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THE BRITISH EMPIRE AND MUSLIM IDENTITY IN SOUTH ASIA

Summary

Sunil Kumar 10554

British Empire in India saw a major radical change in the 19th century in the identities of its Indian subjects. These identities were not only restricted to the Indian subject, but it has led towards change in Muslim identity also. Indeed, Muslims got independence in 1947 in the form of new modern state called PAKISTAN under the governance of British rule. The Muslim identity was formed through several things. At the courts of Mughals people were divided among different religion and races. Muslim also shared their Persian high culture with Hindus. Family and place of settlement was also a source of identity manifested by the practice. Further Muslims were also divided between Shia and Sunnis and created this as an eloquent badge of distinction. The period of British rule, which eventually became the British Empire brought variance of new strands, indeed firmer edges to Muslim identities. There were various efforts tempted to form a unique

identity, which is briefly explained below: The Sharpening of distinction between Muslim and non-Muslim:
It has long been part of the Indian jingoist culture that the British indulged religious identities in India over other potentials, which helped to sharpen the distinction between Muslim and non-Muslim. When the British came to place a structure of apprehension over Indias past they divided it into Muslim, Hindu and British Periods. British starts distinction in 1871 when they begin doing the decennial census of their Indian Empire on the basis of religion. It would be wrong to regard the British as playing the only role in privileging the Muslim category and in sharpening distinctions between two communities. Although the movement of Islamic revivalism and Islamic reform also played key role in creating discretion between Muslim and non-Muslim I.e the movement of Deoband and the jihad movement of S. A. Barelwi and others. The revivalist movement also gave rise to certain groups which invade

the religious customs that had the element of Hindus as well the shrines of Sufis and Saints. The main intention was to act in the acceptable boundaries of Islamic behaviour.
The development of a Muslim political Identity: The British are regarded as being even more responsible for the emergence and continuance of Muslim political identity, thus because of religious categories by the British. However most scholars rejected the British divide and rule analytical thinking in order to get strong allies on their side. British governance were in fear about Muslim elites which led towards the establishment of Muslim political identity. It was Sir Syed Ahmed Khan who inspired the Muslims to build bridges between Islam and modern science. He formed MAO college Aligrah in 1877 which received full support from the Government. This was the first group who did not support Indian national congress. Furthermore British granted separate electorates for Muslims with extra seats, over and above their proportions of the population, in those provinces where they were politically important The group of Aligarh was the part of a new Muslim elite in British India and later on they formed Al-India Muslim League in 1906.

British Empire and pan-Islamic strand:

During the British rule in India, many advanced technology were brought in India. Which expanded horizons were the increasing ease of travel that owed much to the shipping routes and railway lines. From 1860s, lots of Muslims went to Britian in order to pursue higher education such i.e. doctors & lawyers. With the help of sea routes many Muslims perform Hajj Pilgrimage to Mecca. Second most development was the construction of the Telegraph and news which encourage the many Muslim writers to express their ideas according to Pan Islamic themes. The Pan Islamic concerns were also being expressed in the dress of that era. The western educated Muslims also shed their western clothes in favour of the Muslim dress bearing distinctive Islamic symbols. The most powerful expression of the pan-Islamic dimension to Muslim identity was the Red Crescent Mission in 1912 and Khilafat movement that inspired the Muslim, as it came to be known, had mass appeal, attracting not only western educated, traditionally educated, but also women and large numbers from the countryside. This khilafat movement also dominated the Indian National Congress for two years and also played the key role in enabling Gandhi to persuade it to adopt policies of non-cooperation with the government. However this khilafat movement was considered to be a failure in the end because of the decline in the movement and Muslims realize that there was no political salvation to be found in the wider Muslim world.

British Empire and gendering of Muslim Identity:


One of the most striking developments in Muslim identity under British rule is its acquisition of a female dimension. Traditionally, Islamic law divided the society into public and private realms. However under the British rule women become both guardians of the shrine of Islam in domestic and public space. The British contributed a lot for the female domination from the early 19th century. They brought issues regarding women infanticide, child marriage and female seclusion. In the case of Muslims their particular concerns were bringing education to women, improving knowledge about health. There were zenana mission, clubs, and even magazines specially for women. The 20th century saw the many opportunities for women. Many laws were formed to protect women's rights, Muslim women started acquiring education. Muslim women,moreover gaining specific state recognition in the child Marriage Act of 1935, and other Islamic Shariah laws.

British Empire and new sense of Individualism:


Emergence of individualism is not the only outcome of the British power in India. But it is also the outcome of major changes in Islamic culture or characterized as the shift from other-worldy to thisworldly Islam. The period of British rule saw the appearance of new strands of identity among Indian Muslims. For many Muslims their religious identity becomes their prime identity. For a good number, too, their religious identity became their political identity. Muslim imagination expanded to embrace the lives and fate of Muslims elsewhere in the world. The development of Muslim Identity was the result of British policies towards Indian society and the fears of north-Indian Muslim elite. The emergence of Pan Islamic dimensions to Muslim Identity was in part of the outcome of the new world of Muslim communications enabled by the British Empire.

Conclusion: The author of the article concludes that Indias Muslims were inimitable in the concentration of their self conscious characteristics as Muslims. Their progress in the field of Muslim political distinctiveness is remarkable. They were notable for their short period of Pan Islamic identity. However, Muslims were less remarkable in the gendering of their identity and in the emergence of claims to individual expression as against community compulsion.