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.

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the community was forced out of  its cocoon of isolation by sword-  the invasions of hyder ali and tippu 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.



  1. I enjoyed reading the write-up on the identity of Malabar/Malayali muslims.
    Very good.
    I have a small point to ask: Why should we treat Padachavan as a coinage made by the Jews and then borrowed by the muslims? Both Jews and Muslims were in the Kerala cost and they shared several spheres of life. So padachavan ,a typical Malayalam coinage can be treated as their common heritage without attributing abny priorities.

    • according to history jews were on malayali shores over 700 years before arabs so there are more chances of them adopting the word from the jews , may be as you said by sharing various spheres of life. padachavan was one of the many words used by the jewish malayalis to describe god.

  2. This is a history that buries multitudes of facts in the folders due to the haste to conclude.
    this involves pretty distortions. Thank god. Mappilas got fervor because they were converts.
    what a fantacy?

  3. Totally inaccurate statement “the difference between the muslims of kerala and the north was the lack of forceful conversions”
    Hyder/Tipu/son’s own commentaries (example shown below) will educate you on this…

    “In the Mysorean invasion of Kerala, Mappilas gave support to the invading military of Hyder Ali in 1765. A Muslim officer of the Mysore army in his diary (as edited by Ghulam Muhammad Sultan Sahib, the only surviving son of Tipu Sultan) describes it:
    “ Nothing was to be seen on the roads for a distance of four leagues, nothing was found but only scattered limbs and mutilated bodies of Hindus. The country of Nairs was thrown into a general consternation which was much increased by the cruelty of the Mappilas who followed the invading cavalry of Hyder Ali Khan and massacred all those who escaped without sparing even women and children; so that the army advancing under the conduct of this enraged multitude Mappilas instead of meeting with continued resistance, found villages, fortresses, temples and every habitable place forsaken and deserted. ”

    In the following Mysorean rule of Malabar, Mappilas were favoured against the Hindu landlords of the region and the most notable advantage for the community during this time is the grant of customary rights for the Mappila tenants over their land. However, such measures of the Muslim rulers widened the communal imbalance of Malabar.

    ^ Robert Elgood (15 November 1995). Firearms of the Islamic World: in the Tared Rajab Museum, Kuwait. I.B.Tauris. pp. 164–. ISBN 978-1-85043-963-9.
    ^ Tipu Sultan: As known in Kerala, by Ravi Varma. p.508

    Also read the book by Fernand Braudel – A History of Civilizations (Penguin 1988/1963, p. 232–236),in which he quotes –

    Islamic rule in India as a “colonial experiment” was “extremely violent”, and “the Muslims could not rule the country except by systematic terror. Cruelty was the norm – burnings, summary executions, crucifixions or impalements, inventive tortures. Hindu temples were destroyed to make way for mosques. There were forced conversions. If ever there were an uprising, it was instantly and savagely repressed: houses were burned, the countryside was laid waste, men were slaughtered and women were taken as slaves.”

    Of course, you can’t ignore the horrendous ordeal of Keralites during mappila riots!

  4. Please don’t do this anymore.Muslims in Malabar has been facing this marginalization since a long time.Please don’t try to manipulate and poison the real Malabar and Muslim history.Malabar is really aware of their own history. At least read the famous book “Thuhfathul Mujahideen” by Zainuddeen Makhdoom which is the first book that refers the historical events in Kerala.Don’t ever think Malabar Muslims are ignorant about their history.

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