Majority of today’s muslim population are unaware of their history. Years of domination by colonial powers has left the Muslims trying to adjust their knowledge about Islamic history to be more suitable to the concept of peaceful evolutionary rise of an Arab culture. This is something like trying to understand the American, French and Russian revolutions as if they were non-violent movements built on democratic behaviors. Obviously its nothing short of fooling oneself. Western revolutions were violent reactions to the primitive forms of holy alliances between the emperor and the clergy. It took much sweat and blood to come out of that, replacing the monarchies with modern republics. Similarly, Islamic rise was a violent military movement against the empires of Rome and Persia, the two superpowers which controlled much of the known world until the meteoric rise of the Islamic state in the 7th century.
Below is a quick look at how Bengal received the message of Islam ….
Islam arrived in this land in the same process as the land itself has been formed – in a conituous process of accumulation of silts. Islam was preached by generation after generation before the establishement of Muslim rule through a period of six centuries. As a result, a favoiurable place for Islam along with basic knowlegde about it was created in the hearts of the people. If formed an excellent psychological base that kept the inhabitants of this area firm upon Islam neglecting all sorts of obstacles, attacks and conspiracies.
Islam entered Bangladesh through the following three ways:
1. The Chittagong port was one of the major ports for entering the eastern region including China, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Many merchants used to anchor at the Chittagong port and go to China using land roads. The Arab merchants had been using this port since pre-Islamic period and continued to do so after they embraced Islam. They used to preach Islam along with their business activities. Islam began to spread from that time.
2. King Cherumol Perumol of Tamilnadu coastal kingdom Malabar embraced Islam during the lifetime of the Prophet Mohammad (PUH). As a result that area turned into a centre for preaching Islam. Preachers used to come to Bangladesh from that region.
3. After the conquest of Sindh by Muhammad Bin Kashem, many preachers used to come from the Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey on their feet to preach Islam here.
The silent preaching of Islam that went for more than six centuries remained hidden due to lack of historical evidences. Modern researcher are finding evidences are being found from the books written by Arab Muslim historians, geographers and Muhaddises. For example, it is proven from the narratives of Muhaddis Imam Abadna Marwazi that a group of Sahabis including Abu Oakkas Ibn Ohaib came to Chittagong in the year 618. The narratives of many Arab geograpics of eleventh century including Abul Kasem Obaidullah Ibd Khurdadbih, Al Idrisi, Al Masudi, Yaqub Ibn Abdullah mention the business relations and settlement of Arab merchants in Chittagong seaport, Chandpur river port, Ramu, Coxesbazar etc. These are verified by recently discovered archaeological evidences. A gold coin of the period of Harun-ur-Rashid (788) was found in Paharpur, Rajshahi another set of coins of Abbasia period were found in Moinamoti, Comilla. An ancient Masjid that was built in the seventh century (689 BC, 69 Hizri) has been discovered recently in Lalmonirhat district.
The folk stories and songs provide substantial hints about many Islam preachers and saints. There are signs of their tombs and Dargahs. We find many mosques built by them. These indicate that Islam had been spreading in Bangladesh for six centuries before the Muslims conquered Bengal. The repressed anti-Aryan people of Bengal began to adore Islam from that time.
The conquest of Bengal started in 1204. Islam began to receive patronisation from the rulers. The barriers for the people of this region for embracing Islam was removed. As a result they began to enter into Islam in large numbers. Islam did not come here with the help of swords, rather the people of Bangladesh embraced it through love and profound understanding.
Before Conquest of Bengal:
People of this land were familiar with Islam before the conquest of Bengal. Arab merchants had links with Chittagong port since pre-Islamic period. It has been proven in recent studies that a group of Sahabis including Abu Oakkas Malik, Quyes Ibn Sairadi, Tameem Ansary, Urrah Ibn Assasa, Abu Quyes Ibn Harisa came to Chittagong in 618 during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (PUB). They preached Islam there for few years and then went to China.
The following Sahabis came to Bangladesh through Chittagong seaport after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (PUB):
– Abdullah Ibn Utban
– Assem Ibn Amr Tameemi
– Sahel Ibn Abdi
– Suhael Ibn Adi
– Hakim Ibn Abeel Assaqafi
Later five delegations of the Tabeyees including a group of Muhammad Mamun and Muhammad Mohaimen came here to preach Islam.
In 712 Muhammad Bin Kasem conquered Sindh. It paved the way for Muslims to come to Bengal.
In 778 a group of Muslims fell into a storm in the Bay of Bengal. They were taken to the King of Arakan Ma-ba-toing. The king became very pleased with them due to their behaviour and intellects. He gave them several villages to settle. As a result, an Islamic society was developed in the course of time.
During 866 to 874, the famous saint of Iran Baezid Bostami preached Islam in Chittagong. Although most of the historians say that he returned to his homeland, many people believe that he died and was buried in Chittagong. His shrine is still in Chittagong.
In 954, the Muslims of Arakan became so powerful that they established Muslim rule in a part of Chittagong. King San-da-ya could not tolerate the Muslim rule and defeated them.
In 1053, Shah Muhammad Sultan Balkhi reached Harirumpur of Manikgonj through river way. He later established an Islam preaching centre around Mohastangar of Bogra. He established mosques and Islamic schools. During this time, he had to fight with King Parshuram of Mohastangar. The king was killed in the battle. Later the Army Chief Surkhab and captive princes Ratna Moni embraced Islam. Shah Muhammad Sultan Balkhi arranged their marriage and nominated Surkhab as the new king.
In 1053, Shah Muhammad Sultan Rumi came to Netrokona with a group of preachers. He invited the king of Madanpur for embracing Islam. The king refused first but accepted the invitation later and entered into Islam.
In 1179, Baba Shah Adam came to Bikrampur with a group of preacher to preach Islam there. Later he was martyred in a battle with king Ballal Sen.
In 1184, Shah Makhdum Ruposh came to Rajshahi as the first Islam preacher there. He was one of the preachers who built the base of Islam in Bangladesh in a completely hostile environment. He turned Rajshahi into an Islamic locality. His activities were centred around Rampur and Boalia.
Islam as Victor in Various Places:
It took two centuries to establish complete Muslim rule in Bengal. Muslim rule started from Rajshahi and completed in Khulna by Khan Jahan Ali.
1. North Bengal (Nadia, Gaur, Rangpur, Dinajpur: 1204)
After Delhi and Bihar was conquered by Muslims, King Lakxan Sen of Bengal anticipated Muslim attacks there. He was afraid that a Muslim battalion would suddenly attack him to free the people of this region from his oppression. Moreover, the astrologists told him that he would be defeated by the victor of Bihar, Bakhtier Khilji. As a result he employed strong guard in all conventional entrances of his temporary capital Nadia. However, in 1204, Bakhtier Khilji entered Nadia in a completely unconventional and difficult way and attacked the palace with a battalion of only 18 advanced soldiers. Lakxan Sen thought that the capital had fallen and escaped through the backdoor. It was the starting of Muslim rule in Bengal. Bakhtier Khalji conquered the whole North Bengal including Gaur, Bogra, Rangpur and Dinajpur.
2. Eastern-Southern Area (Sonargaon, Dhaka, Faridpur, Mymensingh, Barishal: 1274-1290):
Sultan Mugisuddin Tugril of Lakhnauti became active to establish Muslim rule in entire Bengal. He defeated the last Sen king Madhu Sen and brought Eastern Bengal under Muslim rule. As a result Sonargaon, Dhaka and Faridpur came under Islam. He build a fort at a place called Larikal 25 miles south to Dhaka and named it ‘Killa-e-Turgil’. Bughra Khan was appointed ruler of Bengal in 1281. He ruled Bengal until 1290. Meanwhile, he brought Mymensingh and Barishal under Muslim Rule.
3. Sylhet (1303):
Sylhet was being ruled by a tyrant king named Gaur Gavinda. In 1301, Sultan Shamsuddin Feroz Shah sent forces against him twice in the commands of his Army Chief Sekander Gazi. It failed. He sent a group of soldiers again in 1303 in the leadership of Sayed Nasiruddin. Sekander Gazi too fought against Gaur Gavinda in this battle. Famous saint Shah Jalal assisted the force with his 313 companions. Gaur Gavinda escaped after being defeated. Shah Jalal stayed in Sylhet till his death in 1446 and preached and established Islam there.
4. Chittagong (1340):
Although Islam reached Chittagong much earlier, it took time to establish Muslim rule there. Sultan Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah was thorn in Soanargaon in 1338 and extended the area of his rule to southeast. During that period Ali Qadar Khan, Ali Mubarak Khan and Shamsuddin Mubarak Shah were in power in North Bengal. Fahkruddin Mubarak Shah brought Chittgaong under Muslim rule for the first time in 1340 and built a road from Chandpur to Chittagong.
5. Khulna Division (1418-1449):
Khan Jahan Ali played a remarkable role in preaching and establishing Islam throughout Khulna Division. Few Hindu Zaminders were ruling a small portion of the area and the remaining vast land was occupied by jungle. Khan Jahan Ali was engaged in building habitants, preaching Islam among non-Muslims and carrying out humanitarian activities. He built 360 mosques, dug 360 ponds for drinking water and constructed numerous pukka roads. He started building mosques, digging ponds and constructing roads from Barabazar of Jhenidah and reached Bagerhat. There he settled and build famous Shat Gambuj (Sixty Domes) Mosque. He established Quranic rule there in the name ‘Khalifatabad’ meaning the place of God’s representatives.