The impact of Islam on Hindu Society during the medieval times can be greatly
observed from the historical pieces of evidence although it cannot be estimated
into numerical terms but can be studied and examined by categorizing the impact
of Islam into several areas such as the impact on the food, clothing and social
life of the people; ideals, beliefs and values; purdah system; language and
literature; art and architecture and music and painting.
Before the emergence of Islam, for many years the Arabs had trade relations with
the southern part of India. In 712 A.D., the Arabs invaded Sindh making it an
important event in the history of India because it was the first time, under the
leadership of Muhammad Bin Kasim, the Muslims had attacked India, gained
political supremacy to rule over the Indian territory, and ruled for the next
The Muslim invaders were very conscious of having their own
identity and thus remained as a separate unit throughout instead of being merged
or involved with the majority of people following Hinduism.
The Arabs gradually
tried to spread and thus, expand their religion in India. The period ranging
from the 13th century till the arrival of the Mughals in 1526 A.D. brought a
stupendous and remarkable change in the socio-cultural scenario of India. It all
happened due to the happening of two religious movements – the Bhakti and Sufi
Many historians believe that from the 13th century, the definite impact of the
Islamic culture on Indian society can be observed. Generally, when two different
cultures such as Islam and Hinduism, come into contact and continue to sustain
alongside, they leave an impact on each other.
Islamic impact on Hindu society
during medieval times can be seen as both a positive and a negative view. Indian
culture was largely influenced by Islamic tradition although it cannot be said
that Islam left a very robust impact on the Hindu society wholly.
Thus, examining the extent of Islamic influence will give the true picture of
its impact on Hindu society during medieval times.
- Social Impact
The social impact of Islam was very much remarkable for the Indian society
comprising majorly the Hindus. The popular dresses of North India, Salwar and
Achakan, were introduced under the Muslim influence. The dress fashion by the
Muslim nobles was copied by the elite class of Hindus. Moreover, their food
culture and social ethics, habits and manners were greatly impacted by the
Islam. Like Muslims, Hindus started taking non-vegetarian dishes like kebab etc.
The habit of drinking was adopted. Also, many food habits of the Hindu people
undergo a change during that time. However, the majority of Hindus and priestly
class remained opposed from such influence of clothes, food and social manners
of the Muslims.
The Muslim people who commanded a position of authority often kidnapped young
beautiful Hindu girls. This act of the Muslims forced parents to go for child
marriages. And it is considered that mainly child marriage is the result of
Muslim rule in India. Moreover, the position of women in the society became
worse due to inequality with men. Women were not allowed to move out freely and
attend social functions and ceremonies of the society.
The state of women during
that time under the Islamic influence was deteriorated.
Slavery rose tremendously during the Muslim rule. This impact of Islam destroyed
the social life of people where they were forced to work as bonded labourers as
a symbol of power, position and status in the society. Both men and women were
slaved wherein the number of slaves rose to over 2,00,000 under the Tughlaq
rule. The Royal Rajput families used women slaves in dowry practices which was
an inhuman act and highly miserable.
- Impact of Purdah System
The Purdah system was earlier unknown to India and women could move freely. The
Muslim rule bought the practice of Purdah much prevalent in India. Women rarely
moved outside their homes and were forced to live in seclusion in their homes.
Palanquins covered with curtains or Purdahs were used by the women to go out.
During that time, kidnapping of Hindu women was considered as an act of Jihad
and the Hindu women used the Purdah to protect themselves against the evil
practice of Jihad.
- Religious Impact
Islam influenced the Hindus in two ways: (1) In the Hindu society, few of the
democratic principles of Islam found their way. (2) Hindus learnt conservatism
as the Islam was aimed at maximum conversion of Hindus to Islam. Therefore, the
Hindu leaders adopted more orthodox beliefs to save their religion and emphasis
was laid as per the Smritis on strict religious life.
Islam gave the concept of the "Unity of God" to India and mainly the Hindus.
Many scholars often regard it as the gift of Islam to India. The Hindu and Islam
reformers influenced the Bhakti movement to a large extent wherein they
addressed fundamental equality of all religions. Sufi saints attracted the
attention of the Hindu society where also Sufism laid considerable influence
Gradually, under the influence of Islam, the Hindu society realised the need to
abolish untouchability and discrimination within their own society and liberal
treatment of such people in the interest of Hind community.
- Economic Impact
The economy of India was largely dominated by the Hindu society although the
Muslims rulers established their authority in the political field. The Hindus
were the peasants and worked on farms and fields. They also worked over the
sphere of trade and commerce largely because the Muslims were less conversant
with commercial practices in the market place and the Baniya (Hindu) continued
to act as a vital feature of the economic structure of India during the medieval
period of time. Moreover, the Baniya used to advance or lend money to farmers,
craftsmen, artisans and other workers and earn interest from them.
Because of the dominant stake of the Hindu society over the field of commerce,
business and trade, the Muslims were forced to depend on the Hindus. But the
overseas commerce and trade which came to an end earlier came to existence again
with the impact of the Islam on the Hindu society. India began to trade with
foreign countries especially the Middle East countries. Such activities rose
tremendously. Although the administration and political supremacy was more in
the hands and influence of the Muslims but the economic life and growth of the
economy continued to be under the control of the Hindu society more.
- Impact on Language and Literature
Language also felt the impact of Islam which is evident from the presence of
large number of Arabic, Persian and Turkish words in the local culture of the
people. The mixture of the Hindu and Muslim culture led to the emergence of new
language, Urdu. Urdu was a synthesis of Arabic, Persian and Turkish language of
Sanskrit origin which became a shared language of communication used by people.
The Hindu society paid no attention to the Persian and Arabic study and the
initial impact of Islam on the Hindus were negligible. But, later with the
passage of time, Hindus started studying the Persian literature and the real
growth of the literature was under the Tuglaqs between Islam and Hinduism. Some
Muslim scholars presented Sanskrit romances into Hindi wherein the script used
by such scholars was in Persian language.
Soon, the synthesis between the two
literatures emerged where many Hindu literary men broke faith with the influence
of Islamic ideas in their literary works and thus, Hindu scholars did not
rendered any independent works in the Persian form of literature. But later,
during the time of Shah Jahan, independent works in Persian literature were
produced. For example: the works of Chandra Bhan Brahman.
- Impact on Art and Architecture
It is considered that a strong impact of Islam was in the field of fine arts and
architecture during the medieval times. The blending of the Hindu and Muslim art
culture led to the emergence of a new type of art wherein the primary elements
like the craftsmanship, the ornamental richness, etc. were of Hindu and the
external form or the exterior part like spherical domes, open courtyards,
arches, etc. was of the Persians. Qutab Minar, Tomb of Humayun at Delhi, Taj
Mahal, Jama Masjid, etc. were built with such Islamic architecture. The Rajput
rulers adopted the Mughal style of architecture in their palaces. Even, the
Hindu temples could not abstain from the influence of Islam.
- Impact on Music and Painting
Music had a great impact on the Indian society. The Muslim rulers were greatly
fond of music and during their regime, growth of musical culture emerged
rapidly. Qawwallis became very popular. New notations emerged with the mixture
of the Persian Indian music. The blending of the Iranian Tambura and the Indian
Veena were produced by some of the musical instruments - Sitar. Moreover, Tabla
was the musical modification of Hindu musical Mirdang.
Painting had its own culture, ideas, techniques and forms in India largely
practiced by the Hindus. The Islam influenced this field to a great extent which
was not only bordered to ideas but also techniques and forms of painting. The
Islamic impact was mainly in the art of laying gardens because they had very
sharp geometrical designing skills which was adopted all over India by the Hindu
Two schools of painting, namely Mughal and Rajput School of Painting,
were actually the result of amalgamation of Persian and Hindu ideas. The Hindu
artists closely worked on the Persian techniques, detailing in each and every
form, resulting in outstanding art and paintings.
Critical Analysis Of The Subject
The impact of Islam on Hindu society during medieval times has influenced the
Hindu society to a great extent. The Islam brought with it its culture,
tradition, ideas, value system, beliefs, etc. whose impact can be studied in
different fields such as the religious, social, economic impact, impact of
purdah system, impact on language and literature, art and architecture, music
and painting, cloth, food, lifestyle, etc.
Rulers like Babur, Akbar, Aurangzeb, Shah Jahan, Jahangir, Firoz Tughlaq,
Sultans of Delhi, Mughals, etc. expanded the Islamic influence in India. They
were the driving force of the Islamic culture and religion to amplify itself in
the country and establish a position of command and authority. They brought with
them certain practices, ideas and beliefs of their culture.
The impact of Islam is varying across different fields or areas. Islamic
influences are positive as well as negative both for the Indian society during
The food, social manners and clothing habits of the elite class of the Hindus
got influenced by the Islam although the majority of the Hindus remained away
from such unworthy and wasteful practices of Islamic culture. The rise in
slavery and child marriages were as a result of the practice of Muslim rulers to
show their power, position and status to the world. The Bhakti and the Sufi
Movement bought stupendous change in the social and cultural scenario of the
However, it could not bring much alteration in the economic area of trade,
commerce and business, which was largely dominated by the Hindu people. Islam
gave the concept of Unity of God which is highly appreciated by many scholars
and academicians. It did not promoted worshipping idols of God. They taught the
Hindu society the need to stop follow practices like untouchability and
discrimination within their own society and taught the treatment of such people
in a liberal way.
It promoted brotherhood and equality among its own people. Hindus learnt the
need of religious conservatism, strict measures and principles to prevent the
practice of Islam that says to convert maximum number of people to Islam. Urdu
became the local language shared by the common people of the society that
emerged with the synthesis of Hindu and Muslim culture. Literature was given
much importance in both the cultures. Many works were written in both the
languages by the writers of both the religions.
Moreover, the Hindus greatly admired the art and architecture of the Islamic
rulers. They followed the same pattern and idea of architecture to build their
palaces. The architecture of Muslims has got much recognition throughout the
country and is even preserved as heritage sites over India. Music and painting
had their own form, design and techniques which were a synthesis between the two
religions which are evident from the emergence of two schools of painting and
the formation of a new musical instrument namely, Sitar.
The writer believes that everything two sides – positive and negative. The
Islamic impact on the Hindu society has its positive and negative side as well.
However, the process is to learn and move. It is widely recommended to learn and
adopt good practices and habits from someone and leave bad or immoral ones. The
same can be understood in this case also. The Hindu society needs to adopt good
values, culture and believes of the Islam and abstain from its bad one.
Islam has given much to the country although it has harmed the people of the
society as well. Even the Hindu society had some bad practices and beliefs and
it is fine with that. It is all about learning and implementing good things.
Therefore, it is wise to learn and move forward.
After examining and analyzing the extent of the impact of Islam on the Hindu
society into several areas such as the impact on the food, clothing and social
life of the people; ideals, beliefs and values; purdah system; language and
literature; art and architecture and music and painting, etc. we can conclude
that the contact between Hinduism and Islam has fabricated into a new synthesis
on cultures and religions. Moreover, it can also be concluded that there was a
great influence of Islam on the Hindu society which can be greatly studied and
examined based on specific subject or field (like tradition, language, art,
music, ideology, etc.).
It is generally ought to believe that when in a framed geographical area, people
share different cultures, then it is likely to be induced that there is more
common ideology, beliefs, value system, practices, etc. mixing with each other.
People share and influence one another in terms of social, political, economic
culture. The same can be related to Islam and Hinduism as well.
However, looking at the overall impact of Islam, the fundamentals of Indian
society remain unchanged because the Islamic influence was only superficial and
significantly confined to external phases of life and no material changes had
taken place. It could never completely transform the Hindu culture. For example
– (1) Islam preach brotherhood and equality among its people. It does not divide
people based on their social status or profession.
It treats all people as equal and tries to maintain unity among them whereas the
Hindus were more into social division among themselves and thus, they did not
relax the caste system and did not uphold equality among its people. (2) Islam
did not believe in worshipping idol whereas the Hindu society believes in
worshipping the idol. Although both the cultures – Hindu and Islam – are aligned
to the principle of collectivism, in Islamic society collectivism is
differentiated from hierarchy whereas in Hinduism collectivism is linked with
Usually, when two different cultures come into contact with one another and
exist parallel to each other, they leave an impact on each other. The effects of
this cultural mixture have become an integral part of the Indian culture.
Although the Islamic culture was not able to produce major significant effects
but it cannot be denied that there is no or less impact of Islam on the Hindu
society during medieval times. Islam had its lasting effects on the Indian
society during medieval times like the influence exerted by the British culture
and western civilisation brought on the people of India during the 19th century.