There had been much trade and commerce between India and Arabia
even before the time of Prophet Muhammad. Unlike the Jews
and Christians, the Arabs settled down primarily on the West Coast,
which indicates that they arrived in large numbers only in the
eighth and ninth centuries.
first Muslim merchant who visited Kerala was Sulaiman in 851 A.D.
As trade between Kerala and the Muslim countries increased, many
Arab Muslims came to Kerala and settled down on the Malabar Coast
where the Zamorin of Calicut welcomed them. He encouraged
them to marry with the local women and serve on his armed forces.
Mention must be made here o-f the legend that the last of the
Chera emperors, the Cheraman Perumal, became a convert to Islam
and went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. There is among the Malabar
Muslims a tradition about a devout Arab Muslim, Ibn Dinar.
He was like Apostle Thomas before him. He came to Kerala
to spread Islam; he established the first mosque in Cranganore;
afterwards he built mosques in Quilon, Madayi, Kasargod, Srikantapuram,
Dharmapattanam, and Chaliyam.
travelogue of Ibn Battuta who visited Kerala between 1342 and
1347 gives detailed information on Muslims in different parts
of Kerala. His journey from Calicut to Quilon lasted 10
days. He writes: "At all the halting places ... there
are houses belonging to Muslims at which Muslim travellers stop
and buy food and other provisions. Muslims are the most
highly honored people." During the fifteenth, sixteenth,
and seventeenth centuries Muslims flourished economically and
numerically. Many untouchables were attracted to Islam.
At one point (twelfth century) the Muslims even had their own
rulers; the Arakkal royal family of the All Raja; he was the son
of a wealthy Arab and a princess of the Kolathiri royal house.
One of his descendants, Azi Raja (master of the sea) conquered
in 1183-84 some of the Maldive Islands for the Kolathiri Raja.
the Mysorean invasions of Tipu Sultan (1782-1792), many Keralites
willy-nilly became Muslims. Many Nairs and high-caste Hindus
were seized and forcibly converted to Islam. The Mysore
Sultan Tipu is the reason why there are so many Muslim Mappilas
in the districts of Cannanore, Tellicherry, Calicut, and Malappuram.
The Mysorean invasions and Muslim conversions deeply affected
the old caste-controlled social order of Malabar. It shattered
the myth of the social superiority of the Brahmins and the Nairs
and improved the self-image of the lower classes.
this century, Muslim leaders like Vakkam Abdul Kadir, Ummer Kazi,
Seethi Sahib,; and E. K. Maulavi Sahib tried to bring the relatively
back-ward Muslim community to the twentieth century through educational
and social reforms. They opened service-oriented institutions
like orphanages, Madrasas (school for teaching Arabic and Islam),
primary schools, high schools, and Arabic colleges. Of all
the institutions the most important under Muslim management is
Farook College established in 1948. The Thangal Kunju Missal-iar
College of Engineering has also done great service to the Muslim
community by training engineers and technicians. The recently
established (1964) Muslim Educational Society is running colleges,
schools, and hospitals today. The Mappila Muslims are increasingly
becoming more Indian and less Islamic. Most Kerala Muslims
are Sunnis and patriotic Indians. Indeed, Muslims of Kerala,
have come a long way since the ninth century and the nineteenth