Explain the features of Islamic religion which contributed to its spread through the subcontinent.
The Islamic religion had several features which contributed to its spread throughout the subcontinent.
• The religion was not an elitist one, it moved beyond the ruling elites to include people like peasants, artisans, warriors etc who belonged to different social groups and dynamics.
• There was a universal unity regarding Islam. People who adopted the faith accepted the principle that there was ‘five pillars of faith’. They accepted that there was one God (Allah) and Prophet Muhammad was his messenger. They also accepted the principles of Namaz (offering prayers five times a day), Zakat (giving alms), Sawm (fasting during Ramazan) and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). This unity in rituals and following allowed Islam to spread through the masses.
• Often Arab traders would include the local customs and traditions of the place where they settled within their Islamic practices. Arab traders who settled along the Malabar coast adopted the local language Malayalam along with customs such as matriliny and matrilocal residence. This acceptance of local customs helped locals to accept the Islamic religion.
Islam may have had several universal practices. But it allowed the inclusion of local customary practices of the converts from different social milieus. There were diversities in practices among different sectarian affiliations (Sunni, Shi’a) also. This inclusive nature allowed Islam to spread through the subcontinent.