For Your Information

This section of the web site offers readings, images, and maps that can help students to further understand course assignments, but which are not required reading. In other words, the readings on this page are for your Information (FYI). Links from the five sections of the course come here, and are marked thus: Optional (FYI) Reading.

Images from Present-Day New Delhi

New Delhi, India
North and South Secretariat Buildings, New Delhi 
Passengers at Indian Station. 
Crowds of people board the train to 
Varanasi at New Delhi station.
Fruit vendor in India
A fruit vendor displays his produce near 
Mohandas Gandhi's grave in New Delhi, India.



Map of Modern India


The New State

        Throughout history, India has absorbed and modified to suit its needs, the best from all the civilisations with which it has come into contact. Once again the fledgling nation demonstrated the maturity and wisdom of its ancient traditions, and the truth of its claim that it was opposed, not to the people or the civilisation of Britain and the West, only to its imperial domination. India chose to remain within the British Commonwealth of Nations. It also adopted the British system of Parliamentary Democracy, and retained the judicial, administrative, defence and educational structures and institutions set up by the British. India is today the largest and most populous democracy on earth, with universal adult suffrage.

        The Indian Constitution, adopted when India became a Republic on January 26, 1950, safeguards all its people from all forms of discrimination on grounds of race, religion, creed or sex. It guarantees freedom of speech, expression and belief, assembly and association, migration, acquisition of property and choice of occupation or trade.

The Indian Parliament consists of two houses: The Rajya Sabha or Council of States, and the Lok Sabha or House of Representatives. The former consists of 250 members, mainly elected and some nominated by the President, and is presided over by the Vice-President. The Lok Sabha is made up of 543 members elected from the States and Union Territories. All legislation requires the approval of both Houses. The President is the Head of State, and is appointed through the votes of an electoral college drawn from both Houses and from the Legislature of the constituent States. The Prime Minister is the head of the Government, and is the leader of the majority party in the Lok Sabha. The President appoints ministers on his advice.

        Members of the State Legislative Assemblies or Vidhan Sabhas are elected through universal adult franchise. Each State has a Chief Minister who is the leader of the majority party of the Assembly. Elections are supervised by the Election Commission, an independent body. An independent judiciary is the guardian and interpreter of the Constitution, and the Supreme Court is the highest tribunal in the land, at the apex of the state High Courts. The Civil Services implement government policies freely and fairly. Entrance to these Services is by annual public examinations open to all.

        The achievement of independence was but the first step towards creating a modern nation. Jawaharlal Nehru spelt it out very clearly, "We talk of freedom, but today political freedom does not take us very far unless there is economic freedom. Indeed, there is no such thing as freedom for a man who is starving or for a country that is poor." Today, economic development and social justice are the priorities of the Indian government.

India Today

        India's vanguard role in the international anti-colonial struggle has given her natural moral leadership of the Third World in its quest for international peace, equality and justice. Refusing to be drawn into the dangerous confrontationalist politics of super power rivalries, India was a moving force behind the formation of the Nonaligned Movement (NAM) in 1961. Nonalignment does not mean neutrality, it means a principled approach to international issues. In consonance with the spirit of the movement, India has always sought close bilateral relations and cooperation at all levels with countries of both the Western and Socialist blocs, as well as with other nonaligned nations. The relevance of nonalignment has not diminished in the post USSR era, but the movement has had to redefine its perspective in the context of increasing polarity between the affluent, developed nations of the North, and the economically developing nations of the South. The main thrust of the movement now is to assert the independence of the South against the hegemony of the North, and to resist the interventionist political pressures of aid conditionalities.

        At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, India strongly asserted the position of the countries of the South that environmental problems cannot be tackled in isolation from economic and developmental issues. Pointing out that the affluent nations consume a disproportionately enormous share of the earth's resources and create most of its industrial pollution, India joined the developing countries in insisting on complete national sovereignty over natural resources, and demanded that they be suitably compensated for restraining economic growth in order to preserve these assets in the interests of global survival.

        The international prestige enjoyed by the country has enabled India to take a leading role in multilateral initiatives toward finding solutions to some of the critical issues of the day, such as nuclear disarmament, apartheid, the rights of the Palestinian people, protection of the environment and the evolution of a more just international economic order. Mutual respect and cooperation have also been the basis of India's relationship with her neighbours.

        The South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), established in December 1985, provides a valuable forum for the promotion of regional cooperation among its seven member states - Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. SAARC is based on the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence, mutual benefit and non interference in the internal affairs of other states. The U.N. Declaration of the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace, which India has consistently supported, is another step in the direction of peace and stability in the area.

        The moral authority vested in India as a legacy of its anticolonial stand, has enabled it to play a vigorous and principled role in all international fora, including the United Nations, in efforts to banish all forms of exploitation from the world.


Mural of a Hindu Deity

The Golden Temple and the Sikhs

The Golden Temple or Darbar Sahib, situated in Amritsar, Punjab, is the most sacred temple for Sikhs. It is a symbol of the magnificence and strength of the Sikh people all over the world. In the evolution of the Darbar Sahib, is entwined the history and ideology of Sikhism. In its architecture are included, symbols associated with other places of worship. This is an example of the spirit of tolerance and acceptance that the Sikh philosophy propounds.

The history of the Darbar Sahib starts with Guru Amar Das, who took the first steps towards building a shrine. Around the Golden Temple, the holy city of Amritsar came into being. His successor, Guru Ram Das, came to live near this tranquil and peaceful site, and started building the pilgrimage centre around the small pool, (later to become the Sarowar) which had intially drawn Guru Amar Das.

By the time of Guru Ram Das' death, the pre eminence of the Darbar Sahib among the sikh devotees was unquestionable.

The Harmandir Sahib, or the sanctum sanctorium, was envisoned by Guru Arjan Dev. This was concieved by him to reflect the resoluteness, clarity and simplicity of the Sikh relegion. The Harmindir Sahib today stands as the hallowed symbol of the indestructability of the Sikh faith. He designed it to have four doors, one on each side. The Golden Temple, would thus be open to all four castes-Kshatriyas, Brahmins, Sudras & Vaisyas.

The gilding, marble, mirror and inlay work on the Harmandir Sahib came much later. It was the nineteenth century during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, that the proud people of Punjab lavished their wealth on their shrine in Amritsar.

The Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs, was installed in the Harmandir Sahib in 1604, three years after its completion. The location of the Granth Sahib here, adds to the sanctity & reverence of the Harmandir Sahib. Here lies the heart of Sikhism. This symbol of abiding faith and tolerance is held in high esteem by every Sikh. And this is the place which every Sikh dreams, ever so often, of visiting.


Islam in Pakistani Society

Islam was brought to the South Asian subcontinent in the eighth century by wandering Sufi (see Glossary) mystics known as pir (see Glossary). As in other areas where it was introduced by Sufis, Islam to some extent syncretized with preIslamic influences, resulting in a religion traditionally more flexible than in the Arab world. Two Sufis whose shrines receive much national attention are Data Ganj Baksh in Lahore (ca. eleventh century) and Shahbaz Qalander in Sehwan, Sindh (ca. twelfth century).

The Muslim poet-philosopher Sir Muhammad Iqbal first proposed the idea of a Muslim state in the subcontinent in his address to the Muslim League at Allahabad in 1930. His proposal referred to the four provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, and the NorthWest Frontier--essentially what would became the post-1971 boundary of Pakistan. Iqbal's idea gave concrete form to the "Two Nations Theory" of two distinct nations in the subcontinent based on religion (Islam and Hinduism) and with different historical backgrounds, social customs, cultures, and social mores.

Islam was thus the basis for the creation and the unification of a separate state, but it was not expected to serve as the model of government. Mohammad Ali Jinnah made his commitment to secularism in Pakistan clear in his inaugural address when he said, "You will find that in the course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State." This vision of a Muslim majority state in which religious minorities would share equally in its development was questioned shortly after independence. The debate continued into the 1990s amid questions of the rights of Ahmadiyyas (a small but influential sect considered by orthodox Muslims to be outside the pale of Islam), issuance of identity cards denoting religious affiliation, and government intervention in the personal practice of Islam.

Politicized Islam

From the outset, politics and religion have been intertwined both conceptually and practically in Islam. Because the Prophet established a government in Medina, precedents of governance and taxation exist. Through the history of Islam, from the Ummayyad (661-750) and Abbasid empires (750-1258) to the Mughals (1526- 1858) and the Ottomans (1300-1923), religion and statehood have been treated as one. Indeed, one of the beliefs of Islam is that the purpose of the state is to provide an environment where Muslims can properly practice their religion. If a leader fails in this, the people have a right to depose him.

In 1977 the government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto outlawed alcohol and changed the "day off" from Sunday to Friday, but no substantive Islamic reform program was implemented prior to General Zia's Islamization program. Starting in February 1979, new penal measures based on Islamic principles of justice went into effect. These carried considerably greater implications for women than for men. A welfare and taxation system based on zakat and a profit-and-loss banking system were also established in accordance with Islamic prohibitions against usury (see Policy Developments since Independence , ch. 3).

Zia's Islamization program was pursued within a rather complicated ideological framework. His stance was in contrast of the popular culture, in which most people are "personally" very religious but not "publicly" religious. An unexpected outcome was that by relying on a policy grounded in Islam, the state fomented factionalism: by legislating what is Islamic and what is not, Islam itself could no longer provide unity because it was then being defined to exclude previously included groups. Disputes between Sunnis and Shia, ethnic disturbances in Karachi between Pakhtuns and muhajirs, increased animosity toward Ahmadiyyas, and the revival of Punjab-Sindh tensions--can all be traced to the loss of Islam as a common vocabulary of public morality. More profoundly, in a move that reached into every home, the state had attempted to dictate a specific ideal image of women in Islamic society, an ideal that was largely antithetical to that existing in popular sentiment and in everyday life.

A major component in the Islamization program, the Shariat Bill, was passed in May 1991. This bill required that all laws in the country conform with Islam. Women's groups in particular were concerned that the reforms in the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance of 1961 could be jeopardized by the new bill.

A controversial law, Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, drew a great deal of attention from critics associated with the Human Rights Commission in 1993-94. Introduced in 1986 by Zia, the law, referred to as "the blasphemy trap," states that "whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Prophet Muhammad shall be punished with death or imprisoned for life and shall be liable to fine." The law extends to Muslims and nonMuslims alike, but it has been indiscriminately used against members of minorities. According to Amnesty International, several dozen people had been charged under Pakistan's blasphemy laws by early 1994. In all cases, these charges appear to have been arbitrarily brought and to have been based on an individual's minority religious beliefs or on malicious accusations. The current government of Benazir Bhutto, sensitive to Pakistan's image in the world community, has attempted to approve changes in the blasphemy law in order to "curb abuses of the law"--especially those involving false accusations and fabricated cases. Critics claim, however, that Benazir, constantly under attack for being too liberal by the religious right, has been overly cautious and slow to introduce amendments to the law.




Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the Quaid-i-Azam  Courtesy Embassy of Pakistan, Washington

Liaquat Ali Khan, the Quaid-i-Millet  Courtesy Embassy of Pakistan, Washington

Problems at Independence

In August 1947, Pakistan was faced with a number of problems, some immediate but others long term. The most important of these concerns was the role played by Islam. Was Pakistan to be a secular state serving as a homeland for Muslims of the subcontinent, or was it to be an Islamic state governed by the sharia, in which non-Muslims would be second-class citizens? The second question concerned the distribution of power between the center and the provincial governments, a question that eventually led to the dissolution of the country with the painful loss of the East Wing (East Bengal, later East Pakistan, now Bangladesh) in 1971, an issue that remained unresolved in the mid-1990s.

The territory of Pakistan was divided into two parts at independence, separated by about 1,600 kilometers of Indian territory. The 1940 Lahore Resolution had called for independent "states" in the northwest and the northeast. This objective was changed, by a 1946 meeting of Muslim League legislators to a call for a single state (the acronym Pakistan had no letter for Bengal). Pakistan lacked the machinery, personnel, and equipment for a new government. Even its capital, Karachi, was a second choice--Lahore was rejected because it was too close to the Indian border. Pakistan's economy seemed enviable after severing ties with India, the major market for its commodities. And much of Punjab's electricity was imported from Indian power stations.

Above all other concerns were the violence and the refugee problem: Muslims were fleeing India; Hindus and Sikhs were fleeing Pakistan. Jinnah's plea to regard religion as a personal matter, not a state matter, was ignored. No one was prepared for the communal rioting and the mass movements of population that followed the June 3, 1947, London announcement of imminent independence and partition. The most conservative estimates of the casualties were 250,000 dead and 12 million to 24 million refugees. The actual boundaries of the two new states were not even known until August 17, when they were announced by a commission headed by a British judge. The boundaries-- unacceptable to both India and Pakistan--have remained.

West Pakistan lost Hindus and Sikhs. These communities had managed much of the commercial activity of West Pakistan. The Sikhs were especially prominent in agricultural colonies. They were replaced largely by Muslims from India, mostly Urdu speakers from the United Provinces. Although some people, especially Muslims from eastern Punjab (in India), settled in western Punjab (in Pakistan), many headed for Karachi and other cities in Sindh, where they took the jobs vacated by departing Hindus. In 1951 close to half of the population of Pakistan's major cities were immigrants (muhajirs--refugees from India and their descendants).

The aspirations for Pakistan that had been so important to Muslims in Muslim-minority provinces and the goals for the new state these urban refugees had fled to were not always compatible with those of the traditional rural people already inhabiting Pakistan, whose support for the concept of Pakistan came much later. Pakistani society was polarized from its inception.

The land and people west of the Indus River continued to pose problems. The most immediate problem was the continued presence of a Congress government in the North-West Frontier Province, a government effective at the grassroots level and popular despite the loss of the plebiscite. Led by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and his Khudai-i-Khitmagar (Servants of God, a Congress faction), this group was often referred to as the Red Shirts after its members' attire. Ghaffar Khan asked his followers not to participate in the July 1947 plebiscite.

Pakistan also had to establish its legitimacy against a possible challenge from Afghanistan. Irredentist claims from Kabul were based on the ethnic unity of tribes straddling the border; the emotional appeal of "Pakhtunistan," homeland of the Pakhtuns, was undeniable. However, Pakistan upheld the treaties Britain had signed with Afghanistan and refused to discuss the validity of the Durand Line as the international border (see The Forward Policy , this ch.). Relations with Afghanistan were hostile, resulting in the rupture of diplomatic and commercial relations and leading Afghanistan to cast the only vote against Pakistan's admission to the United Nations (UN) in 1947.

The India Independence Act left the princes theoretically free to accede to either dominion. The frontier princely states of Dir, Chitral, Amb, and Hunza acceded quickly to Pakistan while retaining substantial autonomy in internal administration and customary law. The khan of Kalat in Balochistan declared independence on August 15, 1947, but offered to negotiate a special relationship with Pakistan. Other Baloch sardar (tribal chiefs) also expressed their preference for a separate identity. Pakistan took military action against them and the khan and brought about their accession in 1948. The state of Bahawalpur, with a Muslim ruler and a Muslim population, acceded to Pakistan, as did Khairpur.

The maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, unpopular among his subjects, was reluctant to decide on accession to either dominion. He first signed agreements with both Pakistan and India that would provide for the continued flow of people and goods to Kashmir--as it is usually called--from both dominions. Alarmed by reports of oppression of fellow Muslims in Kashmir, armed groups from the North-West Frontier Province entered the maharaja's territory. The ruler requested military assistance from India but had to sign documents acceding to India before that country would provide aid in October 1947.

The government of Pakistan refused to recognize the accession and denounced it as a fraud even though the Indian government announced that it would require an expression of the people's will through a plebiscite after the invaders were driven back. Pakistan launched an active military and diplomatic campaign to undo the accession. The UN Security Council eventually brought about a cease-fire between Pakistani and Indian troops, which took place on January 1, 1949, thus ending the first Indo- Pakistani War, and directed that a plebiscite be held. The cease- fire agreement formalized the military status quo, leaving about 30 percent of Kashmir under Pakistani control (see India , ch. 4; The Formation of Pakistan , ch. 5).

Partition and its accompanying confusion also brought severe economic challenges to the two newly created and antagonistic countries. The partition plan ignored the principles of complementarity. West Pakistan, for example, traditionally produced more wheat than it consumed and had supplied the deficit areas in India. Cotton grown in West Pakistan was used in mills in Bombay and other west Indian cities. Commodities such as coal and sugar were in short supply in Pakistan--they had traditionally come from areas now part of India. Furthermore, Pakistan faced logistic problems for its commercial transportation because of the four major ports in British India, it was awarded only Karachi. But the problem that proved most intractable was defining relations between the two wings of Pakistan, which had had little economic exchange before partition.

The two dominions decided to allow free movement of goods, persons, and capital for one year after independence, but this agreement broke down. In November 1947, Pakistan levied export duties on jute; India retaliated with export duties of its own. The trade war reached a crisis in September 1949 when Britain devalued the pound, to which both the Pakistani rupee and the Indian rupee were pegged. India followed Britain's lead, but Pakistan did not, so India severed trade relations with Pakistan. The outbreak of the Korean War (1950-53) and the consequent price rises in jute, leather, cotton, and wool as a result of wartime needs, saved the economy of Pakistan. New trading relationships were formed, and the construction of cotton and jute mills in Pakistan was quickly undertaken. Although India and Pakistan resumed trade in 1951, both the volume and the value of trade steadily declined; the two countries ignored bilateral trade for the most part and developed the new international trade links they had made.

The assets of British India were divided in the ratio of seventeen for India to five for Pakistan by decision of the Viceroy's Council in June 1947. Division was difficult to implement, however, and Pakistan complained of nondeliveries. A financial agreement was reached in December 1948, but the actual settlement of financial and other disputes continued until 1960 (see Structure of the Economy , ch. 3).

Division of the all-India services of the Indian Civil Service and the Indian Police Service was also difficult. Only 101 out of a total of 1,157 Indian officers were Muslim. Among these Muslim officers, ninety-five officers opted for Pakistan; they were joined by one Christian, eleven Muslim military officers transferring to civilian service, and fifty Britons, for a total of 157. But only twenty of them had had more than fifteen years of service, and more than half had had fewer than ten years. These men formed the core of the Civil Service of Pakistan, which became one of the most elite and privileged bureaucracies in the world. Members of the Civil Service of Pakistan were the architects of the administrative, judicial, and diplomatic services. They proved indispensable in running the government machinery during Pakistan's first two decades, and their contributions to government policy and economics were profound during the era of Mohammad Ayub Khan. The Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto government in the 1970s precipitated a major reorganization and reorientation of the bureaucracy, however, which resulted in a noticeable decline in both the morale and the standards of the bureaucracy.


Quotations on Muslims in India

 Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (India's Prime Minsiter 1947-64) in ÎThe Discovery of India,â 1946, p. 218, 225.

"The impact of the invaders from the north-west and of Islam on India had been considerable. It had pointed out and shone up the abuses that had crept into Hindu society - the petrification of caste, untouchability, exclusiveness carried to fantastic lengths. The idea of the brotherhood of Islam and the theoretical equality of its adherents made a powerful appeal especially to those in the Hindu fold who were denied any semblance of equal treatment."

"...his (Babarâs) account tells us of the cultural poverty that had descended on North India. Partly this was due to Timur's destruction, partly due to the exodus of many learned men and artists and noted craftsmen to the South. But this was due also to the drying up of the creative genius of the Indian people."

"The coming of Islam and of a considerable number of people from outside with different ways of living and thought affected these beliefs and structure. A foreign conquest, with all its evils, has one advantage: it widens the mental horizon of the people and compels them to look out of their shells. They realize that the world is a much bigger and a more variegated place than they had imagined. So the Afghan conquest had affected India and many changes had taken place. Even more so the Moghals, who were far more cultured and advanced in the ways of living than the Afghans, brought changes to India. In particular, they introduced the refinements for which Iran was famous."


Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya, Presidential Address to the Fifty-fifth Session of the Indian Congress, Jaipur, 1948.

"(The Muslims had) enriched our culture, strengthened our administration, and brought near distant parts of the country... It (the Muslim Period) touched deeply the social life and the literature of the land."

Humayun Kabir in 'The Indian Heritage,' 1955, p. 153.

"Islam's democratic challenge has perhaps never been equaled by any other religious or social system. Its advent on the Indian scene was marked by a profound stirring of consciousness. It modified the basis of Hindu social structure throughout northern India."

N.S. Mehta, in 'Islam and the Indian Civilization,' reproduced in 'Hindustan ke Ahd-i-Wusta ki ek Jhalak,' by S.A. Rahman.

"Islam had brought to India a luminous torch which rescued humanity from darkness at a time when old civilizations were on the decline and lofty moral ideals had got reduced to empty intellectual concepts. As in other lands, so in India too, the conquests of Islam were more widespread in the world of thought than in the world of politics. Today, also, the Islamic World is a spiritual brotherhood which is held together by community of faith in the Oneness of God and human equality. Unfortunately, the history of Islam in this country remained tied up for centuries with that of government with the result that a veil was cast over its true spirit, and its fruits and blessings were hidden from the popular eye."

Prof. K.M. Panikkar in 'A Survey of Indian History,' 1947, p. 163.

"One thing is clear. Islam had a profound effect on Hinduism during this period. Medieval theism is in some ways a reply to the attack of Islam; and the doctrine of medieval teachers by whatever names their gods are known are essentially theistic. It is the one supreme God that is the object of the devotee's adoration and it is to His grace that we are asked to look for redemption."

Zaheeruddin Babar in his Autobiography 'Tuzuk-i-Babari,' (Founder of Mughal Dynasty, Ruled India 1526-1530).

"There are neither good horses in India, nor good meat, nor grapes, nor melons, nor ice, nor cold water, nor baths, nor candle, nor candlestick, nor torch. In the place of the candle, they use the divat. It rests on three legs: a small iron piece resembling the snout of a lamp... Even in case of Rajas and Maharajas, the attendants stand holding the clumsy divat in their hands when they are in need of a light in the night.

"There is no arrangement for running water in gardens and buildings. The buildings lack beauty, symmetry, ventilation and neatness. Commonly, the people walk barefooted with a narrow slip tied round the loins. Women wear a dress ..."

Dr. Gustav le Bon in 'Les Civilisations de L'Inde' (translated by S.A. Bilgrami).

"There does not exist a history of ancient India. Their books contain no historical data whatever, except for a few religious books in which historical information is buried under a heap of parables and folk-lore, and their buildings and other monuments also do nothing to fill the void for the oldest among them do not go beyond the third century B.C. To discover facts about India of the ancient times is as difficult a task as the discovery of the island of Atlantis, which, according to Plato, was destroyed due to the changes of the earth... The historical phase of India began with the Muslim invasion. Muslims were India's first historians."

Sir William Digby in 'Prosperous India: A Revelation,' p. 30.

"England's industrial supremacy owes its origin to the vast hoards of Bengal and the Karnatik being made available for her use....Before Plassey was fought and won, and before the stream of treasure began to flow to England, the industries of our country were at a very low ebb."

Brooks Adams in 'The Law of Civilization and Decay,' London, 1898, pp. 313-17.

"Very soon after Plassey the Bengal plunder began to arrive in London, and the effect appears to have been instantaneous, for all authorities agree that the Industrial Revolution, the event that has divided the l9th century from all antecedent time, began with the year 1760....Plassey was fought in 1757, and probably nothing has ever equaled the rapidity of the change which followed....In themselves inventions are passive, many of the most important having laid dormant for centuries, waiting for a sufficient store of force to have accumulated to have set them working. That store must always take the shape of money, and money not hoarded, but in motion.

"...Before the influx of the Indian treasure, and the expansion of credit which followed, no force sufficient for this purpose existed....The factory system was the child of 'Industrial Revolution,' and until capital had accumulated in masses, capable of giving solidity to large bodies of labour, manufactures were carried on by scattered individuals....Possibly since the world began, no investment has ever yielded the profit reaped from the Indian plunder, because for nearly fifty years Great Britain stood without a competitor."

 Muslims in India - An Overview

The Muslims entered Sind, India, in 711 C.E., the same year they entered Spain. Their entry in India was prompted by an attempt to free the civilian Muslim hostages whose ship was taken by sea pirates in the territory of Raja Dahir, King of Sind. After diplomatic attempts failed, Hajjaj bin Yusuf, the Umayyad governor in Baghdad, dispatched a 17-year-old commander by the name Muhammad bin Qasim with a small army. Muhammad bin Qasim defeated Raja Dahir at what is now Hyderabad in Pakistan. In pursuing the remnant of Dahir's army and his sonâs supporters (Indian kings), Muhammad bin Qasim fought at Nirun, Rawar, Bahrore, Brahmanabad, Aror, Dipalpur and Multan. By 713 C.E., he established his control in Sind and parts of Punjab up to the borders of Kashmir. A major part of what is now Pakistan came under Muslim control in 713 C.E. and remained so throughout the centuries until some years after the fall of the Mughal Empire in 1857.

Muhammad bin Qasimâs treatment of the Indian population was so just that when he was called back to Baghdad the civilians were greatly disheartened and gave him farewell in tears. There was a Muslim community in Malabar, southwest India as early as 618 C.E. as a result of King Chakrawati Farmas accepting Islam at the hands of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The Muslim presence as rulers in India dates from 711 C.E. Since then, different Muslim rulers (Turks of Central Asia, Afghans, and the descendants of the Mongol - the Mughals) entered India, primarily fought their fellow Muslim rulers, and established their rule under various dynastic names. By the eleventh century, the Muslims had established their capital at Delhi, which remained the principal seat of power until the last ruler of Mughal Dynasty, Bahadur Shah Zafar, was deposed in 1857 by the British. A few British visitors were given permission by Akbar to stay in Eastern India more than two centuries before. The British abused that privilege, and within a few decades the British began to collaborate with Rajas and Nawabs in military expeditions against the Mughals and Muslim rulers of the east, southeast and south India. After two centuries of fighting, the British succeeded in abolishing the Mughal rule in 1857.

Muslims were a minority when they ruled major parts of India for nearly a thousand years. They were well liked generally as rulers for their justice, social and cultural values, respect for freedom to practice religion as prescribed by the religion of various communities, freedom of speech, legal system in accordance with the dictates and established norms of each religious community, public works and for establishing educational institutions. In their days as rulers, the Muslims constituted about twenty percent of India's population. Today, Indian Muslims constitute about fifteen percent of India's population, about 150 million, and they are the second largest Muslim community in the world.

The region now part of Pakistan and many other parts of India were predominantly Muslim. After the British takeover in 1857, many of these areas remained under loose control of Muslims. When the British decided to withdraw from India without a clear direction for the future of Muslims (former rulers), a political solution was reached for some of the Muslim majority areas. This resulted in the division of India and the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

Among the famous Muslims scientists, historians and travelers who visited and lived, though briefly, in India were Al-Biruni, Al-Masu'di, and Ibn Battuta. Their writings illuminate us with the Indian society and culture. Al-Biruni stayed in India for twenty years. Ibn Battuta, an Andalusian who was born in Morocco, served as a Magistrate of Delhi (1334-1341) during the reign of Sultan Muhammad Tughluk. It is conceivable that Ibn Battutaâs description of Muslim India inspired Ferdinand and Isabella who had taken over the last Muslim kingdom of Granada, Spain in 1492. That same year Columbus received the permission in the Alhambra palace (of Granada) and made his famous voyage bound for India in search of gold and spice but he landed in the Americas.