History and Sources

How did Islam become important in South Asia?

Further east than Iraq and Iran, the Mughal dynasty (1502-1757) established Islamic rule over much of South Asia, from Afghanistan across at least the northern two-thirds of India. Great monarchs such as Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan turned cities like Delhi and Agra into architectural showpieces with works like the Taj Mahal. After about the mid-eighteenth century, European colonialism began to make inroads into lands formerly under Islamic regimes. Not until the mid-twentieth century did major colonial powers begin to withdraw, ceding political control back to indigenous populations. One dramatic example of that relatively recent change is the independence of India from Britain and the partition of India that created the Muslim state of Pakistan (1948), itself divided in 1971 into Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Year Event
570 Birth of Muhammad
595 Muhammad’s marriage to Khadija, mother of Fatima
610 Initial revelation of Qur’an to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel
622 Hijra, emigration of Muslim community from Mecca to Medina
632 Muhammad’s death in Medina
632-661 Period of the “Rightly Guided Caliphs,” first successors to Muhammad
661-750 Period of the Umayyad Dynasty, capital at Damascus, major expansion as far as Spain and India; gradual development of Shi’a Islam following death of Ali
750-1258 Period of the Abbasid Dynasty, capital at Baghdad, gradual breakdown into regional political entities from Spain to India
750-900 Formation of the four major Sunni schools of religious law, major developments in Qur’anic exegetical sciences, canonization of the Hadith literature
700-765 Ja’far as-Sadiq, generally acclaimed as Sixth Imam by all Shi’a Muslims
857-922 Hallaj, acknowledged by Sufis as first martyr-mystic
873-935 Ash’ari, systematic theologian responsible for crucial religious studies synthesis
980-1037 Ibn Sina, a.k.a. Avicenna, major Central Asian philosopher (from Uzbekistan)
1088-1166 ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, early influence on institutionalization of Sufi communal life
1099-1189 First Crusade resulting in Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, ended by Saladin
1189-1290 Muslim responses to subsequent major Crusades leave Muslims in control of most of the central Middle East
1100-1400 Growth and spread of major Sufi brotherhoods from Iberia to Indonesia
1059-1111 Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, influential religious thinker and author
1126-1198 Ibn Rushd (Averroes), famed Iberian-born philosopher (from Cordoba)
1210-1526 Delhi Sultanates, powerful Muslim presence in India
1250-1517 Mamluk dynasty in Egypt and central Middle East
1258 Mongols destroy Baghdad, ending the Abbasid Dynasty
1207-1273 Jalal ad-Din Rumi, major Sufi poet, originator of “Whirling Dervishes” (Sufi order known officially as the Mawlawiya)
1300-1921 Ottoman Dynasty rules Turkey and much of the eastern Mediterranean
1263-1328 Ibn Taymiya, major religious scholar of the Hanbali law school
1453 Fall of Byzantine capital at Constantinople to Ottoman Turks
1492 Fall of the Nasrid Dynasty in Granada, last major Muslim presence in Spain
1414-1492 Jami, major Sufi mystical poet
1470-1506 Behzad, influential miniature painter from Timurid Herat (Afghanistan)
1526-1757 Mughal Dynasty rules much of India
1489-1578 Sinan, chief architect of Sulayman the Magnificent, one of the Muslim world’s greatest designers of religious space
1791 Death of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, founder of Wahhabi movement in Arabian Peninsula
1849-1905 Muhammad Abduh, proponent of reason as source of knowledge
1865-1935 Rashid Rida, founder of Egyptian Salafi movement calling for retrival of pristine days of the Prophet
1922-1924 Mustafa Kemal Ataturk secularizes Turkish state
1906-1949 Hasan al-Banna, whose Muslim Brotherhood (1929) gains strength with failure of liberal Muslim governments and proclamation of the State of Israel
1909-1966 Sayyid Qutb, influential theorist of Muslim Brotherhood movement
1947 Partition of India creates Muslim state of Pakistan (East and West)
1971 Separation of East Pakistan as the nation of Bangladesh
1979 Islamic Republic of Iran proclaimed after overthrow of second and last Pahlavi
2010 Global Muslim population reaches 1.57 billion

The Taj Mahal, a seventeenth century tomb constructed by Mughal Muslim ruler Shah Jahan as a burial place of his favorite wife. It is located in Agra in north-central India.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Religion Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App