Muslim Conversions

English

Deutsche

Italiana

Polska

Svensk

ελληνικά

汉语

اردو 

Française

Eesti

Nederlands

Português

Türkçe

Русский

日本語

العربية

Bosanskom

Española

Norsk

Suomi

 

 

 

فارسی

 

Islam was preached by Muslim missionaries in South Asia few years after the death Prophet Muhammad. Muslim missionaries and traders converted many pagans to Islam.

The Syrian Umayyad Caliphate sent a Muslim Arab army led by Muhammad bin Qasim and it conquered Pakistan territories from Kashmir to the Arabian Sea, in 711 BCE. During the Arab rule, the territories of Pakistan were known as 'Sindh' and India was known as 'Hind'. The Arab dynasties ruled Pakistan from Baghdad in Iraq and Damascus in Syria for more than two hundred years. Many inhabitants of Pakistan converted to Islam during the long Arab rule.  The Muslim technocrats, bureaucrats, soldiers, traders, scientists, architects, teachers, theologians and Sufis flocked from the rest of the Muslim world to Islamic Sultanate in South Asia and many settled in the Pakistan.

Islam is the second most practiced religion in South Asia. It is still unclear whether the spread of Islam in South Asia has been only a cultural transformation or is associated with detectable levels of gene flow. To estimate the contribution of West Asian and Arabian admixture to South Asian Muslims, a study assessed genetic variation in mtDNA, Y-chromosomal and LCT/MCM6 markers in 472, 431 and 476 samples, respectively, representing six Muslim communities from different geographical regions of South Asia. It found that most of the South Asian Muslim populations received their major genetic input from geographically close non-Muslim populations. However, low levels of likely sub-Saharan African, Arabian and West Asian admixture were also observed among South Asian Muslims in the form of L0a2a2 mtDNA and E1b1b1a and J*(xJ2) Y-chromosomal lineages. The distinction between Iranian and Arabian sources was difficult to make with mtDNA and the Y chromosome, as the estimates were highly correlated because of similar gene pool compositions in the sources. In contrast, the LCT/MCM6 locus, which shows a clear distinction between the two sources, enabled the study to rule out significant gene flow from Arabia. Overall, the results support a model according to which the spread of Islam in South Asia was predominantly cultural conversion associated with minor but still detectable levels of gene flow from outside, primarily from Iran and Central Asia, rather than directly from the Arabian Peninsula.

A small number of very high status Muslims are obviously predominantly non-South Asian, they look different. This stratum still intermarries internationally, e.g., Benazir Bhutto's mother was Kurdish . When the British first arrived in the South Asia they distinguished between white and black Muslims just as the local elite Muslims did. Nevertheless, there was a great deal of intermarriage. Even at the commanding heights of the white Muslim aristocracy, the Mughals, there was outmarriage. Emperor Shah Jahan was 3/4 Rajput. Compare Shah Jahan to his grandfather, Emperor Akbar (a contemporary portrait). The Mughals were not the best record keepers, but the composition of their military and civil service is known because of differential grants of income to categories of service elites. Foreign Muslims, those born outsideSouth Asia, were at a premium, and often comprised a significant proportion every generation (Persians being siphoned to the civilian bureaucracy, Turks and Pashtuns to the military). This is in keeping with a tendency among the Turkic Muslim dynasties in general, from the Mamlukes to the Ottomans, who replenished their non-hereditary elite from without. Their offsprings likely they descended down the class hierarchy, intermarrying with local Muslim converts (or, even facilitating the conversion of a high status Hindu family through intermarriage), who would be eager to acquire Persian or Turkic ancestry for their descendants and so a higher heritable status.

By some estimates over 95% of all Muslims of South Asia are descendents of converts from native pagan religions to Islam. The pagan religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrism, Mithraism and many tribal religions were practiced in South Asia at the time of arrival of Islam. Over generation these Muslims have claimed to be descendents of Muslim Arab, Persian, Turkish Afghan and Mongol tribes that have come to South Asia. This was due to the hierarchal nature of native society and with this claim there accorded higher status. The Muslims adopted Ashraf title for noble classes and Ajlaf for common classes.

The Ashraf group include Syeds, Shaikhs, Mughals and Pathans (Pushtuns or Afghans). These are communities claiming descent from population groups hailing from outside South Asia. It has been pointed that all four noble classes permit interdining, but commensality with the common classes, consisting of groups descended from native converts, was not very common. Also Sayyads and Shaikhs intermarry, but marriages between Sayyads and Sheikhs on the one hand, and Mughals and Pashtuns on the other, were not common. After 1857 when Mughal empire was defeated by the British the Muslim class system broke down and all Muslims started to marry among each other.

There were many various considerations taken into account when determining hierarchy within the status group called the Shaikhs. There are at least four of them:

1. affiliation with an Arab tribe.
2. descent from a person of Arab origin who is known to have close ties the Prophet.
3. relationship to a place in Arabia or Persia.
4. descent from someone who is said to have entered South Asia along with the early Muslim armies.

The Shaikh subgroups emphasize their foreign origin and links to some Islamic personage of repute. The groups who claim to be descended from the Prophet's own tribe, Quraish, are regarded as the highest. Then follow the descendants of first Caliph, Abu Bakr Siddique. Next in rank are those who count the next two Caliphs, Usman and Umar among their ancestors. They are followed by descendants of the close friends and associates of the Prophet. Descendants of other Persians or Arabs who may have come with the Muslim armies are ranked last.

As for the Siddiqui Shaikhs they have only recently been recognized as descendants of Abu Bakr. It is claimed that their Kayastha Hindu antecedents are quite well established, and their striving for recognition as Ashraf is a phenomenon quite well known all over South Asia. It has been pointed out that the circumstances of the Siddiqui Shaikh's conversion to Islam is not known, but after conversion, they were allowed to retain their traditional occupation as land record keepers or clerks, a fact which is also attested to by the fact that the members of the group also served as record keepers well after the annexation of the area by the British.

It has been alleged that Shaikh Siddiqui in South Asia are predominantly converts from the Kayastha or Kayasth Hindu community. They were scribes, administrators, writers, magistrates, judges. lawyers, chief executive officers and village accountants in ancient South Asia. Kayasthas celebrate: Qalam and Dawaat pooja (pen and ink-pot worship), a pagan ritual in which pens, papers and books are worshipped. This clearly shows that they were clerks and official record keepers of the kings.

Kayastha is not a caste but a culture. It is a large family, descendents of “Adi Purush” Shri Chitragupta ji, who had originated from the body (Kaya) of Shri Brahma for making a balance amongst the existing castes (Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras)) by keeping their record of the deeds, good and evil of the mankind and administer justice.

Kayasthas were vegetarian and later started eating meat during the Muslim period when they socially mixed with the Muslims during Muslim dynasties. Kayasthas were valued in the second millennia by most kingdoms and princely states as desired citizens or immigrants within South Asia. They were treated more as a race rather than a Hindu community because they developed expertise in Persian (the state language in Islamic South Asia), learnt Turkish and Arabic, economics, administration and taxation. This gave them an edge over the Brahmins (the priestly Hindu community), who traditionally had reserved the study of Sanskrit shastras to themselves. They successfully adapted themselves as scribes and functionaries under Islamic rule and later on under the British. Some historians hold the view that during the reign of the Mughals, a number of Hindus who were were educated and endowed with sharp intellect attained administrative positions through rapid adaptation to the Persian language and culture of the new rulers of South Asia. These influential Hindus got together and formed a new community known as Kayastha. Their secular viewpoint to life, adaptability and lifestyle was an asset which allowed them to succeed. The Kayastha community also adapted to changes, such as the advent of the British rule in South Asia. They learnt English, the more affluent ones sent their children to England, they became civil servants, tax officers, junior administrators, teachers, legal helpers and barristers. They rose to the highest positions accessible to natives in British South Asia.

The other very interesting observations about the Siddiqui Shaikhs: Convert groups to Islam are generally characterized as new Muslims and they are looked down upon by the social groups which are known to be descendants of foreign sources or who have succeeded in eliminating the stigma of recent conversion. This gave rise to certain differentiations in the adjustment of the Shaikh Siddiquis after their conversion to Islam in the different villages. In villages that were largely or predominantly Hindu, the Shaikh Siddiquis were excluded from the framework of interaction with the Hindu communitys but they continued to enjoy a somewhat superior status as a Muslim community. But in villages where there were numerous other Muslim groups of superior status, the Shaikh Siddiquis were not merely excluded from the social hierarchy of Hindu communitys, but were also relegated to a somewhat lower position even within the hierarchy of Muslim community.

The continued prestige of the Siddiqui Shaikhs in their native villages even after conversion can probably be explained by the fact that they were already a community which enjoyed prestige among the Hindus. After all, they were allowed to retain their prestigious occupation as land record keepers. But in Muslim dominated villages, the Siddiqui Shaikhs commanded little prestige among the Muslims, since they were not Ashraf. This is an example of conversion from Hinduism which has obviously not been motivated by a desire to escape the disabilities of the Hindu community system.

 

 

 

 

  Page last updated: Thursday, October 15, 2008 11:02:36 AM -0400