An Intrepid Crusader Resurrecting South India’s Muslim Heritage

REVIEWS, 7 Aug 2023

Moin Qazi - TRANSCEND Media Service

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their understanding of their history.”― George Orwell

Forgotten Muslim Empires of South India: Bahmani Empire, Madurai, Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, Golconda & Mysore Sultanates, by Syed Ubaidur Rahman, 1 Jan 2023

2 Aug 2023 – The Indian civilization has been illumined and inspired by Islamic culture throughout the ages spanning various fields, be it arts, painting, crafts and architecture. These artists inspired human imagination to visualize and conceive variegated artistry. The miniature paintings adorned palaces and mausoleums, and the princely rulers decorated their thrones with these artefacts. The tragedy, however, is that historians have not documented the entire history without bias. These historians were filled with rancour against Muslims and were more loyal to their ideology than facts..Zialotic rulers patronized them. Several ideology-minded scholars, even among intellectuals, courted the rulers by destroying and dismantling anything Islamic.. So much so that chauvinists appropriated Islamic architecture and presented them as their own. In several cases, the rulers actively patronized the rewriting of history to suit their ideology.

The most significant challenge for authentic historians is to resurrect Islamic heritage and purge them of alien accretions. One brave and passionate historian who has taken upon this audacious task is Syed Ubaidur Rahman, whose zeal and passion for this mission js admirable.   Rahman has culled a vast corpus of unique insights from the humongous mountain of history and condensed them in such an incredible style that the book’s conciseness keeps the reader engrossed and helps him understand medieval history in its proper perspective. The facts are also rendered in a fascinating narrative.

Rahman is an author based in New Delhi who seems to have wholly dedicated his life to preserving Indian Muslim history. In the last five years, he has authored at least five books, three of which are highly acclaimed. Among these are ‘Forgotten Muslim Empires of South India: Bahmani Empire, Madurai, Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, Golconda and Mysore Sultanates’, ‘Ulema’s Role in India’s Freedom Movement’, and ‘Biographical Encyclopaedia of Indian Muslim Freedom Fighters’. His objective is to preserve Indian Muslim history systematically. The most significant disadvantage for South Indian Muslim empires was that it did not attract enough talented historians who believed it was not part of mainstream history. Syed Ubaidur Rahman’s book, Forgotten Muslim Empires of South India, brings to light the grandeur of that bygone era. Rahman documents the history of Muslims in medieval India, and his book will serialize various facets and regions in the forthcoming volumes. This covers the history of the Bahmani Empire, Adil Shahi Sultanate of Bijapur, Nizam Shahi Sultanate of Ahmadnagar, Qutb Shahi Sultanate of Golconda and Mysore Sultanate that Hyder Ali founded. The next volume will cover the history of the Sultanate of Gujarat, the Sultanate of Malwa and the Sultanate of Khandesh, and a detailed chapter on the Nizams of Hyderabad.

It is a thoroughgoing work of historical revisionism and excavation. It seeks to rehabilitate the Muslim Sultanate of medieval South India into mainstream historical discourse in India, seeking to correct its current marginal status. It is a significant work of historiography, and it succeeds in the goal it sets out to achieve. The book is divided into five essential chapters dealing with the Bahamani kingdom, the Adil Shahi Sultanate of Bijapur, the Nizam Shahi Sultanate of Ahmadnagar, the Qutb Shahi Sultanate of Golconda (Hyderabad), and the Sultanate of Madura (Ma’bar). The chapters delve into significant aspects of the political history of these sultanates, their rich cultural life, architectural achievements, scholarly investments and lasting contribution, therefore, to the rich texture of Indian civilization.

Ubaidur Rahman narrates the lives of all the kings and major players of Bahamani times, the battles and significant milestones as if these were his family or people he knew personally. The story of Islam and Muslims in South India is fascinating and enchanting. From the first paragraph, the gets launched into the midst of the action, inside a series of fascinating nuggets drawn from the sidelines of centuries of Deccan history. Ĺ

This book offers a unique remedy for communal disharmony. It provides a concise but comprehensive exploration of a series of important medieval Indian states, whose cultural and artistic heritage are unique in several respects but were obscured by vested interests so that no trace of authentic history remains even as a minor symbol of this heritage. The book is a rigidly scholastic document expressing Rehman’s commitment and devotion. He is a  one-person army pursuing his passion. Rahman has accomplished an almost unimaginable task by extracting every misty nook of history to place the South in its rightful perspective.

There is no denying the fact that there is a massive population of Muslims down south. However, unfortunately, unlike Muslims in North India, the history of South Indian Muslims, their ruling dynasties, and the Muslim empires haven’t been documented in as much detail as needed, particularly in comparison to other regions. On the other hand, a  deluge of historians owed allegiance to the North, and their research pursuits overshadowed the kingdoms of the South .that is why we find a disproportionate focus on the North. Rahman’s effort is to remove these aberrations and put the canvas of Southern history in its rightful place. Even in the case of north India, the focus has always remained on the history of the Mughals, who ruled the country for nearly three hundred years. The history of the Delhi Sultanate and its different dynasties has been dexterously documented and brings out Rahman as one o;f the heroes of the South. But other than the Mughals and the Delhi sultanates, not much has been written on various dynasties that have ruled different regions in the North, including the Sharqi Sultanate’s ruling dynasties based in Jaunpur  .

Muslim history in South India is as glorious as the; much-acclaimed civilization of the Delhi or Mughal Sultanates. It lost its grandeur because historians found that they could no;t receive the wealthy patronage they received from northern rulers. At one point in the early fifteenth century, the Bidar-based Bahmani Empire was the most potent empire in South India and across the Indian Subcontine.

The dilemma of Muslims is that they are at crossroads and facing crises on multiple fronts, which makes it challenging to prioritize the various agendas. Only people like Ubaidur Rahamn kep candles are burning in their sphere of passion. Historians like Ubaidur Rahman deserve acclaim for unearthing the hidden history; of the South. He is the right person with the zeal and appetite to resurrect the vast culture of the South. His research will undoubtedly help in redefining the landscape of Muslim history. It is a tenacious task but Ubaidur Rahman is a scholar of deep commitment to the cause.

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Moin Qazi, PhD Economics, PhD English, is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment and a member of NITI Aayog’s National Committee on Financial Literacy and Inclusion for Women. He is the author of the bestselling book, Village Diary of a Heretic Banker. He has worked in the development finance sector for almost four decades in India and can be reached at moinqazi123@gmail.com.


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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 7 Aug 2023.

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One Response to “An Intrepid Crusader Resurrecting South India’s Muslim Heritage”

  1. Abdul Aziz says:

    What a jewel, worth reading ever line about this historian.