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History of Kerala Muslims

Muhammed Haneefa

By J.B.P. More
Other Books, Calicut, 2011, pp. 260 xiv, Rs. 360.00


Most of the discussions and reports on Muslims in India often embrace the sketchy phrase Pakshe Kerala Muslims (But Muslims in Kerala) to emphasize the ‘exceptional’ standards that Muslims of Kerala have achieved. Such studies highlight that Kerala Muslims have attained higher educational standards, literacy rate, higher social mobility, better economic condition and more political representation, both at the state and center levels, than most other Muslim communities in the country. The same is also true of their historical origin and development. When compared with Muslims in the northern part of India, the history of Kerala Muslims is a different story. The book under review is one of the best examples that highlight the peculiar nature and spread of Islam in Kerala, which now comprises nearly 24.3 per cent of Muslims of the State’s total population. Who was the first Muslim who came to Kerala? How did Islam spread in the region? What was the relationship of Muslims with other communities? Was it peaceful or hostile? How did Muslims respond to the colonial brutalities committed by Vasco da Gama and his crew? J.B.P. More’s work attempts to find answers to many such questions.   More’s Origin and Early History of the Muslims of Keralam is mainly divided into two parts. The first part deals with the origin and the early history of Kerala Muslims until 1600 AD. In the second part, the author has edited and prefaced Mohammed Kasim Ferishta’s work, Some Account of the Muslims of Malabar. In the end, the eleven-page appendix includes rare and rich monochrome collections, which aims to give the reader a panoramic view of the mosques and tombs in Malabar. At the very outset, the author takes the position that he has no particular ideological affiliation and claims that he is an independent and ‘neutral’ scholar. By saying this, he tries to make it clear that though born and brought up as a westerner, he does not have any colonial cultural projects or agendas that his predecessors had with their arrival and writings. In the introduction, while discussing the tradition of history-writing in India, More argues that such a culture—writing history and keeping records—began in India as a result of the contact that Indians had with the Arabs and West Asian travellers. However, he adds that things underwent a sea change after the arrival of Portuguese in Malabar. As ...

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