Categories Uncategorized

II. 3.4.3 Impact of Islam on Indian Society

From the 12th century A.D a definite impact of Islamic culture on Indian Society is observed. Islamic and Hindu traditions have interacted, synthesised and also remained insulated. Even though the Muslim conquered India with the help of sword, they followed a policy of peace in the country. They followed a policy of religious toleration with the exception of a few. They mostly realized the necessity of reconciliation rather than persecution. Some of the Muslims adopted Hindu religious practices. They also went on pilgrimages to Hindu shrines. The Hindus also realized the necessity of abandonment of hostile attitude and started living a peaceful life. The Hindus who were converted to Islam retained their Hindu customs and manners in their new Muslim society also.

The interaction in its first stage is marked by conflict, tension, adaptation and cultural syncretism between the Hindu and Islamic tradition In course of time, there appeared a spirit of harmony, compromise, toleration and cooperation between the Hindus and the Muslims. This gradually resulted in the fusion of Hindu and Muslim cultures.

No doubt Muslims assimilated many Hindu practices. On the other hand Indian society and culture was influenced by Islamic tradition to a very large extent. The impact of Islam on Indian culture was both negative and positive.  H.V. Srinivas Murthy and S. V. Kamath have highlighted both negative and positive aspects of the impact of Islam on Indian society.

Negative Impact:

The Muslim occupation of India accelerated certain undesirable tendencies that had already manifested themselves in the Hindu society on- the eve of the Muslim conquest. As pointed out by K.M. Panikkar Indian society was divided on a vertical basis due to introduction of Islam and Muslim rule. Before thirteenth century, Hindu society was divided horizontally. Neither Buddhism nor Jainism could affect this division but both were easily assimilated. On the contrary, Islam split Indian society into two distinct divisions from top to bottom – Hindus and Muslims.

In due course, these two sections evolved as two separate nations in the same country. Two parallel societies were vertically established on the same soil. The proselyting zeal of Islam strengthened bonds of conservatism in the orthodox circles of their outlook and practice than what they were in past.

To fortify their position against the propagation and spread of Islam, the Hindus introduced of many social taboos and caste rules were made rigid. Under the impact of Islam continuous progress disappeared from the life of Hindus.

The Purda System:

Islam and Muslim rule seriously affected the position of Indian women. The birth of a girl was looked upon as an inauspicious event. Consequently, female infanticide spread widely among the Hindu. This was also adopted by the Hindus in order to avoid the risk of losing their chastity by the Muslims.

Prior to the arrival of the Muslims on the Indian scene, there was no prevalence of the purdah system in the Hindu society. Hindu women used to move freely without any purdah. But the Muslim conquest of India resulted in the prevalence of purdah system. Women were compelled to observe purdah and live in seclusion in their homes. The prevalence of purdah system was also due to meeting the danger of kidnapping of Hindu women by the Muslims.

Child Marriages and Sati System:

The custom of child marriage among the Hindus came into vogue due the fear that the Muslim rule and that high officials might take away and marry beautiful Hindu girls. Therefore the Hindu girls had to be married at a very young age. The Sastras were revised to give legal sanction to child marriage and a marriage beyond the age of 11 or 12 was considered sinful.

Child marriage was introduced in society. Gradually, child marriage was enforced. Early marriage of the Hindu girls to avoid their kidnapping by the Muslims became the custom.

The condition of the Hindu women deteriorated considerably. Dependence of women on their male relatives or husbands became the prominent feature of the Hindu society. After conquering the different parts of India, the Muslim conquerors captured the women and girls of the vanquished and married them. As a sequel to that the Hindu women, particularly the Rajput women, burnt themselves prior to their husbands and relatives leaving for the battle field to fight their last battle against the Muslims. This was known as the practice of Jauhar. System of Sati was another social evil of this period. During Muslim rule the inhuman practice of Sati, was started. According to the practice of Sati the wife had to be burnt in the funeral pyre of the husband. Women were expected to observe strict fidelity in their conjugal life.


An unhealthy feature of social life that crept into Hindu society due to Muslims was slavery. Slavery was common in the Muslim tradition. It was a practice among the Sultans. Amirs and nobles to keep both men and women slaves. This influenced the Hindu chiefs to keep slaves. Hence, slavery appeared, in India due to Muslims.

More Rigid Caste System:

The missionary zeal of Islam which aimed at converting the Hindus to Muslims compelled the Hindus to be orthodox in outlook and practice to protect their religion and culture from the onslaught of Islam.

Hence attempts were made to make caste rules more rigorous and daily rules of conduct more rigid. Restrictions regarding caste and marriage had become more stringent among the Hindus. New rules with regard to caste and marriage were also prescribed.

The main purpose of such rigidity in caste system was to save the Hindus from being converted into Islam. Commentaries were written on Smritis and Nibandhas with an objective of readjustment of social relationship in Hindu society. This was felt necessary under the changed circumstances. The custom of killing girls at the time of birth came into vogue among the Hindus as they feared that their Muslim rulers or nobles might forcibly marry the Hindu girls which was disgraceful. This evil custom of infanticide was the creation of the circumstances.


K.M. Pannikar holds the view that due to Islamic impact, the Indian society was divided on a vertical basis. The fear of conversion made the Hindus become more orthodox in their outlook and practices than ever before. The Hindus increased the rigidity of many social taboos and caste restrictions so as to solidify their base against the Muslims. They also maintained stringency of rules governing diet, marriage, religious rites and ceremonies. Such rigidity enforced by the Hindus safeguarded Hindu Culture against Islamic Culture. But it hindered progress and made the condition of the lower castes miserable. They were sandwiched between the social and religious tyranny of the higher classes and the tyranny of the Muslim fanatics.When Hindu society became more rigid and conservative, the miseries of lower castes increased to a large extent. Due to this reason lower caste Hindus particularly the untouchables converted to Islam.

Religious orthodoxy :

The upsurge of fundamentalism resulted in rise of religious orthodoxy in cultural life.


The Hindus also adopted the vice of gambling and drinking from the Muslims. The impact of Islam also brought changes in some of the earlier games and recreations.

Positive Impact:

Religious Impact:

Islam brought to India a conception of human equality, pride in one’s religion, a legal system which was in many ways an advance on the codes of the time Hindu rulers were influenced to work as the upholders of Hindu religion. Islam gave the message of universal brotherhood, introduced equality in society, rejected caste system and untouchability. In due course, these ideas began to have a conscious or unconscious effect upon the philosophical Hindu mind and fostered the growth of liberal movements under religious reformers.

The presence of Islam paved the way for the growth of the Bhakti cult. The saints and reformers of fifteenth and sixteenth centuries like Kabira, Nanak and Srichaitanya preached fundamental equality of all religions. However, medieval Bhakti cult was in some ways a reply to the attack of Islam on Hinduism.

Impacts on Upper Class Hindu:

Rich Hindu classes were influenced by the Mohammedan dress, etiquette, recreation and other activities. The art of warfare was also influenced and developed as result of Islamic contact. Food of Muslims like Biryani, Kabab and Palan etc. were adopted by the Hindus.


Indian music and musical instruments were also influenced by Islam. Indian musical instruments were modified and new instruments were produced The Tab la was produced by modification of Hindu musical instrument, Mridanga. Indian Veena was combined with Iranian Tambura and Sitatar was produced.

A fusion of Hindu and Iranian systems of music led to the evolution of light songs like quwwalis. Different classical vocal music of India underwent radical changes as a result of the contact with Muslim singers.


Assimilation and synthesis between Hindu and Islamic culture led to evolution of new styles of architecture. According to Dr. Tarachand, “The craftsmanship, ornamental richness and general design remained largely Hindu, the arcaded form, plain doms, smooth-faced walls and spacious interiors were Muslim impositions.”In the field of architecture new styles started of which Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Qutab Minar, Taj Mahal etc. are the living examples.

Art and Craft:

New art and crafts were introduced in the country; for example, paper-making, enamellings, metals and jewels etc. Many workshops were setup-for gold and silver articles and embroidery. The Mughal rulers, except Aurangzeb, patronised architecture, fine art and paintings. Under Jahangir painting received considerable fillip.

Language and Literature:

Hindu-Muslim contact led to linguistic synthesis. Urdu is the outcome of a mixture of Persian, Arabic and Turkish words and of ideas with the concepts and languages of Sanskrit origin. The Urdu became language of the people. The Hindi language was also influenced by Muslim contact. This is distinct in vocabulary, grammar, similes and styles. Literature in India was influenced by the Turko-Afghans to a large extent. Books like Hassan Nizami’s Taj-ul-Moa’ Sir, Qazi Minhaz-us-Siraj’s Tabakat-i-Nasiri etc. influenced the Hindus. Many good works were composed and written in Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati and Marathi etc. Many Arabized Persian language words found their way into the local languages.

Dress patterns, food habits :

The upper sections of Hindu society were also influenced by the dress patterns, food habits and social manners of the Muslims. However, the Hindus belonging to the lower sections remained unaffected by such influence.

The contact of Islam with Hinduism also generated the process of cultural amalgamation which involved three types of movements:

(i) Raising the Status of group through cultural and social mobility through conversion to Islam,

(ii) Movements towards orthodoxy in cultural and religious matters among the converts to Islam

(iii) Imbibing some Islamic cultural values and life styles by non-Muslims due to cultural contact or expediency or for profit.

Despite basic differences and bitter relations between Hindus and Muslims in India, the healthy spirit of mutual tolerance and co-operation found expression in the Indian scenario. This culminated in the rise of many religious sects which tried to harmonise Islam and Hinduism. Ranade, Kabir, Nanak, Dadu, Chaitanya and others tried to find a common ground for both the religions. The Hindu saints and religious leaders made attempts to synthesize Hindu- Muslim thoughts. In the like manner, the Sufi saints adopted Hindu doctrines and followed many of their traditions.

The Hindus were not reluctant to offer sweets on the tombs of Muslim Pirs or saints. They also listened with reverence to the recitation of the holy Quran. It was commonly found that the Hindu philosophers used to preach like murshids and Muslim saints to teach sufism, like the Guru. The Hindus started believing in the infallibility of the Pir and kept a copy of it in their houses to do away with the evils. In many a case, they began to feed the Shaikhs and Fakirs.

They also took part in Muslim festivals and fairs. Many Hindus were attracted towards the Muslim saints and became their disciples. Abdul Kadir Jilani, Sayyid Masud, Saikh Muin-ud-din Chisti had many Hindu devotees. The Muslims also followed the practice of worshipping Hindu gods and goddesses. In their social contact, both the religious communities have risen above traditional barriers and religious orthodoxy.


Thus the impact of Islam on Indian Society had a couple of consequences. Firstly, it strengthened conservatism in Hindu Society which was reflected in the orthodox outlook and practice, rigidity in caste system and religious life. Secondly it also brought about the restoration of India’s contact with the outside world and exchange of ideas, customs and traditions. At present, Islam in India constitutes an integral part of the social and cultural life. Adapting itself to the Indian circumstances, it has developed its own characteristics and has contributed in a variety of ways to the solidarity of the nation, visualized in social, political and intellectual spheres. Now one finds a fine blend of the traditional Indian culture and the Islamic cultural heritage. The synthesis led to the evolution of common cultural heritage in India.

Leave a Reply