When did Islam set foot on the Indian soil?
This is an important question and unfortunately there are many misconceptions about this. Some people link the advent of Islam in India with the arrival of Muslim invaders while some search for answers in Sufism. This approach is downright unfair and heavily skewed.
An unbiased and fair analysis of history unearths interesting findings about different ages. Even before the Prophet Mohammed (SAW) was born, traders from Arabia used to visit Malabar, in the Southern state of Kerala. According to historical revelations, the then King of Malabar, Cheraman Perumal embraced Islam as he was impressed with the behaviour and character of the visiting traders. Thus Islam started spreading in India. Interestingly, some historians believe that Cheraman Perumal had the esteemed privilege to meet the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and that he accepted Islam there itself in presence of Caliph Abu Bakar (RA).
The famous historian William Logan consents to the King’s embracing of Islam and thereafter spreading of Islam in India.
So, King Piramal’s embracing Islam, and thereafter the arrival of Prophet’s Companions on the South-western coast on his insistence followed by the tabayein and spreading of the message of Islam by these exemplary souls is, in fact, the effective source of the arrival and spreading of Islam in India.
In the later centuries, during the times of Muslim rulers, Islam did expand on a considerable pace, but the reason for this was not any sort of pressure from the then rulers. Rather it was the teachings and character of the Auliya and missionaries that played a significant role in bringing people closer to the world of Islam. A cursory glance on the human psychology reveals that politics of pressure and violence never ever wins hearts. Such pressure tactics might win subjugation of masses and force them to accept the dictate for a while but these never inculcate true acceptance of faith and beliefs in the masses’ hearts.
In the several centuries of Indian history, the deep connection with the Islamic principles and the Prophet’s personality and teachings is ample evidence that it was not the sword of the rulers that led to expansion of Islam but the truth of Islam and the character of the Auliya that played a major role. For example, many Auliya came to Deccan region in the era of Mohammed bin Tughluq and growth of Islam took place due to their efforts.
After the initial expansion of Islam by Tabayein and Arab traders, it was the stalwarts like Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin, Hazrat Nizamuddin and Hazrat Qutbuddin Bakhtyar Kaki etc and several others whose characters and teaching impressed oceans of humanity and ultimately led them to Islam. Thus Islam became an integral part of the Indian demographic. Today, the followers of Islam are the second biggest in the country in terms of population.