Conversion of Hindus in Composite Bengal to Islam
Generally it is an accepted fact of history, that at many places Muslims converted local people to Islam by the sword. I must however point out that in composite Bengal ( Bangladesh and West Bengal) most conversions were not by the sword, but by Muslim Sufi saints who brought out the ills inherent in Hinduism and Buddhism. The result is an eyeopener as 65% of the Hindu -Buddhist population converted to Islam.As things stand the majority of Bengali speaking Muslims is almost double of Hindus.
The entire area now known as West Bengal and Bangladesh was known as the kingdom of Bengal. Till the 12/13th century it was ruled by a Hindu dynasty and the majority of the population Hindu. In the 14th century, to be exact in 1303 a Muslim Sufi saint Shah Gulal came to Bengal and began to preach about Islam and Mohammed. Large numbers of Hindus converted to Islam. One reason was that Hindu society had become moribund and infanticide, Sati, Caste divisions and untouchability had risen to new heights. The divide in society was complete with the lower castes completely oppressed by higher castes.
In such a scenario the classless concept of Islam, abolition of Sati and widow remarriage appealed to the Bengalis and they began to convert en masse to Islam.This is where Hinduism lost out as it failed to project the image of a dynamic religion. The great traveler Ibn Battuta also visited Shah Gulal and records of his visit are available. he mentions that Shah Gulal lived in a cave near a mosque in Sylhet and over all led a spartan life.
Bengal came under the sway of Mughal rule from 16th century and from 18th century the entire state came under control of the East India Company. Despite this the nefarious practices of sati and caste continued to bedevil Hindu society and more Bengali's converted to Islam. It will be interesting to know that the Bengali Hindus were so bigoted that they appealed to the Privy Council to get the ban on Sati lifted as they felt it was part of their religious right. This alone shows the mindset of the Hindus in Bengal. In any case the Privy Council threw out the Bengali Hindu appeal and Sati was equated with murder.
Now when we look at West Bengal and Bangladesh we realize but for Hinduism being a moribund society in Bengal, Islam would not have got a foot hold there. We must accept that Islam has some positive scores over Hinduism and projects a classless society. Its about time the Hindus did away with caste, but this is easier said than done I am not surprised that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world.
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