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islamic star over india

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    islamic star over india

    thi article by noble prize winner amartya sen
    describes positive influense of islam

    By Amartya Sen


    When a Bengali Hindu performs his religious ceremonies according to the
    local calendar, he may not be fully aware that the dates invoked in his Hindu
    practice is attuned to commemorating Mohammad's flight from Mecca to

    The absorption of Islamic influences within the body of Indian
    civilisation is resented by some Hindu activists who look to the pre-Muslim period as the era of purity of the unalloyed Indian civilisation. This raises the
    interesting question as to whether such a purity did, in fact, exist in the
    pre-Muslim period. It also raises the question: How best to view the integration of Islamic rule and culture In India, and how to assess its impact on the
    identity of Indian civilisation itself.

    What did the Islamic influence do to India? Did it, in fact, change what
    is sometimes characterised, by some contemporary commentators, as a
    homogeneous culture - an allegedly 'pure' pre-Islamic culture - into an inescapably hybrid one? The sense of a loss of Indian pureness in the early years of this millennium seems to have some hold in political discussions in
    contemporary India. How sound is this way of seeing what happened in the last

    It is worth recollecting that even pre-Muslim India was not just Hindu
    India. Indeed, to begin with the most obvious, perhaps the greatest Indian
    emperor in the pre-Muslim period was a Buddhist, to wit, Ashoka, and there were other great non-Hindu emperors, including Harsha. Even as the Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni raided India, the Buddhist dynasty of the Palas was firmly in command over eastern India. In fact, Bengal moved rapidly from Buddhist rule to Muslim rule with only a very brief period of Hindu monarchy in between - in the form of the rather hapless Sena kings.

    Nearly all the major world religions other than Islam were already well
    represented in India well before the last millennium. Indeed, when
    Christianity started gaining ground in Britain in the seventh century,
    India had had large and settled communities of Christians for at least 300
    years - certainly from the fourth century. Jews too had been settled in India -
    in fact from immediately after the fall of Jerusalem. And of course,
    Buddhism and Jainism had been quite well-entrenched in India for a very long time. The Muslim arrival merely filled up the spectrum.

    Unlike the British rule in India where the rulers remained separate from
    the ruled, Muslim rulers in India were combined with the presence of a large
    proportion of Muslims in the population itself. A great many people in
    the land embraced Islam, so much so that three of the four largest Muslim
    national populations in the contemporary world are situated in this subcontinent: in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Indeed, the only non-subcontinental country among the top four Muslim populations in the world, Indonesia, was also converted to Islam by Indian Muslims, mostly from Gujarat. Islam was by then a native Indian religion.

    Although Islam remained a separate religion from Hinduism, the roles of
    the different communities in the cultural life of the country were largely
    integrated. Whether in music or in painting or in poetry, evidence of
    integration is plentifully present. Indeed, it would be impossible to
    understand the nature of Indian culture today without seeing it in
    integrated terms.

    While references to raids from Ghazni and other isolated elements of
    divisive history remains tactically potent and even flammable in the contemporary politics of India, the nature of present-day Indian civilization cannot be understood without seeing it as a joint product of many influences of
    which the Islamic component is very strong. The integrated nature of
    contemporary Indian culture has been illustrated by many commentators with reference particularly to the arts, the literature and music. Let me choose a
    different field of illustration.

    It is, year 1405 now in the Bengali calendar. What does 1405 stand for?
    Its history is a most engaging form of cultural integration. In the year 963
    in the Muslim Heijira calendar (coinciding with 1556 AD) the Bengali solar
    calendar - corresponding to the Shaka system of reckoning - was
    "adjusted" to the Hejira number, that is, the clock was put back, as it were, to 963.

    Since then the Hejira has marched ahead, being a lunar calendar, so that
    the Bengali "san" has fallen behind Hejira as well. But when a Bengali Hindu
    does his religious ceremonies according to the local calendar, he may not be
    fully aware that the dates invoked in his Hindu practice is attuned to
    commemorating Mohammad's flight from Mecca to Medina, albeit in a mixed lunar-solar representation.

    Indian civilisation evolved substantially with the absorption of Islamic
    culture as an integral part of it. In viewing these changes, an attempt
    is sometimes made to see pre-Islamic India as being homogeneous and unmixed
    in a way it never was. The arrival of the Islamic influences only furthered a
    heterogeneity that was already plentifully present, and the result was
    an enrichment that can be seen in the arts, literature, music and culture
    in general. The integration is often so consummate that the internal
    diversity of many of the Indian traditions and practice is hardly noticed and can be brought only by a specific historical scrutiny

    This article is excerpted from a UNESCO lecture titled "An Assessment of
    the Millennium" delivered by Amartya Sen in New Delhi recently.


    Revised: October 31, 1998.

    Excellent article


      I have had great respect for Amartya Sen. His work on development economics has been ground breaking.

      He is a wonderful asset to his country and they are rightly proud of him.

      They shoot partypoopers, don't they?


        Originally posted by Asif:
        Excellent article

        Its not too difficult to see why ?


          How biased and prejudiced one can be?
          Can you ever appreciate anything(even in your dreams) with the hint of islam attach to it?


            Sen is a communist at heart and his theories. It is surprising to see he holds any religion in high-regard.