Chapter 69: Influence of Muslim thought on the East
Gibbon describes the rise and expansion of Islam as one of the most memorable revolutions which has impressed a new and lasting character on the nations of the world. Beginning with a small following, ill-equipped financially and militarily, Islam turned out eventually a mighty force, wielding its scepter of authority over a world greater than that of Alexander the Great, greater than that of Rome, and that too acquired in a very much shorter period.
Hardly fifty years had passed since Prophet Muhammad was commissioned by God to spread His gospel of truth when the Muslims planted the banner of Islam on the confines of India on the one side, and on the shores of the Atlantic on the other. Islam began to spread after the migration (hijrah) of the Prophet from Mecca to Medina. Conversions took place on an unprecedented scale. The new ideology inspired the Arabs as no other ideology had done before; it filled their hearts with longings both mundane and supramundane and enabled them to accomplish in an incredibly short time what would have otherwise required centuries of well-planned and well-calculated strategy.
The amazing success of the Arab nation was due not only to their organization, zeal, and aspiration, but also and in a large measure to the unifying action of Islam and the inspiring and revolutionary nature of its social programme and its ability to lead the masses out of the hopeless situation created by the decay of the antique civilizations of Greece, Rome, Persia, China, and India,1 and to the all-powerful influence of the Qur'an. None can deny the inherent faith of the early Muslims in the ultimate triumph of their cause, actuated as that faith was, not by the baser motives of power, but by the idea of establishing the Kingdom of God on earth.
In the opinion of Georges Rivoire2 the objective of the Muslim conquests was the construction of a universal State which “recognized no distinctions of race, nor of social conditions, the only rule it insisted upon was equal justice and fraternity.” Naturally, the physically suffering and morally disjointed masses found in Islam a promise of liberation and salvation.
To the places they conquered the Muslims carried not only the flag of Islam but also culture, philosophy, and the study of nature all of which had their source in the Qur'an and the Sunnah.
In what follows, an attempt will be made to trace the course of intellectual revolution which Muslim thought brought about in Persia, Turkey, China, India, and Indonesia.
Islam was introduced to the land of Persia in 7/628 by the Prophet Muhammad himself, when through an epistle addressed to Khusrau Parviz, the then Persian monarch, he extended an invitation to him and his subjects to embrace Islam: to affirm the unity of God and the apostleship of Muhammad, to do good and to refrain from evil. In olden times no king, much less a Persian potentate, would receive a direct communication from an unknown person without getting flared up, the act being regarded as an instance of insolence and sacrilege.
Accordingly, the Prophet's letter was torn to pieces and his emissary expelled with ignominy and disgrace. On hearing this, the Prophet felt sad and prophesied an early downfall of Khusrau's Empire. It was during the rule of the first Caliph that, as a response to this insult, the Muslim forces, under the leadership of General Sa'd, invaded Persia and inflicted a terrible defeat on the Persian army in the battle of Qadisiyyah.
This battle served as a prelude to a series of defeats which the Persians suffered at the hands of the Arabs and which sealed their fate in a short period of ten years after the delivery of the Prophet's letter. King Yazdigird, a lad of eighteen, was probably the last ruler to make a futile attempt against the Muslims. His Chinese and Turkish mercenaries deserted him on the first onslaught of the Arabs, while he was himself plundered and assassinated by a villager in whose hut he had taken refuge after fleeing from the battlefield.
In the first/seventh century the Persian Empire like the Byzantine Empire was tottering under the crushing weight of despotism. Persecutions born of religious dissensions were the order of the day. Zoroastrianism was the State religion and its priests, not content with the spiritual authority they enjoyed by virtue of their office, also held positions of trust and responsibility in the administration of the State. A campaign of vilification followed by persecutions started against the adherents of the older forms of religion in Persia, among which ranked Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Sabaeans, Gnostics, and Manichaeans.
All the older faiths and creeds longed to breathe freely and freshly in an atmosphere of toleration and comradeship which they eventually found in the teachings of Islam. Not only was it enjoined by Islam that the Christians and Jews must be treated with fairness and consideration because of their being the “People of the Book,” but according to the clear directions of the Prophet the Zoroastrians were also to be treated at par with them, and hence entitled to the same privileges and concessions as enjoyed by the Muslims.
All that was required of the non-Muslims was payment of a nominal poll-tax for the security they enjoyed under the Muslim rule. In return they were exempted not only from the payment of zakat, the State tax which every Muslim had to pay, but also from military service. Those non-Muslims who entered the military service had not to pay the poll-tax.
The conquest of Persia by the Arabs brought relief to the Christians. Earlier, the Sassanid kings had fomented bitter struggles between the Jacobites and the Nestorians; they had also been persecuting the Christian sects within their domains because of the Christian aggression from abroad. King Khusrau II ordered a general persecution of the Christians as he had suffered a defeat at the hands of Heraclius, a Christian monarch. The masses also welcomed the new creed. The Zoroastrian priests held in contempt the working classesartisans, mechanics, laborers, agriculturists-who defiled fire, earth, and water in pursuance of their trades and professions.
The laboring classes in the Zoroastrian society had the same miserable lot as the Sudras in the caste ridden Hindu society. In the new faith of the conquerors, the common man found a panacea to most of the social ills from which he had so terribly suffered. Islam recognizes no distinctions of caste and occupation; it gives no preference to one class of individuals over another save on the basis of merit; and advocates a theory of human brotherhood which transcends geographical and political limits.
With the downfall of the Sassanid dynasty, Zoroastrianism lost its powerful support. In the altered circumstances it found it extremely difficult to hold its own against the contending forces competing for supremacy. To its spiritual bankruptcy may be added the social confusion for which its priests were chiefly responsible. The Zoroastrian masses welcomed the new faith because of its liberalism, dynamism, and absence of parochialism.
They were also drawn towards it because of the many similarities between their faith and the new one. Instead of Ahura Mazdah and Ahriman, they found Allah and Iblis; they also got their angels and demons, their stories about the creation of man and his resurrection, about heaven and hell and about sundry things similar to those they found in their own religion. Besides all this, they discovered that the ethics of Islam was not very different from theirs. Under the Muslim rule they began to enjoy a remarkable degree of toleration; their religious practices were respected and their fire-temples safeguarded.3
Besides the causes enumerated above for the spread of Islam in Persia mention may also be made of the marriage of Shahrbanu, a daughter of Yazdigird-the last monarch of the Sassanid dynasty-with Husain, the son of 'Ali. Consequently, in the descendants of Husain and Shahrbanu,the Persians could see the heirs to their ancient kings. This also accounts to some extent for the rise of Shi'ism as a separate sect in Persia and the devotion of the Persians to the 'Alids. Islam lost its alien character and appealed to the patriotic feelings of the average Persian, as he felt that, in addition to other advantages, he gained through the aforesaid marriage alliance a reassertion of his native values and traditions.
Persia had a remarkable culture and a highly developed civilization many centuries before the advent of Islam. In olden times, she was the cradle of thoughts and beliefs which supplied religion and philosophy to Persians and non-Persians. She was also the centre of a mighty political organization, and her theories of statecraft and administration became a model to the Turks.
The intellectual aspect of the pre-Muslim Persian culture was determined by the philosophies of Zoroaster, Mani, and Mazdak-more or less dualistic despite a tinge of monotheism. The pre-Sassanian thought indicated a tendency towards monotheism, especially in Zoroaster, but the tendency became a dominant feature of Persian thought, almost an indubitable truth, only after the Muslim conquest. The dualism of Good and Evil yielded place to the dualism of God and matter.
The 'Abbasid Caliphate provided the most congenial atmosphere to the development of philosophy. As a result of Muslim influence, the Persians became the leaders of thought. Among the names of the foremost Persian thinkers may be mentioned those of ibn Miskawaih, ibn Sina, al-grhazali, Fakhr alDin Razi, Nasir al-Din Tasi, Mulla Sadra.
The encyclopedists, Ikhwan al-Safa, though not original in their contributions, are also worthy of mention. They had among them some good scholars like Zaid, son of Rifa'a, abu SulAiman Muhammad of Bust, 'Ali of Zanjan, abu Ahmad Mihrajani and 'Aufi.4 Persian Sufism also contains some very great names such as abu Said ibn abi al-Khair, 'Attar, Jalal al-Din Rilmi, Sa'di, Hafiz, al-Jili, and Jami.
From Persia, Islam spread to China, Turkey. Afghanistan, India, and Indonesia.
Islam was carried over to China by Muslim merchants. It was firmly planted there by Arab troops who fought for Su Tsung (139/756) and settled in China after the successful conclusion of the war.
Arnold thinks that there is no direct evidence of any proselytizing activity on the part of the Muslims in China. The entire Muslim population of the land consists of the descendants of the immigrants from Arabia, Persia, Turkey, and other Muslim territories as a result of Mongol conquests.5 The number of Muslims in China is estimated at about thirty million.6 The Chinese Muslims have, however, identified themselves with the rest of their countrymen, in spite of their religious differences.
The Afghans believe that they were invited to Islam by Khalid bin Walid in the first/seventh century. But the earliest record of their conversion to Islam dates from the reign of al-Mamdn (198-218/813-833) when a king of Kabul was converted to Islam. His successors, however, reverted to Buddhism. Afghanistan was won for Islam in 258/871 by Ya'qub bin Laith, but Islamic ideas did not catch the imagination of the masses until after the conquest of the country by Subuktigin and Mahmfd of Chaznah.
The invasion of Chingiz Khan on Muslim Asia is regarded as the greatest calamity that has ever fallen on the human race. Like the huge waves of a mighty cyclone, it swept over the lands of Bukhara, Khiva, Khurasan, Iraq, and Russia. Not only did Chingiz Khan plunder whatever he laid his hands on, but he also destroyed seats of learning and the precincts of Islamic civilization.
After his death, his Empire was divided among his sons. Persia fell to the lot of Tuli, one of whose descendants, Hulagu, was destined to found a dynasty which lasted for about a century and a half. The official religion of the Mongols was Shamanism, which, being a primitive type of religion could not hold its own against the organized religions prevalent in the lands over which the Mongols ruled.
Islam had the least chance of success as the Mongols had established their kingdom on the ruins of the Muslim Empire. But it is one of the surprises of human history that the conquered became the conquerors. The Mongols eventually accepted Islam-a religion the annihilation of which they had planned. With the conversion of the Mongol king to Islam this religion got a chance of spreading to Turkestan, Siberia, and Russia.
The Turks originally inhabited certain parts of Central Asia, particularly Mongolia, Siberia, and Turkestan. They did not profess any of the Semitic or non-Semitic faiths. They worshipped, like most primitive tribes of Asia, the sky, the earth, and water. Their religion lay in deifying the forces of nature and propitiating them by offerings, magic, and incantations. Before their acceptance of Islam they had come under the influence of Buddhism, Manichaeism, Judaism, and Christianity.
But none of these creeds could win them over permanently to its side. It was Islam which they accepted finally in the fourth/tenth century. Several reasons have been advanced for the triumph of Islam, but the most cogent one out of these, according to G. L. Lewis, “was the fact that acceptance of Islam automatically conferred citizen rights in a vast and flourishing civilization.”7
It was towards the middle of the seventh/thirteenth century that a small band of nomad Turks migrated from Khurasan under Sulaiman Shah. Driven by Mongols they hoped to find shelter in Asia Minor. In the rulers of this area they found people of a kindred race, the Saljuqian Turks, whose kingdom was disintegrating due to disputes of succession and invasions from Central Asia. Taking advantage of the decadent conditions, Ertoghrul and Dundar, two sons of Sulaiman, established themselves in a territory ceded by the Saljuqs in recognition of their military assistance. To `Uthman, the son of Ertoghrul, however, goes the credit of laying a secure foundation for the Turkish Empire.
Though the Saljugs were nomad tribesmen, they evinced keen interest in the civilizations of the Persians and the Greeks with whom they came in contact. During the sixth/twelfth century, Anatolia, Quniyah, and Erzerum became covered with architectural designs inspired by the Persian and the Greek art, They also “encouraged religious thinkers and philosophers. The famous Jalal al-Din Riimi flourished under their auspices in Quniyah, and so did others of the Sufi school.” 8
The Ottoman Turks who replaced the Saljugs were no less ardent in furthering the cause of learning and literature. It is said about `Ut-hman that as he lay on his death-bed, he advised his sons to “promote the learned to honour ... and whatsoever place thou hearest of a learned man, let honour, magnificence, and clemency attend him.”9
Ottoman literature is very extensive, comprising every species of letters then current. Among the earlier poets may be mentioned Ghazi Fadil, Shaikhi, Mir 'Ali Shir Nawa'i, Abmad Pasha, Najati, Dhati, Zainab, Mihri, and ibn Kamal. They wrote lyrics, and also thoughtful poems explaining the knotty problems of life through allegories and stories of animals and birds. Among the later poets who give evidence of greater poise and balance may be mentioned Fudiili, Bagi, Nefi, Nabi, and Nadim. They introduced new strains and new modes of thinking in poetry. Among the prosewriters, the names of 'Ali Chalabi, Avliya Efendi, Katib Chalabi may be mentioned. They wrote on history, chronology, geography, travels, and other subjects. 10
All this shows that, like other Muslim countries, Turkey espoused the cause of learning and literature. The incentive was, however, provided by the religion of Islam, which the Turks had finally accepted.
The impact of Islam on Hinduism is a phenomenon of remarkable significance. It is regretted that the Western writers as well as those of India (with the sole exception of Dr. Tara Chand) have in their works either ignored this fact altogether or assigned to it an insignificant place in the history of Indian thought. In this section, it is intended to bring out the extent and significance of those ideas and beliefs which had their source in Muslim philosophy and religion and which in course of time, through personal contacts, religious disputations, discussions, and exchange of views, colored and changed to a very substantial degree the complexion of Hindu thought and gave it a new orientation and direction.
There is no denying the fact that the Muslims were also influenced by Hinduism in some very important respects. They borrowed from the Hindus some aspects of mysticism and some mores, especially their caste-system, funeral and birth rites, marriage customs, untouchability which they practised against sweepers, and a host of other things-good and bad-which it is needless to enumerate. But the main tenets of the Hindu creed had no influence on Muslim ideology and code of life. No Muslim thinker of any importance has ever accepted the doctrines of transmigration, incarnation, karma, and polytheism in any shape or form, and these doctrines constitute the very soul and spirit of Hinduism.
On the contrary, monotheistic ideas of the Muslims together with their belief in the universal brotherhood of mankind were adopted by the Hindus which they bandied about as of Hindu origin. Indian philosophy after the first/seventh century has evinced keener interest in monotheism and tasteless society; it has also laid less emphasis on ritualism and negativism in life. This change may be due to several sociological and technological forces among which the advent of Islam in India must be ranked as a major factor of great cultural and philosophical importance.
In the event of two cultures meeting together the dominant one pushes the weaker one to the periphery and occupies the centre itself. Something of the same sort happened in the case of Hindu culture and beliefs. In the ideological struggle which ensued Muslim infiltration into India, the native culture, finding itself unequal to the incoming one, had to relinquish the central position.
In what follows an attempt will be made to explain very briefly this remarkable phenomenon. After a short historical survey of the cultural contact, Muslim influence will be traced first up to Sankara, then from Sankara to Ramanuja, and lastly from Ramanuja down to the present times.
The impact of Islam on Indian culture, thought, and religion was felt as early as the second/eighth century if not earlier. The writings of Muslim historians and travellers show that it was in South India, on the Malabar Coast, that the Muslims who were often preachers of their faith first settled as traders. Akbar Shah Khan11 reports of the tomb of a Companion of the Prophet, named Tamim Ansari at Mylapur, twelve miles south of Madras. Islam also penetrated Ceylon, Ibn Battutah found the tombs of several preachers and saints in Ceylon during his travels. He mentions the names of Shaikh 'Abd Allah Hanif, Shaikh 'Uthman, and Baba Tahir among others.
Historical evidence proves unmistakably that the first Arab fleet appeared on Indian waters in 15/636 and was repulsed. But about the end of the first/ seventh century, says Rawlinson, the Muslim Arabs settled on the Malabar Coast, and this fact is corroborated by Francis Day in his Land o/ the Permals, and by Sturrock in his South Kanara and Madras Districts Manuals. Humayun Kabir writes, “Innes, in his Malabar and Anjangode District Gazetteer, quotes an inscription of a tomb from Kollam of one 'Ali who died there in 166/788.
Further circumstantial evidence is offered by the revolt in 141/ 758 of a colony of Muslims established at Canton in China. It is obvious that this colony could not have been founded without intermediate stations, of which the Malabar Coast was likely to be one. Caldwell picked up near Kayalapattan in Tinnevelly, near the mouth of the Tamraparni, a number of Arab coins bearing dates from 71/690.”12
Mubammad bin Qasim invaded Sind in 94/712. The expedition was despatched by I,Iajjaj, the viceroy of Iraq and Iran of the Umayyad dynasty. As a result of the conquest of Sind, Islam came to exercise a potent influence on Indian thought and culture. This part of India remained the Far Eastern territory of the Caliphate till 267/880 when the Caliphate began to decline.
The kingdom of Ghhaznah founded by Subuktigin who conquered Peshawar in 380/990 was a direct result of the weakening of the Caliphate. The aggressive policy of Subuktigin was followed by his ambitious and energetic son Mahmud and by a series of Mughul, Tartar, Khurasani, and Afghan leaders. It was never the intention of the Muslim invaders to spread or work for their religion. A large number of the natives were converted to Islam not because of the political domination of the Muslims but for other reasons, among which may be ranked the missionary activities of the Sufi thinkers and the intolerable economic condition of the masses coupled with the ignorance of their own religion.
The most important cause of the conversion was, however, the simplicity of the Islamic doctrine: the brotherhood it proclaims, and the equal status it accords to Sudras and non-Sudras alike. Even at the early stages the influence was so great that Dr. Titus mentions eleven out of the several Hindu sects in which a definite mixture of Hindu and Muslim notions and practices prevailed13 K. A. Nilkanta admits monotheism and democratic spirit of Islam as potent factors in the evolution of religio-philosophic culture in India and traces in the strictly monotheistic doctrines of Nanak the influence of Islam.14
It has been observed that Sind formed an outlying province of the Caliphate till 267/880. During this period and particularly during the reigns of al-Mansnr, al-Harun, and al-Mamiin attempts were made to understand Indian thought. From Sind, Hindu pundits came to the Court of al-Mansur and presented to him Brahmasiddhanta and Khandakhadyaka, famous astronomical works of Brahmagupta. Both of these were translated into Arabic. A great impetus to this cultural understanding was afforded by the ministerial family of the Barmakids, who were patrons of Hindu learning in the Court of Harun al-Rashid.
According to al-Biruni, this family came from Balkh where an ancestor of theirs was an official in a Buddhist temple. Arab scholars were sent by this family to India to study Indian thought, while Indian scholars were invited to the Court of Baghdad to explain Hindu learning. In the fifth/eleventh century al-Muwaffiq and al-Birdni visited India with the object of understanding Indian medicine, astronomy, and philosophy. Al-Biruni was the first to translate Sattkhya of Kapila into Arabic. He also translated Yoga Sutra by Patanjali and introduced Bhagvad-Gita to the Muslims.
The Hindus also evinced eagerness for understanding Muslim religion and thought. Baladhuri writes in the Futuh al-Buldan that during the reign of Harun al-Rashid, a Hindu rajah requested the Caliph to send a scholar to him to expound and discuss the fundamentals of Islam. Mas'udi, a historian, reports that when he arrived in India in 302/914 he found a Brahmani ruler supremely interested in religious discussions. Whenever this ruler heard of a Muslim arriving in his territory he would invite him and entered into religious discussion with him. 15
Inter-communication of such an active nature could not but influence the thoughts and beliefs of both the communities. Indian philosophy would have been substantially different from what it is today, had Islam with its “militant democracy,” “liberal rationalism,” and “uncompromising monotheism” not entered the arena of Indian thought.
There would have been, in all probability, no proofs for the existence of God such as we find in Udavana's Kusumdnjli written in the fourth/tenth century, nor would there have been Sankara about whom Humayun Kabir observes, “Historical factors do not exclude the possibility Sankara's acquaintance with the elements of Islamic thought.”16 “It is necessary to repeat that most of the elements in the southern school of devotion and philosophy taken singly were derived from ancient systems, but the elements in their totality and in their peculiar emphasis betray a singular approximation to Muslim faith and therefore make the argument for Islamic influence probable.”17 Even today there is a group of Sainkara's followers who do not cremate but bury their dead in the Islamic way.
All the Mu'tazilites, with the solitary exception of al-Jabiz, had discussed philosophy and propounded their theories, before Sahkara was born in the last quarter of the second/eighth century. Even al-Jabiz would have died before Sankara, had he not lived up to the age of ninety. The Mu'tazilites were Unitarians par excellence. They would not admit the attribution of eternal qualities to God, for that would mean the existence of other eternals besides the eternal God. 8ahkara too was an uncompromising monist, believing God to be one and the only reality, all else being illusion.
In the writings of Sahkara one finds an increasing emphasis on the unity of God which some people have regarded as an extension of the ancient monotheism of the Upanisads. But this explanation has failed to satisfy a good many Orientalists who find in Sankara's works “something pertaining to the semitic religions especially.”18 Abu al-Hudhail, a prominent Mu'tazilite, appears to be a precursor of those Hindu monists who maintained that God could be described only in negatives.
Abu al-Hudhail, however, admitted, quite contrary to his fundamental position, that God is knowing, loving, and powerful. The other Mu'tazilites were quick to discover the inconsistency and denied, therefore all positive attributes to the Supreme Reality. In their hands God became unpredictable as well as unknowable, more of an abstract, impersonal, and absolute principle at the back of the universe than a God conceived as a person with whom any contact could be established. They did believe in the possibility of the beatific vision but strongly repudiated all forms of anthropomorphism.
The majority of the Mu'tazilites were atomists. The universe, they thought, was composed of atoms which were indivisible entities. They divided the physical world into substance and accidents or atoms and bodies. Strict determinism, according to them, governed physical phenomena, while freedom of action characterized human beings.
As we have shown in previous chapters, the Mu'tazilites believed in the cult of reason and endeavoured to reconcile the doctrines of Islam with rationalistic views then prevalent. Quite a good many of them enjoyed State patronage. Bishr, the son of Mu'ammar, was a favorite of the Caliph al-Mamun during whose reign efforts were made to understand Hindu thought and culture through discussions and translations of religious literature. In theological and philosophical discussions, the protagonists of different views had complete freedom to express themselves.
It is not unlikely that in this free exchange of ideas the Hindu participants returned to their homeland with quite a number of rationalistic doctrines having their origin in the Mu'tazilite mode of thought. Communication is rarely one-sided; in free and frank exchange of ideas the traffic is more often than not two-sided.
The Mu'tazilites could not satisfy the masses because of their exclusive concern with reason and their seemingly unorthodox views. The Ash'arites protested against the religious rationalism of the Mu'tazilites and advocated a middle path between philosophy and orthodoxy. They refuted the Mu'tazilite views, even while they modified the orthodox doctrine. They rejected the Greek and Oriental philosophies, proved Islamic doctrines by the dialectical method, and refuted non-Islamic religions as well as some sects of Islam.
Al-Ash'ari, al-Bagillani, alJuwaini, al-Ghazali. Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, and ibn Taimiyyah wrote in defence of Islamic theology and in refutation of Greek and particularly Aristotelian thought. Al-Ash'ari was born in c. 260/873, while al-Ghazali, in whose hands the Ash'arite theology reached its final triumph; was born in 450/1058. Al-Ghazali was convinced that the philosophical theory could not form the basis of religious thought and that it was by revelation alone that the essentials of religion could be known. Al-Ghazali asserted that revelation was quite enough and that its ultimate truth could be ascertained only by the experience of the individual. Through ecstasy one could become a knower and receive, so to say, direct communication from God.
In addition to the Mu'tazilites, Ash'arites, and al-Ghazali who touched almost on all problems of philosophical and religious interest and whose theories found a way to the Indian soil through various channels some of which we have mentioned above, there was a long, unbroken line of Sufis, beginning with the early Companions of the Prophet who, like the Prophet himself, set a model for the Sufis by their intense zeal and enthusiasm for the cause of Islam, by their piety, and by the austere life they led.
The Sufis, among whom may be counted Ibrahim bin Adham (d. 160/783), Fad[ bin 'Iyad (d. 185/901), Rabi'ah al-Adwiyyah (d. 1851802), were orthodox Muslims with no pantheistic bias; they revelled, however, in self-abandonment, fervent piety, and quietism, carried to the extreme. Rabi'ah conceived of prayer as a free and intimate intercourse with God. Her prayers indicate spontaneous outpouring of her heart to God. Says she, in one of her prayers, “O my Lord, if I worship Thee from fear of hell, burn me in hell, and if I worship Thee from hope of paradise, exclude me thence, but if I worship Thee for Thine own sake, then withhold not from me Thine Eternal Beauty.”
From Sanikara to Ramanuja.-By the time of Ramanuja, who was born in 407/1016, a host of Muslim thinkers and Sufis-some of the best philosophers that Islam has ever produced-had expounded and elaborated their thoughts in fine systems. It is very unlikely that their thoughts and theories should have failed to influence Indian thought through religious discussions and philosophical disputations which, as we have seen, took place on a wide scale both on the Indian soil and in the Courts of the Caliphs.
Evidence is not wanting to show that some of the controversies which figured so prominently in Indian philosophy, after Islam had firmly entrenched itself on the Indian soil, were nothing more than echoes of Muslim thought, in some cases well in others more blatantly expressed.
Sufism now entered a new phase of its development. Asceticism still remained important but it was subordinated to theosophical and gnostic speculations. This position is discernible in the sayings of Ma'riif al-Karkhi (d. 200/815), abu Sulaiman al-Darani (d. 236/850), and Dhu al-Nun Misri. According to Nicholson, Dhu al-Nun is the source of Neo-Platonic elements in Islamic thought. Abu Yazid al-Bistami (d. 260/874) was the first Sufi to propound the doctrine of /and', and in his teaching Sufism became practically identified with pantheism.
Husain bin Mansur, commonly known as al-Hallaj (b. 244/857), famous for his saying, “I am the Truth,” had travelled in East Iran, Gujerat (India), and Central Asia. He maintained that the soul which is immaterial and immortal suffers from its alignment with the body, that the Supreme Being is incomprehensible by the human intellect and imagination, and that union with the Ultimate Reality is possible through suffering. Mansur was not appreciated by his contemporaries owing to some of his unorthodox utterances as a result of which he was executed. It was a1-'Dhazali, however, who won recognition for Sufism in Islam.
Apart from the fact that Sufi doctrines and practices must have found their way to India along with other ideas of Muslim origin, there is irrefutable historical evidence to show that Muslim Sufis came in the wake of Muslim conquerors and traders and attracted the people of India by the purity and sublimity of their lives. They transmitted, by their personal contacts and discussions, their whole ideology and the way of life as understood by them and their counterparts in other parts of the Muslim world. Ibn Hajar 'Asgalani mentions in his al-Isabah ft Tamyiz al-Sahdbah a certain Baba Rattan who accepted Islam and visited Mecca twice. He was perhaps the earliest Indian Sufi.
A little later came 'Abd Allah known as Baba Khaki, who died in 101/ 719 and was buried in Pakdaman cemetery in Lahore. Another saint was Sayyid Salar Mas'ud~,hazi Mian who, in 425/1033, met a martyr's death at the age of nineteen and was buried in Bharaich in the United Provinces. In the same century there came to India another saint of very great eminence and of far greater historical significance than any of his predecessors. He was 'Ali al-Hujwiri, popularly known as Data Ganj Bakhsh, the writer of the wellknown work, Katb/ al-Mahjitb.
Amongst the Muslim thinkers who flourished between the second/eighth and fifth/eleventh centuries may be mentioned al-Kindi (c. 185/830-260/873), the first philosopher of the Arabs, more renowned as a mathematician and astrologer; al-Farabi (258/870-339/950), who adopted the Neo-Platonic doctrine of emanation; al-Razi (251/865-313/925), the celebrated Muslim physician, physicist, chemist, and philosopher; Miskawaih (d. 421/1030), a Persian moralist, philosopher, and physicist; and ibn Sina (370/980-428/1037), the representative of purer Aristotelianism.
The philosophical thought that had developed from al-Kindi to ibn Sina, that is, before Ramanuja's time, was transplanted in India by the early Muslims, who, in the opinion of Tara Chand, “were men of high rank ... who lived and labored in India, and through their personal contact and influence spread the ideas of Islamic philosophy and mysticism through the length and breadth of India.”19 As a result of this impact, theism became pronounced in Indian philosophy; one comes across proofs for the existence of God for the first time in Udayana's Kusmaiijali.
The Kusumanjali or the Hindu proof of the existence of God was written in the fourth/tenth century.20 Keith says, “To Udayana doubtless belongs the credit of making theism a principal tenet of the school, though we have no reason to suppose him the inventor of the doctrine.”21 The same is true of the Vaisesika. Radhakrishnan observes, “The Vaisesika has been regarded as non-theistic. Kanada... the author of the Vaisesika Sutras ... does not mention God, but later commentators felt that the immutable atoms could not by themselves produce an ordered universe unless a presiding God regulated their activities.
The authorship of the Vedas and the convention of the meaning of words require us to postulate a prime mover. The world cannot be explained by the activities of the atoms alone or by the operation of karma. The system, therefore, adopts the view of God which is found in Nyaya.”22
In Indian philosophy the Nyaya and the Vaisesika are generally treated together, but these systems in fact never formed a single unitary doctrine before the middle of the third/ninth century. Keith puts the date of the syncretism of these two systems in the year 285/898 when Vaeaspati composed his Nyayasucini-bandhu.23 A clear exposition of the combined doctrine is, however, to be found in Udayana “whose date, after many vicissitudes of opinion, is definitely fixed at 374/984 by his own statement in the Laksanavli.... Much more famous is his Kusumdnjali which is the classic exposition of the proof of God.”24
It is worth remembering that the Nyaya and the Vaisieska were combined together to form a single system, after Islam had penetrated deep into the Indian sub-continent. Both the systems were atheistic and atomistic to begin with, but later they took a theistic turn as a result of Muslim influence.
From Ramanuja up to Date.-Ramanuja (b. 407/1016), a Hindu reformer of southern India, advocated the worship of God with devotion and faith. He recognized love as the guiding principle for the relation not only between man and God but also between man and man. Consequently, all man-made barriers including those of caste were to be discarded and the doors of religion thrown open to all, irrespective of social position arising from caste or color.
Ramanuja admitted Sudras to temples, emphasized self-surrender (prapatti), and adoration of the guru (guru bhakti). His emphasis on self surrender and love of the guru can be traced to Buddhism and Upanisadism but his acceptance of monotheism and the stress he laid upon it was entirely due to the inspiration he received from the new faith which was then being preached to the people by Muslim saints like Nathad Wali, for the erection of whose mosques land was granted by the Hindu king Kun-Pandya 25
While not denying the influence of Buddhism and Upanisadism on the philosophy of Ramanuja, it can be maintained that Islam could have supplied to the Bhakti leader both the idea of submission to the will of God and that of adoration of the spiritual guide. As for adoration of the guru, Ramanuja could have got the clue from the writings of the Sufis and also from his personal contacts with them.
The objective of bhakti, according to Ramanuja, is not the realization of nirvana, but eternal blessedness in the presence of God-a Sufistic belief and not a Buddhistic view. His recommendation of a tasteless society in which Sudras should suffer no indignity because of their birth and his throwing the doors of temples open to the low-caste are a clear evidence of profiting by Muslim religion and Muslim practices.
In the sixth/twelfth century there arose two sects in the South which clearly revealed the influence of Islam. They were the Lingayats and the Siddharis. The Lingayats worshipped one God, who, according to them, reveals Himself, as the world-teacher (`Allamah Prabhu). The leader of the movement, Basava, was regarded as an incarnation of Shiva, an `Altdmah Prabhu, whose divinity passed on to his successors and representatives. As
love was considered to be the first creation of God, bhakti or devotion was taken to be the ideal of life. This ideal was attainable through treading a path of austerity, resignation, and concentration on God. The Lingayats made no sacrifices, kept no fasts, did not go on pilgrimages, and discarded purification ceremonies. There was no caste and no differences based on birth or sex. Marriage was voluntary, widows were permitted to remarry, the dead were buried, and the doctrine of transmigration of the soul was not believed in.
Siddharis, a group of philosophical rhymists, were more uncompromising in their monotheistic beliefs than the Lingayats. They rejected the authority of the Vedas and Ssastras and also the theory of metempsychosis. Like the Sufis, they described the Ultimate Reality as Light and conceived of the end of life to be an absorption in God. The Siddharis were also alchemists, and followed Phu al-Nun Misri in this respect.26
The religious reform movement started in the South spread to the North from the eighth/fourteenth century onward. The Muslim conquest of Northern India by the end of seventh/thirteenth century ushered in an era of unprecedented revolution in traditional Hindu thought, from the eighth/fourteenth century onward, we find the religious leaders of the North rejecting certain elements of the ancient creed and exhibiting a strong tendency to imbibe new ideas and theories.
Indian architectural designs show a borrowing of certain features from the Arab and Persian styles of architecture; Indian paintings are influenced by the Central Asian and Persian techniques; in Indian literature a common medium arises in the form of Urdu, while Indian technical and scientific disciplines give evidence of a considerable use of terminology and information contained in Muslim works.
In the realm of thought the same phenomenon is evident. Ramananda, who flourished in the first half of the ninth/fifteenth century, is by many regarded as a bridge between the Bhakti movement of the South and that of the North. He travelled far and wide in search of knowledge and had teachers from the various sects of Hinduism, but his soul remained discontented till he came in contact with Muslims in Benares.27 Followers of all religions were welcome to his creed. He admitted to his sect disciples from both sexes.
From the teachings of Ramananda arose two schools, one represented by Tulsidasa and the other by Kabir, the former being conservative and the latter radical, but each was concerned in its own way with the evolution of a religion acceptable to the Hindus and Muslims alike. Both lay stress upon devotion; condemned externalia of religion, rituals, and ceremonies; protested against dogma and authority; and maintained that “the divine disclosed itself in the human race as a whole.28
Kabir was introduced to Hindu philosophy and religion by Ramananda, but he spent a considerable part of his time in the company of the Sufis. Kabir hated caste distinctions, rejected the authority of the six schools of the Indian philosophy, pooh-poohed the theory of the transmigration of souls, and repudiated the doctrine of reincarnation.
In his teachings Kabir was indebted to the Sufis. His central theme was that God cannot be comprehended through intellect but that He can be approached only through bhakti, i. e. to say, through devotion and ecstatic trance. He held that the essence of God is light and thus came close to the fundamental position of the Sufis. Nicholson finds many points of resemblance between his views about the universe expounded in his first Ramaini and the notions of al-Jili and Badr al-Din hid.29
According to Tara Chand, Kabir made an attempt to reproduce, as in Muslim philosophy, the scheme of nine spheres through which the whole creation develops.30 The goal of human life is the realization of union with God for which purpose the services of a guru are absolutely essential. Consequently, utmost care is to be exercised in the selection of a guru. The guru directs the soul of the disciple along the right path, disciplines his self, and brings him in the living presence of God.
Kabir never recommended renunciation, in spite of his concern with God, and remained till the end of his life a weaver. No doubt, he prescribed a rigorous path of self-discipline, even prophesied disappointments and frustration for the pilgrims, but nowhere did he teach complete withdrawal from the world.
In the latter half of the ninth/fifteenth century was born a redoubtable champion of monotheism in a small village of the Punjab. His parents gave him the name of Nanak and the subsequent generations remember him as Guru Nanak for his piety, cosmopolitanism, and spiritual leadership. He laid the foundation of Sikhism on principles which show clearly and unmistakably the influence of Islamic ideology, beliefs, and practices.
Guru Nanak felt that he was commissioned by the Almighty to launch a campaign for monotheism and a life of righteousness. He condemned polytheistic beliefs and practices, preached non-sectarianism, and admitted no caste distinctions. His ethics, unlike that of the Hindus, was life-affirming, practical, and to some extent puritanical. He recommended righteous living, fear of God, and the obedience of a guru-all Muslim principles-in order to attain salvation which to him was the blending of the light of the soul with that of God.
Nanak realized like the Sufis that God, being incomprehensible through the intellect, can be approached through humility and through understanding one's worthlessness and inadequacies. Despite his love for God, he would allow no anthropomorphic characterization of the Deity, though he remembered Him lovingly sometimes as a husband and sometimes as a bride to relate Him intimately to his own soul.31 Guru Nanak did believe in the transmigration of souls and also in hell. Not satisfied with the punishment which the sinners were destined to suffer through repeated births in lower forms, he threatened them with dire punishments as described in the Qur'an in the parable of hell.
Guru Nanak's debt to Islam was so great and his teachings so well steeped in Sufi lore that, according to Tara Chand, “the fact of the matter is that it is much harder to find how much exactly he drew from the Hindu scriptures.
His rare references to them lead one to imagine that Nanak was only superficially acquainted with the Vedic and the Purdnic literature.”32 In his insistence on the unity and brotherhood of mankind and in his condemnation of idol-worship, caste distinctions, and ritualism, Guru Nanak was as good a Muslim as any other Muslim. It is a pity that the later Gurus were drawn into a whirlpool of politics as a result of which a peace-loving Church was converted into a militant society.
Kabir, Tulsidasa, and Guru Nanak were followed by a host of Hindu thinkers and reformers in the tenth/sixteenth and eleventh/seventeenth centuries who promoted and furthered what in essence were the fundamental principles of Islam. Tuka Ram, a Maratha saint, conceived of God on lines identical with those of Kabir, rejected Vedic sacrifices, idol-worship, and caste,33 while Chaitanya, a Brahman by caste, loved the Muslims so much that he had several Muslim disciples. Caitanya preached the unity of God, insisted on love and devotion, song and dance and ecstatic trance for union with God.33It can be easily seen that Chaitanya's teachings bore a close resemblance to those of the Sufis.
Coming to modern times, we notice two important movements of the Arya Samaj and the Brahmo Samaj. The former, despite its opposition to Islam, preaches what in reality is the essence of Islam. Swami Dayanand (vide his Satydrath Parkash), the founder of the Arya Samaj movement, denounced idol-worship and ritualism as a corruption of the pure Hindu religion. He also condemned hereditary caste-system and instead favored functional castes.
What is remarkable about him is that he indefatigably preached the doctrine of monotheism which in his opinion could be derived from the Vedas and other sacred books of the Hindus. That monotheism is deducible from the Vedas, may be true. It does not, however, contradict Islam; rather, it ratifies the basic standpoint of Islam that God has been revealing Himself to different nations. Hence if monotheism is found in the Vedas, it would not be surprising to a Muslim. What is, however, surprising is Swami Dayanand's emphasis on this doctrine which is lacking in the pre-Islamic literature of India.
The Brahmo-Samajists have discarded the theory of rebirths. They are also opposed to ritualism, image-worship, and caste-system.
In addition to these two movements in modern Hinduism, there is the Rama-Krishna religious reconstruction movement and the Theosophical Society following a religious and social programme; each of these bears close resemblance to Muslim faith and practice. From India Islam goes to Indonesia.
Before the advent of Islam, the Indonesian Archipelago, the biggest country after China in the Far East and the seventh among the great countries of the world, was ruled over for about a thousand years by the Hindus, who went there as traders in the first or second century A.D. and eventually became rulers through their effective diplomacy and practical common sense. According to Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru,34 the first Hindu immigrants to Indonesia belonged to Southern India.
Being traders they settled on coasts and traded with different lands in sundry articles of daily use. They also brought with them their religion which, because of its superiority, could not fail to influence the natives. There is, however, no historical evidence to show whether it was Buddhism or Hinduism that first came to Indonesia. The Hindus never cultivated the art of history in the early centuries, nor did they devise canons for sifting recorded or oral evidence, with the result that their early history is nothing but a mass of fairy tales founded upon imagination, make believe, or hearsay with no solid rock of facts to stand upon.
The early Hindu settlers in Indonesia have left no record of theirs; consequently, it is difficult to determine the chronological order of Hindu cults and beliefs as they found their way into this new land. It is, however, conjectured that the form of Buddhism first to enter the Archipelago was Hinayana and that after a considerable period of time the other form of Buddhism, Mahayana, was also introduced.
In the Majaphit period when Hindu culture and Hindu domination were at their highest a new religion arose, which was the result of the fusion of Brahmanism and Buddhism, incorporating in itself some strands of indigenous thoughts and feelings.
In spite of the political and commercial domination of the Hindus, the country as a whole was never converted to Hinduism. In Java, Hinduism had its strongest centre, while Buddhism had the greatest number of its adherents in Sumatra, Malaya, and a few other adjoining and adjacent islands. A large part of the Archipelago, however, remained untouched by Hinduism and continued to revel in idolatry and nature-worship.
In a large majority of the islands, life went on as usual-the same round of festivals, customary observances, and rituals, showing no sign of foreign influence or changed socio-political conditions. Life in these areas was hemmed in by countless superstitions and irrational fears-the products of ignorance and idol-worship. Multiplicity of superstitions led to the creation of innumerable deities, each deity being held responsible for a particular phase of human life or nature. Homage was paid to gods and goddesses out of fear, for their displeasure could bring about disaster, infertility, epidemics, floods, death, and what not.
Consequently, an elaborate ritual, performed meticulously, was required to keep the deities on the right side. Often the ritual was so complicated that a specially trained agency was called for to perform it strictly in accordance with set practices and established laws. There arose thus a priestly class whose function it was to help invoke the sympathy of gods and goddesses through incantations, charms, sacrifices, and offerings-all of these practiced and performed in a characteristic manner and style.
Wherever Hinduism was in ascendancy the Brahmans assumed the functions of priests and arrogated to themselves the power which none else but a person endowed with supernatural powers could have. The priestly class came to wield, in course of time, not only spiritual but also temporal power through their association with Courts and princes, for the kings needed divine help as much as ordinary mortals.
Anxious to keep their power intact, the priests transmitted their knowledge only to their kith and kin. Very often the recipient of the information was the son of the priest who was initiated into the art of performing ceremonies and trained in them with the utmost exactitude and care, for a slight error or omission would bring about the wrath of a god instead of pleasing him. Thus, the priestly class became hereditary, enjoying special privileges and prerogatives.
The society was split up into two classes, with the priestly class at the top, dominating and exploiting the other by its cleverness, sophistry, and chicanery. Because of his colossal ignorance, political servitude, and economic insufficiency, the common man contented himself with the life and fortunes of a serf or an underling.
Hinduism accentuated the prejudice of class distinction; it gave a fillip to idol worship; it augmented rather than diminished the number of deities; and above all it introduced ahirisa, a life-negating ethics and a life-renouncing philosophy. The natural outcome of this attitude was extension in the field of superstition, an acute sense of individual and collective insecurity together with moral and spiritual bankruptcy on a wide scale.
Islam entered the arena when Hinduism was at the zenith of its glory. The latter was armed with the might of political domination; it had its missionaries all over the Archipelago, who had converted thousands of the natives to their faith; and it had firmly entrenched itself on the soil by its cultural superiority, commercial leadership, and marital relationships. Islam had to fight against heavy odds.
There was no political power to launch a campaign against the Indonesian Hindu rulers. In the middle of the seventh/ thirteenth century when Islam got a foothold in Sumatra, the Muslims all over the world had fallen on evil days. The Fatimids who ruled over the Arab countries, Egypt, and Africa were in a process of disintegration; the `Abbasids were on their last legs; Persia was the vantage ground for self interested upstarts; while Spain, once the pride of Muslim culture and philosophy, had forgotten its traditions and was in the throes of death, surrounded as it was by the Christian hordes who were bent upon giving it a short shrift.
In India the Slave dynasty was replaced by the Khaljis, who were busy at that time setting their own house in order and had little time to look to other peoples' affairs. It is evident that under these circumstances no Muslim power was in a position to lend a helping band to any campaign, much less to one which had no connection with territorial aggrandizement or imperialistic expansionist program.
On the Indonesian soil no gun was fired, nor any sword drawn for the propagation of Islam. Arnold says, “The history of the Malay Archipelago during the last six hundred years furnishes us with one of the most interesting chapters in the story of the spread of Islam by missionary efforts.... In every instance, in the beginning, their work had to be carried on without any patronage or assistance from the rulers of the country, but solely by the force of persuasion, and in many cases in the face of severe opposition, especially on the part of the Spaniards..”35
Several causes have been listed by historians for the slow and spontaneous spread of Islam throughout Indonesia, but it must be admitted that there is yet no established theory to account for this remarkable phenomenon-unique in the annals of history for its methodology and success.
A common explanation for the religious conquest of Indonesia by Islam is offered in terms of the commercial relations which the Muslim merchants from India established in the middle of the seventh/thirteenth century with the Indonesians. These merchants, it is said, married Indonesian women and secured thereby a respectable position for themselves. In course of time the Indonesian wives together with the slaves of their household furnished a nucleus for the acceptance and spread of Islam.
A little reflection will, however, show that this explanation is no better than a myth and needs to be exploded in the interest of truth. Before exhibiting the hollowness of the explanation, it is interesting to note that even so great an authority as Arnold36 seems to subscribe to it. He quotes approvingly from Padre Gainza who says, “The better to introduce their religion into the country, the Muhammadans adopted the language and many of the customs of the natives, married their women, purchased slaves in order to increase their personal importance, and succeeded finally in incorporating themselves among the chiefs who held the foremost rank in the state.
Since they worked together with greater ability and harmony than the natives, they gradually increased their power more and more, as having numbers of slaves in their possession, they formed a kind of confederacy among themselves and established a sort of monarchy, which they made hereditary in one family.
Though such a confederacy gave them great power, yet they felt the necessity of keeping on friendly terms with the old aristocracy, and of ensuring their freedom to those classes whose support they could not afford to dispense with.” To this quotation Arnold adds, “It must have been in some such way as this that the different Muhammadan settlements in the Malay Archipelago laid a firm political and social basis for their proselytizing efforts.
They did not come as conquerors, like the Spanish in the sixteenth century, or use the sword as an instrument of conversion; nor did they arrogate to themselves the privileges of a superior and dominant race so as to degrade and oppress the original inhabitants, but coming simply in the guise of traders they employed all their superior intelligence and civilization in the service of their religion. ...”37
This explanation along social lines founded on respect and prosperity is invalidated, according to C. A. O. van Nieuwenhuijze, by the fact “that the type of trade which the foreign Muslims conducted was by no means alien or new to the Indonesian society.”38 The same point of view is presented with much rigour and empirical data by Comp. J. C. van Lour39 to whom the inquisitive reader may turn for further elucidation and clarification.
The object of the refutation is not to deny the role of the early Muslim traders in the dissemination of Islamic beliefs and practices; it is rather to assign to them a proper place in the situation which was extremely complex and comprised far more potent factors than trade and marital relationships. The traders were no better than carriers of a culture or a world-view which could not have gained ground in spite of their zeal and fervor, had it not the strength to stand on its own legs.
Another explanation for the peaceful penetration of Islam into Indonesia is to be found in the socio-political conditions of the urban society which was powerfully influenced by the caste-system that had been introduced by Hinduism. Priesthood had divided the society into two watertight compartments. This and like differences were supported and in a way accentuated by the caste-system which the Hindus had brought with them and introduced.
Hinduism not only ratified bifurcation in the Indonesian society, it also multiplied the then existing divisions, for Hinduism admits of four classes and not only two in society. These divisions based originally on professions became hereditary so that no person, howsoever talented he might be, could change his caste.
A person born Sudra home could by no means shed the social stigma attached to him for having been born in a low-caste home. Intelligence, integrity, talent, and hard work were of no avail in face of the inflexibility of the caste-system. The worst to suffer in this system were those who stood at the lowest rung; they were the most oppressed and the most exploited, but the others too with the exception of the priestly and the Brahmanical class had to suffer different kinds of social indignities and disabilities.
The non-priestly classes, particularly the lower ones, found in Islam a panacea to the ills which like a miasma were eating up the very fabric of the society. Since Islam recognizes no distinctions which divide man from man and recommends a classless and tasteless society, it captured the imagination of the Indonesians, who embraced the new religion to reassert their dignity as human beings and to re-acquire democratic rights to live as free individuals unhampered by artificial man-made restrictions.
The conception of the universal brotherhood of mankind together with the basic equality of all human beings, which Islam advocates so vehemently, proved a dynamite for the foundations of the social structure of Hinduism. Accordingly, Hinduism crumbled like a house of cards and the Indonesian masses, particularly those living in the urban areas, accepted the new faith in large numbers. From the harbor towns and coastal areas, where the grip of the caste-system was the strongest and the most pinching, Islam spread inland.
Another reason for the success of Islam is to be discovered in the simplicity of the creed that it preaches. It makes no metaphysical presuppositions as is done, for instance, by Buddhism, nor does it demand credence in too many transcendental beings as is the case with Hinduism. Islam is unencumbered by theological subtleties. It simply asserts the godhead of one God and the prophethood of Muhammad and that of others.
The fundamental tenets of Islam are, thus, the fundamental demands of the human intellect. Professor Montet says, “Islam is a religion that is essentially rationalistic in the widest sense of this term considered etymologically and historically.... This fidelity to the fundamental dogma of the religion, the elemental simplicity of the formula in which it is enunciated ... are so many causes to explain the success of Muhammadan missionary efforts. A creed so precise, so stripped of all theological complexities and consequently so accessible to the ordinary understanding, might be expected to possess and does indeed possess a marvelous power of winning its way into the consciences of men.” 40
Hinduism never accorded with the genius of the Indonesians in spite of the Hindus' long cultural contact with them and their equally long political domination. The average Hindu Indonesian wore his creed like a veneer which left his soul as well as his body almost naked. He yearned for a creed more in line with his natural cravings and intellectual demands. When Islam presented itself as a rival to Hinduism and heathenism, it quickly acquired victory by the force of its logic and the rationality of its demands.
Another factor which may have contributed to the success of Islam is its theory of human society which releases man from his narrow geographical grooves and makes him a member of the community (ummale) of Islam. National loyalties and political affiliations are subordinated to the larger interests of the Muslim community as a whole.
Not only does this conception emancipate an individual from the prison of self-interest and parochialism, it also provides an anchor-sheet for the forlorn and the neglected. A convert, after having lost his kinship with his clan, can save himself from the pangs of loneliness by conjuring up his association with a bigger whole which recognizes neither territorial limits nor clannish bonds. A thing of this kind is not to be found in other religions, much less in Hinduism, torn as it is by its caste-system, family distinctions, and the practice of untouchability.
Islam has not only the idea of ummah to put an individual in a wider perspective, it has still another idea nobler and richer in content for the rehabilitation and re-establishment of the lonely and the forsaken. This idea is to be found in mysticism which promises to place man in the lap of Infinity. It is said that in the beginning the Indonesians were attracted by the mysticism of Islam rather than by any of its other aspects.
In addition to the reasons enumerated above, one very potent reason for the propagation and success of Islam in foreign lands, particularly in Indonesia, Malay, Indo-China, and the Philippine Islands, was the enthusiasm and sincerity with which Islam was presented by the early Muslim mystics who migrated to these islands of their own accord and settled there temporarily or permanently. Generally, they accompanied the Muslim traders or came in their wake. The first thing they did was to acquaint themselves with the local dialect; this was necessary for transmission and exchange of ideas.
After acquiring proficiency in the native language, the Sufis started propagating Islam among the influential and the rich, believing that reform of these would rid the society of most of the ills from which it suffered, and that their conversion would be followed by those of the masses. The unlettered and the unsophisticated people which formed the bulk of the society looked up to their chiefs and nobles for guidance and inspiration. Not able to make a decision themselves, they imitated the high-ups in all matters. Hence the success of a religious ideology among the upper classes, the Sufis thought, would work for the spiritual regeneration.
The Sufis built mosques which often had schools attached to them. From these centers of learning were delivered courses of lectures on Muslim theology, culture, philosophy, and history. Mysticism has a philosophy of a very high order. It replaces the cold formalism of the Shari'ah by an intense and passionate longing for the all-loving God and ensures the purification of the heart by treading a well-regulated Path.
The Subs regarded prayers, fasting, and pilgrimage as means and not ends to be cultivated and pursued for their own sake. But they knew that the means were as much necessary for the spiritual uplift of a person as the attainment of the end. And, therefore, the early mystics who took upon themselves the burden of carrying the message of God to the four corners of the world stressed the performance of religious duties, such as offering prayers, fasting, going on a pilgrimage, etc., along with acts of supererogation for winning the pleasure of God.
A brief historical sketch of the growth and development of mysticism in Islam has been provided in an earlier chapter and, therefore, need not be repeated here. Suffice it to say that by the end of the seventh/thirteenth century when Islam was imported to Indonesia and other adjacent islands, the theory of mysticism had received its final touches at the hands of the leading Muslim thinkers and divines. According to a number of Orientalists, the best of Muslim religion is to be found in its mysticism.
Maulana Burhan al-Din is said to have been the first Muslim to preach his faith to the islanders. He belonged to the Qadiriyyah order of Sufism which is named after 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (470/1077-561/1166), a saint whose writings, generally orthodox in content, have a tendency to mystical interpretation of the Qur'an.
The Maulana also belonged to the Shafi'iyyah sectone of the four legal schools of Muslim theology named after Imam al-Shafi'i who effected a synthesis of the strict adherence to Tradition of the Malikii with the Hanafl method of giyds, that is to say, with the analogical deduction. Abu Hanifah, the founder of the Hanafi legal school, made free use of his own judgment in deciding between traditions, while Malik ibn Anas maintained the exclusive validity of the accepted traditions. Al-Shafi'i carved a via media between these two modes of approach and attempted a synthesis.
Maulana Burhan al-Din was, thus, steeped in the best traditions of Islam. He followed the Shari'ah and was affiliated to the most tolerant and progressive school of Sufism, a school which was neither too liberal nor yet too conservative. The Muslims of the Archipelago at present belong predominantly to the Shafi'iyyah sect and this is due to the teachings of the Maulana.
It is interesting to note that the Shafi'iyyah sect was predominant on the Coromandel and the Malabar Coasts of India when the Muslim traders from these areas first landed in Sumatra and introduced their culture and religion. It may be conjectured in the absence of any historical record that the Maulana belonged to India and travelled with or came in the wake of the Indian Muslim traders who also belonged mostly to the Shafi'iyyah sect as well as to the Qadiriyyah school of mysticism.
Among the Muslim rulers of Sumatra, Sultan Alimad worked ceaselessly for the glory of Islam. During his reign as well as during that of his descendants Muslim missionaries were sent far and wide. Wherever they went, they built mosques and schools to provide permanent centres of devotion and learning. The schools also served as community centres where matters of common interest were discussed.
The King al-Malik al-Zahir, a descendant of Sultan Ahmad, was fond of holding discussions with theologians, and his Court was thronged with men of learning and letters. We have it on the authority of ibn Battutah that the king had summoned two jurisconsults from Persia for discussion and clarification of some religio-legal issues.
Next to come under the influence of Islam was the Molucca. There is no knowing of the fact how the new religion was introduced, but this much can be inferred from the present cultural condition of the islands that there existed strong traces of Indian and Arabian influence in the life and literature of the inhabitants. Their religion is predominantly Shaf'iyyah, but their culture is steeped in Arabian lore and learning.
The Muslim kings of the Moluccas rendered yeoman's service to the cause of Islam by instituting centres of Muslim culture, literature, history, and philosophy. During the reign of Mansur, the Malayan language adopted the Arabic script. Ancient Indian Muslim literature was transliterated into Malayan Arabic script. Mansur also introduced Islamic constitution in the country, though not completely, for he kept intact the old system of taxation, general administration, and fishing; yet in all other matters he made an attempt to follow the Shafi'iyyah jurisprudence, social polity, and details of administration.
Islam spread to Java through the efforts of the trading mystics of Malay, particularly of Maulana Malik Ibrahim, an Indian national of Gujerat district. The Maulana was not only a Sufi of high order but also a scholar of the first rank and a Hakim of no mean repute. He cured a Hindu dignitary who subsequently embraced Islam and is counted among the nine saints of Java. He is known as Raden Rahmat. The other saints belonged either to the rich Hindu families or to the defunct Majaphit dynasty.
All of them without exception led a life of simplicity, piety, and high religious fervor. They converted thousands to Islam by their example and teaching. A mosque was built where the nine saints met occasionally to discuss matters of common interest. The converts also congregated there to discuss their problems and difficulties. Deputations from foreign lands were also received in this mosque. This shows that the mosque was not only a centre of devotion but also a community centre dedicated to multipurpose activities. So great was the religious ardor that the Muslim converts of Java entertained a keen desire to visit the holy places of Islam; one of them, Sunan Gunang by name, went for pilgrimage to Mecca where he learnt the principles of Islam from Arab teachers, and came back to Java full of enthusiasm for the new faith.
It will take several pages to recount the story of the spread of Islam in other islands of Indonesia. Suffice it to say that its propagation was nothing but a peaceful penetration through the efforts of traders, mystics, and preachers-both native and foreign.41
Before the advent of Islam, Java had been ruled by Majaphit, a Hindu dynasty, which had fallen on evil days; as a result, the country had become divided into a number of principalities, each owing allegiance to its own chieftain. The people followed either Hinduism or Buddhism, but very often their religion was an admixture of both with a strong overtone of animism and belief in magic and sorcery.
The condition of other islands was no better. The Hindus whose early contacts with the Archipelago were of purely commercial nature42 soon developed colonial and imperialistic designs in the land43 and started a process of “Hinduization,” which gave birth to a caste-system as rigid as that in India and provided in addition an appeal to the deification of kings and the ruling class.44
After the downfall of the Majaphit dynasty in the ninth/fifteenth century the Muslim rule was firmly established in Java and other islands till the conquest of the Archipelago by the Dutch towards the end of the tenth/ sixteenth century. For about two hundred years the Muslims remained at the helm of affairs and contributed substantially to the cultural development of the country.
They tried to rid literature of absurd and obscene stories about gods and goddesses; they worked for the amelioration of the society, and introduced, through translation of Arabic and Persian books, a system of philosophy, mysticism, jurisprudence, and ethics, which had its roots in Muslim thought and religion. That the Indonesian literature of the pre-Muslim period was utterly nonsensical, superstitious, and obscene, has been testified by Crawford45 and also by Dr. Richards.46 The latter maintains that the purpose of such literature was simply to humor the princely class by its esoteric and fictitious nature.
The Muslim rulers replaced it by healthy literature. Sultan Agung, a ruler of Mataram (1022/1613-1055/1645), wrote a treatise on philosophy, morals, and statecraft; the eldest son of an Egyptian scholar, 'Allamah ibn Hajar al-Hutami, wrote a monumental book on mysticism entitled Sirat al-Mushlaqin; 47 `Allamah Nur al-Din compiled a historical work called Bustan al-Salatin,48 while Tan Muhammad, a premier of Malaya during the reign of Sultan 'Abd al-Jalil, wrote a historical account of the rulers of Malaya and Sumatra.
Besides original publications, a host of Persian and Arabic works were translated. Al-Gbazali's al-Israr was translated by 'Abd al-Samad. Sikandar Nanaeh and Mathnatoi of Maulana Rum and Tuhtat al-Ahrar of Jami were also rendered into the Malayan language.49
The impact of translations and original works on theology, morals, philosophy, and culture of the Indonesians was tremendous. It paved the way to a new type of literature which attempted to deduce morals from stories in which the principal actors and characters were birds, animals, and trees. These anecdotes were written on the pattern of the aforesaid Malhnawi of Maulana Rum and Mantiq al-Tair of `Attar, and helped to inculcate a healthy attitude towards world and its affairs.
Instead of ahimsa and life-negating ethics, emphasis was now laid upon effort, struggle, and achievement. Renunciation was eschewed in favor of community living, and a tasteless society was preached for in place of a caste-ridden one. Spiritual values were extolled as against the commercial ones. All this led to a great awakening among the masses. The Indonesians realized as never before that they were connected with one another by ties which transcend caste, creed, and color.
Encyclopaedia of Islam; Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics; A. M. A. Shushtery, Outlines of Islamic Culture, 2 Vols; Khalifa Abdul Hakim, Islamic Ideology; M. M. Sharif, Muslim Thought: Its Origin and Achievements; V. V. Barthold, Musulmane Culture.
S. Muhammad Iqbal, The Development of Metaphysics in Persia; E. G. Browne, A Literary History of Persia, 4 Vols; Shibli Nu`mani, 8hi`r al.'Ajam; M. Inostranzov, Iranian Influence in Moslem Literature; Julius Germans, Modern Movements in Islam; R. A. Nicholson, A Literary History of the Arabs; Studies in Islamic Mysticism; Sykes, A History of Persia; History of Afghanistan; Richard Danvey, The Sultan and His Subjects; Robert Doris Osborn, Islam under the Khalifs of Bagdad; Marshall Broomshall, Islam in China; Syed Ameer Ali, A Short History of the Saracens.
E. C. Dewick and Murray T. Titus, Indian Islam; Tara Chand, Influence of Islam on Indian Culture; Sir Wolseley Haig, The Cambridge History of India; S. K. Aiyangar, South India and Her Muhammadan Invaders; Ramanuja; al-Balddhuri, Futuh al-Buldan; S. Lane-Poole, Mediaeval India under Moslem Rule; T. Rajagopalacharya, The Vaisnava Reformers of India; E. C. Sachau, Alberuni's India; J. T. Reinaud, Relation de voyages fails par les Arabs et Persans; T. W. Arnold, The Preaching of Islam; Dara Shikuh, Safinat al-Auliyd'; Majma` al-Bahrain; G. Henry Keene, The Turks in India; Najm al-Ghani Khan, MadMhib al-Islam; ~haikh Did' al-Din, Tuhfat al-Mujahidin; R. A. Nicholson, The Mystics of Islam; Maeauliffe, The Sikhs; Khazan Singh, History and Philosophy of the Sikh Religion; Jadunath Sarkar, Chaitanya; J. C. Oman, The Mystics, Ascetics and Saints of India; 'Abd al-Qadir Badayi m, Muntakhab al-Tawarikh; Babur, Wagi'at-i Baburi; G. A. Herklots, Islam in India; J. N. Farquhar, An Outline of the Religious Literature of India; Modern Religious Movements in India; W. W. Hunter, The Indian Musulmans; Syed Ameer Ali, The Spirit of Islam; M. N. Roy, The Historical Role of Islam; Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Modern Islam in India; Islam in allodern History; Sayyid Sulaiman Nadawi, `Arab wa Hind ke Ta`allugat.
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A. K. Coomaraswamy, History of Indian and Indonesian Art; R. C. Majumdar, Ancient Indian Colonies in the Far East; I. Tsing, A Record of the Buddhist Religion as Practised in India and the Malay Archipelago; Captain P. J. Beigbie, The Malay Peninsula; John Crawford, History of the Indian Archipelago; A. A. Hossein, The Netherlands East Indies; G. S. Hurgronje, De Atjehers, 2 Vols. ; Sir Richard Winstedt, The Malaya: A Cultural History; B. H. M. Vlekka, A History of the East Indian Archipelago;
C. Wolf, The Indonesian Story: The Birth, Growth, and Structure of the Indonesian Republic; B. Schrieke, Indonesian Sociological Studies; J. M. van der Krocf, Indonesia in the Modern World; W. F. Wertheim, Changes in Indonesian's Social Stratification; Sir Hugh Clifford, Further India; K. P. Landon, Southeast Asia, Crossroads of Religions; Sir Stamford Raffles, History of Java, 3 Vols.; W. F. Stutterheim, Den Islam en Zijn Komst in den Arcipel ; Wales Quaritch, The Making of Greater India; Ndr Ahmad Qhdri, Tartkh-i Tamaddun-i Indonesia.
- 1. M. N. Roy, The Historical Role of Islam, Chaps. 1-3.
- 2. Visages de l’Islam quoted by Zaki Ali, Islam in the World, Lahore, 1947, p. 110.
- 3. Arnold, The Preaching of Islam, Chaps. VII and IX.
- 4. A. M. A. Shushtery, Outlines of Islamic Culture, Vol. II, Bangalore, 1938, p. 426.
- 5. Arnold, op. cit., p. 207.
- 6. A. M. A. Shushtery, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 26.
- 7. G. L. Lewis, Turkey, Ernest Benn Ltd., London, 1957, p. 17.
- 8. M. Philips Price, A History of Turkey, London, 1956, p. 33.
- 9. Lord Eversely, The Turkish Empire, Lahore, 1957, p. 9.
- 10. Stanley Lane-Poole, Turkey, London, 1900, pp. 302-23.
- 11. A'inah-i Haqiqatnuma', pp. 46, 47.
- 12. The Cultural Heritage of India, ed. Bhattacharya, 1956, Vol. IV, p. 587.
- 13. Indian Islam, pp. 172-77.
- 14. The Cultural Heritage of India, Vol. IV, p. 61.
- 15. Muruj al-Dhahab, Vol. I, p. 254.
- 16. The Cultural Heritage of India, Vol. IV, p. 586.
- 17. Tara Chand, Influence of Islam on Indian Culture, Allahabad, 1946, p. 107.
- 18. Pope, Manikka Vashar. Cited by Tara Chand, op. cit., p. 106.
- 19. Ibid., p. 48.
- 20. S. Radhakrishnan and C. A. Moore, A Source Book in Indian Philosophy, Oxford, 1957, p. 358.
- 21. A. B. Keith, Indian Logic and Atomism, Oxford, 1921, p. 32. 11 S. Radhakrishnan and C. A. Moore, op. cit., p. 386.
- 22. A. B. Keith, op. cit., p. 29.
- 23. 24 Ibid., p. 31
- 24. Tara Chand, op. cit., p. 112.
- 25. Caldwell, Indian Antiquary, Vol. I, p. 177.
- 26. Macauliffe, The Sikhs, Oxford, 1909, Vol. VI, p. 102.
- 27. Ibid.
- 28. Studies in Islamic Mysticism.
- 29. Tara Chand, op. cit., p. 157.
- 30. Macauliffe, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 195.
- 31. Tara Chand, op. cit., p. 177.
- 32. Fraser and Marathe, Hymns of Tukaram.
- 33. Jadunath Sarkar, Chaitanya.
- 34. Glimpses of World History, p. 133.
- 35. Arnold, op. cit., p. 363.
- 36. Ibid., p. 365.
- 37. Ibid., pp. 365-66.
- 38. Aspects of Islam in Post-Colonial Indonesia, p. 35.
- 39. “Indonesian Trade and Society,” Essays in Asian Social and Economic History, The Hague, 1955.
- 40. Edouard Montet, La propaganda chretienne et sea adversaries musulmans, Paris,, pp. 17-18, quoted by Arnold, op. cit., pp. 413-14.
- 41. Detailed information on this subject is to be found in Arnold's Preaching of Islam and Crawford's History of the Indian Archipelago, Edinburgh, 1820.
- 42. . J. Gonda, Sanskrit in Indonesia, p. 18.
- 43. R. C. Majumdar, Ancient India Colonies in the Far East, Lahore, 1927, p. 70
- 44. D. G. E. Hall, A History of South East Asia, London, 1955, p. 18.
- 45. John Crawford, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 298.
- 46. Richard Winstedt, The Malayas, London, 1950, p. 143.
- 47. Nur Ahmad Qadri, Tarikh-i Tamaddun-i Indonesia, p. 357.
- 48. Encyclopaedia of Islam, Vol. II. p. 507.
- 49. Richard Winstedt, op. cit., p. 144.