Islamization of Sylhet-Cachar Region in Precolonial period: A Historical Study
1Dr. Ohi Uddin Ahmed
Spread of Islam in India has been studied in the context of some conventional theories. East Bengal and West Punjab where large-scale conversion to Islam took place among the indigenous people, was not experienced elsewhere in the sub-continent. Therefore, the conventional theories seems to be inappropriate in examining the spread of Islam in East Bengal. The Eastern Bengal and more particularly, Sylhet and its adjoining Cachar constituted large numbers of Muslim population was ecologically and geographically comprises a distinct region characterized by the presence of large numbers of natural water bodies such as rivers and their tributaries, beels and haors. The area received heavy annual rainfall along with devastating flood resulted in the formation of huge marshland, swamps with forested hinterlands. It was mainly inhabited by the primitive fishing boating communities and a section of people remain dependent on fishing and hunting even after beginning of agriculture. The TurkoAfghan rulers after occupation of the region assisted by forest pioneers ushered a new era of economic transformation leading to the far reaching consequences and rapid expansion of Islam. The Turko-Afghan rulers moved by their search for revenue entrusted the task of expansion of agriculture to the forest pioneers or sufi-saints who mobilized local population to the agricultural activities leading to the emergence of village communities capable of paying revenue and loyal to the state. Therefore, the indigenous population of the region underwent gradual peasantization. Along with this the medieval Muslim state also allotted land for the establishment of religious institutions like mosques, khanqahs, shrines instrumental for disseminating Islam among the agrarian villages communities. The Cachar region bordering Sylhet, which remained under tribal rule was deeply influenced this demographic transformation as a consequences of wanton migration of people and activities of sufi saints. A critical re-examination of spread of Islam in Sylhet-Cacahr region will perhaps provide deep insight into the issue of conversion to Islam in the region.
beel, haors, khanqah, proselytization, sukti etc