In this article we will discuss about the position of Arabic literature in India during the medieval age.
It is a strange paradox that in spite of the hegemony of the Muslim rulers over a large part of the country, the Arabic literature did not make much progress. Comparatively very little Arabic literature was produced during this period and it was mainly of religious nature.
No doubt, a number of Sanskrit books were translated in Arabic during the Caliphate of Mamun, who took a number of Sanskrit scholars to Baghdad. But very little was produced in Arabic in India. This looks all the more astonishing because during this period Arabic language was very popular and was taught in various schools and colleges.
According to Professor Sherwani, “This comparative lack of Indian authorship, in Arabic was mainly due to the fact that it was Muslim Perso-Turks—Turkish in race but Persian in culture—who came and conquered India, and it was again leaders owning Persian culture who created Muslim dynasties in the Deccan. It is not generally remembered that Mahmud of Ghazni was primarily an empire builder, and the Muslim settlers in Sindh and Multan were over-powered by him in much the same way as the Hindu Sahis of the Punjab. It is therefore no wonder that it was Persian and not Arabic which was the main field of linguistic activities for centuries.”
No doubt, certain authors like Abu ‘Ata al-Aflah, Abdu’r- Rahman wrote commentaries on Qur’an and Hadith but their works are no more available. Al-Beruni wrote his masterpiece, the Kitabu’l-Hind in Arabic.
Another outstanding work produced in Arabic was Raziyu’d Din Hasan Umari’s Maskariqu’l-Anwar. Only one historical work was written in Arabic during this period viz., ‘Abdu’l-lah al-Makki’s Zafaru’l-Walih, who traces the history of Gujarat.
Under the Shraqui kings of Jaunpur, there was an upsurge of Arabic literature and a number of books on Qur’an and the traditions were written. The prominent Arabic scholars of period were Qazi Shihabu’d-Din; Allah-Diya, ‘Abdu’l-Awwal, etc.
While Qazi Shihabu’d-Din mainly wrote book on Qur’an and Traditions, Allah- Diya wrote Hidatfutu’l-Fiqh. But the must remarkable work produced in Jaunpur were the commentaries on Quran, entitled Sawati ‘u’-Ilhum in two volumes. In these works not even a single letter was dotted, even though usually more than fifty per cent of the Arabic letters are dotted.
In Deccan, the Bahmanis showed special leaning towards Arbic literature and invited outstanding scholars from overseas and other parts of the sub-continent. Muhammad al-Makhzemi migrated from Gujarat during the times of Ahmad Shah I and completed the monumental work on Arabic grammar, entitled Manhalu’s Safi fi Sharhf ‘l- Wafi. Mahmud Gawan, the wazir of Bahmani also encouraged Arabic learning and set up a Madrasa at Bidar which drew scholars from abroad.
The monarchs of the Qutb Shahi dynasty also had great leaning towards Arabic learning. This love is evident from the fact that during the times of Muhammad-Quli Qutb Shah beautiful inscriptions were inscribed on the tombstone of his brother, Muhammad Amin. But it was only during the reign of ‘Abdu’l-lah that Arabie learning really started showing fruits Muhammad Ali Karbala’i wrote Hadaiq Qutb Shahi.
The other important books written in Arabic during his time include Tafsiru’l-Qur’an by Muhazibu’d-din Damamini, Shajratu’d Danish by Hakim Nizamu’d Din Gilanl. The latter work contains more than 100 brochures, pamphlet’s and extracts from other works on medicine, law, philosophy and literature.
Syed ‘Ali wrote two important books, entitled Sulieatu’l-Gharib’ in which he gives a vivid account of his journey from Mecca to Golconda, and Sulafatu’l ‘Aar which is a sort of biographical dictionary of the Arabic poets of the eleventh century Hijri (1592-1688).
Another work of Sayed Ali was Ma’ashiratu l-Ikhuan in which he has tried to apply the Persian metres to Arabic poetry. This is a clear proof of the amount of influence exerted by the Persian language and literature on the Arabs of South.