By M. Burhanuddin Qasmi
One of our student groups from Markazul Ma’arif Education and Research Centre (MMERC), Mumbai is on a 40-day trip at Shrivardhan, a township in Raigad district of Konkan region in Maharashtra state of India. We went to meet them on 3rd day of Eidul Adha (15 Sept. 2016). Shrivardhan is 200 kms from Mumbai, the capital city of Maharashtra and the financial capital of India.
Our students, who are all graduates and in the 22 – 25 age group, enthusiastically informed me saying, “Sir, there is a masjid named Sharie Masjid, local elders say it was built during the caliphate of Hazrat Umar (ra) in 15 Hijri i.e. around 636 CE and they also say there are graves of Sahaba – companions of Prophet Mohammad (saws) in this township – Shrivardhan!”.
I replied “Yes, they are right, Islam reached here in 15 Hijri and there might be graves of Sahaba (ra) in this locality”. I also informed them that I had done a study in the year 2004 following my visit to one of the oldest and India’s first masjid, the Cheraman Jama Masjid, in Kodungalloor, Kerala. I visited the area following the historic tsunami in 2004 with relief goods from Markazul Ma’arif (NGO) and Jamiat Ulama-e Hind.
It was inscribed on the masjid’s stone marker, that it was built in the life time of Prophet Mohammad (saws) in 9 Hijra or 629 CE. That curved year on the stone marker inside the masjid and its architectural design made me do a deeper study about the origin of Islam in India, where I found that Arabs used to frequently visit India through Malabar, Konkan, present Daman and Diu and Gujarat on the shores of the Arabian sea in the pre-Islam and post-Islam era, as traders.
They stayed and even did married with the locals. Some never returned back to Arabia. Some have their progeny till date in these coastal areas of India.
When the Arabs embraced Islam, they took their new faith with them to all the places where they visited for business. Therefore, it is right that Islam reached India with Malik bin Dinar (ra) in 9 Hijri (628/29 CE) itself via Malabar Coast. And later gradually Muslim Arabs visited other Indian coastal areas in succeeding years. Thus Islam reached here by 15 Hijri year when Hazrat Umar (ra) was the Caliph in Madinah.
Kodungalloor was the capital of the ancient kings of Kerala and from 622-628 CE (Hijra 2 to 9) the ruler of the realm was a great savant called Cheraman Perumal Bhaskara Ravi Varma. It is recorded that he accepted Islam and visited Madinah. On his way back through Yemen his ship sank and he died. This is one of the major incidents in the early history of Indian Islam.
Following my study in 2004 I have compiled an article “Origin of Muslims in India” which was published by some newspapers and magazines in India and abroad. The same can be Googled till date for reference by interested readers.
So I informed my young scholars that the local scholars and elders are right. Islam reached the shore of Konkan in the very early days of this new religion and history records it that there are graves of Sahaba (ra) in Konkan, say present Shrivardhan, but unfortunately no historian could say with certainty which grave is of a Sahabi of Prophet Mohammad (saws) and what’s its exact location in Konkan.
I also expressed my interest and said to them, ‘So let’s go and visit the Masjid-e Sharie where locals say there are graves of Sahaba of Prophet of Islam (saws)”. We walked through the narrow streets from Shrivardhan Jama Masjid and visited the graveyard in the vicinity of the small but very prominent Masjid-e Sharie. The masjid is built just on the bank of a small track on the Arabian Sea. The look and the surrounding scene is of course magnificent and very cooling for the eyes.
[M. Burhanuddin Qasmi is Editor of Eastern Crescent and Director of Markazul Ma’arif Education and Research Centre, Mumbai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org]