Muslim Communities In India?

India is the third largest Muslim populated country in the world after Indonasia and Pakistan and also the world’s largest country with Muslim – minority population.

Islam is the second most practiced religion in India after Hinduism. According to the 2001 census, over 138 Million people identified themselves as Muslims. The official estimate in 2009 was 160.9 Million.

Muslim Views on 2001 Census

However, The Muslims in India differing in their views claim India’s Muslim population as over 200 Million. Mr. K.M Yusuf, a retired Judge from Kolkata High Court and the chairman of West Bengal minority commission said in one of His interview to a well circulated, Indian news paper{The Hindu, Friday, October, 01, 1999} that the total population of Muslims in India is at least 20%.

According to the Muslims in India, their population must be much more than 200 Millions now, if their population was over 20% in 1999.


Like Christianity, Islam too entered in India through the Malabar Coast in Kerala during the 7th century AD by the Arab Merchants and Traders. The first mosque in India is thought to have been built in 629 AD, during the time of The Prophet Mohammed.

But, the Muslim population grew and got rooted in India during the time when the Non Arabic Muslim Traders came in. Non Arabic Muslim traders arrived in India from Bkhara, Turkey, Iran, Yemen, Afganistan and other from other Central Asian Countries.

Growth and the Hold of Islam in India

Sufism spreaded in India through Khwaja Chisti the most famous Muslim preacher of Islam in India. But, the accepted assumption is that most of the India’s Muslims were converted to Islam through the Sword. Which means, the Indians were given options between death or adopting Islam.

Islam has spreaded to every nook and corners of the Country. India is the only Country in the whole World where the Government subsidises the Airfare for the Haj Pilgrimages, spending Rs 47,454 {US$1100} per passenger as of 2007.

Different Muslim Communities

Muslims in India are not a homogenous lot. The Mapilla community in South India is the decendants of Arab Merchants. Pathans in India arrived from Afganisthan. All the Muslims those who have Pathan titles are not from Afganisthan. Original Pathans claim their origin from the Tribes of Israel. In west India, Bohra and Khoja communities adopted Islam through different Muslim preachers. The Khoja are divided further into Khoja Nizari and Khoja Nawait.

There are Ahamadias, Muhajair, Ismailis and the communities in Bihar, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Tamilnadu, Andar Pradesh, Kashmir, West Bangal and in other parts of Country.

There are main communities and sub communities, all together there are more than 400 diffrent Muslim communities in India.

In general most of the Muslim communities in India are divided into two main sects of Islam which are Sunnis and Shiaits, like the other Muslims in the whole World.

Muslims who claim their decendancy from the first Muslims are Sunnis and the men in this community add the title “Sheik” to their names.

Muslims who claim their decendancy from the daughter of Prophet Mohamed are Shiaits and the men in this community add “Syed” before titles.

For an example; if the people in India were converted to Islam by the Sunni Muslims, the converts join the Sunnis sect. Like wise the converts by Shiaits join the Shiait sect.

Though, the majority of the Indian Muslims identify themselves the main sects, further they are divided along what they were originally casteist line and many Indian Muslims still maintain some Hindu traits.

There are other Muslims in India who are not into the main sects.

The Reason for so many Divisions

The Reason for this is that the Indian Muslims converted to Islam were belonged to the different people groups from India and from other patrs of the world as well.

For better understanding I would like to explain a little more; Some of the converts belonged to the lower classes of the Indian society, some belonged to the ruling families of different Indian Kingdoms while others are the decendants of the Muslim rulers who invaded India.

The different Muslim rulers who invaded India also had brought their Muslim Mercenaries, business men and slaves from different parts of the world. These people stayed in India and married the local Muslim converts.

Though the Muslims in India differ so very much from one another in their culture, languages, food, clothing and in many other things, they are very proud to be called as Muslims. Many of the Indian Muslims do not understnd Arabic. But, they memorize the Qu’ran and recite it.

Whether they understnd Qu’ran or not! understand Islam or not! they consider themselves as strong Muslims.

Christian Missions Among The Indian Muslims       

Reaching Indian Muslims with the Gospel has been a great challenge for the Christian Churches and missionaries for a long time. The reason for that is the Indian Churches do not have enough knowledge about the Indian Muslims and they do not take enough steps to proclaim the Gospel  to this least reached community in India.

Christianity came to india throguh Thomas one of the Disciples of Jesus Christ, in the very first Century. Even after two thousand years of Christainity in India, the percentage is only less than five percent while Islam which came to India in the 7th Century has florished to more than 20%.

There are only a few Missionries and Organizations seeking to Reach the Indian Muslims over 200 Millions.


The Churches in India should be Envisioned, Equipped and Mobilized for the work of the Ministry among the Muslims. More of local and foreign missionaries should come into this great harvest field. World missions that seek to reach the Muslims should think about the Indian Muslims and start working among them.

The three big needs are continuos Prayers, Resources & Partnerships.

God Bless!

M K Sheriff Daniel

Information Sources: Wikipedia, adaniel tripod, Islamic popultion sites.