Why was Islam unable to supress Hinduism in S. Asia?

Mar 2012
388
#1
So Im taking an introductory course in South Asian history, its a great course and Im discovering a new chapter of history that I am fairly unfamiliar with. Something that is interesting to me is that unlike other "Pagan"/Non Monotheistic religions that encountered Islam, Hinduism was not only fiercly opposed to it, but even when being under Muslim rule at various times Hinduism not only survived until the modern Day but is still the Dominant religion in modern India. Contrast this with the various beliefs of other countries like the Native religions in Africa and Asia, and even Monotheistic religions with a strong Literary and ethnic identity such as Zoroastrianism and Coptic Christianity in Egypt which are both a minority in their native lands. What did the Hindu's do different that others did not?
 
Jul 2012
3,333
Dhaka
#2
May be because the ruling class was not Arabs? Area comprising modern Pakistan was ruled by Arabs, and it became Muslim just like other places you mentioned. Whereas, area comprising Republic of India was ruled by Afghans/Turkics all along.

There must be some correlation there.
 
Mar 2016
1,222
Australia
#4
Try ruling over a population that outnumbers you at least 10 to 1 and getting them to - by force - believe in your religion. It won't work. You'd be lucky if you didn't end up being overthrown and killed. Same reason the British rarely ever - if it all - tried to convert the Indians to Christianity, despite attempting the same in Africa (and having some success). India's enormous population renders most social engineering projects nigh on impossible. Zoroastrians and Coptics didn't have anywhere near the huge population that Hindu Indians did, so it was easier to force-convert them.
 
Apr 2019
406
India
#5
Try ruling over a population that outnumbers you at least 10 to 1 and getting them to - by force - believe in your religion. It won't work. You'd be lucky if you didn't end up being overthrown and killed. Same reason the British rarely ever - if it all - tried to convert the Indians to Christianity, despite attempting the same in Africa (and having some success). India's enormous population renders most social engineering projects nigh on impossible. Zoroastrians and Coptics didn't have anywhere near the huge population that Hindu Indians did, so it was easier to force-convert them.
But half of Indian people of the indian subcontinent have actually converted to Islam.
Hinduism is not an organised religion and on top of that subcontinent was extremely diverse in terms of languages and religion.
 
Jul 2012
3,333
Dhaka
#7
^^ Not true. At the time of the partition in 1947, the Muslim population of British India was 24% of the total population.
Most of southern India was not under Muslim rule. Neither was northeast India. If you consider only parts of British India that had been under long Muslim rule previously, Hindu-Muslim ratio would be around 60:40, rather than the 75:25 for whole of British India.
 
Likes: Futurist
Mar 2019
1,535
KL
#8
India not only had enormous population, but also an enormous culture, and the culture of india was much more complex compared to the areas where the afghans, turks and persians belonged. Those very parts from where there were islamic incursions were formerly under indian sphere of influence, ghaurid dynasty was a buddhist dynasty which converted to islam after two of their kings were dead, the indians were also facing a hindu revivalism after kicking out buddhism, a lot of monumnts were dedicated to the triumph of hinduism over buddhism for instance the konark monument of a lion crushing an elephant was dedicated to the victory of hinduism. Compared to hinduism, the regions in arabia were already under the iranian zoroaster influence, so those religions had already weakened, and coupled with the fact that arabian influence was probably much deeper into levant than it is considered, arabs oriinally were infact from the levant who migrated southwards after first mil AD, so since it was an arabian affair, the levant which already had sizeable population of arabs converted to islam.

in case of pakistan, buddhism was the dominant religion until the arab invasion, as is the case probably with eastern bengal which had dominant buddhist population, my theory is, the weakening of buddhism due to hindu revivalism, it created a vacuum and space for a foreign religion, that was not the case with the indian core. The hinduism was pretty solid in the gangetic valley and the muslims who captured north india also had to keep the maharajas which were hindus happy, so if they had tried to forecefully convert people there, it was have resulted in bad repercussions, except awadh, pretty much ll the princely states in northern india were hindus, not to mention the rajputs in the west which fiercely defended their domain until akber who also was not a devout muslim and created his own syncretic religion, deen e ilahi.

The turkic, persian, afghans were also not very devout muslims and akin to weakness, for instance all mughal kings kept a big harem, and used to do heavy drinking and smoke opium which is prohibited in islam.

The roots of hinduism also probably reached much deeper compared to religions in the middle east, it had evolved into a very intricate philosophy, so much so that even sati, and caste system was practiced esp during the british era, caste system is even practiced today.

so in conclusion, a very complex culture, philosophy, and political strength of the hindu rajas even after getting dominated by the muslims, turkic muslims themselves having weak religious affiliation and coupled with the fact that turks probably had more predominant indian influence compared with middle eastern influence played an important role in keeping the hindu culture intact. It should also be mentioned that hinduism is not very much different culturally from islam, a prominent aspect of hinduism is also monotheism, hindus practiced pretty much a lot of stuff which muslims already practiced, hindus practically wore the same dress, they didn't drink much, their women after getting married practiced ghonghat which is indian purdah, a lot of hindus were vegetarians, so it hardly was in any conflict with islam, hindu rajas had harems, muslim kings also had harems, hindu rajas had palaces, muslim kings also lusted for palaces and luxury, it is argued that indian hindu temple architecture was completely diff than mulims, but archaeology shows that it were the indians who invented pointed arches, which became a very common element in the islamic architecture, indians practiced building minars which they called stumbhas, so even in the architecture there were hardly any differences. most of the rajput palces have been declared indo persian or indo islamic, not realizing that this architecture was most probably similar in both south and central asia, it was the middle east where these elements later transformed islamic architecture


regards
 
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kandal

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,767
USA
#9
Almost all conversions to Islam took place as a result of Sufi/other missionary work, and not jus because the rulers were Muslims. Once that missionary work petered out conversions diminished greatly too. Most of that happened before even the Moghuls arrived.

I haven't read about the firm reasons why Islam was not able to suppress Hinduism, though there are many theories.
 
Last edited:
Apr 2019
12
Vancouver
#10
So Im taking an introductory course in South Asian history, its a great course and Im discovering a new chapter of history that I am fairly unfamiliar with. Something that is interesting to me is that unlike other "Pagan"/Non Monotheistic religions that encountered Islam, Hinduism was not only fiercly opposed to it, but even when being under Muslim rule at various times Hinduism not only survived until the modern Day but is still the Dominant religion in modern India. Contrast this with the various beliefs of other countries like the Native religions in Africa and Asia, and even Monotheistic religions with a strong Literary and ethnic identity such as Zoroastrianism and Coptic Christianity in Egypt which are both a minority in their native lands. What did the Hindu's do different that others did not?
One reason is that India has always been a decentralized power, as opposed to China which was centralized. The Emperor in India exercised a lot less power in the provinces and villages. At the village level, caste guilds ruled the roost. A reason why India also is more naturally democratic, and has not had severely oppressive rulers.

Another is the Hindu capacity for adaptation. India has constantly been invaded, and has absorbed the invaders and their culture. The Indian court language swung from Sanskrit to Prakrit to Turkish to Persian to English, without a major hitch.
 

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