Islamic Perspectives

Spread of Islam: views of non-Muslim scholars

There’s a general tenor, especially among Hindus, that Islam was spread on the Subcontinent with the help of the sword and coercion. The truth is something else. I’ve painstakingly collected non-Muslim scholars’ opinions regarding the spread of Islam in the Subcontinent and pieced them together.

“We must take into consideration the fact that a large number of devout Muslims on the Subcontinent cannot be ‘a herd of public’, converted by the invaders who came from Persia and Arab Peninsula. It was the all-embracing and simple philosophy of Islam that endeared them to it (Islam) and the people from the Sub-continent wholeheartedly embraced this great faith.”

- Rabindranath Tagore in a letter to French indologist Romain Rolland, 1928, courtesy: Desh magazine, July 1965

“I’ve never been so emphatically influenced by any other religion that has so much simplicity like the clarity of Islam. It’s the religion that has the potential to appeal to the very core of every individual. No wonder, the Subcontinent accepted it so warmly.”

- Historian Sir Jadunath Sarkar, Jugantar (sister concern of now defunct Amrita Bazar Patrika)

“Of all the three Semitic faiths, it’s Islam that has appealed to me the most and when I consider myself to be a simple individual, I believe that others may also have looked at it with same love, fervour and passion. Islam made its presence felt on the Subcontinent because of its greatness and the love of Sufis.”

- Dr Ramvilas Sharma, Hindi critic and former professor of English at Agra University, Dharmyug, 1972

“What could be more irritating than harping on a false notion that Islam was spread on the Subcontinent by the invaders who threatened the people of the Subcontinent to embrace Islam or else face the music. I can never buy this baseless theory. It’s an attempt to calumnise a great faith like Islam.”

- The late Gulabdas Broker, famous Gujarati short-story writer, Navneet, 1982

“The confused populace of the Subcontinent found in Islam the elusive spiritual anchorage. They accepted it and proved the utility of the Ockham’s Razor: you always opt for the simplest and the easiest and there’s no faith simpler and easier than Islam.”

- Dharmveer Bharti, Hindi poet and novelist

“Why didn’t British rule influence more people from the Subcontinent to embrace Christianity? Britishers also ruled for more than two hundred years. There must have been something so specific about Islam that so many from the Subcontinent accepted it.”

- Tushar Kanti Ghosh, The founder and editor of now defunct Amrita Bazar Patrika, 1951

“The most striking thing that has happened on the Subcontinent is the spread of Islam in a peaceful manner without any coercion and cajoling. A faith like Islam needs no unfair tactics to make inroads into the hearts of people.”

- Acharya Kshitimohan Sen, Desh, Bangla

“Islam came into the Subcontinent with Sufis and mystics, not with the wielders of swords. It became a faith in the broadest sense of the word because it has the elements of 3 Ts: Truth, Transparency and Tenacity.”

- V V Giri, former President of India, Caravan, 1970

“When I study the phenomenon of Islam’s spread on the Subcontinent, I gather one very important aspect out of the whole thing: The prevalent situation of the then Subcontinent. With utmost respect to Hinduism, I must say that there’d not been a definite binding faith on the Subcontinent for a very long time. There was a loose spiritual atmosphere prevalent in that era. Islam integrated that loose religious vein and gave a concrete form to believe in with its innate adaptability.

- Sir Hamilton Gibb, ‘The Greatness Of Islam’, first published in The Reader’s Digest, 1949

After going through the above-mentioned views of non-Muslim scholars, one’s bound to believe that very many prevalent misnotions about Islam’s spread and influence on the sub-continent are fallacious. I, too, as an advanced student of comparative religions, have been influenced by its simplicity. That I didn’t embrace Islam is inconsequential as I’ve no faith in any organised faith, including Islam. But if I were to choose one of the existing faiths, I’d certainly have opted for Islam. What do readers have to say?
Dr Sumit S Paul, Poona

 

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 February 2012 on page no. 21

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