Goa Muslims: a peep into the little paradise’s past

Book: Muslims of Goa: Past And Present Author: Samiulla Abbasi Publisher: Author himself; addres: No. 93, 6th B Cross, HMT Layout, Bangalore - 560 032 Year:  2011 Pages:  142+iii Price: Rs. 135   Dr AG Khan

Goa, described by Dr. B. Sheikh Ali, former vice-chancellor of University of Goa and Mangalore, in the foreword as a little paradise on earth “out side time” is a mosaic woven over the centuries to form a social fabric of rare type. It proved a melting pot for shaping a synthetic culture which absorbed elements from different sources, one of which was Islam. A microscopic minority forming 6/7 percent has contributed significantly to society. The greatest contribution was humanism that Islam brought. From the time of Adil Shahi rule to the days of Tipu Sultan, Islam penetrated into the social structure of the region.

The book begins with a photograph of a fish on which is inscribed the name of Almighty Allah. It begins with translation of the couplet of Faiz Ahmad Faiz, “Bol ke ab lab azad hain tere”. It emphasises the necessity of such works because the Portugese and British historians have communalized history which portrays Christians and Hindus as victims of Muslim tyranny. It seeks to contradict the false propaganda and apprises us about the present day hate campaign being run incessantly by the RSS brigade. The book offers a Muslim point of view. Goan Muslims have been much maligned.

While chapter 1 provides brief information about the various dynasties that ruled Goa; statistical details about the place are provided. Muslims constitute 6.8 percent of the population with 75.4 percent literacy.

While chapter II discusses the arrival of Muslims in India in which Cereman Perunal (King of Malabar) agreed to accompany Muslims to Medina. He died on his return journey but meanwhile he sent a letter through Malik bin Dinar to his successors which resulted in the construction of the first mosque in India. It records the ruthless atrocity of the Vijaynagar King in which more than 10,000 men, women and children were put to the sword. A few fortunate escaped to Goa

Chapter III covers prominent Muslims of Goa who in the past brought glory and prosperity to the place. This includes saints like Hazrath Maqdoom Ismail Syed Ismail, Qazi Muhammad Kabeer. Ibn Batuta during his visit to India met Jamaluddin, the then governor of Vijaynagar. Among other prominent travellers are Bazrug bin Shreyaz, Masoodi and Marco Polo and Abdul Razzack (1433), who found Goa a beautiful place. Muhammad Tajjika (1080-1125) contributed substantially to make Goa a shipping hub. Hanjaman made Goa a great replenishing centre. Sadam Taiji, son of the rich Arab merchant Mahmood Taiji, built the first mosque of Goa at Old Goa which was compared by Ibn Batuta with the Baghdad mosque. Muhammad Gawan, the wise and learned prime minister of Bahamani state during Mahmood Shah II, rewarded Yusuf with Goa for his exemplary valour in defending it against Vijaynagar’s onslaught. Muslim rule in Goa, though very short, was peaceful.

Chapter IV recounts the atrocities that the Portuguese perpetrated on innocent Muslims of Goa. What an irony that though they learnt the art of navigation from Muslims and after their successful arrival unleashed barbarity on Muslims. Their main aim was to root out Muslim trade and make it a Portuguese monopoly. They hunted Muslims like wild animals killing hundreds of them.

Chapter V busts the European claim of Vaso Da Gama being the first person to arrive on Indian soil. K.M. Pannikar explodes the myth – he was neither the first man to travel around the Cape of Good Hope nor the first to cross the Indian Ocean. It was Ibn Majid who guided him to India. During his voyage he committed unparalleled crimes – looted and burnt ships coming from Mecca killing Hajis mercilessly. After his arrival on Indian soil he demanded banishment of Muslims from Malabar. But the ruler (Zamorin) did not bother to accept his demand.

The whole Portuguese force including Vasco Da Gama died in a terrible gale in 1524. The army that the gale swallowed was double the number of Muslims they had killed. Atrocities on Muslims continued unabated, each new governor demonstrating his savagery and ferocity more than his predecessor – Francis De Almaida, Alfonso the terrible, looted Muslim houses, burnt them alive in mosques and forced Muslim women to marry Portuguese. Many women drowned themselves to save their honour. The Portuguese oppression of Muslims had no comparison till Americans started their oppression in Afghanistan and Iran. The Portuguese took 450 years for their crusade. 

Chapter VII records attempts by persons who tried to throw out the Portuguese. These include Zamorins (Malabar rulers), Marikkars (navigators) Tipoo Sultan was so engaged in wars with the English that the sufferings of Goan Muslims did not reach his ears. No Muslim from Goa approached him for help. The atrocities on Muslims were kept a highly guarded secret by the Portuguese rulers. Goan Christians began financing the British to overthrow the Sultan. Mughal emperor Akbar remained indifferent to their plight. Babur’s youngest daughter, Gulbadan, who left for Haj was not allowed to proceed and kept waiting at Surat. This too did not induce Akbar to take action against them who was more interested in acquiring knowledge of Christianity. Chapter VIII apprises about various Aulia Allah, prominent being Hazrat Syed Saqhaullah Shah and Muhammad Hamza Shan.

The present day scenario is equally oppressive. The present day BJP rule is determined to keep the Muslims of Goa miserable. The recent denial of land for a burial ground by Digambar Kamat who represents a Muslim constituency for decades is an eye opener. Inspite of such hardships the Muslims of Goa are trying to keep Islam’s banner flying high. Though brief on details, the book provides interesting (and tragic tales) informations about this place about which Muslims in India are absolutely ignorant. We know about its cathedrals, see its beaches and temples in Goa but little do we know about Islam in Goa and its struggle for survival. Samiulla Abbasi has done a marvellous job by apprising us about Goan Muslims. The only eyesore is poor proof reading. Even the name of the author is spelt differently. Is it Samiull or Samiullah?