The Delhi Sultanate was not the first introduction of Islam into India. Parts of the far northwestern parts of India's coastal border with Iran, the Sind, had been variously captured or under Islamic control or influence by around 712 C.E. There is a strong regional component to Islam's success and the political domain of the Delhi Sultanate in the North. During the first dynasty, Iltutmish (r. 1210-1236) managed to hold out against the Mongol Invasion which left garrisons of troops on India's northern border in the Panjab. From around 1236-1239, Iltutmish's daughter, Raziyyat was a successful ruler for three years until she was deposed and killed in a palace coup. (Kulke and Rothermund, 2010, p. 118). See the contemporary chronicle, Tabaqat-i-Nasari,
The Delhi Sultanate is conventionally divided by periods of its family and military dynasties. Treating history as a discussion of dynasties distorts social and power relations outside of palace dynamics. By no means is all history a narrative of dynasties and royalty, but the political division of dynasties is still a convenient periodization in use:
Al-Biruni on India
His description of Hindu society and customs in India needs to be read with a critical perspective, yet the text is important for its descriptions of the caste system.
The complete text of Al-Biruni is available from the Columbia University Digital Collection.
The Sultanate's central and southern Indian provinces were weaker and strongly resisted by a counter reaction among Hindus and other groups. This included the success of the Vijayanagara Empire that emerged in Southern India 1346 and lasted until the military defeat at Talikota in 1565. The Vijayanagara continued in local power until about 1646.
Ibn Battuta 1325-1354 CE
Along with Ibn Khaldun's Muqaddimah (Introduction to History) and his longer sets of historical writing, Ibn Battuta provides us with as complete a historical survey of the system of interchange and cooperation that existed across Islamic civilization during through the 14th century. As a survivor of the Black Plague, Ibn Battuta leaves us with comparative material on the status and level of various cities and regions of this period.
Doubts about whether Ibn Battuta actually traveled to all of the locations described in his Rihla (Travels) have been raised by a number of historians. These historians particularly doubt his descriptions or ability to have traveled to the Volga River in Russia, or to parts of Yemen or the Pacific ocean islands of Southeastern Asia.
For summary excerpts from his Rihla go to http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1354-ibnbattuta.html
An interactive map of Ibn Battuta's travels from his home in Morocco to China and back is available at:
Ross E. Dunn, The Adventures of Ibn Battuta, A Muslim Traveler of the 14th Century (London: Croom Helm, 1986)
Ibn Khaldun writes a History of the World
Khaldun received an excellent education but was orphaned at the age of 16 when his parents and much of his family succumbed to the Black Death. He worked as an administrator and consultant in government at courts in Fez in Morocco and Granada in Spain. After a series of political intrigues that landed him into prison he withdrew from political life and began to study the social conditions of Berber and semi-nomadic peoples in the neighboring regions of the Sahara. He compiled regional histories and set out to develop a type of comparative history that also drew upon his own personal experience. Ibn Khaldun developed a theory about the rise and fall of dynasties and the importance ofasabiya or group feeling or solidarity as a factor in sociology and history of power dynamics. Like Ibn Battuta he worked as a judge (qadi) in Cairo and famously met the conqueror Tamurlane as part of negotiations with the Mongol ruler and the Mamluks.
Exhibition website on Ibn Khaldun http://www.ibnjaldun.com/index.php?L=7
The BBC has an audio podcast on Ibn Khaldun's importance at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00qckbw
An electronic version of Al-Muqaddimah or the Introduction to the Kitab Al-Ibar is at http://www.muslimphilosophy.com/ik/Muqaddimah/
The arrival of Islam can be dated to around 1282, when the Hindu Malay ruler in Sumatra received Muslim advisers. By 1345, our traveler Ibn Battuta (see tab above) described Shafi'i legal scholars in Sumatra. (Lapidus, 384). By 1474, Malay rulers were converted to Islam. By the early 16th century, Muslim influences were found in Borneo and the Philippines. This process of Islamicization came into conflict with the newly arriving Portuguese missionaries and explorers. By 1511 the Portuguese had conquered the Malacca region of Indonesia and other ports on the Persian Gulf. The arrival of the Portuguese appears to have solidified support for Islam and enabled its spread by overland missionaries who migrated through parts of Southeast Asia.
Sources: Ira Lapidus, A History of Islamic Societies. (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 382-399.
The Spread of Islam in Africa 900-1500 C.E.
The spread of Islam across the Sahara to the Sahel, the West African states and to East Africa developed through merchant contacts and long-distance caravan routes of traders with the Arab Muslim cities of northern Africa. By the 11th century the Senegalese coastal region had converted to Islam as had large areas of the Sahel across to the Sudan. By the late 13th and 14th centuries large well established cities in the Sahel and Mali had large Muslim institutions. The building of large prominent mosques at Timbuktu and other cities in Mali reflect this development. These cities flourished as West African cities and kingdoms flourished from the prosperous trade in gold, salt, and various metal wares produced by the region. It also marks the rise of an overland slave trade to northern markets.
Other recommended general survey texts for a discussion of Islam in South Asia and Africa include: