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There had been much trade and commerce between India and Arabia even before the time of Prophet Muhammad.  Unlike the Jews and Christians, the Arabs settled down primarily on the West Coast, which indicates that they arrived in large numbers only in the eighth and ninth centuries.

The first Muslim merchant who visited Kerala was Sulaiman in 851 A.D. As trade between Kerala and the Muslim countries increased, many Arab Muslims came to Kerala and settled down on the Malabar Coast where the Zamorin of Calicut welcomed them.  He encouraged them to marry with the local women and serve on his armed forces.  Mention must be made here o-f the legend that the last of the Chera emperors, the Cheraman Perumal, became a convert to Islam and went on a pilgrimage to Mecca.  There is among the Malabar Muslims a tradition about a devout Arab Muslim, Ibn Dinar.  He was like Apostle Thomas before him.  He came to Kerala to spread Islam; he established the first mosque in Cranganore; afterwards he built mosques in Quilon, Madayi, Kasargod, Srikantapuram, Dharmapattanam, and Chaliyam.

The travelogue of Ibn Battuta who visited Kerala between 1342 and 1347 gives detailed information on Muslims in different parts of Kerala.  His journey from Calicut to Quilon lasted 10 days.  He writes:  "At all the halting places ... there are houses belonging to Muslims at which Muslim travellers stop and buy food and other provisions.  Muslims are the most highly honored people."  During the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries Muslims flourished economically and numerically.  Many untouchables were attracted to Islam.  At one point (twelfth century) the Muslims even had their own rulers; the Arakkal royal family of the All Raja; he was the son of a wealthy Arab and a princess of the Kolathiri royal house.  One of his descendants, Azi Raja (master of the sea) conquered in 1183-84 some of the Maldive Islands for the Kolathiri Raja.

During the Mysorean invasions of Tipu Sultan (1782-1792), many Keralites willy-nilly became Muslims.  Many Nairs and high-caste Hindus were seized and forcibly converted to Islam.  The Mysore Sultan Tipu is the reason why there are so many Muslim Mappilas in the districts of Cannanore, Tellicherry, Calicut, and Malappuram.  The Mysorean invasions and Muslim conversions deeply affected the old caste-controlled social order of Malabar.  It shattered the myth of the social superiority of the Brahmins and the Nairs and improved the self-image of the lower classes.

In this century, Muslim leaders like Vakkam Abdul Kadir, Ummer Kazi, Seethi Sahib,; and E. K. Maulavi Sahib tried to bring the relatively back-ward Muslim community to the twentieth century through educational and social reforms.  They opened service-oriented institutions like orphanages, Madrasas (school for teaching Arabic and Islam), primary schools, high schools, and Arabic colleges.  Of all the institutions the most important under Muslim management is Farook College established in 1948.  The Thangal Kunju Missal-iar College of Engineering has also done great service to the Muslim community by training engineers and technicians.  The recently established (1964) Muslim Educational Society is running colleges, schools, and hospitals today.  The Mappila Muslims are increasingly becoming more Indian and less Islamic.  Most Kerala Muslims are Sunnis and patriotic Indians.  Indeed, Muslims of Kerala, have come a long way since the ninth century and the nineteenth century.



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