chapter  I
16 Pages

ETHNOGRAPHY

THE Musalmii.ns of India, according to the Census of 1911, numbered 66 millions, or more than one-fifth of the population of the empire. The total number of adherents of Islam being estimated at about 220 millions, India contains nearly onethird, and Great Britain is thus, from the point of numbers, the greatest Muhammadan power in the world. In the northwest frontier Province the population, except a small minority, is Musalmii.n ; in the Panjii.b and Bengal the proportion is about one half ; one in five in Bombay ; one in seven in the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh ; while in the Central Provinces, Madras, and Burma their numbers are comparatively inconsiderable. Thus the present distribution of Islam has followed the course of the Muhammadan conquests from the north and 'west, and they are strongest in proportion to their vicinity to the head-quarters of the Faith in western Asia. The most remarkable exception to this general rule is the strength and increasing influence of Islam in eastern Bengal. In this part of the country Musalmii.ns • are found chiefly in the eastern and northern districts. In this tract there was a vigorous and highly successful propaganda in the days of the Pathan kings of Bengal [A.n.1338-1539]. The inhabitants had never been fully Hinduized, and at the time of the first Muhammadan invasions most of them probably preferred a debased form of Buddhism. They were spurned by the high class Hindus as unclean, and so listened readily to the preaching of the Mullas, who proclaimed the doctrine that all men were equal in the sight of Allah, backed, as it often was, by a varying amount of compulsion '.1 Bengal now contributes 24 millions, or 36 per cent., to the total number of Musalmans in India.