AN APOLOGY is hardly needed for bringing out this small volume on the political and cultural history of Muslim India and Pakistan. In the past the study of Muslim civilization has been largely confined to the Arab countries, or at best extended to Iran or the Ottoman Turkey, but the need for studying the background of modern countries like Pakistan and Indonesia is too obvious to be ignored. Muslims in the Indo-Pak subcontinent number more than 100 millions, and the sections of the community dispersed in surrounding regions like East Africa, Burma, Ceylon are not without importance. Apart from numbers, the story of this civilization is full of great achievements. For several centuries Islam dominated the subcontinent which now includes India and Pakistan, and rulers like Akbar, Shah Jahan, and Aurangzeb, in addition to their achievements in the political and administrative field, left a rich cultural heritage. Above all, the history of Muslim rule in India is the story of Islam in a predominantly non-Muslim environment. This led to conflicts, tensions, and assimilations which make the record of particular interest to students of culture and politics.

        In addition to the political narrative which furnishes the essential background, the book gives an account of the cultural developments, the changes in political philosophy and institutions, the rise of Indo-Muslim law, and above all, those religious and intellectual movements which in the long run proved more powerful than the mighty rulers. The general features of the cultural, administrative, social, and economic history have been outlined in separate chapters, but the developments in these fields which were closely associated with any particular period or regime have been summarized along with the political narrative of that period.

        An attempt has also been made to give a fuller background of events relating to the areas, like Muslim Bengal, that have gained in importance with the birth of Pakistan, but that did not receive adequate attention in older historical works. This narrative naturally involves going over the past, but the ground has been covered, so to say, “ facing forward.” The interest in the happenings of the past is partly because of their contribution to the making of the present. This has led to devotion of greater space to the political and cultural developments in the eighteenth century than is customary. It was a period of transition and confusion, but modern Muslim India and Pakistan are more closely rooted in the eighteenth century than in the days of the grand Mughals, and the present cannot be understood without a satisfactory study of the period which saw the rise of Urdu and the systematization of the local Islamic tradition by Shah Waliullah.

        A word must be said about the transliteration of the many words used from Arabic, Persian, and Indian languages. The spelling generally adopted is that of the Cambridge History of India, but the diacritical marks have not been used. It was felt that these sometimes distract rather than help the reader who is not familiar with Indo-Muslim names and terminology. Some spellings that have been widely accepted in writings on Indian history have been retained, even though they may not be strictly correct transliterations. This is especially true of place names. Furthermore, translators have used such a variety of spellings that consistency is difficult to maintain when quotations are given. It should also be remembered that the Urdu version of words is sometimes different from the Persian original, and it is the Urdu spelling which is common in modern India and Pakistan.

        The present volume is an abridgment of the author's fuller History of Muslim Civilization in India and Pakistan (712–1858), published in Lahore in 1962. In compressing an account of such a long period in some 300 pages, much has necessarily had to be sacrificed—including the long introduction on historiography of Muslim India—but the aim has been to ensure that nothing basic or essential is omitted in the abridgment. The success that has been achieved in this attempt is due to the thought and labor bestowed on the task by Professor Ainslie T. Embree of Columbia University. He took my abridged version as the basis, thoroughly revised it, rearranged certain chapters, and even recast some portions, to make the material more intelligible to the Western reader and to improve the presentation. My grateful thanks are due to him. I also acknowledge with thanks a grant made by the Rockefeller Foundation to Columbia University, which facilitated the completion of the earlier book.


Lahore, Pakistan
March, 1964


S. M. Ikram is a member of the Pakistan Civil Service and has on several occasions been a Visiting Professor of International Affairs at Columbia University. He has written a number of books in Urdu and English on the history of Islam in India and is the co-editor of The Cultural Heritage of Pakistan. Ainslie T. Embree is Assistant Professor of History at Columbia University. He is author of Charles Grant and British Rule in India and co-editor of Approaches to Asian Civilization and A Guide to Oriental Classics.

 ~~ Ikram index ~~ Glossary ~~ fwp's main page ~~