Muslim Communities and Structures in Early Medieval India: 8th – 10th Century

According to the contemporary sources, both literary and epigraphic, during 8th to 10th century, the Muslim merchant communities coming towards and settling in India, especially in the western parts, were provided with both neighbourhood mosques (masājid) and congressional mosques (jawāmi’ or masājid-i ādhīna) standing in close proximity to idol temples (but-khāna) endowed with minarets from which the call to prayer (adhān / azān), the takbīr (the cry ‘God is great’ – Allaho Akbar) and the tahlīl (the statement that there is no god but God- ‘Ash-hado an lā ilāha illallāh’) were given.*

From the contemporary epigraphs we also come to know that the name ‘Muhammad’ was usually transliterated as Madhumati, Madhumata or Madumod. The name ‘Ali was on the other hand transliterated as Alliya, or Aliyama.

The existence of these diasporic communities is confirmed by inscriptions of the Rashtrakutas and Kadambas found on the west coast of India.

For example, the Chinchani copper-plate inscription of Śaka Samvat 848 (AD 926) mentions that a Tajīka (Turk/Muslim), named ‘Madhumati Sugatipa’ (Muhammad Lord of the Virtuous) son of ‘Sahiyarahara’ (Shahriyar), evidently a Persian Muslim, governed the region of Sanjan (Samyana) which was situated on the Karnataka coast of western India for the Radhtrakutas during the reigns of Krishna II (AD 878 – 915) and Indra III (AD 915 – 928), who elsewhere describes his dominion as including the Tājikas and Purasikas (Muslims & Persians/Parsis).

This inscription indicates that ‘Madhumati’ (Muhammad) established ‘free ferries and a feeding house’ and endorsed the establishment of a Hindu monastery and an endowment to ensure its support by a Brahman who was an associate of his minister. The foundation is mentioned in a later inscription too which is dated Śaka Samvat 956 (AD 1034). This later inscription also refers to the merchants Alliya (‘Ali), Mahara (Mihr), and Madhumata (Muhammad).**

Contrarily we also find reference that when a mosque was damaged in a sectarian riot in Cambay, the Chalukyan king Jayasimha Siddharaja (1094-1144) paid for its reconstruction. We also get a report that a Jain merchant funded construction of a mosque in the coastal Gujarati town of Bhadreśvar.***

Further south along the Konkan coast, two inscriptions in the name of Kadamba ruler Jayakeśin I (c. 1050-80) found at Panjim in Goa, attest the presence of Muslim communities in that region.

The first of these inscriptions, dated AD 1053, grants permission to an official named Chadama, son of a Tajīka merchant Madumod (Muhammad), to collect taxes from ships entering the port in order to fund construction of a “mijigiti” (masjid/mosque).

The second is a royal inscription of AD 1059 and it reports the grant of a village to the said Chadama, who is mentioned as the son of Madhumada (Muhammad), son of Aliyama (‘Ali), a Tayika (Tajīka) merchant who hailed from the port of Cemulya (Saymur).^

Apart from the coastal towns of Karnataka, Konkan, Gujarat, and Maharashtra, Muslim merchant communities also are attested to in the cities of the Gangetic plain.

Al-Muqaddasi, for example, reports the existence of a jāmi’ (congressional mosque) in the suburbs (al-rabāz) of Kannauj, the capital city of Gurjara-Pratiharas, a kingdom considered by the contemporary Muslim geographers as inherently hostile to Islam.^^

A mihrab datable to 9th-10th century survives at Gwalior near Kannauj, confirming that Muslims and mosques existed even within the urban centres of Gurjara-Pratiharas.^^^

This mihrab adapts a contemporary Indic architectural vocabulary and anticipates the idiomatic transformations associated with later Indo-Islamic architecture.

_________________________________

References:

* al-Masūdi, Murūj al-dhahab (9 vols, ed. & tr. C Bardier de Meynard & Pavet de Courteille, Paris, 1861-77), I, p. 382; idem, Le Prairies d’or, tr. C B Meynard & Pavet de Courteille, Paris, 1962, I, p. 154; Abu Ishaq al-Farisi al-Istakhri, Kitāb Masālik wa’l Mamālik, ed., J de Goeje, Brill, Leiden, 1967, pp. 173, 176; Anon., Hudūd al-‘Ālam, ed., Manuchehr Sutudeh, Teheran, 1962, p. 66; JH Kramers & G Wiet, Configuration de la terre (Kitāb surat al-ard, ed., JH Kramers, Brill, Leiden, 1967, p. 320; V Minorsky, Hudūd al-‘Ālam, “The Regions of the World”: A Persian Geography, 372 AH – 982 AD, Karachi, 1980, p. 88

** Epigraphia Indica, no.32, 1957-58, esp. 47, 50; D C Sircar, Studies in the Society and Administration of Ancient and Medieval India, vol I: Society, Calcutta, 1967, pp.77-85; David Pingree, ‘Sanskrit Evidence for the Presence of Arabs, Jews and Persians in Western India: ca. 700-1300,’ Journal of the Oriental Institute MS University of Baroda, 1981, vol 31, no.1, (pp. 172-82), pp.176-77; Ranabir Chakravarti, ‘Monarchs, Merchants and a Matha in Northern Konkan (c. AD 900-1053),’ in idem, (ed.), Trade in Early India, New Delhi, pp. 257-81 (pp.65-69)

*** G. Bühler, ‘The Jagducharita of Sarvananda, a Historical Romance from Gujarat,’ Sitzungsberichte der Philosophisch-Historischen Classe der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, vol 126, pp.1-74 (p.18); Elliot & Dawson, The History of India as Told by its own Historians, 4vols, Delhi, 1990, vol 2, p. 162

^ D C Sircar, Studies in the Society and Administration of Ancient and Medieval India, vol I: Society, Calcutta, 1967, p.77; David Pingree, ‘Sanskrit Evidence for the Presence of Arabs, Jews and Persians in Western India: ca. 700-1300,’ Journal of the Oriental Institute MS University of Baroda, 1981, vol 31, no.1, (pp. 172-82), p.178

^^ Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Muqaddasi, Kitāb Ahsan al-Taqāsīm fi Ma’rifat al-Aqālīm, ed., MJ de Goeje, Brill, Leiden, vol III, p. 480

^^^ Michael D. Willis, An Eighth Century Mihrab in Gwalior,’ Artibus Asiae, vol 46, no 3, pp. 227-46

Photo: A 9th or 10th Century Stone Mihrab now preserved on the exterior wall of Gwalior Fort, Gwalior

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nadeemrezavi

A history buff interested to unravel the past as it was!

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