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Interfaith Dialogue ( 16 Jun 2022, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Islam as a Syncretic Religion: Non-Islamic Influences on Muslim Thought

By Grace Mubashir, New Age Islam

17 June 2022

Islam Has Extensively Borrowed From Various Religions and Its Soul Is Syncretic

Main Points:

1.    The ideas of monotheism and equality of Islam were the ideas that inspired the Hindu reformers.

2.    Indian philosophy was greatly influenced by Islamic philosophy and vice versa.

3.    The 'Baitul Hikma’ is considered one of the milestones in the history of world science.

4.    A progressive civilization, without any external influences, does not emerge on an isolated island.

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The article is to bust the Salafi preaching of Islam as puritanical. The article argues that Islam has extensively borrowed from various religions and its soul is syncretic. Islam is a syncretic religion.

The earliest evolution of Islamic philosophy took place in the centuries from the 1st to the 12th of the Hijra (7th to 18th CE). These centuries have also witnessed the rise and fall of Islamic civilization. This period was marked by unprecedented growth in the fields of theology, philosophy, spiritual thought, and metaphysics. Wisdom streams from all over the world were flowing towards the cradles of Muslim civilization. Muslim scholars sought to acquire knowledge from all available sources. Fortunately, Muslim countries were ruled by rulers who supported it. Governments then did not discourage free thought or scientific research. No, they had taken a position that gave them enough encouragement.

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Translation of Greek, Sanskrit, Syriac, and Hebrew texts into Arabic was done at the expense of Government. Institutions for knowledge expansion existed as early as the first century. In addition to Muslim scholars, these institutions also utilized the services of Christian and Jewish scholars.

The 'Baitul Hikma' (House of Wisdom), which began during the reign of the Abbasid Caliph Harun Rashid (786-809 CE) and reached its zenith during the reign of his son Al-Mamun (813-833 CE), is considered one of the milestones in the history of world science. Baitul Hikma's translated works into Arabic include works of Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Euclid, Plotinus, Galen, Ptolemy, Sushruta, Charakan, Aryabhata, and Brahmagupta. It is also noteworthy that many classic texts had multiple Arabic translations. Without government assistance, scholars translated texts from various world languages into Arabic on their own and as part of their research and study.

We know that a progressive civilization, without any external influences, does not emerge on an isolated island. Civilizations have flourished and flourished by receiving water, air and light from all directions. Islamic civilization is no exception. The Islamic intellectual heritage owes much to the Greek, Syrian, Persian and Indian intellectual heritage. This article gives a brief overview of these influences.

Among the Greek thinkers, Muslim philosophers were most influenced by Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. They were known in the Muslim world as Suqrat, Aflatoon, and Arastu respectively. The works of Plato and Aristotle spread throughout the Muslim world through translations. It was through these translations that Greek thought was translated into Latin and other European languages later. The bibliography Al-Fihrist (d. 377/987), compiled by Abul Faraj Muhammad ibn Nadeem, contains descriptions of Greek texts translated into Arabic. It is noteworthy that Muslims did not translate epic poems and plays into Arabic except for the scientific and philosophical works of the Greeks. It is understood that the Muslims deliberately avoided them. It was through Alexandria that Muslims received their knowledge of Greek. It has been pointed out that some of the early Arab philosophers misunderstood the ideas (Neo-Platonism) of Plotinus (270 BC), the leading Greek-speaking Egyptian philosopher, to be the ideas of Plato and Aristotle.

Aristotle was generally accepted by Arab thinkers as the first philosopher. They saw Al-Farabi as the second philosopher after Aristotle. There have been multiple translations, revised editions and commentaries on Aristotle's works in Arabic. Almost all early Muslim philosophers considered themselves followers of Aristotle. At the same time, they analyzed Greek thought as a whole as part of their study of philosophy. Muslim philosophers borrowed from Greek philosophy many ideas related to the supernatural, such as the universe, reality, creation, and causation. Greek thought had such an impact on Muslim philosophy that scholars such as Imam Ghazali considered it their mission to liberate Islamic thought from the excessive influence of Greek thought.

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Alexandro-Syriac Influence

Alexandria is a country founded by Alexander the Great in 331 CE. Today it is the second largest city in Egypt. Situated close to the Mediterranean, Alexandria has been the cradle of Greek civilization for nearly 1,000 years. The Alexandrian Library is historically famous.

Alexander the Great established Alexandria by overthrowing the ancient city-states of Greece. Naturally, the scholars of Greece moved to the new country. Scholars from various parts of Rome and Egypt were also attracted there. Syria was the center of ancient Sumerian, Assyrian, and Akkadian civilizations. In 64 BCE, the Roman emperor Pompey conquered Antioch and made Syria part of the Roman Empire. Syria's border today and then was not the same. The Syrians spoke Aramaic. The common people spoke Aramaic, the ruling class and officials used Greek. It was in the 7th century that the Muslims conquered Syria (Sam in Arabic) and the language of communication became Arabic. Syria, like Alexandria, was intellectually far ahead. The philosophical currents that existed between these two regions can be classified into four categories:

•        Neo-Pythagoreanism

•        Jewish-Alexandrian philosophy,

•        Neo-Platonism

•        Early Christian philosophy.

Neo-Pythagoreans who revived the ideas of Pythagoras and adapted them to the ideas of Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoitics were fundamentally religious. Their stronghold was Alexandria. They were basically monotheists. They said that worshiping God should not be done by outward deeds. Do not combine materialism with spirituality. The soul must be freed from material circumstances. We must overcome the lusts of the body through a life of renunciation. Neo-Pythagoreans gave a supernatural meaning to numbers. 'One' is the basis of goodness and the universal system. At the same time, 'dual' is a source of chaos and imperfection. The function of filling the gap between the two is vested in Vishwatma, God, the cosmic intellect. Man sins because he abuses his free will. But not by the force of any external force.

The neo-Pythagorean philosopher Maximus thought that the soul is imprisoned in the body and is always seeking to leave the body and join God.

The Syrian thinker Numanius saw God as a combination of the three elements of father, creator and creation. Numanius' view was that man is a combination of soul and body, but that the body should not be completely neglected. He also said that the soul is purified through constant reincarnations.

Neo-Pythagoreanism lasted for one or two centuries. Prominent among the Neo-Pythagoreans were Nicomacheus, Nigidius Figulus, Apollonius, and Moderatus.

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The second stream is the Jewish-Alexandrian philosophy. Prominent among them was Philo, a Jew born in Alexandria a few years before Christ. Philo was a philosopher who sought to reconcile Judaism with Greek thought. He saw this as a way of interpreting the ideas of Judaism in a heretical way. He described circumcision as the epitome of addiction and anti-God ideas. But he was also opposed to abandoning religions in the name of symbolism. Philo was more of a theologian than a philosopher. He focused more on preparing the soul for the vision of God. His source was Greek Psychology. Man knows God in different ways according to his spiritual level. Some see it as three and some as two. But those who have reached the highest level have seen God as one. The most powerful of the divine powers is the logos (word). The word is the medium of communication between God and man. Philo connects logos with the world of ideas that Plato says. Philo said that the breath of God (numa) is embedded in man and that is the nature of God in man. It is the highest part of the soul above the mind.

The most important current in Alexandro-Syriac philosophy was neo-platonism. Neo-Platonic thinkers were also the most influential of later philosophies. In a sense, it is a continuation of neo-Pythagoreanism and Jewish Gnosticism. Plotinus, a Greek-speaking Egyptian, thought to have been born in CE 205. He was a disciple of Ammonius Saccas. Plotinus became acquainted with Greek, Persian and Indian philosophies. Plotinus' philosophy of ‘oneness’ is based on the three principles of intellect and soul. 'One' is not the sum of all beings; rather, it precedes all existence. This 'one' was seen by Plotinus as 'good' and 'beautiful'. This 'one' created nothing. But the world emerged out of it as ‘self-reflection’. The first abstraction is the Nous (divine mind). Out of it came the 'Spirit of Faith'. Thus the world we live in and its variants are the result of various levels of negativity. Plotinus developed his thought in the footsteps of Plato's supernatural ideas. Plotinus matured to explain Plato in terms of religious philosophy. He did not think he was saying anything new. Plotinus was able to significantly influence later Islamic, Christian, and Indian philosophies.

Porphyry is the most important disciple of Plotinus. Porphyry was born in Batanaiya, Syria (232 CE). He explained the ideas of Plotinus in the most beautiful and simple way.

 Porphyry stated that the goal of philosophy is the realization of the soul. The path to self-realization is self-purification, renunciation, and philosophical understanding of God. While in Sicily, he wrote a book criticizing the Christian concept of God. Ayambilicus, a disciple of Porphyry, was another neo-Platonic philosopher from Syria. In Syria he founded a school called Apamia. He developed a curriculum that taught Plato and Aristotle. Porphyry opposed the belief that miraculous divine intervention was possible through prayer and worship. Ayambilicus disagreed with the Guru on this point. Neo-Platonics incorporated polytheistic, demonic, and heroic elements of primitive religions into their philosophy. What they did was explain the plurality from the singular.

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With the Royal Proclamation of CE 529, the neo-platonic academies in Syria, Alexandria, and Athens were closed. It was Christianity that later influenced the field of ideas. Christianity did not have a philosophy of its own. So they adapted their religion to Alexandrian, Neoplatonic, and Aristotelian metaphysics and psychology. The early Christians conceived of Christ as trivial from God: If Jesus is the Son of God, then God must be the Father in the beginning. Then the Son must also be present. However, the Antiochian Church disagreed. They argued that there was a time when God had no son. The Nestorian Church fully embraced Greek philosophical thought. Nestorian missionaries studied Greek philosophy. They wrote in Syriac to maintain privacy. The Jacobite Church was another group that was interested in integrating theology and philosophy. They were also adopted by the Syrian media. They were influenced by neo-platonic ideas. The school in Edessa is an institution that has played an important role in the integration of theology and philosophy. In 489 CE, Emperor Sino ordered the permanent closure of the Edessa School. They were influenced by neo-platonic ideas. The school in Edessa is an institution that has played an important role in the integration of theology and philosophy. In 489 CE, Emperor Sino ordered the permanent closure of the Edessa School. They were influenced by neo-platonic ideas. The school in Edessa is an institution that has played an important role in the integration of theology and philosophy. In 489 CE, Emperor Sino ordered the permanent closure of the Edessa School.  Alexandria was conquered by the Muslims in 641 CE under the leadership of Amr ibn Aas. With this, the Muslims acquired the intellectual wealth of the place. Syria fell to the Muslims in 640 CE. Syria was conquered by troops led by Khalid bin Waleed. The headquarters of the Umayyad Caliphate was in Syria. The Neo-Platonic-Nestorian bibliography in Greek-Aramaic (Syriac) thus came to the Muslims. Their influence is evident in later Muslim philosophies and spiritual-theological perspectives.

Persian Influence

Persia was one of the dominant cultures in the world before Islam. Historians have pointed out the similarities between the religions of Persia, now known as Iran, and those of ancient Indian culture. The connection of the word 'Iran' with the word 'Aryan' is well known. Persia is thought to have been one of the earliest dwellings of the Aryans. The concept of gods and goddesses and idolatry were part of the ancient Persian religious culture. It cannot be said that Persia had a philosophical history that could distinguish it from Persian philosophy. The concept of God is related to the three major religions that were prevalent in Persia in the early days.

Zarathustra (or Zoroaster, as the Greeks called him), a reformer who lived six centuries before the birth of Christ, was the first to lead the Persians from primitive religion to established religion, Zoroastrianism. The stories of the Zoroastrians are compiled in the now only partially surviving book, Zend Avasta. The Zoroastrians opposed demon-possessed worship, and sacrifice, which were part of the primitive religion. It was stated that only the god Ahura Mazda should be worshiped. Good thinking, good words, and good deeds were the mainstays of Zoroastrian exhortations. Agriculture was declared the greatest deed and stood up against social injustices. Zoroastrians saw it as a way of life to innovate the world and lead it to perfection. There is only one way out of the total. That is the way of truth. Zoroastrianism believed in resurrection and heaven and hell. Zoroastrianism is known as the oldest monotheistic religion in the world. However, it has been argued that these people, who upheld theism, were against monotheism. Mani was a prominent Persian reformer who came to India and studied Buddhist philosophy. Mani was influenced by Zoroastrianism and Christianity. He preached apathy. This religion is known as Manichaeism.

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Mazdak, who died in 528 AD, was another religious reformer who led the way in correcting the shortcomings of Zoroastrianism. He claimed to be the Prophet of Ahura Mazda. Mazdak advocated social equality. Following Zoroastrianism, Mazdak also taught that there are two forces of good and evil in the world. Light is a symbol of goodness; Evil will be dark. The conflict between these is going on in the world. Ahura Mazda is the god of goodness. God of Evil is Angra Mainu. Both gods have their own 'creations.' There are gods with Ahura Mazda and a group of demons with Angra Mainu.

This religion was once practiced by the Magi of Midian. It is said that they got their name from the Zoroastrian theory of 'gift bearers'. They were responsible for educating future kings during the Achaemenid dynasty of Persia (558-330 BCE). They took a special interest in propagating the religion and gave their own explanation for Zoroastrian theism. Some historians have suggested that the Magi were a different religion from the Zoroastrians.

The philosophical ideas generally derived from the Persian religious tradition can be summarized into four. The first is the concept of myth. In the Persian religious tradition there is a practice of embodying abstract ideas and deploying them as mythical characters in pagan stories. These religions are characterized by legends about gods, demons, and other celestial characters. The practice of presenting historical events as semi-myths is part of Mazdaic thought. The second feature of the Persian religious tradition is the Mazdakian way of imagining the god Ahura Mazda as a tangible person and the attributes of God as angels or persons. Time, water, and earth were all thought of as angels. The Mazda religion teaches that man is a combination of five elements. The five elements are body, soul, soul, primordial form and divine spirit. When man dies, his body joins the earth. The soul dissolves in the wind and the primordial in the sun. The divine spirit joins with God. So the demonic forces cannot destroy the spirit. When the world ends, all human beings will be reborn. The saviour will prepare Sacred Nectar (Annosh) by sacrificing a bull called Hatayosh. All human beings drink it and become immortal. The concept of duality is considered to be the fundamental principle of Persian philosophy. Good will triumph in the conflict between good and evil and thus unity will be established. This is the third feature.

The codification of Parsi-Pahlavi texts, including 'Avasta', took place later. It was ruled by Muslims in the ninth (third century). It was part of the intellectual work of the time of the Abbasid Caliph Mammon. The researchers believe that this situation led to the penetration of Islamic ideas into the Pahlavi texts and the shadowing of Zoroastrian-Mazdakian philosophies into Islamic thought. In particular, it has been observed that Mu'tazilite ideas were incorporated into Persian texts and those Persian religious concepts influenced Shia-Sufi ideology.

With the death of the last Sasanian Shah in Persia in 651 AD, the Persian Empire became completely Islamic. The people as a whole converted to Islam and Persia became the headquarters of various Muslim cities. A good percentage of Muslim scientific, philosophical and scholarly geniuses are from these fields. It has been pointed out that some of the Persian scholars who converted to Islam interpreted the tenets of Islam in accordance with the ideas of their traditional religion. This influence is evident in the controversies surrounding Ilmul Kalam (theology). The Muslim philosopher Abu Bakr Razi (d. 313/925 CE), who rejected the idea of Prophethood (Risalat), mainly relied on Indo-Persian philosophies. Persian influence is most evident in 'Ishrakhi' philosophers (thought about the beginnings of Shihabuddin Suhrawardy al-Maqtul). By the time Muslim civilization was fully developed, Persian thought had become part of it. Indian sciences and philosophy spread to the Muslim world through Persia.

Indian influence

The Vedic culture of India is one of the oldest civilizations of the Indo-European race, including the Aryans. The Aryans migrated to India and established their rule in AD. The period from BCE 1500 to BCE 600 is known as the Vedic period. Thoughts of this period cannot be technically called philosophy, according to former president Radhakrishnan. The period from 600 BCE to 200 BCE is called the epic period. Apart from the early Upanishads, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Gita, Buddhist, Jain, Saiva and Vaishnava philosophies also originated during this period. The period of the Sutras starts from 200 BCE. There were many philosophical projects during this period.

The philosophical age, also known as the scholarly age, began at the same time. This was the time of scholars like Kumarila, Sankaran, Ramanujan, Sreedharan, Bhaskaran, Madhvan, Vachaspati and Raghunathan. This division of time does not mean that the gradual development of thought processes in India has taken place. Many avenues of thought have simultaneously enriched this lush green forest. Some ideas were contradictory.

The four Vedas are Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda. The Vedas contain mantras that are believed to be divine. After the Vedas came the Brahmanas. Brahmanas are prose interpretations of Vedic mantras in verse form. Each Veda has more than one Brahman. The Brahmins were followed by the Aranyakas, their explanations. It is famous for its four forest literature; Aitareyam, Kaushitakam, Aitathariyam and Brihadaram. The Upanishads are the last but most widely published bibliography in the Vedic literature. The word 'Upanishad' means 'learned by sitting next to a sage'. The Upanishads explain Brahmajnana, the essence of the Vedic mantras, in many ways. The Upanishads are the final lesson from the Vedas' also known as 'Vedanta'. Although there are more than 100 Upanishads, only 13 are of paramount importance. Scholars believe that the Brahmans represent the karmic realm of the Vedas, while the Upanishads represent the enlightenment realm. The Upanishads were written before the Buddha.

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The broad field of Indian philosophy includes the Smritis, Epics, Puranas, Vedangas (Punishment, Grammar, Chandus, Niruktam, Astrology, Kalpam), and Shadd Darshans (Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshikam, Purva-Uttara Mimamsa). Apart from the Vedas and Upanishats, the Bhagavad Gita, which best illuminates Hindu philosophy, is part of the Bhishma Parvat of the Mahabharata. The Gita is an exhortation by Lord Krishna to Arjuna, who is hesitant to fight on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, by convincing him of the philosophical and practical significance of 'Nishkama Karma' which does not want results. Gita can be considered as a concise summary of the differences of Indian philosophy.

The Vedas are based on monotheism and oneness. The essence of this is 'everything'. The omnipresent Vishwakarma is the source of everything. The Vedas also introduce the Creator Sarveshwar under the names of Brahma and Virat Purushan. The song of creation is very famous in the Rig Veda which deals with creation.’ In the beginning there was a state of infinity, infinity and infinity. That immortal one survived itself without the help and reliance of the other. There was no substance then. There is no earth and no sky. No morning; No day. It became an essence in its own glory and warmth. It all came down to that. But no one knows how or why.’

The Upanishads, which interpreted the 'One' in the Vedas, formulated the principle of 'soul'. The Upanishads spoke of two souls, the cosmic soul and the living soul. It has been argued that the two are one and the same, but different. The Upanishads say that it is ignorance to see one as many. One should learn by listening directly to the Gurumukha and by meditating and worshiping. There are different opinions about the concept of God in the Upanishads. The dispute is whether the one God who causes all creation-state-destruction is good or bad. In the Brihadaranyakopanishat it is said that Brahman is the essence of the world and that is the truth and the soul. Uddhalakan tells Swethakotov, "You are that soul" (Tatvamasi). This is the basis of 'Aham Brahmasmi'.

When man and Brahman are one, all discrimination between human beings must end. However, before the Upanishads came into being, the Varnashrama system (Chaturvarnyam) formed during the time of the Brahmins remained strong in Indian society. This led to a complex caste system. Shudras and Avars were subjected to untouchability and severe discrimination. Gradually protests against loud noises arose. This led to the creation of new sensations in thought. Discussions took place among scholars on what life is, what the soul is, and whether there is life after death. Many sects emerged, including celibates, monks, heretics, theists, atheists, and skeptics who rejected the Vedic tradition. These thinkers responded differently to the fundamental questions raised by the Vedopanishats. This paved the way for various visionary projects.

Indian philosophy is not entirely spiritual. There are references in the Upanishads which are sharply critical of the priesthood and the Yajnakarmadis. Survivors have argued that man's destiny is determined by destiny, not karma. There is no reason for man to be good or bad; Life philosophy is that fate decides. No matter what, a person cannot change his destiny. They also argued that there are no holy sins. In this way, they questioned the Brahminical concept that karma is the basis of the four colours.

The philosophy of Lokayata is the best example of Indian materialism. The Charvaka rejected the notion of soul, rebirth, salvation, heaven, and hell. There was a lot of debate between materialists and spiritualists. There are no books of the Charvaka left. All were destroyed by their opponents. We learn about them and their ideas only from books written in their refutation. The universe is made up of quadrupeds (earth, water, fire, air).

The Buddha came to the fore as an ideological revolt against the Vedic religion. The Buddha propagated the ideas of charity, kindness, non-violence and peace. The Buddha advised people to give up desires, to exercise restraint and to share what they have, and to refrain from lying and using intoxicants. Jain philosophy is a movement inspired by Buddhist philosophy that questions the authority of the Vedas. Mahavira is the founder of this vision. Mahavira took a stand against the Brahmin priesthood and the materialism of the Charvaka. Jain philosophy is based on three principles known as the 'Triratnas'. Symmetrical philosophy, symmetrical wisdom, and symmetrical history. The Jains theorized that knowledge is relative and that whether an object exists or not depends on the viewer's point of view. They believed in the immortality of the soul and did not think that God existed. They argued that Moksha is the attainment of the status of Tirthankara by attaining spiritual heights.

Samkhya philosophy, which existed before the Buddha, is another distinctive thought in India. They emphasized logic and reason. Samkhya philosophy aims at liberation from all kinds of sorrows that afflict man. The way to do that is to find the causes of cosmic phenomena and clarify them in wisdom. Samkhya philosophy speaks of the 24 principles that underlie cosmology. The original nature is composed of three qualities namely Sattva, Rajas and Thamas. Changes in the proportions are the cause of the changes. The ability to act without the impulse of external forces is immersed in these.

Kanadan's philosophy, which argued that the universe originated from the atom, is an important school of thought in India. Special philosophy states that man can analyze with his own intellect and logic and grasp the cosmic reality. They analyzed matter, quality, and action. Everything has common and unique qualities. The distinctive feature is the factor that separates one from the other. Each element has its own unique properties. Kanadan explained cosmic phenomena by linking motion, change, properties, action, matter, and cause. He envisioned the soul as a dynamic free substance.

Sreesankaran's deity is known as one of the great and great visions of India. The basic principle of divinity is that the soul is one. Only Brahman is true. The world is a myth. It's just that it's true. Truth comes in two forms, real and practical. Absolute is the real truth. Ignorance is the reason for wearing practical truth as absolute truth. When ignorance moves, true wisdom arises. Wisdom is the realization of Brahma. That is salvation. It is possible in this world itself. Ignorance resides in the sense that I am mine. The sense of self disappears only when one realizes that the soul of all living beings is his own. It is an important principle of divinity that wisdom, not karma, is the basis of salvation. It is just that karma may serve as a means to attain wisdom. This is a topic that has been discussed in detail by many thinkers in different eras.

Many, including Bhaskaracharya and Aravinda Ghosh, have opposed divinity on the grounds that it promotes apostasy. Ramanujan's divinity and Madhvacharya's divinity are visions formed against the deity Shankara. What Ramanujan did was to combine religious beliefs with logic. Madhvacharya argued that the world is not a myth and that the soul and the spirit are two. Nimbarkan's divinity is another movement that has arisen against divinity. God says that the universe and the soul are two entities different from Brahman. The existence of the universe and the soul depends on Brahman. Nimborgan's explanation is that divinity occurs because the differences and differences between them are the same. There are other avenues for Indian philosophy such as yoga and justice.

The relationship between India and Islam dates back to the time of the Prophet. The Arabs' earlier maritime trade relations with India made the arrival of Islam in India through the Kerala coast natural and easy. The Arab propaganda groups received an enthusiastic reception in Kerala. It is said that Cheraman Perumal, the governor of this place, converted to Islam and went to Mecca. The advent of Islam in northern India was at the end of the first century Hijra. The relationship began with the invasion of Sindh by Muhammad ibn Qasim in 92H /711 CE. Sindh became part of the Baghdad-based Abbasid Caliphate. Later, various Muslim tribes ruled India. Islam spread rapidly in India and Islam became the second most important religion.

The Burmese, who held the ministerial posts of the Abbasid Caliphs, took a special interest in translating Sanskrit texts into Arabic. There are two theories among historians as to whether the Burmese were Parsis who converted to Islam or were Buddhists who left India. Syed Sulaiman Nadwi, in his famous work Indo-Arab Relations, argues that they were Buddhists. From the scholars who came to Baghdad via Sindh, the Arabic scholars adopted the knowledge of mathematics, medicine, astrology and astronomy. Sayyid Sulaiman Nadwi states that the Arabic writers Jahil, Yaqubi, Ibn Nadeem, Al-Biruni, Qadi Zayed Andalusi, and Ibn Abi Usaibia have written extensively on the history of this exchange of knowledge. Mahabharata stories, Controversial and medical texts were translated into Arabic as early as the eighth century. Ibn al-Muqaffa 'translated the Panchatantra from Persian into Arabic. The Arabic title of the Panchatantra is Kalila Va Dimna (Karadakan and Damanakan). According to Syed Sulaiman Nadwi, the Arabic translation of the Indian text on the Buddha, Buddhasaf and Balohar, greatly influenced the group of Muslim philosophers, Iqwan-us safa.

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Al-Biruni (973-1050 CE) was a renowned scholar who translated many books from Arabic to Sanskrit and from Sanskrit to Arabic. Albiruni translated the scientific texts of Euclid and Ptolemy into Sanskrit. Kitab ul Hind is an Arabic book by Al-biruni that provides a comprehensive introduction to Indian scholarship. Al-Idrisi (d. 560 H/ d. 1165 CE) was a traveling Arabic scholar who wrote a book on India in Arabic. Many travellers, including Sulayman and Ibn Battuta, wrote about India in Arabic. Hindu philosophy has not been able to influence the fundamental tenets of Islam, the code of beliefs and the way of life. However, over time, Muslim customs and traditions influenced Muslims.

Indian philosophy was greatly influenced by Islamic philosophy and vice versa. Islam spread widely in India through Sufis. Theirs was an exemplary life. Naturally, the majesty of their character captivated the Indian minds. The equality upheld by Islam was the second important factor that attracted the masses, who were languishing in untouchability, to Islam. The strict monotheism of the Muslims also attracted the Indian people. The ideas of monotheism and equality of Islam were the ideas that inspired the Hindu reformers. Guru Nanak was inspired by Islam for the establishment of Sikhism. It is also the concept of monotheism in Islam that inspired Sree Shankaracharya to think about divinity.

Clearly like any other civilization, Islam didn't grow in silos. The generous cultural exchanges have helped Islamic civilization to thrive and contribute to social and educational development. The efforts by puritanical groups to rid Islam of eclectic and symbiotic cultural assimilation will reduce the religion to blind dogma without soul. Religious practices are to be nurtured further by accentuating cultural assimilation.

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Grace Mubashir is a journalism student at IIMC, Delhi


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