Evolution And Impact Of Identity Politics Among Kerala Muslims: A Socio-historical Perspective

Anees  (Research Scholar, Hyderabad University)


With 7,863,842 Muslims in 2011 Kerala ranks seventh among 28 Indian states in its Muslim population. Yet the Mappilas are the only Muslims in post-independence India to have sustained an organized Muslim political party that has been in government for much of the three decades of a century. It was mainly due to formation of a Muslim party made a continuation of the ‘Mappila’ identity and social base formed through Malabar rebellion and leadership of religious leaders in those times. Unlike other parts of India, in a massive level, neither Kerala Muslims joined one of the parties sympathetic to minorities or secular in orientation nor worked through nonpartisan pressure group, but formed their own political party and tried to extract the benefits by holding the balance of power in a coalition government. As many other parts of India suffered frequent out breaks of communal strife in the years leading up to Babari Masjid destruction and after the rise of Hindu nationalism to ruling power, the south western coast of Kerala appeared a haven of relative tranquility with Muslims continuing to enjoy both share in political power and growing prosperity. But there were signs of far reaching social, economic and political changes were transforming the conditions like flourishing intrest groups inside IUML, division in political demand, meteoric rise of militant young people, uprising of new political articulations from among the community and introduction of new abstract political dogma  by various fractions, increasing political consciousness of religious leaders and above all vigilant media culture have created ultimately different and complex conceptions in political articulations of Kerala Muslims. The question of Muslim identity in the Kerala may be analyzed on the basis of social, religious, and political consciousness. Socially, the Muslim communities of Kerala have never been united as a single cohesive entity. Their religious identity was transformed from a passive state to an active one according to the changing priorities of the ruling classes. The concept of a Muslim political identity was a product of British rule when the electoral process, the so-called democratic institutions and traditions were introduced. British rule that created a minority complex amongst Muslims and thereby a consciousness of Muslim political identity. In post independence period it consolidated through extensive political consciousness developed through various local instances.

The Muslims in Kerala are popularly known as ‘Mappilas’ (many scholars argue that the word originated from the two Malayalam term  Mahaand Pilla)and it is one of the basic identities of Muslim community  in Kerala even though it has some exceptions in the cases of Sayed families and some Muslims- who located in southern parts of Kerala. No other Muslim community in the world is represented by this particular term. The term ‘Mappila’ is a very popular name in Kerala not only among Muslims but also Christians- who were located mainly in the southern parts of Kerala. Roland. E. Miller observes that the Muslims of Kerala are “the unknown Muslims” (1992: xv) among Indian historians. The emergence of Islam through Maritime traders in Kerala, and Muslims’ cultural cooperation with the Hindus in this region is much unknown to Indian history.
The present study “evolution of Mappila identity” is a modest attempt to explore the historical and present discourses of the Muslim community in Kerala. The study emphasizes mainly the religious and political aspects of the Muslims with several dimensions such as, historical origin of the community, identity formations, intra-religious engagements along with the emerging threats of inter- community relations.
 It is believed that the Islam in India began its operations in Kerala with the help of Arabian traders just after Prophet Muhammad’s revelation in Arabia. It is also believed that the Muslims in Kerala are the first Islamic community in Indian sub- continent. William Logan (1989: 191) “The word  Mappillais a contraction of Maha(great) and pilla (child, a honorary title, as among Nayars in Travancore), and it was a probably a little of honor conferred on the early Muhammadan immigrants, or possibly on the still earlier Christian immigrants, who are also, down to the present day, called Mappillas”. Ibrahim Kunju (1989: 277- 87) along with Miller says that, the term was used to honor foreigners who married into indigenous families in Kerala. There are many opinions of the origin of the term Mappila. 4 However, the fact is that the Muslims in present Kerala, who came mainly from northern Kerala, are popular by the term Mappila. The term ‘Mappila’ was introduced by a Portuguese traveler Duarte Barbosa- who lived in Malabar coastal ports during the first two decades of the sixteenth century. According to him, Mappilas are a genuinely indigenous community who had converted from Hindu religion and lived permanently in Kerala whose members shared many of the cultural characteristics of Hindu caste such as Nayars. They constituted around twenty percentage of the population at Barbosa’s time (cited in Stephen F Dale 1990: 160).

The pressured colonial scenario helped to crystallize the political identity of Indian Muslims, but from a Kerala perspective also brought out internal differences among Mappilas. Different contours of colonial governmentality played a role in making the community and consolidating it as a political force. articulation of Mappila Muslim identity in the public sphere formed in colonial Malabar, especially after the Malabar Rebellion of 1921. The term ‘Mappila’ got popularized in Kerala only after the Mappila Rebellion or Malabar Rebellion of 1921 against British authoritarianism and the hegemony of the Land lords (see the second chapter for details). The present study simultaneously uses both ‘Mappila’ and ‘Muslims’ to address the Islamic community in Kerala. Muslims are the second largest community in the world after Christianity and India is the second largest Muslim populated state in the world after Indonesia.
According to the 2001 census the Muslims in Kerala comprised the 24.7% (7.86 million), among Hindus and Christians, 56.2% and 19% respectively, of the total population. The Muslim population is mainly located in the northern parts of the present Kerala state, popularly known as ‘Malabar’ which spreads across five  districts- Kannur, Kozhikode (Calicut), Waynad, Malappuram and Palakkad. Within this, Malappuram is one of the most Muslim populated districts among the Indian states. Except in the basic Islamic principle Tawhid(unity of oneness), religiously and culturally Mappilas are very much different from other Indian Muslims in terms of language, dress and other practices. Along with other communities, Muslims too have played a great role in the construction of a Kerala culture, popularly known as ‘Malayali Culture’ with great assimilation into the region. Osello and Osello clearly stated that the development and reformism among Kerala Muslims must be understood as being simultaneously part of a global Islamic impulse towards purification and also as a deeply locally rooted and specific phenomenon (2005: 318). Compared to global Muslims, regional diversities are clearly visible among Indian Muslims of different states. However, these are more specifically prominent in the case of Mappilas. Asgar Ali Engineer rightly remarks that Indian Muslims have their own regional, linguistic and cultural specificities. There is nothing in common among Muslims in different states except religion.  Even religion wise there are inter sectarian differences. So it is difficult to project the Muslims in their monolithic political entity (1995: 1-2). This is very evident in the case of Kerala Muslims. Unlike the rest of Indian Muslims, who follow the  Hanafi School of Islamic jurisprudence, Kerala Muslims are mainly the followers of  Shafi School (along with some countries such as Egypt, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Maldives, some parts of Yemen etc.)..

A number of factors contributed to the gradual development of Muslim community as a collective entity merged with civil society and public sphere. The first and foremost reason for the origin and evolution of Muslim community in Kerala was the maritime trade relation with the Arabian Gulf countries and the social and cultural engagement of both. The economic and political motives of the early native Hindu rulers of Kerala also facilitated the spread of Islam, along with the egalitarian ideals of Islam, which caused the mass conversions of lower caste people from the Hindu religion. The expansion of Islam was also strengthened by the active engagement of Sufi tradition.
The origin and development of the Muslim community in Kerala is also associated with the two dynasties in Kerala, ‘Chera Empire and Zamorins’ of Calicut. The former was the last Chera king, Cheraman Perumal who ruled the center part of Kerala in the seventh century. But historians have different opinion on this account, though all of them are univocal about his attitude towards Islam. It is inevitable to discuss the Mappila history without the reference to the Cheraman Perumal tradition and his contribution to the Islam in Kerala (see Miller 1992: 46- 51, Dale 1980: 12- 3 and Ibrahim Kunj 1989:14-27).  This kept Mappilas as a stable society for a long time. zamorin is said to have been very kind to the Muslim community not only because of the trading ability of the Muslim Community but also not for creating feudal nature. (Cited in Dale 1980: 18) Muslims enjoyed great respect and regard from the Hindu rulers. It was clearly mentioned by Zainuddin Makdum that, it was under the aegis of regions rulers that the Muslims organized the  Jum‘ah(Friday congregation prayers) and celebration like ‘Id. The remuneration for the Mu’adhdhins (those who call people to prayer) and the  Qadis(Muslim community judges) were paid by the government of Zamorins. The government made special arrangements for implementing among Muslims their own religious rules and regulations. Many who neglected Friday prayer were punished in large part of Malabar (2007: 46).  There after Mysore rule also was supporting Muslims. Mohibul Hasan (1951) and B. S Gidwani (1976) and have stated that Mysore rule was secular and reformative. All three of these gave Muslims power to advance collectively as a community and political identity.
The arrival of Europeans’ (from late the 15thcentury onwards) and their wide-spread atrocities over the coastal Muslims forced them to migrate into the inland areas for their livelihood. The colonial powers had taken the trade supremacy from the Muslims either by force or by offering more tribute to the rulers. The overwhelming atrocities and suppression of the Mappilas by the British culminated in the Mappila Rebellion. The Mappila Rebellion in 1921 was one of the main reasons for the development of strong community feeling among the Mappilas which later promoted many radical changes.
These anti Muslim policies of British later led to more and more violence. The advent of many religious leaders like Umar Khasi (1757-1852) in Veliankode and the Sayyed Fasal Thangal in Mamburam gave more psychological support to Muslims against the British. Gangadharan (2007) stated that, Umar Khasi was the first person in India who motivated people to stop paying revenue to the British.
It was mainly because of the atrocities of the dominant caste groups, which led to large number of lower castes getting converted into Islam. These bulk conversions created a unity feeling among converted peoples. Later it also was one of the capitals of social-political mobilization. Logan (1989) accounted by revealing the census report that the number of Cherumar caste was 99,009 in Malabar in 1871, but it came down to 64,725 in 1871a dip of 33.63 percent instead of the gain of 5.71 percent observed generally in the district (197). As the result lower class of society got an idea of their numerical power and consciousness about existance.
Mappilas in the nineteenth Century culminated in a more organized struggle of 1921 under the banner of the Khilafat. This struggle was not approved by the middle class nationalists in Malabar, who also kept a distance from the Mappilas even during the subsequent decades, when they were going through a state of deprivation and misery. This resulted in the drift of the Mappilas towards the divisive propaganda of a new middle class that emerged from the Mappilas that included both the ‘traditional’ intellectuals and a new commercial class. The All India Muslim League led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah established a unit in Malabar during 1937Although the unit ceased to exist later, their activists reconstituted themselves as the Indian Union Muslim League in 1948. KN Ganesh (2002).The influence of Khilafat was not a sudden phenomenon among the people of India, except for a few states including Kerala. It strengethened the religious mobilization, while leaders were aiming to utilize it for nationalist struggles.  Congress conference held at Ahmedabad passed a resolution that, Congress and Non- Violence movements have no responsibility for the Mappila rebellion. This resolution created a kind of hatred towards congress which was one of the reasons of unity among Mappilas.

Censuses about Mappilas identified their infirmity, while also helping them claim numerical strength. When community-wise educational status and health reports were officially published, Mappilas mobilized claims for government support, as they were clearly lagging behind other communities. There was hardly any community or caste in the state without an association of its own for self-development, trying to create pressure groups by emphasizing caste or religious identity to secure concessions from the government.
The Mappilas’ of Kerala showed little interest in Congress and were a scattered community in their socio-political and religious life until 1920. From 1921 to the present, the Mappila life has evolved through many challenges and encounters. Even after independence, the idea of modernity was a distant reality to the major sections (Sunnis) of Mappilas, mainly because of the strict religious beliefs and also the strong opposition against the British which was channelized through the Ulema. The deep rooted intra-religious divisions among the Muslims community pushed them to more theological debates. Here, another argument of the study is that the gravity of such debates later helped the community to achieve a better position compared to their counter parts in rest of India even though it is limited in comparison to the rest of Kerala. Later, the greater inflow of petro- dollar from the Arabian Gulf countries, mainly after 1970, played a significant role in restructuring the whole Mappila life than ever before. Today Mappila community is one of the best role models for the rest of Indian Muslims in every sphere of life. Both the groups have undergone many pitiable conditions during the periods of colonial rule. The restless works of the Muslim community organizations and the civic engagements in Kerala helped much in the development of the community after independence. The Muslims in Kerala are simultaneously preserving their religious and regional identity with great honor. In the present Kerala, all the communities are very vigilant against communal threats and also very interested in building a Kerala culture through both intra and inter- community engagements than creating separate religious culture. Unlike rest of India, Kerala invested more in community politics than communal politics after independence which saved the state from falling into communal disturbances and these trends enormously supported Kerala’s developmental processes.

In this paper, I don’t hope to take up the issue of Muslim identity politics as in sole label of IUML. Beyond that notion of institutional identity politics, as a social pressure group Kerala Muslim society and leaders have been following a clear cut line of unity inside community, difference from all other communities. It was never based on party politics, but to that of belief and existence of the Muslims. So that they talked to community in the language a spiritual leader. Across the identity politics Mappila society have been finding unquestionable leaders, based on the spiritual power rooted in Islamic belief.
Kerala has been in national and international attention because of its successful performance in key areas of human development, particularly in education, health, and social welfare measures. Kerala’s experience shows that the conditions of people’s life can be improved through different forms of public action even at a low level economic growth. The unique societal characteristics of Kerala are the vivid presence of caste and religious based organizations and their related movements heralded the modern socio-political process in Kerala. These casteist/community dialects made a new road to a secular Kerala which has got major attention from many scholars (see Mathew: 1989, Dreze & Sen: 1998).Muslims in Kerala are livelier in intra – community divergence than other communities.
Unlike other Muslim communities around the world Muslims in Kerala are segregated into many groups such as Sunnis, Mujahid,and the  Jamaat-e-Islami. Besides these significant factions, there are many other small groups such as Ahamadiya  Movement,  Thablig  Jamaat  etc. Although the community is still lagging behind in many fields as compared to other socio-religious communities of Kerala, this intra-community vivaciousness among the Muslims of Kerala has tremendously contributed to the development of the community. The history of the Mappilas shaped the community into the appearance of a negative, defeated and closed society. From conditions that had fostered dynamic growth the Mappilas had passed through a series of altered circumstances that had altered them drastically. As the community entered the middle of the twentieth century it appeared to be in a relatively hopeless position. Politically beaten, economically backward, intellectually moribund, and religiously medieval, there seemed to be no adequate base for contending with the modern forces it would encounter (Miller 1992:157). However, the unloosed and unusual combination of irresistible pressures on the Mappila community after 1947, issuing from the  turbulent and changing social context of Kerala, dramatically altered their situation within the limits religion beliefs (ibid: 158) prime force behind this was the education and raising political consciousness centered on community.


identity politics are political arguments that focus upon the self-interest and perspectives of self-identified social interest groups and ways in which people's politics may be shaped by aspects of their identity through race, class, religion, gender, ethnicity, ideology, nation, sexual orientation, culture, The practice has probably a long existence; but the explicit term and movements linked to it really came into being during the latter part of the 20th century. Minority influence is a central component of identity politics. Which is a form of social influence takes place when a majority is being influenced to accept the beliefs or behavior of a minority. The term identity politics has been used in political and academic discourse since the 1970s as a phenomenon that arose first at the radical margins of liberal democratic societies in which human rights are recognized, and the term is not usually used to refer to dissident movements within single-party or authoritarian states.
A  study of the  experience  over  the  nearly twenty  years  since  Indian  independence  reveals five basic strategies  which  have  been  pursued first  was  the  attempt  to  retain  separate  representation  through  various  electoral  devices, second, the  policy  of  alliance  with  the  Congress party  on the  basis  of recognition  of  the  Muslim League  as  exclusive  representative  of  Muslim interests;  third, coalition  with  opposition parties  against  Congress;  fourth,  joining  the dominant  party  individually to work  from within  it; fifth,  reliance on "non-political" organizations either alone or in conjunction with  other minorities.
Mappilas in south India experienced the whole model but the prominent notion was of keeping the distinct identity and political consciousness. It was the foundation of Muslim presence in Kerala public sphere. Theodore P. Wright writes, this strategy of distinctive identity has  survived  because of a radically different  religious  context: (a) Islam came to the South  peacefully  compared  to  the  North. Linguistic barriers  to  communication  do  not  exist.9remained  self- reliant  merchants,  fishermen  and  peasants  who do  not  look  to  the  government  for  jobs  d)  The  Muslim  community's  leadership  was not  drained  off  to  Pakistan  in  1947  in  marked contrast  to  the  North.  When  partition  came, only  one  Muslim  legislator  from  Madras  province,  Haji  Abdus  Sattar  Sait,  a member  of  the Central  Legislative  Assembly,  emigrated.(e)  As  a result  of  all  the  foregoing  conditions, practically  no  communal  rioting  accompanied partition  in  the  South. The  relative  amicability of  Hindu-Muslim  relations  in  Madras  is  also promoted  by the fact that  the  major  source  of tension  in  that  province  in  the  twentieth  century has  been  the  Brahmin  vs.  non-Brahmin rivalry,  which  has  diverted  attention  from  the Muslim minority." (f)  Finally,  there  are  local  pockets in Mala- bar on the  southwest  coast with Muslim majorities.  Since  the  Mappilas who live there have a tradition of devotion to Islam, they are susceptible  to the appeals of an avowedly Islamic political party like the Muslim League whose candidates have consistently won state assembly seats in Malappuram and Tirur. Unlike Kashmir and Murshidabad  District in West Bengal with their Muslim majorities  contiguous to Pakistan, Malabar is too far away to excite either the fears of the Hindus or the hopes of the Muslims for secession.

Ever since its inception on 10thMarch 1948, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML, popularly Known as Muslim League) has emerged as one of the foremost political platforms for the Muslim community in Kerala (Abdul Aziz 1992: 36). In its sixty years of political experience, the IUML has witnessed many ups and down. It has a history of negotiation, accommodation and conflict within the political scenario of the state despite sticking to its religious identity. It has successfully promoted a political consciousness among the Muslim community while compared to the rest of Indian Muslims who were not much politically organized in the post- partition phase. The Muslim League in Kerala is a successor of (not  in the strict sense) All India Muslim League (AIML), which was established by Agha Khan in 1906. The main aim of AIML was to protect the Muslim interest and represent their needs and aspirations to the Government. Hindus and Muslims by Minto Morley in 1909 helped All India Muslim League to establish its political platform in Indian politics. But the activities of AIML were never successful in Malabar till 1936. At the same time majority of the Muslims in Malabar also kept a distance from the Congress, because they had lost their faith in Congress after the incidents of the Mappila Rebellion in 1921. Muslim League is one of the notable examples of community politics in Kerala. Varshnay (2002) says that the political formula of Muslim League in Kerala is: “be small, be moderate, let caste dominate and stay in government”.

The activities of Muslim Aikya Sangam, a social reform movement and its political unit Muslim  Majlis(the first Muslim political organization in Malabar), established on 11th August 1931, had made an easy way for the AIML and it later helped the emergence of Muslim league in Kerala. For most of the early Muslim League leaders such as Sultan Ali Raja, B. Pokkar Sahib, K.M. Seethe Sahiib and K. Uppi Sahib got trained from Muslim Majlis. But the Muslim faction among the Congress opposed this move on the ground that the Congress is enough to address the Muslim issues. League was also criticized as a Pro-British organization.
Some of the significant problems faced by Muslim League since 1937 to the present are not only from its political opponents but from the community itself. The different intra-community organizations after the split of Muslim Aikya Sangam, the formation of  Jamat- e-Islami in 1943, had strengthened the divisions among the community. These developments had fragmented the political base of Muslim League. Another problem faced by the Muslim League during the time of partition of India was the idea of the establishment of  Moplstan, a separate territory for Muslims within South India, raised at Madras Legislative Assembly in 1947. This was proposed by prominent Muslim League leaders like Muhammed Ismail and KM Seethi Sahib. Miller points out that both of them had argued that the Mappilas, even though they speak the same language as other Malayalis, were but different in terms of their food, costume, rituals, customs and philosophy of life. Thus the formation of the state should be on the basis of religion as it constitutes the heart of the culture rather than language (1992:162- 64)
The shadow of the ‘communal label’ was later minimized by the establishment of Indian Union Muslim League in 1948.The birth of Kerala state in 1stNovember 1956, through the merging of Travancore and Cochin states into Malabar, helped Muslim League to act as the best bargaining political power in Kerala After the liberation struggle, the Muslim League became the major political alliance both with left and right parties. In 1967, the Muslim League made alliance with Communist party of India MarxistCPI (M), the old enemy of Liberation Struggle and the Muslim league was rewarded with a cabinet berth in the government. C.H. Muhammed Koya (1927-1983) became the education minster in that government. The second was the formation of Malappuram district, despite severe intra religious ideological clashes; they have succeeded within their limitations in organizing different Muslim segments under a common political platform. There are many other Muslim political parties such as PDP, NDF and INL which are working as counter forces to Muslim League in Kerala. They were formed after the collapse of Babri Masjid in 1992. These parties have justified their formation on the basis that Muslim League does not act in the interest of the Muslim community; instead they act as the political tool of Congress and some wealthy sections within the community. All these parties have also tried to incorporate Dalit’s and other Minority issues to maintain a secular face. However, none of these political outfits could evolve as crucial bargaining force in Kerala politics unlike the Muslim league, which has successfully wielded political power. But despite these limitations these political outfits have made deep and serious inroads to Kerala politics disturbing the inter-community fabric at several junctures (Sihabudheen, 2010).


Communalism refers to a politics that seeks to unify one community around a religious identity in hostile opposition to another community.. In order to unify the community, communalism suppresses distinctions within the community and emphasizes the essential unity of the community against other communities..
In the case of Kerala the discourse on communalism had an entirely different depiction from the other parts of India until the recent past. The legacy of communal harmony in Kerala began centuries back, though faced some difficulties during the periods of various invasions of foreign rulers. The Mappilas are very staunch in religious beliefs than any other communities even though they are strictly constituted by different intra-religious sects. But socially and culturally, Mappilas, particularly Sunni sects are very much assimilated to the traditional Kerala culture. This cultural assimilation and accommodation creates a Malayali cultural identity in Kerala than forming separate religious identities Unlike other states in India, Kerala turned to community politics rather than communal politics after the emergence of united Kerala in 1956. The Vimochana Samaram in 1959 and fall of first Communist government further promoted the intensity of community and caste politics in Kerala. Attention to community politics rendered the state less prone to communal politics during the period from the state formation to the demolition of Babri Masjid in the early 1990s (sihabudheen, 2010).
Muslim political movements and identity politics have been continuously depicted as communal from the independence period. Instead of practicing communalism huge majority of Muslim movements have been keeping the pure secularism across the entire history of the state. One of the prime accused in this case, IUML website says that, the historic mission of the League was to uphold the flag of firmness in its object and compassion in the midst of a social atmosphere charged with pain and rivalry. In this background of de-colonization Muslim League undertook the task of defending the minority identity and achievement of equality in plural society by upholding Indian Nationalist ethos. Also many of the Muslim movements which keep the extremist nature in ideas and some other in practice all of them respect the democratic norms and work ultimately subordinate to rules of the state. In the political sphere of Kerala, communalism has been identified as completely distinctive from that of other parts of India. ‘Communal’ history of Kerala itself is the factual evidence of the democratic identity politics of Muslims in a secular state.
One of the prime accusation of communalism against Muslim identity politics emerged from the class ideology of communists. Identity politics of Muslims to protect their rights and recover the historic backwardness was duly opposed in the name of communalism. In many occasions communist parties also made coalitions with those accused parties. From practical political experience of Kerala it could be understood as these accusations are based on vote bank politics, through either attracting Hindu extremist groups or making the Muslim movements in social pressure.


The postcolonial history of Mappila Muslims shows the unique endurance of a religious minority in a ‘secular’ public sphere, related to the colonial legacy of identity assertion of marginalized communities in their social development. Despite a strong communist movement and the establishment of a left government in Kerala, communities and caste groups continued to play important roles in democratic processes within the state. Referring to the complex relationship between communists and Mappila Muslims, Miller (1992: 203) notes that ‘[c]ommunism in turn made unexpectedly rapid inroads on the Mappila community, aided by its own contribution to that community’s uplift, producing secularizing tendencies and setting loose force of change’. However, there was growing realization among Muslims that gaining political power on their own terms is important for the development of the community. Mobilization under the Muslim League gave the community a fresh sense of power, helped to overcome the insecurity stemming from the previous weakening Mappila position and produced a sense of pride and confidence (Miller, 1992). The Muslim League also pressurized both the Communists and Congress to protect the interests of Muslims. They shared power with both parties on various occasions and succeeded in gaining many demands, like exclusive reservation for Muslims, creating the Muslim dominated district of Malappuram, appointments of Arabic teachers in schools and introduction of Mappila schools. Overall, the journey of Mappila Muslims from the colonial history to the present is a journey from a clearly subaltern position to that of a more powerful community, experiencing considerable educational and economic progress and political empowerment.
In the post partition phase even though Muslim political associations developed and multiplied in various ways in Kerala, they all worked for embracing modern and secular education with the help of community organization which kept Mappilas away from the mainland communal politics. Even though from the late 1970s the petro dollar economy in the Arabian Gulf attracted a large number of Mappilas, which boosted the Kerala economy and secular tradition by facilitating the spread of education. And some of the orthodox members of the community who helped to develop the educational institutions and other economic engagement also promoted orthodoxy. The strict community and religious consciousness further caused the divisions within the community. One of the main benefits of such intra- religious fragmentation is that the religion changed its character from static to dynamic. The transformation of some traditional intellectuals into modernity and the formation of many religious and social community based organizations resulted in the further development of the community. However, the sprouting of Muslim religious associations and their solidarity on religious lines did not develop within all sections of the Mappila society. From the late 1980s the growth of communal politics in the other parts of India, repeatedly began to influence small sections of the Muslim community of Kerala, and their community consciousness crystallized more along religious lines. The transition of community politics to communal one with the support of some religiously disturbed groups is one of the main reasons of this change in the region. All leading political parties seek support from these communal groups for their electoral motives. This is being done without understanding the potent danger it can pose to the Kerala society as a whole when these elements enter the public sphere of Kerala. The communal groups here use religion as an ideology in public life than as a faith in private life. ‘Mappila’ as an identity has been subjected to crucial transformations along the decades. Societal existence, identity politics, development, education, intra community relationship, reaction to extremism, bargaining and share in power politics of the state, ideological debates with major political parties, subaltern movements from inside the community, reflections of global Islamic politics and emerging educated pressure group from the community should be subject to serious discourses, which will determine the future of Mappila identity.


Abdul Aziz, M. 1992. Rise of Muslims in Kerala Politics. Trivandrum: CBH Publications.
Abdul Samad, M. 1998. Islam in Kerala: Groups and Movements in the 20th Century. New Delhi: Laurel Publication.
Ahammed, Irfan. (2010). Islam and Democracy in India: The Transformation of Jamaat-e-Islami. New Delhi: Permanent Black.
Ahammed, Kabeer, T. A. (1988). Ceeyechinte Lekhanangal (Selected Essays of C.H. Muhammed Koya). Calicut: Haritha Books.
Ansari, M.T. 2005. “Refiguring the Fanatics: Malabar 1836- 1922”. Muslims, Dalits, and Fabrications of History (Subaltern Studies), edited by Shail Mayaram, M.S.S Pandian, Ajay Skaria. New Delhi: Permanent Black.
Bose, Sugata and Ayesha Jalal. (2004). Modern South Asia: History, Culture, and Political Economy. Routledge: London New York.
Eckelman, F. Dale and James Piscatori. (2004). Muslim Politics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Engineer, Asgar Ali. (1985). Indian Muslims: A Study of the Minority Problems in India. New Delhi: Ajanta Book International.
Gangadharan, M. (2007).Mappila Padanangal (Mappilas Studies). Calicut: Vachanam.
Hasan, Mushirul. (Apr, 1988). “Indian Muslims since Independence: In Search of Integration and Identity” Third World Quarterly,10/2: 818-842. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3992669.
Hasan, Mushirul. (Aug- Sep, 1990). “Adjustment and Accommodation: Indian Muslims after Partition”. Social Scientist, 10-8/9: 48-65. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3517342
Histoy of the Indian Union Muslim League. http://iuml.com/. An official website of IUML Kerala state Committee.
Miller, E. Roland. 1992. Mappila Muslims of Kerala: A Study of Islamic Trends: Madras: Orient Longman.
Punathil, Salah. 2013. Kerala Muslims and shifting notions of religion in the public sphere, South Asia Research, vol. 33(1): 1–20.

  (Research Scholar, Hyderabad University)