Belief in Islam and Tamizh Nationalism — a Historical Perspective

5 min readFeb 7, 2024

Fathima Farhana

It is an attempt to identify the common factors between belief in Islam and Tamil Nationlism, which is a challenging task. A religion is a belief that people embraced during the course of human evolution, which goes back to the evolution of human race itself. It will be helpful to clarify these concepts.

Tamizh Nationalism is an ideology that asserts a group of people living in an area for quiet a long time promoting a secure system for the their language, literature, agriculture, sports, women’s rights, forest, mineral, water, soil, mountain, marine resources. This involves the overall cultural strength and unity of Tamil people with a clear framework of political governance. Tamil Nationalism stands for the unity of Tamils irrespective of their religious affiliations and socio-political divisions. Right now Tamil nationalism tries to bring people together after centuries of servitude under foreign rulers and Tamils seem to have lost their identity.


It is a religion set by the Almighty, the Creator and the Prophet Mohammed — peace be upon him — related it with the human beings. It is a way of life for a quarter of community in the world providing safety, security and peace. That is the greatest virtue of this religion. The core of it is concerned with others and not just about oneself. Islam is all about peace, kindness, interdependence, and compassion on this earth.

Spread of Islam

Prophet Muhammad began receiving revelations in 610 CE at the age of 40. Muhammad and his followers spread Islam throughout the Arabian Peninsula in a desert situation where people did not have much facilities to learn the basics of social life. Islam was originated in the early 7th century CE. In the Holy Book of Quran, it is stated that ”We created man from sounding clay, from mud moulded into shape…” (15:26). And, “He began the creation of man from clay, and made his progeny from a quintessence of fluid” (32:7–8).

Islam in South Asia

The city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu was captured by Delhi Sultanate in 1311. The Vijayanagar empire defeated them in 1371. The Nawabs ruled many parts of Tamil Nadu from 1690 to 1807. Islamic rule was one of the major reasons for the spread of Islam in Tamil Nadu. However, we need to look back at an era when trade was an important occupation amongst Muslims especially Arabs which set foot in trading spectrum. Makkah connected to many global trade routes, and Tamil Nadu was no exception, for centuries trade took place between Tamil Nadu, Tamil Eelam, Persians and Malay Muslims. A significant number of Tamils converted from Hinduism to Islam due to its rigid caste system. Many historians record that Islam was embraced in Southern parts in the very early period — an evident proof is the oldest Cheramaan Mosque in Trissur, Kerala built in 634 CE, and the olden Juma Masjid in Ramanathapuram built in 628–630 CE.

What is significant is that Islam adapted itself to the Tamil culture from the very beginning. They built moques according to the Tamil architecture, as it is seen even now in Kāyalpattinam, one of the earliest Arab settlements in Tamilnadu. The Āyira Macalā, the Tamil Book of One Thousand Questions, dates from the sixteenth century and is widely considered the earliest complete Muslim Tamil text extant. Translated and adapted from Persian and drawing on familiar Tamil conventions, as well as expanding them in innovative ways, it offers a poetic adaptation of the Prophet’s dialogue with lbnu Salam. The Tamil text was composed in 980 A. H. (1572) by Vannap-parimalap-pulavar, known also by his Muslim name Ceyku Mutali lcukakku. (Ronit Ricci, Islam Translated)

Equality and Standing up for the Right

God has given man the right to equality as a birth right. None should be discriminated based on their race, caste, colour, birth place or a nation. Islam is a religion of peace, but it also does not tolerate aggression. Muslims should fight injustice when other methods fail.

Equality was not just preached, but practiced in Islam while all traditional worship places have segments segregated for different class of people like for instance if you visit a Church, there is a place allocated for ministers, kings, the royal family, duty officers, collectors and the people. if you visit a temple, the place of a priest is different. Zamindars go somewhere the rich are treated differently, poor differently, and the dethroned and backward differently. But the mosque does not have that — be it the Afghan king, Nizam of Hyderabad, king of Iran or the Arabian Sheikh, if the servant goes ahead and is in the front row, the king should worship the Lord from the row next to him.

Mohammad Iqbal in a series of lectures delivered in Madras makes a critical comment regarding the choice of one particular direction in Islamic worship — to secure the unity of feeling in the congregation: “What a tremendous spiritual revolution will take place, if the proud aristocratic Brahman of South India is daily made to stand shoulder to shoulder with the untouchable!”(Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, 1934, 88)

Human rights and Love towards all living Beings

Quran says (chapter 5:32), “if anyone saved the life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole humanity”. One of the important things that Islam calls to uphold is justice, but how does Islam maintain justice and preserve human rights? Islam calls us to be fair and just even to those who show hatred towards us.

Likewise the great Tamil poet and the icon of Tamil nationalism Tiruvalluvar has presented various levels of social thoughts, which is a source of humanistic ideas. For example, “Adversity and prosperity come and go, but an unbiased heart adorns the noble,”(Kural 115) thus, emphasizing on the nobility of human heart with rectitude.

lslam guarantees humanity their rights, their life, property honour and even one’s reputations are protected in Islam whether they are Muslims are not in Islam it is not permissible to insult anyone, challenge the honour, mock them, or unjustly take their property. Maintaining human rights and treating everyone fairly if imperative in Islam a person’s value is not determined by their socio-economic status or their colour, their ethnicity or the popularity rather only determined by their piety.

The Islamic contribution to the interfaith dialogue in India is great, but not known to the present generation. For example, Patanjala-yoga was translated into Arabic and synchronized with the Qur’an by Al-Bīrūnī (973–1040). Akbar’s great grandson Dārā Shukōh translated 50 Upanishads into Persian. It was known as Sirr-I Akbar (The Great Secret) completed in 1657. It was translated (1801–1802) into Latin by Anquetil Duperron and thus introduced it to the Western readers.

Both Tamizh Nationalism and Islam emphasize on liberated life style for all people from all walks of life. Living with respect and living with our rights intact is the need of the hour. Whatever be the minor differences it is imperative that we all stand together irrespective of religion and caste and stand for the rights of our brothers and sisters and live a harmonious life.

(Ms. Fathima Farhana is PG in Business administration, Exceptionally dedicated individual with an experience in human resource management operations and equipped with solid commitment to providing high quality support to the management for consistent growth and development of diverse companies. A business management specialist with an experience of accomplishing department objectives by managing staff, planning and evaluating department activities and improving business. led teams of 5–20 people across technology, business and design development.)