Integration and Indigenisation of South Asian Islam

Integration and Indigenisation of South Asian Islam

Religion, Challenge and Change seminar series
Date: Monday 14 November 2022
Time: 17:00 - 18:30
Venue: Upper seminar room, 4 Professors Square, Theology & Religious Studies
Category: Public lectures, Academic events, Student events, Staff workshops and seminars
Speaker: Dr Abbas Panakkal


This lecture explores how integration and indigenisation played a crucial role in the making of the societal outfits of South Asian Islam. Islam encouraged Muslims to integrate into their dwelling societies, resulting in the development of new cultures cutting across practices of faith in diverse contexts. The lecture is based on a study analysing popular traditions, textual primary sources, and archaeological and architectural materials for constructing the logical historical possibilities of integrated and indigenised Islam in the wider vernacular settings. Various Muslim ethnic groups like Mappilas, Cholia, Khojas, Cutchi Memons, and Kashmiris, practised several indigenous customs and rules that contributed to the integrated nature of the religion.  For example, the Hindu Zamorin of Calicut was considered an Amir of Muslims, and Muslim scholars and leaders instigated to do Jihad for protecting the reign of the non-Muslim King.  Chachn'amah, manuscript of Ali Kufi on the Arab invasions of Sindh, narrated how Hindus were treated at par with the ‘people of the book’ (Ahl al-Kitāb) just like Jews and Christians in the Arab Muslim culture. Matrilineal, matriarchal, and matrifocal traditions were part of Islam in the region. Indigenized Islam promoted veneration of the holy shrine and conducted ceremonial processions to Sufi places, which were counted un-Islamic in the milieu of Arab Cultural Islam. The correlation between natural and commercial patterns in the inception of Islam in the subcontinent can be conceived of as a distinct trajectory within Islamic history, practised by Muslim merchant communities, who instituted enclaves in the flourishing port cities of the Indian Ocean, transported faith and fundamentals and transformed faith groups to integrated communities. The lecture, thus, presents the manifold pathways in which South Asian Islam formulated distinctive indigenous forms of Islamic cultural expressions. 


Dr Abbas Panakkal is the director of the Ibn Battuta International Centre of Intercultural Studies in Morocco, and he is a member of the advisory board of the Religious Life and Belief Centre at the University of Surrey. Panakkal was awarded a research fellowship in 2016 by Griffith University in Australia. Abbas Panakkal is currently working on a research project that explores the diversity of regional Islamic cultures.  The project is focused on the diverse nature of the integration and indigenisation of vernacular Muslim Communities. Panakkal is also the editor of a book series on Integrated and Indigenised Islam of South and Southeast Asia. He was also the project coordinator of the G20 Interfaith Summit in Australia (2014), Turkey (2015), Germany (2017), and was actively involved in the organisation and coordination of several Interfaith Summits and related conferences in the Middle East and South Asia. He is currently the director of the International Interfaith Harmony Initiative, which has been organising international interfaith conferences in collaboration with the United Nations Interfaith Initiatives, the Malaysian Prime Minister’s Department for Unity and Integration, and the International Islamic University Malaysia for a decade. Panakkal is the editor of the Armonia Journal and his research is wide ranging, dealing with a wide variety of subjects among them Islam, law, language, religion, interreligious integration, and intercultural cooperations. He is also a fellow at the King Abdullah International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in Lisbon, Portugal.

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