Globalising the Asian Muslim Umma

Alternating movements East–West of spirituality, reform and militant jihad

Authored by: Pnina Werbner

Routledge Handbook of Religions in Asia

Print publication date:  September  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415635035
eBook ISBN: 9781315758534
Adobe ISBN: 9781317636465


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The movement of Islam eastwards, to South and Southeast Asia, is commonly believed to have begun with the conquest of Sindh and Punjab by Muhammad bin Qasim, a young Umayyad general, in the later part of the seventh century AD. But, as Asghar Ali Engineer tells us:

this is not true. Islam entered India peacefully, through Kerala on the west coast via Arab traders. The region called Malabar in Kerala is an Indianized form of ma’bar, which in Arabic means ‘passage’ … The Arabs had, in fact, been trading since pre-Islamic days and then embraced Islam after the Prophet began preaching. They married local women in Kerala and their offspring spread to different parts of that region. They were later also accompanied by Sufi saints who converted many local people to Islam, mainly from the lower classes. This was therefore the real entry point of Islam into India.

(Engineer 2002: 239)

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