion of India also suggests a similar explanation for the advent of new religious movements in the South.
Fawcett points out that Christianity was not then sufficiently important to influence Hindu thought. He quotes the tradition that the king of Kaladi where Sankara was born had been converted to Islam at the time of Sankara’s birth. If this can be substantiated by means of reliable data, it would go to show that in that region at least Islam was a force. Sankara’s ex-communication by the Brahmans and his performance of the last rites of his mother with the help of Nairs also suggests that Sankara was not afraid of daring innovation in practice. The evidence may not be conclusive, but is yet sufficiently strong to demand a revision of some of our preconceived ideas about the sources of Sankara’s philosophy and a fresh enquiry into the religious movements of the period which in?uenced his thought.
Some of the results which followed from Muslim settlement in India may now be brie?y indicated. The ?rst was a reopening of the doors to the West. Ancient India had its contacts with Rome, Greece and Egypt. In the political vacuum which followed the collapse of the Gupta power, these were largely lost. Another reason for the loss of these contacts was the gradual decay in Indian naval power. Arab contacts with India had, however, continued on a small scale even during this period. After the conversion of the Arabs to Islam, there was an efflorescence of the Arab spirit which expressed itself in almost every sphere of life. One immediate consequence was a great expansion in Arab mercantile and naval ?eets. There is evidence that before the end of the Seventh century, Arab groups had settled near about Calicut and built up ?ourishing establishments. This resulted not only in commercial contacts but also in an exchange of ideas, customs and traditions, and perhaps led to a quickening of contemporary local thought.
One consequence of the establishment of Muslim rule was the re-establishment of internal peace throughout Northern India under one uniform administration. The break-up of the Gupta power had led to the rise of small States which were continually ?ghting one another. This prevented a smooth or uniform development of social life. The unity of India was thus often lost sight of behind local manifestations which were divergent. The unitary administration-?rst of the Delhi Sultanate and later of the Moghul Empire-helped to re-promote the unity of Indian outlook. This was reinforced by a uniformity in social manners introduced by the Muslims. Whether in the North or in the South, the Muslims had a uniformity in dress, food, customs and beliefs which could not escape the notice of their non-Muslim neighbours. The result was a growth in uniform social manners throughout the country, particularly in urban areas. Court etiquette largely in?uenced the conduct, irrespective of community or creed, of all who desired worldly advancement. As early as the time of Babar, this was becoming perceptible so that he described it in his Autobiography as the growth of the Hindustani way of life. This process towards uniformity was further strengthened by the introduction of a common revenue system and the gradual spread of common methods in war and peace.
The consequence of co-operative living are most manifest in the realm of art and letters- The achievements of Indo- Saracenic were made possible by a combination of the Indian instinct for ornamentation with the Saracenic sense of form. This is exemplified not only in the wonderful architecture of the period but also in painting, weaving, metallurgy, and garden craft. The miniatures which evoke our admiration, the shawls of inimitable workmanship, the swords with their delicate inlaid work, the muslins of incomparable quality, and the wonderful gardens which the Moghuls built, all reveal a balance between form and content that is as perfect as it is rare.
Even more signi?cant was the co-operation of the communities in the evolution of a common language wherever Muslims settled among Hindus. Urdu, Hindi or Hindustani-whatever name be given to it-was evolved out of a material derived from ancient Indian sources as well as the innovations brought in by the new settlers. Along with this growth of a common language, there was the remarkable phenomenon of the rise of literature in the different Indian languages. Before the advent of the Muslims, Sanskrit held pride of place among all learned men. It was deva-bhasa the language of the gods, and demanded all the devotion and energy of the people whohad any pretensions to culture. The mother tongue was hardly more than a dialect ; in any case it was a vernacular ?t only for people of inferior social and intellectual status. The great religious teachers had no doubt often preached in Prakrit or a mixed Sanskrit but in course of time, chaste Sanskrit re-asserted its supremacy.
This domination of Sanskrit retarded the growth of literature in any of the dialects. The advent of Muslim power created a new situation in which Sanskrit was dethroned from its position of privilege. Religious reformers, mostly non-Brahman and some even non-Hindu, made their appeal in local dialects. This was followed by an outburst of literary activity in all local languages. This efflorescence of literature was most marked where the affinity between Muslims and Hindus was greatest. The result was the achievement of a Common outlook which softened the sharp formalism of Islam and simpli?ed the elaborate rituals of Hinduism, Large scale intermixture which followed conversion led not only to the establishment of a more or less homogeneous racial type but also to the development of a common political and cultural pattern. The Pathan rulers of Bengal identi?ed themselves completely with the people of the land. As a result, a fairly homogeneous cultural group Supported them in the ?ght against attempts at domination from Delhi. This also explains whytheywere suchpatrons of Bengali literature and supplied in their courts the incentive and opportunity for the development of Indigenous poetry. With local variations, a similar process was at work in Gujarat, Malabar, and the present Uttar Pradesh. These are also the areas where modern Indian literature had its birth.
The synthesis in the ?eld of religion has often been noticed and does not require elaborate description. It is enough to say that both from the Muslim and from the Hindu point of view, there was an attempt at rapprochement. The lives of men like Kabir, Nanak, Ramananda, Dadu and others offer unmistakable testimony of this fact. The similarities between Sufism and Vaisnavism have often been noticed and need not be stressed. Their affinity must have contributed to the popularity of Sufi saints of India. Both Sufism and Vaishnavism lay great emphasis on the re-discovery of man. Both Sufism and Vaishnavism lay great emphasis on the re-discovery of man. Both seek to find for him self-realization outside the limitations imposed by convention and rigid dogma.
By the end of the sixteenth century, a modus vivendi between the different Indian communities had already been achieved in the North. At the top, the aristocracy had attained commonness in behavior, mode of life, and general outlook, regardless of differences in faith here, the dominant tone was that of the Courts with their almost complete acceptance of the culture of Iran. At the other end of the scale, the masses also had established a kind of mutual toleration which enabled them to face their common problems and share common festive delights.
With the advent of the west, an entirely new situation developed. The two communities reacted in entirely different ways to this new force. Large elements among the Hindus could accept Western teaching without any qualms. To large groups amongst the Muslims, the very existence of European power in India was a constant reminder of their own defeat. It is not surprising that even after British power had been consolidated, the Muslims for a long time maintained an attitude of utter non- co-operation with everything British. This meant not only a denial of opportunities in services and commerce but, what in the end proved even more disastrous to them; it meant a failure to imbibe the science and knowledge of the west. Deprived of their traditional modes of learning and unable to benefit by the new knowledge brought to India by the British, the Muslims as a community went through a period of intellectual sterility, the effects of which are perceptible even to this day. The British attitude towards the Muslims was also a factor which kept the Muslims away from this new source of knowledge and strength. .For a long time, the British did everything in their power to curb the Muslim intelligentsia and undermine their influence in every sphere of life. Indian history was rewritten in a manner which laid one-sided emphasis on the oppressive character of Muslim rule, from which the British had liberated the people of the land. An attitude of hostility towards Muslims was encouraged among the other communities. Simultaneously administrative and political policy was so shaped as to undermine their economic and cultural position. It is no necessary to go into details. Let us take the example of only one Province, Bengal, where the British ?rst established their power. We can trace the gradual elimination of Muslims from every position of vantage through State action in the successive instruments of Permanent Settlement, Resumption Proceedings, and the Educatior Circulars. The Permanent Settlement resulted in man; families, mainly Muslim, losing their lands and their substitution by a new class of landlords who owed their origin to and depended for their survival on British power. The Resumption Proceedings impoverished the few Muslim families which had survived the -Permanent Settlement and tended to destroy the economic basis of all Muslim institutions of knowledge and learning. The substitution of English for Persian in educational institutions and government business contributed still further to the discom?ture of the Muslims in almost every ?eld.
The British hostility towards Indian Muslims was further enhanced by the abortive struggle of 1857. Hindus and Muslims had alike taken part in the rising. Some of the most distinguished protagonists were from Maharashtra.
Nevertheless, the fact that the Moghul Emperor was the ?gurehead of the revolt and that the Muslim landed classes in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi had largely sided with the insurgents deepened the British antipathy to the community. After the rising had been quelled, the British hand was heavier on Muslim participants than on those belonging to other communities. In a word: from the beginnings of the eighteenth to almost the end of the nineteenth century, the British looked upon Indian Muslims as their chief enemies or potential sources of danger. It was only in the last two decades of the nineteenth century that there started a shift in British policy. The rise of the Indian middle Classes mainly Hindu in their composition led to the establishment of the National Congress as the instrument for achievement of power. This evoked in the British administrators of the day an uneasy feeling that the danger from the Muslim community had perhaps disappeared but a new threat had arisen from an entirely unexpected quarter.
From 1886 to 1909, British policy was hesitant, divided and uncertain. The old fear of the Muslims continued even though the basis of the Muslim threat had been destroyed. The old habit of utilizing the new Hindu middle classes could not be totally given up, even though from 1886 the more discerning among the British began to sense that the main challenge to their power was bound to come from these classes. After almost twenty year’s hesitation, the British decided to transfer their patronage from the Hindu middle classes to their counterparts among the Muslims. The Muslim League was thus born under British patronage and devoted itself to a re-establishment of the position of the community by a dual policy of courting the favor of the rulers and challenging the position of the non-Muslims. We need not go into the troubled and sorry history of the con?icts and intrigues of the recent decades. It is enough to say that The ultimately led to a partition of the country and the emergence of two Separate States.
The process of growth, both among the Hindus and the Muslims, for almost nine centuries was one of contact, assimilation and synthesis. The intrusion of a new element in the western influence started a process of dissociation between the two communities and an inroad upon the common culture built up through a millennium. Among both Hindus and Muslims, there was an attempt to resuscitate the original form and pattern of their respective cultures. This was in many cases impossible, astheprocess oftime made a reversion to original types impossible. Even in such cases, there was often an attempt to overlook the period of common life and to re-orientate the old forms in the light of new factors introduced by the Western impact. History cannot, however, be lived back. The recreation of the past is itself in?uenced by all that has happened in between. India’s determination to establish herself as a secular democratic State is a recognition of this fact. It is an acceptance of her history without seeking to deny or repudiate any element that has once entered the national life. The role of Indian Muslims in the new set-up is to help in this process by bringing to our common heritage the power of synthesis and assimilation which their forefathers-whether native to India or settlers from outside-exhibited throughout the days of their supremacy.
The Indo-Asian Cultures, Vol.IV, ICCR, July 1955-April-1956