Islam in South Asia

Francis Robinson

in Islamic Studies

ISBN: 9780195390155
Published online December 2009 | | DOI:
Islam in South Asia


The growth of Islam in South Asia has been one of the more important geopolitical developments of the past millennium. It began in the 7th and 8th centuries, when Arab-Muslim traders settled on the subcontinent's southwestern coast and Arab-Muslim military expeditions probed the Makran coast and the Indus Valley. Now, one third of the world's Muslims live in South Asia, which has become a major source of Islamic ideas and organizations across the world. Muslim power produced the greatest of the Muslim empires of the premodern world, that of the Mughals, which at its height ruled 100 million people, as compared with the 22 million of the Ottoman Empire and the 6 million of the Safavid Empire. Islam itself showed a capacity to interact fruitfully with South Asia's many regional cultures. Nevertheless, as the centuries went by, more and more of the indigenous inhabitants of South Asia came to embrace an Islamic religio-cultural milieu, with many converting to Islam. By the 18th century, South Asia had begun to export people and ideas to the rest of the Islamic world. From the early 19th century, South Asian Muslims had the new experience of striving to sustain an Islamic society under colonial non-Muslim rule. In this context, a remarkable revival developed and the ulama, the learned men of Islam, came to have a greater say in affairs than ever before. Some of the movements that emerged from the revival, like the Tablighi Jamaʿat, have come to have a worldwide significance. At the political level, Muslim separatist politics grew and South Asia was partitioned into India and Pakistan in 1947. In these states—and that of Bangladesh, which emerged from Pakistan in 1971—where possible Islam has endeavored to engage with the modern state, but its fate has always been subject to the political context, both national and international.

Article.  14013 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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