Born a Muslim
| Book Awards 2022 | English Non-fiction
Born a Muslim
Who are the Indian Muslims?
Are they a monolithic community practising a faith alien to India? Or are they a diverse people, geographically rooted in the cultural ethos of the land? Is there an ‘Indian Islam’, a religion that grew out of Arabia but was nurtured in India and influenced by local traditions and customs? Has the power of Islam declined over the centuries because the faithful have forgotten the spirit of the religion, and are sticking to dogma and rigid rules instead? Born a Muslim: Some Truths about Islam in India attempts to answer these questions by taking a hard look at how the world’s second largest religion is practised in the country.
The book tracks the history of the religion from its revelation in Arabia in the seventh century to its spread through many parts of the world. It arrived in India by multiple routes—in the south, in the eighth and ninth centuries CE, with traders from Arabia, and in the north, in the tenth and eleventh centuries, with invaders, rulers, and mystics, largely from Central Asia. Once it was established in India, it morphed and evolved through the centuries until it took on the distinctive contours of the religion that is practised here at present. The author takes a clear-eyed look at every aspect of Islam in India today. She examines the factors that have stalled the socio-economic and intellectual growth of Indian Muslims and attributes both internal factors—such as a disproportionate reliance on the ulema—as well as external ones that have contributed to the backwardness of the community. She shows at length, and with great empathy and understanding, what it is like to live as a Muslim in India and offers suggestions on how their lot might be improved. Weaving together personal memoir, history, reportage, scholarship, and interviews with a wide variety of people, the author highlights how an apathetic and sometimes hostile government attitude and prejudice at all levels of society have contributed to Muslim vulnerability and insecurity.
Born a Muslim goes beyond stereotypes and news headlines to present an extraordinarily compelling and illuminating portrait of one of the largest and most diverse communities in India.
Ghazala Wahab is executive editor, FORCE, where she writes on homeland security, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir, left-wing extremism, and religious extremism, and contributes a column, First Person. She is the author of Dragon on Our Doorstep: Managing China through Military Power with Pravin Sawhney. She contributed a chapter on the changing profile of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir in the book Operation Parakram: The War Unfinished. A career journalist, Ghazala has worked with The Telegraph and Asian Age.