Tamil Muslims (Tamil: முஸ்லிம் தமிழர், muslim tamiẓhar (singular) ? [mʊslɪm t̪ɐmɪɻɐɾ], or Tamil: முஸ்லிம் தமிழர்கள், muslim tamiẓharkaḷ (plural) ? [mʊslɪm t̪ɐmɪɻɐɾxɐɭ]) are Tamils who practise Islam. The community is atleast 4 million strong in India, primarily in the state of Tamil Nadu. Tamil-speaking Muslims in Sri Lanka are classified as Moors (not Tamils) due to independent lineage.
|c. 4 million|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Related ethnic groups|
The community is predominantly urban. There is a substantial diaspora, particularly in Southeast Asia, which has seen their presence as early as the 13th century. In the late 20th century, the diaspora expanded to Western Europe and North America.
Though numerically nominal and collaborative, the community is not homogeneous. Its origin is shaped by miscegenation and centuries of trade between the Bay of Bengal and the Maritime Southeast Asia. By the 20th century, certain Tamil races began to be listed as social classes in official gazettes of different nations as Marakayar, Rowther and Labbay.
Claiming Arabic descent, the Marakayar sect has dominated the educational and economic landscape in Tamil Nadu since the 17th century. One notable sea-faring merchant, as recorded in the Chronicles of Thondaiman, was Periya Thambi Nainar Marakkayar who is widely believed to be the first rupee millionaire in the community. His son Seethakaathi, an altruist, commissioned the penning of Seerapuranam by Umaru Pulavar. By the 20th century, B. S. Abdur Rahman had emerged as the first dollar billionaire. The 11th president of India A. P. J. Abdul Kalam was also born to a Marakkayar boat-builder.
Claiming Turkic and Rajput descent, the Rowther sect is the second most prosperous coterie within the community and settled in the deltaic districts of Tamil Nadu.
Similar to Gurukkal, the Labbay sect mainly engages in religious scholarship.
In Tamil Nadu, the community is well known as rentiers, entrepreneurs, gemstone jewellers and money changers with above State-average GDP per capita incomes.
Legends and ritualsEdit
As a mark of modesty, women usually wear white thuppatti (whilst travelling only) which is draped over their body on top of the saree but revealing face. Many visit dargah on major life milestones like births, marriages and deaths.
Weddings have retained several Rajput traditions across generations like grooms going on a horseback procession.
Cuisine is a tell-tale syncretic mixture of Tamil and other Asian recipes. Biriyani is the favourite dish in banquets while mild Malay-style congee is the favourite during the fasting month of Ramzan. There are many regional improvisations. For instance, dumroot, a semolina ghee cake with soft centre and hard crust at the top, is popular in the deltaic households.
Culture and literature are heavily influenced by the Qadiri flavour of Sufism. Their domain range from mystical to medical, from fictional to political, from philosophical to legal and spiritual.
The earliest literary works in the community could be traced to the 14th century in the form of Palsanthmalai, a small work of eight stanzas. In 1572, Seyku Issaku, better known as Vanna Parimala Pulavar, published Aayira Masala Venru Vazhankum Adisaya Puranam detailing the Islamic principles and beliefs in a FAQ format. In 1592, Aali Pulavar wrote the Mikurasu Malai. The epic Seerapuranam by Umaru Pulavar is dated to the 17th century and still considered as the crowning achievement in canonical literature. Other significant works of 17th century include Thiruneri Neetham by Sufi master Pir Mohammad, Kanakabhisheka Malai by Seyku Nainar Khan (alias Kanakavirayar), Tirumana Katchi by Sekathi Nainar and the Iraqi war ballad Sackoon Pataippor.
Nevertheless, an independent identity evolved only in the last quarter of the 20th century triggered by the rise of Dravidian politics as well as the introduction of new mass communications and lithographic technologies. The world's first Tamil Islamic Literature Conference was held in Trichy in 1973. In early 2000. the Department of Tamil Islamic Literature was set up in the University of Madras. Modern notable writers include Mu Metha and Pavalar Inqulab,
Law and polityEdit
P. Kalifulla served as the minister for public works in the Cabinet of Kurma Venkata Reddy Naidu in 1937. He was sympathetic to the cause of Periyar E. V. Ramasamy and his Self-Respect Movement. He spoke against the introduction of compulsory Hindi classes in the Madras legislature and participated in the anti-Hindi agitations. He was a lawyer by profession and was known by the honorifics Khan Bahadur. He became the Dewan of Pudukottai after withdrawal from political work. Sir Mohammad Usman was the most prominent among the early political leaders of the community. In 1930, Jamal Mohammad became the president of the Madras Presidency Muslim League. Until then, the party was dominated by Urdu speakers. Yakub Hasan Sait served as a minister in the Rajaji administration. Allama Karim Gani, veteran freedom fighter and a close associate of Subash Chandra Bose, who hailed from Ilayangudi, served as Information Minister in Netaji ministry during the 1930s.
Since the late 20th century, politicians like Quaid-e-Millat (first President of Indian Union Muslim League) and Dawood Shah advocated Tamil to be made an official language of India due to its antiquity in parliamentary debates The community was united in a single political party under Quaid-e-Millath presidency for 27 years keeping rabble-rousers away until his death in 1972. His support was invaluable for ruling parties in the state, as well as in the Centre. He was instrumental in framing and obtaining the minority status and privileges for minorities in India thus safeguarding the Constitution of India. His newspaper Urimaikkural was a very popular daily.
S. M. Muhammed Sheriff, a.k.a. Madurai Sheriff Sahib was a charismatic and prominent leader groomed by Quaid-e-Millath. He was the first elected IUML MP from Tamil Nadu. He produced clear documentary evidence that Kachchatheevu belonged to India. During the Emergency, he was the advisor to the Governor. M. M. Ismail became Chief Justice in 1979 and was sworn in as Acting Governor of Tamil Nadu in 1980. As Kamban Kazhagam president, he organised literary festivals, that focussed on classical Tamil literature. Justice S. A. Kader who was the Judge of Madras High Court during 1983-89 became the President of Tamil Nadu State Government Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission on retirement. In the early 1990s, the Indian National League split from the IUML. The non-denominational social reform movements (called Ghair Muqallid) began to take the front stage (supposedly to fight superstition creep) spearheaded by P. Jainulabdeen further weakening the IUML and causing unrest among community elders who preferred status quo and conservatism. Nevertheless, the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazagham was constituted in 1995. This non-profit organisation quickly became popular and assertive among the working class youth.
In 2009, the Manithaneya Makkal Katchi, the political arm of TMMK was formed. The TMMK itself split to form the break-away organisation Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath soon. In 2011, MMK won 2 of 3 contested Assembly seats viz. Ambur (A. Aslam Basha) and Ramanathapuram (M. H. Jawahirullah). But in 2016, MMK was defeated in all 4 contested seats. Broadly speaking, the community vote bank tends to support laissez faire and free trade; and have been unimpressed by Communism as a public policy though fringe working class factions often called for affirmative action in the last quarter of the 20th century. New generation of leaders like Daud Sharifa Khanum have been active in pioneering social reforms like independent mosques for women. MLAs and MPs such as A. Anwar Rhazza, J. M. Aaroon Rashid, Abdul Rahman, Jinna, Khaleelur Rahman, S. N. M. Ubayadullah, Hassan Ali and T. P. M. Mohideen Khan are found across all major Dravidian political parties like DMK, DMDK and AIADMK, as well as national parties like the INC. At the age of 30, the award-winning documentarian Aloor Shanavas became the Deputy General Secretary of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi.
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