The Muslims ruled parts of India for several centuries, starting with the arrival of Muslim armies in the early 8th century until the decline of the Mughal Empire in the 18th century. During this period, Muslim rulers made significant contributions to various aspects of Indian society. Here are some of the major contributions of Muslims ruling India:
A. Laid Foundations of Indian Federation
Muslim rulers brought with them a well-organized administrative structure and legal system laying the foundations of an Indian federation that was formalised during the British colonial period. The Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire implemented effective systems of governance and introduced reforms in taxation, land administration, and the justice system. The compilation of legal codes, such as the Fatawa-i-Alamgiri, provided a comprehensive legal framework. This system helped to unify the country and improve its efficiency. Although the administration was based on Islamic sharia, elements of Hindu laws and customs greatly influenced the administration of the vast Sub-continent. Different legal systems began to develop in different provinces.
Muslim rulers established their authority in the political field, the Hindus were mostly working in the sphere of trade and commerce largely because the Muslims were less conversant. The Mughal Empire’s fiscal and trade policies stimulated the economy and contributed to economic growth. The territorial integration of northern and western India under the Mughals facilitated trade and commerce.
Sher Shah Suri introduced a centralized administration system that divided the empire into 47 divisions called ‘Sarkars’ and these were again subdivided into smaller administrative units called ‘Parganas’. He was the first Muslim ruler of India who displayed a real aptitude for civil government. Akbar introduced a system of military ranking that required nobles to raise troops for the military and increased loyalty to the emperor. Extensive land surveys and assessments enabled Akbar’s territorial expansion and attempted to protect peasants from unfair taxes.
The early sultanate dynasties introduced the Persian language, literature, culture, and law. Ethnic and linguistic pluralism marked this period, with Muslim rulers ruling over a primarily non-Muslim population. Cross-cultural influences can be seen in the court. By the late 17th century, India was so much united under one ruler. Muslim (and later British rulers) modernized the ancient Indian district administration to serve their purposes while independent India takes pride in the revival of the administrative system.
Overall, Muslim rule in India had a significant impact on the administrative framework of India, introducing new systems and ideas that continue to influence modern governance in the region.
B. Advancement of Science & Technology
The Muslims made significant contributions to science and technology in India, particularly in the fields of mathematics, astronomy, and medicine. Some of the most famous Muslim scientists and mathematicians in India include Al-Biruni, Al-Khwarizmi, and Nasir al-Din Tusi. For example, Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq allowed more than a third of a million pounds to be given to learned men and pious endowments.
- Mathematics: Muslim scholars in India studied the mathematics of earlier civilizations in Greece, India, and China. They then made advances in many areas including geometry, trigonometry, and algebra. Two great Islamic mathematicians, al-Khwarizmi and al-Tabari, made significant contributions to the field of mathematics.
- Medicine: Muslim rulers in India made significant contributions to the field of medicine. They established hospitals and medical schools, and they also translated many important medical texts from Arabic and Persian into Indian languages. Muslim physicians made significant contributions to the fields of anatomy, pharmacology, and surgery.
- Astronomy: Muslim rulers in India made significant contributions to the field of astronomy. They built many observatories, and they also made significant advancements in the fields of trigonometry and spherical geometry. Muslim astronomers made significant contributions to the fields of astrophysics and cosmology.
- Technology: Muslim rulers in India made significant contributions to the field of technology. They introduced new technologies such as papermaking, which allowed for the production of books. They also made significant contributions in the areas of optics, mechanics, clocks, wind power, and chemistry.
Overall, Muslim rule in India had a significant impact on the field of science and technology, introducing new ideas and techniques that continue to influence modern science and technology in the region.
C. Growth of Trade and Commerce
The Muslims introduced new trade routes and improved existing ones, connecting India with the broader Islamic world and beyond. This facilitated increased trade and commerce, boosting the economy and leading to cultural exchanges. The establishment of markets, caravanserais, and trade guilds further stimulated economic growth. This helped to boost the economy and improve the standard of living of the people.
- Fiscal and trade policies: The Mughal Empire’s fiscal and trade policies stimulated the economy and contributed to economic growth. The territorial integration of northern and western India under the Mughals facilitated trade and commerce.
- Large trade networks: Large trade networks spanned much of the globe, including faraway places like China, Africa, and Europe. Islamic merchants dealt in a wide variety of trade goods, including sugar, salt, textiles, spices, slaves, gold, and horses. The expansion of the Islamic Empire allowed merchants to trade goods all the way from China to Europe. Many merchants became quite wealthy and powerful.
- Use of paper money: Islamic leaders used taxes from wealthy merchants to build and maintain public works such as schools, hospitals, dams, and roads. Islamic merchants used paper money, which was easier to carry on long trade routes than heavy coins. After arriving in a new city, merchants could take the papers to a moneychanger to exchange for coins.
- High propensity for commercial trade: Islam had a high propensity for commercial trade and capitalistic activity. The merchants of the Muslim Empire conformed perfectly to Weber’s criteria for rational capitalism.
- Importance of foreign trade: The Mughals maintained a general policy of foreign trade, but their rule was distinguished by the importance that foreign trade attained by the end of the sixteenth century. Foreign trade became an important source of revenue for the Mughal Empire.
Overall, Muslim rule in India had a significant impact on the trade and commerce of India, introducing new trade networks, techniques, and ideas that continue to influence modern trade and commerce in the region.
D. Innovations in Architecture
Muslim rulers in India were renowned for their architectural achievements. They introduced distinctive Islamic architectural styles, such as Indo-Islamic and Mughal architecture, which blended elements of Persian, Central Asian, and Indian architecture. Iconic structures like the Qutub Minar, Jama Masjid, Red Fort, Agra Fort, and Taj Mahal were built under Muslim rule. The Muslims introduced a new style of architecture to India, which is characterized by its use of domes, arches, and geometric patterns.
- Introduction of new architectural styles: Muslim rulers introduced new architectural styles to India, such as the use of domes, arches, and minarets. They also introduced the true arch and the dome, which became prominent features of Indian architecture.
- Construction of impressive structures: Muslim rulers built many impressive structures, including the Taj Mahal, which is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Other notable structures include the Red Fort, the Agra Fort, and the Jama Masjid.
- Influence on Indian architecture: Indo-Islamic architecture has left a large impact on modern Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi architecture. The influence of Islamic architecture is prominently on display in the Northern parts of India more than in the Southern parts of India. The Islamic rulers had failed to secure South India under their rule, and thus, the representation of Islamic architecture in South India is minimal. Some of the common Islamic architectural elements found in South Indian Islamic architecture include bulbous domes, open courtyards, and minarets. Geometrical designs, floral motifs, and calligraphic inscriptions are also popular decorative features found in Indo-Islamic architecture.
Overall, Muslim rule in India had a significant impact on Indian architecture, introducing new styles and techniques that continue to influence modern architecture in the region.
E. Promotion of Art and Literature
Islamic rulers patronized art, literature, and calligraphy. The Muslims introduced a new style of literature to India, which is characterized by its use of Persian and Arabic words and phrases. Persian and Arabic literature flourished, and new genres like the ghazal and qawwali were popularized. Prominent poets such as Amir Khusrau and Mirza Ghalib emerged during this time. Persian miniature painting and other forms of visual arts also thrived.
- Literature: During the Mughal Empire, many scholars, poets, and writers were patronized, which led to a surge in original works being produced. A lot of literary works were produced in the Persian language during the Mughal era because it was the official and courtly language. Other regional languages also saw a period of literary growth. There were many factors that were responsible, and one of them was the Sufi and Bhakti saints who preached. Emperor Akbar was also fond of the arts and created a grand library of over 24,000 manuscripts. Many scholars, poets, and writers were patronized which led to a surge in original works being produced. Authors such as Abul Fazl, Abul Faizi, Nizamuddin Ahmad, Abbas Khan Sherwani, etc. composed. There were Muslim poets who entered the field of Hindi literature and poetry during this time. Poets such as Abdul Rahim Khan Khana and Ras Khan interpreted Indian culture so perfectly.
- Art: Muslim rule in India had a significant impact on Indian art, introducing new styles and techniques that continue to influence modern art in the region. Muslim rulers introduced new architectural styles to India, such as the use of domes, arches, and minarets. They also built many impressive structures, including the Taj Mahal, which is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Muslim rulers patronized painters and artists, leading to the development of new artistic styles and genres. They also introduced Persian and Arabic artistic traditions to India, which had a lasting impact on Indian art.
Overall, Muslim rule in India had a significant impact on Indian art and literature, introducing new styles and techniques that continue to influence modern art and literature in the region.
F. Education and Scholarship
Muslim rulers established centers of learning, such as madrasas, which played a significant role in promoting education and scholarship. The Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire fostered an environment conducive to intellectual pursuits, attracting scholars, scientists, and philosophers from various regions. The Muslims established several educational institutions in India, which helped to spread knowledge and learning throughout the country.
G. Cuisine and Food
The Muslim rulers’ influence on Indian cuisine is evident through the introduction of new ingredients, cooking techniques, and flavors. The Mughals, in particular, contributed significantly to the development of Mughlai cuisine, known for its rich, aromatic dishes like biryani, kebabs, and various curries. Muslim rulers of India made significant contributions to the food and cuisine of India, introducing new dishes and culinary practices that continue to influence modern Indian cuisine. Here are some of their major contributions:
- Introduction of new dishes: Mughals introduced almonds, biryanis and pilafs, samosas, baked bread, cream, rose water, kababs, and kormas. The concept of pulao came to India with the Mughals, who loved delicate rice dishes cooked with meats and vegetables.
- Influence on Indian cuisine: With the Mughals came a flood of culinary inspirations and innovations that remain highly influential in the culinary practices of India. Hindu and Muslim are the two dominant religions that have influenced Indian cooking and food habits the most. Mughlai food, kababs, rich Kormas (curry), and Nargisi koftas (meatballs), the biryani (a layered rice and meat dish), rogan josh, and favorite dishes prepared in a clay oven or tandoor are wonderful contributions made by Muslim settlers in India.
- Courtly etiquette: To the somewhat austere Hindu dining ambiance, the Muslims brought a refined and courtly etiquette of both group and individual dining, and of sharing food and fellowship.
- Royal kitchens: Indian cuisine reached its zenith in the royal kitchens of the kings, nawabs, and maharajas — the one-time rulers of India’s princely states who patronized art and culture, and enjoyed a lavish lifestyle. Among the varied cuisines that were native to India or borrowed from other world cultures and cuisines — are the Awadhi cuisine of Lucknow and of the Rampur royal family in North India and the Hyderabadi cuisine within the state of Nizam in the Deccan region.
Overall, Muslim rule in India had a significant impact on the food and cuisine of India, introducing new dishes, culinary practices, and etiquette that continue to influence modern Indian cuisine.
H. Promotion of Sub-continental Culture & Civilisation
The interaction between Islamic and indigenous Indian cultures resulted in a unique blend of traditions, beliefs, and practices. This fusion can be observed in areas such as music, dance, festivals, and attire. Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam, gained popularity and contributed to the syncretic tradition in India. This new culture helped to enrich the fabric of Indian society and make it more diverse.
It is important to note that while the Muslim rulers made significant contributions, India’s history is complex, and the country has been shaped by diverse influences over time. The contributions of Muslim rulers were part of this larger historical tapestry, history, and culture.