XXI. Conclusion

        [[295]] LOOKING BACK over the ten centuries of Muslim rule that we have briefly surveyed, it is possible to identify four main strands that have given Indo-Islamic culture its characteristic texture. The first of these is the Islamic religious inheritance, including those aspects specifically rooted in an Arabic tradition; the second was the Turkish origin of many of the rulers; the third was the pervasive influence of Persian culture; and finally there was the indigenous environment, both in India and in Afghanistan, into which Islam came. There has been a tendency to overlook this indigenous component, but its influence is deep-rooted and all-pervading. The predominantly non-Muslim environment in which Indo-Muslim culture developed and the heritage of an ancient civilization did not leave Islam untouched. Furthermore, the vast majority of the Muslims were either Hindu converts, which shows not only in numerous usages and practices carried over from the ancestral Hindu society, but also in unconscious reactions and mental attitudes. The vigorous Islamic revival of later centuries has tended to overshadow the indigenous element. While the Turkish rulers and aristocracy contributed much in the sphere of government, law, dress, and food, and the Persian element was prominent in literature, fine arts, mysticism, and philosophy, essentially the two basic components which gave the civilization its peculiar flavor were the Indian and the Islamic. It represents the creative efforts and reactions of a Muslim society in a predominantly non-Muslim area.

        This peculiar situation has resulted in developments which distinguish the course of Muslim civilization in India from those in countries where the population is predominantly Muslim. The dissimilarity between two main elements of Indo-Muslim civilization has resulted in a curious phenomenon. At times the attractions of the native element proved powerful, and there was a large-scale assimilation of indigenous elements, as under Akbar, Dara Shukoh, and in the writings of Kabir. At other times, there was a vigorous reaction against [[296]] non-Muslim elements, resulting in greater repugnance towards them than was traditional in the history of Islam. In this connection, it is significant that puritanical Wahhabism, with its emphasis on the purity of Islam, had considerable influence in India. Furthermore, the continuing presence of a large non-Muslim element has been a persistent challenge for missionary effort in which Indian Muslims distinguished themselves, even in recent times.

        The local situation has resulted in a fundamental conflict, as symbolized in the two sons of Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb and Dara Shukoh. This situation has resulted in tensions and occasionally in conflicts, but outside somewhat narrow circles, the long-term result of two heterogeneous elements constituting Indian Islam has been a growth of forbearance and toleration of conflicting practices and beliefs. This toleration extended not only towards non-Muslims, but also to the minority sects of Islam. Perhaps in no country outside Iran, where Shiaism is the state religion, has Shia genius had such an opportunity for making a contribution in the realm of literature, administration, and statecraft. This has been possible because of the normal prevalence of an attitude of toleration. This forbearance, subject to the deep attachment to Islam, was extended to European civilization as well.

        For understanding the Muslim approach to the problems of the subcontinent it is worth remembering that though revivalist thinkers, like Hazrat Mujaddid Alif Sani in Mughal times and Iqbal in the twentieth century, have exercised a powerful influence, the religious teacher with the greatest following and influence has been Shah Waliullah, perhaps the most catholic and broadminded of religious reformers of the modern Muslim world. A position similar to that of Shah Waliullah in the religious sphere has been occupied by Ghalib in recent times in the literary field. He has been universally popular with Hindus and Muslims, and his poetry reflects a personality of broad sympathies, deep humanity, and liberal views. Amir Khusrau who laid the foundation of the Indo-Muslim cultural tradition in the pre-Mughal period had the same characteristics. In their writings and in the lives of those whom they influenced, may be found the true spirit of Islamic India during the period which has been covered in this book.

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