Thursday, March 23, 2023

Fabled Voyage of Perumals to Arabia and Early History Islam in Kerala

By Grace Mubashir, New Age Islam 23 March 2023 Perumal's Conversion Story Has Mainly Two Versions. One Is About Propitiation And The Other Is Related To Dream Interpretation. Conversion Is A Decision Based On A Person's Rationality, Ambition And Desires. All The Interpretations About Perumal's Conversion Say The Same Thing. ------ Cheraman Perumal Masjid: The oldest Masjid in India and the first outside Arabian Peninsula ------ There are many versions of the story of Cheraman Perumal's conversion to Islam. There are also some who believe that the tale of Perumal's change of religion, going to Mecca and the division of the kingdom, are all a myth. In Keralolpathi (Birth of Kerala), the story of Cheraman Perumal, who converted to Islam after believing his wife's accusation and sentencing the Padamalanais (minister) to death, is narrated. The queen invited the minister to a secret meeting. When he was not persuaded, the army commander told the king that he was too old to rape. Padamalanair miraculously escaped. Legend has it that a piece of cloud picked up Padamalanair. Looking at the repentant king, Padamalanair advised him as follows: "There is a monk named Veda Apiyar in the north of Ashuvinkal Mutirapuram. If you go there and find the fourth Veda opened, Olamamari, put the ship on Otazhakam and come to Thiruvanchi Mukhathana. From there, in the month of Kumbha, when the sixteen moons shine brightly together, half of them will descend to the earth and rise with it as a pillar. It will end. There, Padamalanair said, "If you open the Fourth Veda and go to Ashu once, you will get half moksha." William Logan, author of the Malabar Manual, cites Cheraman Perumal as having dreamt that a full moon had risen on a black moonlit night in Mecca, Arabia. Many have recorded since William Logan that Perumal met a group of Muslims returning from Ceylon and their leader Sheikh Shihabuddin interpreted the dream and converted him to Islam. Thus, Perumal's conversion story has mainly two versions. One is about propitiation and the other is related to dream interpretation. Conversion is a decision based on a person's rationality, ambition and desires. All the interpretations about Perumal's conversion say the same thing. Perumal's change of religion Tuhfatul Mujahideen says it was in 822. But according to MGS Narayanan, it could be in the 12th century and not in the 7th or 9th century. Another side says that if the Perumal kingdom was divided, it was not before 1102. (Ilamkulam Kunjanpilla - Chera Empire, 9th and 10th Centuries) Another opinion is that Kodungallur was ruled by a dynasty that ended with the fall of Perumal, who converted to Muhammadanism, and it is probably in the 9th century (Tarachand: Influence of Islam on Indian Culture). Whatever it is, by showing the list of names of the Perumal rulers from 216 to 825, it is certainly not possible to argue that Perumal may not have gone during the time of Prophet Muhammad' (Ancient Kerala - Shuranad Kunjanpilla). It is assumed that the Arabs who came for trade were already present in the coastal areas and so the foreign missionaries gained such widespread popular support. The clan history of the Perumals is still unknown. Prof. Sundar Raj who examined more than 200 stone inscriptions. and historian Kielhorn also wrote in Epigraphia Indica (v. 4) that Cheraman Perumal's chronology has not been found. "After Perumal's journey to Mecca, a group of 44 people under the leadership of Malik ibn Dinar disembarked at Dharmadam. At least 20 of them had memorized the Qur'an. The ruler of Dharmadam welcomed the guests. All the facilities for worship and religious propagation were established.”, says the description found in Tuhfatul Mujahidin. It is seen in Rihlatul Muluk that Perumal's son-in-law Prince Kohinoor was also present with Malik Dinar. It is said that Perumal was accompanied by Prince Kohinoor, son of Travancore Rani, and not Mahabali, son of Sridevi of Dharmadam. It is believed that Mahabali became the founder of Arakkal dynasty after Muhammad Ali. Malik Dinar's group included the Chaliyats Haji Mustamudqad, Haji Nili Nashad, Ahmad Khwaja, Haji Sadibad and Hasan Khwaja. From Dharmadam they went to Kodungallur. It's ruler gave all the help to the Muslims for religious propagation. Islam is believed to have spread in the region from Mangalore to Kavilpatnam as a result of the activities of Malik Dinar and his followers. It is assumed that the Arabs who came for trade purposes were already in the coastal areas so the foreign religious missionaries got such wide popular support. Dr. Sundarraj said that Arab and Persian traders were marrying local women on the western shores. Tarachand has argued in Influence of Islam on Indian Culture: "The presence of the Arabs was necessary for the natives, the villagers and the Madambis (feudal rulers) alike." Ruler Zamorin suggested that one or two members of each Mukuwa family (fishing community) should become Muslim to set up a naval force under the tutelage of the Arabs. Research books such as Cultural Symbiosis mention: "At that time, Zamorin was an active link in the chain of Muslim powers from Cordova in the west to Malacca in East Asia." This friendship paved the way for religious conversion even from the royal family. According to the Islamic encyclopaedia: The message of brotherhood raised by Islam echoes in the lyrics of the folk song 'Kottakalomana Kunhalik Thiyyurum Nairum Ohu Pole'." Economic, cultural, social, and political are the factors that influence upper-class ways of writing mainstream history. The history written under their influence was written leaving some gaps. Those gaps were what gave space to mainstream historical discourses to add and interpret stories to fit their needs and pretend to be history. Attempts to interpret Cheraman Perumal's conversion as a forced conversion can also be seen as a continuation of earlier communal elite interventions. The story highlights the peaceful origin of Islam in South India. Islam doesn't force conversion but sees it as intellectual and spiritual transformation. The story of Perumal's conversion is rooted in the importance of syncretism and peaceful coexistence among all religious people. Forced conversion is forbidden in Islam. There are judgments that give importance and consideration to human rights and freedom in Islamic Sharia. They are not confined to documents, but all those judgments are implemented in history. Qur'an's verse 256 of chapter 2 is explained by the Qur'anic exegetes as follows: "This ideal, moral and practical system which is Islam cannot be imposed on anyone by force. It is not something that can be forced on one's head" (Tafhimul Qur’an, Commentary on Al-Baqarah,p. 285). ----- A regular columnist for, Mubashir V.P is a PhD scholar in Islamic Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia and freelance journalist. URL: New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

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