The Kerala king who embraced Islam

By ALI AKBAR ARABNEWS

Published: Feb 9, 2012

For Arabs, Malabar was the most familiar place in the whole Indian subcontinent. The relationship between Arabs and Malabar has a history that dates back centuries. Arab merchants were trading spices such as ginger, pepper and cardamom as well as things like sword, ivory and silk from Malabar, and these were precious as well as prestigious commodities in Arab souks. A sword from Malabar, an icon of the best blacksmith craftsmanship was a prestige symbol for Arabs. Cultural exchange was also taking place through Arab merchants. Hence, names of places in Malabar and their customs were quite familiar among the salesmen of Okaz souk in Taif. Similarly, residents of Malabar were well aware of the changes happening in the Arabian peninsula. Many Arabs selected Hind as name for their daughters.

It did not take much time to spread the news in Malabar, through Arab merchants, about the emergence of a prophet named Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Makkah and his religion, Islam. When the moon was split into two as a miracle from Prophet Muhammad, many people inside and outside the Arabian peninsula had witnessed it. Cheraman Perumal Rama Varma Kulashekhara was said to be the king of Kerala at that time. He saw the miracle while he was relaxing on the rooftop of his palace in Kodungallore in a moonlit night. The king had come to know about Islam through Arab merchants and became more curious to know about the Prophet and his religion after the moon-splitting incident.

Luckily a group of Arabs came to Kodungallore at that time, met the king to get permission to visit Ceylon, the present Sri Lanka. They wanted to visit the mountain which has the footsteps of Adam, the first human being and the first prophet. King Cheraman asked his Arab guests about the miraculous moon-splitting incident. Sheikh Sahiruddhin bin Baqiyuddhin Al-Madani, a prominent member of the team replied: “We are Arabs, we are Muslims. We have come here to visit Ceylon.” The king became more curious to hear about Islam directly from the residents of Madinah, the center of Islam and the first capital of the Islamic government.

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Note by the editor: I chose this article just to show how Islam was spread ‘not by the sword’!

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