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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back Where Muslims and Jews Got Along: In India, Or Where "Kum Bi Ya" Really Takes Place

Nadene Goldfoot
Jews have lived in India, a country with 4,500 years of cultural history,  without any instances of antisemitism from the local majority populace.  That means that the custom of treating Jews as Dhminnis, or 2nd or 3rd class citizens  did not exist.  Jews arriving to this land were a religious minority of India, being Judaism was one of the first foreign religions to arrive there in recorded history.  The older Jewish communities assimilated a large number of local traditions through cultural diffusion.  Some had arrived during the time of the Kingdom of Judah in 933 BCE.

 Others assimilated completely by converting to Islam.  They are seen by some as the descendants of Israel's Ten Lost Tribes, termed as mythical by some writers, but taken quite seriously by many Jews and a large tribe, the Pashtuns, who claim to be these very lost ones.  Pashtuns have converted to Islam. 

The Lost 10 tribes were exiled by the Assyrian Empire 2,700 years ago. People believing in this theory cite names of various clans which resemble the names of Israelite tribes that were exiled by the Assyrians.  This information is in the Rig Veda, an ancient text, which was composed before 1200 BCE and Herodotus in his Histories composed around 450 BCE which mentions the Pashtuns as the "Paktyakai," and as the Aparytai or Afridis in what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan.  However, no sources were cited before the conversion of the Pashtuns to Islam which would have happened after 600CE by naming any Israelite or Jewish connections.  Researchers have failed to take into account the Eastern Iranian language of the Pashtuns when looking at the claims of Hebrew ancestry.  I have reports from Pashtun Tribal members that their fathers never said anything disparaging about Jews; in fact they praised them.

I would think this is an important fact of proof in that an exile took Jews to Persia in the time of Queen Esther, the Jewish girl married to the Persian King Ahasuerus.    The Persian period of exile would have happened way before 330 BCE when texts telling about Queen Esther were written with Jews made up of the Babylonian exile later in 586 BCE when large number of Jews were deported from Jerusalem again.  .  .

The 10 tribes were lost to the Kingdom of Israel first in about 701-720 BCE when Sennacherib, King of the Assyrians attacked Judah and sacked Jerusalem.  The Jews were captured and exiled.  Jewish Kings of Judah then were Ahaz (735-720) and Hezekiah (720-692).  Josiah (637-608) was also important in checking the Assyrian expansion at the walls of Jerusalem  in 701 BCE which had overwhelmed the northern Kingdom.

In India, half of the Jews congregated in Manipur and Mizoram and a quarter lived in the city of Mumbai (Bombay).  The one problem they had encountered was when they were persecuted by the Portuguese during their control of Goa.  In 1492 the Spanish Inquisition occurred where Jews had 2 choices; leave or convert. Many had fled to Portugal who gave Jews the same ultimatum a few years later.  

Cochin Jews arrived in India 2,500 years ago and lived in Kerala as traders from Judea.  They arrived in 562 BCE.  After the destruction of the 2nd Temple in 70 CE more came as exiles from Israel.   Bene Israel arrived 2,100 years ago and lived in the state of Maharashtra. Their ship wrecked and stranded 7 Jewish families from Judea at Navagaon near Alibag, south of Mumbai and they were nicknamed the Shanivar Teli or Saturday oil-pressers by the local population as they didn't work on Saturdays, which is Judaism's day of rest or "Shabbat."  In the 1950's and 60's many families emigrated to the new state of Israel.   The Bnei Menashe are Mizo and Kuki tribesmen in Manipur and Mizoram who claimed descent from the tribe of Manasseh.  About 9,000 people in NE Indian states started practicing halachic Judaism in the 1970's.  7,200 were given permission for immigration to Israel from Manaipur.

More recent arrivals to India were the Baghdadi Jews who came from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan  about 250 years ago and settled in Mumbai.  The Bene Ephraim or Telugu Jews are a small group who speak Telugu.  Their Judaism dates to only 1981.  They were from Andhra Pradesh and followed the customs of Orthodox Jews like hair customs of having unshaven long side locks,and  wearing head covering all the time.

The Jews in North India had assimilated with the Muslims completely as they had been brought there by the Ghauri Sultans from Afghanistan in 1200 CE.  The sultans kept their promise in naming a muhalla (district) in each conquered city as "Beni Israel."  This remains true even to this day.  One such place was in Aligarh where there was a Beni-Israel muhalla.  This is the home of a large university

Sultan Shahab-ud-Din Muhammad Ghori or Muhammad of Ghor (1150-March 15, 1206) was one of the rulers of the Ghurid dynasty who reigned over a territory spanning present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India.  He took the city of Ghazni in 1173 and used it as as the start for expansion into N. India.  His brother, Ghiyasuddin fought the Khwarezmid Empire for lordship of Kharasan and the Sultan Shababuddin captured Multan and Uch and annexed the Ghaznavid of Lahore.  After his brother died in 1202, he became successosr of the Ghurid Empire and ruled until assassinated in 1206 near Jhelum in today's Pakistan.  The Ghurid Empire was short-lived but these conquests strengthened the foundations of Muslim rule in India.

It is interesting that so many Khans pepper the history of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.  At this time in 1258 the grandson of Genghis Khan, Hulegu, sacked Baghdad and massacred the population and killed the last Abbasid caliph.  Two years later the Mongol army, after occupying first Aleppo and then Damascus, was defeated at the battle of Ayn Jalut in Palestine.  Baybars were at the head of the Mamluk Sultanate from Egypt.  By 1268, Baybars  took Antioch, which had been allied with the Mongols.  Here we see these same cities in today's struggle in Syria.

 Sayyid Ahmad Khan b: 1817  and  in 1867 CE moved to Aligarh and died in 1898, was mourned by thousands. He had started the university there in Aligarh in 1875.   He was born into a distinguished family, most likely of the Pashtun Tribe's royal family  as they also have the genealogy of descending from Mohammad in the same manner, the eldest of 5 prominent Muslim modernists who influenced Islamic thought and was concerned with the state of Muslims in a world dominated by European colonizing powers.  The family claims direct blood relationship with the Prophet of Islam through his daughter Fatimah and son-in-law cAli.  They had migrated to Iran, then to Herat in Afghanistan.  Being the Royal family has this lineage from Mohammad, I am theorizing that the Pashtuns were in Saudi Arabia and were of the Jewish tribes who were converted there in Mohammed's early rising.  We do know of many Jewish tribes there.

At least 75,000 Indian Jews now live in Israel which is over 1% of Israel's total population of about 7.5 million.  There are only at the most, 0.7% of Jews making up India's religious population as of 2001 census in this vast country of over 1.21 billion people which makes up one sixth of the world population.  Jews have been such a small number where Hindus number 800 million or 80.5% of the population, Muslims 13.4%, Christians 2.3%, Sikhs 1.9%, Buddahists 0.8%, and Jainism 0.4%.  Jews were listed with Zoroastrianism and the Bahai Faith with no % listed on one source.

Jews are not in competition here for land.  There was no earthly reason to discriminate against Jews in this multi-religious and vast country made up mostly of passifistic Hindus.  The Muslims moved out after battling with the Hindu population and formed Pakistan about at the same time Israel was re-born,  from what used to be a part of India, so they now have their own state. Most likely a lot were of the Pashtun Tribe.

India had really become a "Kum bi Ya, my Lord, Kum bi Ya" place to live.  The Jews living there were not pressed into changing their religion.  Pashtun conversion to Islam must have happened in Saudi Arabia already before they entered Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.  They were not held back in their emigration to Israel.  India and Israel have good relations right now.

Dr. Ahmed.
added 8/22/12: Pashtu and Koran
Note: Kumbaya was a song from Africa sung in the 1960's by many groups.  It was a time of peaceful feelings towards each other, the hippy movement, etc.  

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