Politization of the Bengali Muslims

Representational Image

Islam in medieval Bengal was the religion of the conquerors but not of the conquered. The Parvenu muslims posed as the Ashrafs by claiming their descent from the associates of the Prophet and used Urdu instead of Bengali, thus coming to be recognised as aristocrats. Social stratification of Bengali Muslims was based on ethnic groups.

Like insecure, poor and illiterate people everywhere the Bengali Muslim peasants were featured by a pathetic superstitious belief in religious faith. The great majority of Muslims in Bengal spoke Bengali though, they couldn’t read or write it. Urdu was like Greek to them!

Cooperation with the government for the rapid uplift of the community was done by Maulavi Abdul Lateef. He was the first Bengali Muslim to become a member of the Bengal Legislative Council. But most of these reformers were rather Western in their habits, and even tried to explain Islam in the light of nineteenth- century rationalism. They insisted only on on primary education for the children of the Ashraf.

At the close of the 19th century a group of Bengali Muslim writers and journalists actively took part in the recognition of the Bengali Muslim society through their writings. Their pieces were published in magazines like Azizon Nahar, Bangadarshan, Saptahik Muhammadi and Akhebere Esmalia.

Thus, although the flight of the education of Bengali Muslim laymen took some time to take off, post 19th century, we’ve seen a steady rise in the popultion of Bengali Muslims in education and administration.

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