Muslims in India

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Great Nation, Great Peoples of India

Muslims in India: Past and Present

The Muslim community of India, with its major segment having indigenous Indian origin is more Indian then the descendants of Aryan invaders who had their origin somewhere in the Central Asia.

The Country and the People

India is the seventh largest country in the world, and the second largest in Asia. Before the advent of Muslims, the country was fragmented into small warring states and there was no concept of Indian nationalism. The Muslim rulers, especially the Mughals, unified the country and gave it a central administration. They called the country Hind and Hindustan, i.e. a country of the Hindus (non-Muslims). The name 'India', a distortion of Hind, was given to her by the British rulers. Before the establishment of Muslim rule, there was no history of India. People of particular locality recorded some events of certain rulers vaguely. The Muslims took special care to record historical events and appointed historians to do that job. The British administration reconstructed their accounts and gave the Hindus a history of the distinct past not without their self interest to play one community against the other.

In respect of population, India with about 900 million people, is second only to China. It is a country with people of multireligious, multilingual and multiethnic people. Because of the large variety of the ethnic origin of her people, the country is often called an ethnic museum. The racial groups include the adi vasis (original settlers), the Dravidans, the Aryans, the Semites and the Mongols.[1] There are 845 dialects and 225 distinct languages spoken in the country.[2] Hindi, the language of the cow-belt region of the north, is the official language of the country but there are several others which are recognized as state languages. Sanskrit, though a dead language not spoken by anybody, is also recognized by the Indian Constitution because it is the religious language of the Aryan Hindus.

The main religious communities of India are Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians. These groups are divided into two broad groups: Hindus and non-Hindus. Among the non-Hindu population, the Muslims are 11.19 percent, the Christians 2.16 percent, the Sikhs 1.67 percent and the Buddhists and the Jains 1.14 percent.[3] These non-Hindu communities together make 16.16 percent of the total population. The Muslims are the second largest religious community.

The Hindus are broadly divided into two groups, namely, high caste Hindus- descendants of the Aryan invaders, known as Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas- and low caste Hindus, the original inhabitants of India (Shudras, Dalits, Other Backward Castes and Tribesmen). Among the low caste Hindus, Dalits are 15.05 percent, Backward Castes (including Shudra) 43.70 percent and Tribesmen 7.51 percent. In fact, these groups who together make 66.26 percent of the total population are not Hindus. Only the high caste Hindus (those who are Aryans by race) are Hindus. M.K. Gandhi says, "Hindus (Aryan high caste Hindus) are not considered to be original inhabitants of India."[4] For this very reason, no member of the low caste Hindu is allowed to enter a Hindu temple, join the high caste Hindus in worshipping their gods or even mix with them in social life. The religious activities, rituals, way of social and economic life of the low caste Hindus are completely different from those of the caste Hindus and are permanently determined by the rules and codes prepared by the Brahmins in the name of religion.

Hindu is a Persian word[5] which was first used by the Muslims for all the non-Muslim inhabitants of India. "The Hindus never used it in any Sanskrit writing, that is those which were written before the Mohamedan[6] invasion."[7] Swamy Dharma Theertha says, "The Mohammadans called all the non-Muslim inhabitants, without any discrimination, by the common name 'Hindu', which practically meant non-Muslims and nothing more. This simple fact contributed to the unification of India more than any other single event, but also at the same time, condemned the dumb millions (low caste Hindus) of the country to perpetual subjection to their priestly exploiters. Indians became 'Hindus', their religion became 'Hinduism' and Brahmans their masters."[8]

India was under the rule of different nations from time to time. The Aryan invaders conquered the sub-continent in about 1500 B.C. and remained in power for about one thousand years. This foreign minority subjugated the indigenous peoples through the most barbaric and demoralizing practices. They compelled and conditioned these peoples to ready submission to the ethics and laws of the Hindu caste system and thus, in the name of Dharma (Religion), they made a permanent arrangement for denying the indigenous peoples human dignity. The first revolt against the Aryan tyranny and oppression came about in the form of Buddhism founded by Goutom Buddha. The Buddhist rule was established in 500 B.C. and continued up to 800 A.D. The Muslim rule was initiated by the conquest of Sind in 713 A.D. by Muhammad Ibn Qasim al-Thaqafi and ended in 1858 A.D. when the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah, was deposed by the British colonial power. The British rule came to an end in 1947 A.D., with the partition of the sub-continent which gave way to the emergence of two independent states, namely, India and Pakistan.

The Muslims

The Muslims of India, over 184 million, constitute about 14.2% percent of the total population and are the second largest religious community in the country. They are about 10 percent of the total Muslim population of the world and are nearly one third of the total Muslim minority population in the world.[9] India has the largest concentration of the Muslims outside the member countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the second largest (after Indonesia) in the world.

The Muslim immigrants, mostly Arabs, Turks, Afghans and Mughals, made the sub-continent their own homeland. Scattered in different cities, towns and villages, they became indistinguishable from the original inhabitants of India. The Muslim scholars and religious leaders propagated Islam among the original inhabitants and a large number of them converted to Islam. The vast majority of the present-day Indian Muslims are the descendants of these converts. It is therefore not correct to say that Indian Muslims are not Indian but outsiders as it is wrong to say that they are all descendants of the converted Muslims. As far as the question of Indian origin is concerned, there is no difference between the descendants of the Aryan invaders (Brahmins, Kshatryas, Vaishyas) and the offsprings of the Muslim immigrants. In fact, the Muslim community of India, with its major segment having indigenous Indian origin, is more Indian than the descendants of the Aryan immigrants who had their origin somewhere in the Central Asia.

The Muslim Rule

The invasion of Sind by Muhammad Ibn Qasim al-Thaqafi in 713 A.D. was precipitated by the failure of Dahir, the ruler of Sind, to punish the pirates who had interfered with Muslim shipping near the coast of his province.[10] The Muslim kings and emperors who ruled over India for over one thousand years were not colonial rulers. Those who had gone there from other countries made the sub-continent their own home. They did not make any discrimination between religious communities but gave equal opportunity and ensured social justice to all irrespective of their religious affinity. In fact, the Muslim rulers-the Khaljis, the Lodis, the Syeds and the Mughals- kept the indigenous Muslims, who constituted the bulk of Indian Muslims, at a safe distance from the apparatus of power. In the words of Iqbal Ansari, "It is the greatest travesty of facts to call this period of dynastic rule of Persian and Turkish origin as Muslim rule. Islam did make its presence felt during this period on Indian social and cultural life. But Islam did not play a dominant role in statecraft. The conquest of India by Islam was again not on the agenda of the Muslim kings. Islam and its promotion was not even a major factor in state policies."[11] This is well-established by the fact that although Delhi remained the capital of Muslim rulers for 647 years (1211-1858 A.D.), the Muslims were a small minority there throughout the period. According to the 1971 census, the Muslims of Delhi constituted only 7.8 percent of the total population of the city.[12] The bulk of the indigenous converted Muslims- artisans, craftsmen, and tillers- did not enjoy any privilege under the system of Muslim rule. Rather high caste groups from among Hindus enjoyed greater privileges under the patronage of the Muslim monarchies. In many cases, the most important jobs like those of ministers and chiefs of army were given to non-Muslims, especially Hindus.

During Muslim rule, there was complete social peace and harmony all over the country. This is aptly proved by the fact that history fails to produce even a single instance of communal disturbance which took place during the period of Muslim rule. Communal disturbance is a phenomenon which came to be known in the sub-continent only during the British rule. This menace has emanated from the 'divide and rule' policy of the British colonial power.

The British Rule

The process of colonization of India by the British colonial power began in 1757 AD. with the downfall of Siraj-ud-Dowla, the ruler of Bengal. This was the outcome of a staged drama, known as the Battle of Plassey, where the main actors were the British East India Company, a group of Hindu aristocracy and their stooge, named, Mir Ja'far (commander-in-chief of the government army). The British emperor took up the reign of the sub-continent in 1858 AD. following the abortive revolution of 1857 led by the Muslims against the colonial forces. The new colonial power regarded the Muslims as a potential threat to their political power as it were the. Muslims from whom they had snatched the power. The Muslims, naturally, were hostile to the alien rule and showed their apathy to the new administration. The Hindus, on the other hand, welcomed the new masters, began flirting with them and reoriented themselves with the blessing and sympathy of the ruling class.

From the very beginning therefore the foreign rulers adopted a discriminatory policy, hostile towards the Muslims and sympathetic towards the Hindus. The privileges earlier enjoyed by the Muslims in terms of property rights, etc., were withdrawn, government jobs were denied to them and trade facilities were made restricted for them. They remained backward also in education as they did not like to accept the new education system to the detriment of the traditional one. All these factors combined together relegated them to a lower cadre in the new social order of the country. The pioneer role played by the Muslims in the struggles waged from time to time against the colonial rule made the government more and more anti-Muslim.

The Hindus, especially the Brahmins, readily cooperated with the new rulers and did not fail to seize any opportunity to upgrade their status in every sphere of life. It did not take much time for them to become dominant in various spheres of the society. The spread of education gradually made a new renaissance movement started in the Hindu community who had made a lot of progress in the areas of education, trade and commerce. When the Muslims realized that their noncooperation with the new administration was only adding to their miseries and backwardness, it was too late and they were much behind the conscious Hindu community.

As a part of their 'divide and rule' policy, the colonial power tried to instill communal feelings among the two major communities, Hindus and Muslims. As a result of this, it did not take much time for parochialism and anti-Muslim feelings to overtake the Hindu leaders. Gradually, they became so communal in their attitude and behavior that it became clear to the Muslim leadership that in a united independent India dominated by Hindu majority, the religion and culture of the Muslims would be in jeopardy and socially and economically they would be relegated to a level of second-class citizens. This feeling among the Muslims led to the demand for separate independent states for Muslims constituting the areas where they were in majority. However, a section of Muslim leaders were against the partition of the sub-continent, may be, keeping In view the fate of the Muslims who would remain within Indian territory. Among them was a towering figure like Moulana Abul Kalam Azad who was among the top-ranking leaders of the Congress Party. Another eminent Muslim scholar and freedomfighter, Moulana Husain Ahmad Madani, the then President of Jami'at Ulama Hind, was among them. They decided to throw the lots of the Muslims with the Hindus expecting that in course of time sanity and reason would prevail upon the latter. In apprehension of the far-reaching consequences of the partition of the sub-continent, Moulana Azad put forward his formula of federated India, but it was outrightly rejected by Jawaharlal Nehru (leader of the Indian Congress), although it was acceptable to Muhammad Au Jinnah (leader of the Muslim League).

The Partition

In the wake of the partition of the sub-continent in 1947, which led to the creation of Pakistan an India, hundreds of thousands of Indian Muslims lost their lives and property in the hands of Hindu hooligans. The educated Muslim middle classes migrated in large number to Pakistan. The migration of a major portion of the elite to Pakistan created a large vacuum in the leadership of the Indian Muslims. The vast majority of them who could not forsake their ancestral homes, became weak in the economic, political, social and cultural arenas. Moreover, the Hindu chauvinists made it a fashion not only to question their patriotism and loyalty to the state but also to dub them as agents of Pakistan. The Muslims were constantly under pressure to prove their patriotism, as if they were new settlers in India.

Having developed India for about a millennium side by side with other communities, now the Indian Muslims discovered in agony that they had been made strangers in their own country. In the medieval period, particularly the Mughal era, they forged a united India and made it the biggest world power of the time. They made significant contribution to enrich Indian culture and civilization. They initiated freedom movement, fought the British and made immense sacrifices until the freedom was achieved. Just having won the battle for long-cherished independence they, to their dismay, found themselves in a situation forcing them either to shed their cultural identity or leave the country. It is indeed difficult to conceive such a human tragedy!

Discriminatory Policy of the Government

Since the dawn of independence, the Government of India dominated by the Aryan Brahmins, adopted discriminatory measures against the Muslims. The Constitution of India, drafted by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, guarantees fundamental rights to all communities of India. Article 15(1) says, 'The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them." The records of the Central and State Governments during the last half a century of independence aptly prove that the constitutional provisions have been honoured more by their violation than by their observance. That the Hindu leaders were not sincere in giving fundamental rights to the non-Hindus was evident from the fact that no sooner had these and other rights been given than checks and obstacles were created through the Directive Principle added to the Constitution. The Directive Principle says that Government will strive for 'National Integration' and for which a common Civil Code will be adopted. This Civil Code meant only Hindu Code as it became evident from various acts of the Government. In other word, to the non-Hindu communities, the Common Civil Code meant only a measure for Hinduaisation of all the citizens of the country.

It is a well-known fact that the Indian Muslims are being systematically and increasingly marginalized in their own homeland. Soon after the independence, various states and territories were reorganized splitting the minority dominated areas in parts and absorbing them in different states with a view to reducing their influence and making it difficult for them to win in any election. In an effort to further reduce their political strength, the names of Muslims are sometime deleted from the electoral rolls. The names of 138,000 Muslim voters, for example, were deleted from the electoral rolls prepared in Hyderabad and Sekanderabad for the election of December, 1994[13] Deliberate and concerted efforts are being made to change the composition of population in areas where non Hindus, especially Muslims, are in majority. As a result of this policy, the Sikhs in the Punjab have been relegated from absolute to a simple majority status only with a slight margin (52 percent of the total population). In Jammu and Kashmir, the only state where Muslims are in majority, there has been a continuous fall in the Muslim population and simultaneous rise a the non-Muslim population. The percentage of Muslims in that state fell from 70 in 1951 to 62 in 1991.[14] If this trend continues for a few decades more, the Muslims of the State of Jammu and Kashmir may be reduced to a minority community.

India is a vocal advocate of secularism but nowhere else in the world secularism was so blatantly betrayed. It was expected that in an independent India, Hindu fanaticism will completely evaporate. Long before independence, Moulana Azad said, "I firmly hold that it (communal frenzy) will disappear when India assumes the responsibility of her own destiny."[15] In so-called secular India, Azad's hope was not only belied but Hindu fanaticism gained enormous strength and that also under the direct patronage of the government. The Congress party, which ruled India for over four decades, instead of making any effort to contain Hindu fundamentalism, did everything for its nourishment. Just after becoming the first President of independent India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad removed from the Rashtrapati Bhavan (President's House) all the Muslims who were working there. There are thousands of examples which show how secularism is being betrayed in India. Secularism was betrayed by the federal government by covertly becoming a party to the demolition of the Babari Masjid. Secularism was betrayed by the Bombay police by openly participating in the killing of thousands of Muslims in the aftermath of the demolition of the Babari Masjid. The jails of Bombay are still packed with scores of innocent Muslims rounded up in the wake of the blast (12 March, 1993) but not a single brute involved in the massacre of the Muslims was brought to book. Those who are held under the notorious Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA) are 90 percent Muslims, although the Muslims constitute only over 12 percent of the total population of the country. The instances of how the Muslims have been made target of all kinds of discrimination and subject of perennial persecution are endless. These all have resulted in a process whereby the Indian Muslims are fast moving towards ruination culturally, educationally, economically, socially and politically.

Socio-Economic Conditions

The socio-economic conditions of the Muslim community of India present a dismal picture. The Muslims are deprived of due representation in public employment even at the lowest level. The Public Service Commission has fixed 200 marks for the viva test. The Muslim candidates who qualify the written tests lose badly in viva. In the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) caamination of 1993, for instance, only 20 out of 789 Muslim candidates were successful. This comes to only 2.5 percent of the total number of candidates who qualified in the examination.[16] In this way, the representation of the Muslims in various Ministries is approaching to zero. The number of Muslims in class I and II jobs in various Ministries of the Central Government was 677 as against a total of 39,375 on 31 March 1971.[17] This comes to only 1.7 percent, although the Muslims constitute 12 per cent of the population of the country. The representation of the Muslims in the Parliament showed a downward trend. While their representation in the Parliament was 9.26 percent (73 among a total of 788) in 1982 election, it came down to 6.20 per cent (49 among a total of 790) in 1991 election. Moreover, the number of states with zero Muslim representation increased from 10 in 1982 to 14 in 1991.[18]

Muslims are also denied equal opportunity in the private sector. Their representation is indeed very poor in the law and order machinery, whether state police, armed constabulary or central para-military and armed forces. Minority educational iutitutions, especially those run by the Muslims, are facing various types of constraints and impediments. Minority concentration areas are neglected by the government in respect of establishing educational institutions. As a result, the literacy level of the Muslim community is much below the average level of India (among men 18 percent against the country's average of 51 percent and among women less than 8 percent). The school enrolment level of the Muslim children is also very low. Because of the hurdles at the lower level of education, the share of Muslim students at higher and professional level is also much below the national level of India.

In 'secular' India, schools and other educational institutions are being systematically Hinduised. Hindu culture incorporating glorification of idol-worship and stories of Hindu mythological characters form part of the syllabus pursued at various schools. References to Hindu gods and goddesses abound in the text books. Books prescribed by the Education Boards contain lessons giving false stories of Muslim atrocities on Hindu women, kidnapping, forced conversion, etc. Children are taught to worship Hindu gods and idols. Recently, the BJP Government of Delhi has issued instructions to the schools to begin daily activity with collective singing of Vande Matram of Bankim Chaterjee. Singing this song is tantamount to worshipping the motherland, and therefore against the basic tenets of Islam.[19] In the name of promoting common culture, the government is pursuing a policy of instilling Hindu idolatry and paganism among the children irrespective of their religion. The Muslims are discouraged and sometime denied to observe their religious duty. The government has recently decided not to allow the Muslim soldiers an hour's absence for observing Friday prayer.[20]

The Muslims have established some educational institutions in an effort to keep their children away from idolatry and paganism. But a condition is imposed on these institutions that 50 percent of the total intake in them shall be permitted to be filled by candidates selected by the agencies of the State Government on the basis of a competitive examination. Urdu is the language of about 62 per cent of the Indian Muslims and has the richest Islamic literature among Indian languages in all fields of learning. As a part of their efforts to obliterate the cultural entity of the Muslims, both the Central Government and the Governments of the States seem to do whatever is possible to strangle this language and deny it all opportunities of existence and growth. It is virtually banished from all the schools run by the Government.

The decennial censuses or the national sample surveys do not generally address themselves to the living conditions of the Muslims. The socio-economic plight of the Indian Muslims therefore remain clouded in mystery. It is, however, never disputed that the Muslims are not better than the Dalits (Harijans) or the OBC (Other Backward Castes). As V.T. Rajshekar observes, the Muslims of India "are in many ways worse than Untouchables and in recent years they are facing dangers of mass annihilation."[21] The National Sample Survey Report of 1988,[22] presents some data about the socio-economic conditions of the Indian Muslims.

  • 52.3 percent of Muslims live below poverty line with a monthly income of Indian Rupees 150 (US$ 5) or less.
  • 50.5 percent are illiterate.
  • Only 4 percent of Indians who receive education up to high school are Muslims.
  • Only 1.6 percent of Indian college graduates are Muslims.
  • Only 4.4 percent of Indians in government jobs are Muslims.
  • Only 3.7 percent of Indians who receive financial assistance from the government for starting business are Muslims.
  • Only 5 percent of Indians who receive loan from government-owned banks are Muslims.
  • Only 2 percent of Indians who receive institutional loans from the government are Muslims.

Awqaf (endowment) properties worth millions of dollars, dedicated by the Muslim philanthropists for some specific purposes and objectives, are now given to the Waqf Boards which are constituted by the Governments of the States and the Central Government. The members of these boards are nominated on the basis of political consideration. A large portion of these properties is misused by the members and officials of the boards. Moreover, very significant portion of these properties is allowed to be misappropriated and occupied by the Hindus [23]

The Muslims are not only deprived of their legitimate rights in all spheres, whatever they could build up to sustain their lives is also destroyed and plundered during the riots which take place now and then as per the long-term plan of the Hindu communal organizations working for annihilation of the Muslim entity in India.

Source : Edited from book:Hindu Chauvinism and Muslims in India, By Murtahin Billah Jasir Fazlie,1995

Muslim Population in India

Muslims with a total population of 184 million forms the second-largest community in India. Get details on Muslim population and its growth in various states of India.

By 2050, India to have world’s largest populations of Muslims

India also is expected have 311 million Muslims in 2050 (11% of the global total), making it the country with the largest population of Muslims in the world. Currently, Indonesia has the world’s largest number of Muslims. SOURCE1 & SOURCE2 & SOURCE3

Muslim Population in India

Muslims in India - With over 172 million followers (2011), Islam is the second-largest religion in India after Hinduism. Muslims are the second largest community after Hindus forming 14.6% of the total population in Republic of India. Although history of Islam religion in India dates back to 12th century, the nation is currently home to over 10% of the world’s Muslim population. After Indonesia and Pakistan, India is home to third largest Muslim population in the world. Muslims or people following Islam are significantly present in large numbers all over India. Almost half of Indian Muslims (47%) lives in 3 states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar. Muslims forms an important part of religious population in India as it’s the second largest community after Hindus. Hindus and Muslims together form an integral part of vibrant Indian culture.

Population of Muslim in India 2016
Islam as a Religion has witnessed a sharp growth in its population in various states of India. According to data from Census of India, Muslim Population is estimated to be 184 million in 2016.

Population of Muslim in India 2015
Growth of Muslim population in India is a major issue of debate for various scholars and researches. Over the years, several data related to Muslim population has been released by various Government departments, agencies and research organizations. Going by Census of India 2011, total population of Muslims in India was 17.22 crore (14.2% of India’s population). With a descent annual growth rate, Population of Muslims in India is estimated to be over 180 million in 2015.

Muslim Population in Uttar Pradesh
Muslims form the largest minority group in state of Uttar Pradesh with a total population of over 30.7 million as of 2001. It is also second largest community with 18 percent Islam followers in the Hindu (80 percent) dominated state of Uttar Pradesh. With a 51 percent Muslim population, Rampur district is the only district with largest Muslim population in Uttar Pradesh.

Growth of Muslim Population in India
According to figures provided by the Census of India, Muslims have witnessed a descent growth in their population in the last 50 years as compared to Hindus. In 1961, Muslims were 10.7 percent of the total population whereas Hindus were 83.4 percent. In 2001, this ratio changed slightly with Muslims population grown to 13.4 percent while Hindus total population decreased to 80.5 percent. Going by this rise in Muslims population, recent estimated suggests that Muslims population has gone up to 14.5 percent as of 2015, whereas Hindus population has declined below 80 percent. One of the important facts about Population growth of Muslims is that Women fertility rate of Muslims is slightly higher than Hindu Women. With a growth rate of 24% from 2001 - 2011, Muslim Population growth is much higher that national average growth of 18% during this period.

The states of Assam and West Bengal have witnessed a rapid growth in share of Muslim population in the last decade. The state of Assam has 10.7 million Muslim followers in India. Illegal Immigration from Bangladesh has been major factor in this rapid growth of Muslim population in these two states. The below data indicates rise in Muslim Population from 2001 - 2011.

Social and Economic Reasons behind Muslim Population growth:

  • Muslims in India are poorer and less educated as compared with Hindus leading to high growth rate in their population.
  • Estimated figures suggest that Muslim women gets married at a very early age of between 16 - 20, leading to high fertility rate among the Muslims women.
  • Muslims has a higher young children (aged 0-6) population as compared to Hindus.
  • Researches also suggest that Muslims in India are less interested in adopting family planning measures in India.

* Figures provided by Census of India