Islam constitutes about a quarter of the population of the state of Kerala ,their population is unevenly distributed with the bulk of them concentrated in the districts of malappuram and kozhikode.Islam came to the malayali shores through trade like anywhere in the indian ocean region, a few of these arab traders took malayali wives(mappila = groom), settled here. for centuries they were the trading class that constituted the spice trade in malabar,being concentrated in the towns with no representation inland. like christians or jews who propagated their religion before them they also wanted to distinguish themselves from the rest of the populace , so they developed vocabulary with introduced arabic words ( for eg:padachavan for god which was adopted from jewish malayalam) , had customs like tying the mundu to the left and eating food on the dorsum of the plantain leaf. for nearly a thousand years islam was a minority religion just a few thousands in their number grew slowly with converts . the difference between the muslims of kerala and the north was the lack of forceful conversions , they lived in harmony with the society but largely confining to themselves with little or no interaction culturally with others. the local rulers never considered them as the sons of the soil but just as some foreign implants like the romans and jews before them.but surely there were exceptions like the arakkal royalty which embraced islam.
the community was forced out of its cocoon of isolation by sword- the invasions of hyder ali and tippu sultan.as they marched down from mysore through wayanad or through the coast down from mangalore blood flowed like rivers , neither tippu nor hyder were fanatics to the degree of their north indian counter parts but the shear objection of slavery in malayali minds made them to revolt. there were reports of revolt in the malabar under tippu on a regular basis the only way to suppress it was brutality. then came the age old method of suppression killing of men, raping women and taking slaves. the nairs who spearheaded the revolt were declared as the lowest of the casts their tharavads looted men and women given choices either to convert or die.thousands opted the first. so the muslim population in malabar multiplied a thousand fold. with the defeat of Mysore in british hands many families who took refuge in travancore came back to take their possesions. many of the major aristocratic families who stayed back had taken islam . the british took over their properties and distributed it among the returnees. many wanted to return to hinduism but the returnees objected as they would have to give back the property they took from the neoconverts. this frustration and helplessness made the converts to embrace their new religion with ferver.this resentment brew below the surface till the 1900s when it exploded as the mopila rebellion, the anger they felt for generations was let loose conversions ,killings and rape followed especially in valluvanad and eranad.this could be seen as the first sign of muslim upheavel or their first attempt to get back the dignity they lost with conversion.this time also saw the consolidation of muslims politically with setting up of many islamic fronts.
the malabari muslim identity hence forged was the unique combination of arab coastal communities and the nair and ezava heartland of eranad , valluvanad and kolathirinad. this is what the malayali muslim is – a unique blend of arab ethos with malayali values.