Who are You? The Story of Muslims in Rural Coastal Andhra

Sh Mirza Yawar Baig

We were ushered into the home by its owner, an RMP doctor called Sai Basha. The gate pillar has an image of Ganesha embedded in it. As we walk into the home, we see pictures of Hindu gods and goddesses on almost every wall. There is also a picture of Christian icons of Jesus and Mary. Then we are ushered into the inner most room which houses a small temple with all the material for pooja arrayed before some more pictures of Hindu gods in the center of which is an idol of Venkateshwara (the presiding deity in Tirupati).

In the middle of all this profusion of those who are not worthy of worship is a picture of Al Haram Al Makki, Al Masjid An Nabawi and of the Dargah in Ajmer. The thought that came into my mind was, ‘Here is a guy who is covering all the bases.’ But then we had been told that this was a Muslim home!! So what happened??

The answer as I learnt from many conversations is that nothing happened. This is the result of sheer neglect over at least two generations. These Muslims of coastal Andhra live in a place that was the boundary of the old Nizam’s State of Hyderabad and Madras Presidency which was ruled by the British. They speak only Telugu and they have almost no contact with the Ulama in either Hyderabad or in Madras (now Chennai). So gradually they took to the ways of the local leaders who are all Hindu. The interesting thing is that all this happened entirely voluntarily and almost unconsciously.

Someone brought in an idol saying that it brings good luck and nobody had the knowledge or the ability to contradict this and so it remained. Then came another and another. Local festivals were celebrated together with the Hindu neighbors where the celebration included visiting the temple. So the Muslims did that, even though they were never allowed inside the temple.

They accepted their lower status as most people of rural India accept almost everything that comes their way. Nobody actually converted them to Hinduism. They just started taking to the ways of Hinduism and worshiping Hindu gods.

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So what about Islam? We asked Mr. Sai Basha (interestingly his name is based on Sai Baba because they see him as divine) if he prayed Salah. He said he did not know how to pray. He said that he goes to the Eid Gah once a year in Ramadan on Eid-ul-Fitr day. What does he do when he stands behind the Imaam? Nothing.

Does he know the Kalima?

What is that?

La ilaaha illAllahu Muhammadur Rasoolullahi.

No, he does not.

Is he willing to recite it now?

Yes, he is.

Does he accept that only Allah is worthy of worship because Allah
created him and us and sustains us and that Muhammad is the Rasool of Allah?

Yes, he is.

Now hold your breath: Is he willing to take down all the pictures of gods and goddesses and the idol and all the pooja paraphernalia and remove them from his home?

Yes, he is.

Is he willing to learn to pray and to practice Islam?

Yes he is. “We are Muslims Saar”, he tell us.

So why did he never pray and why did he allow all these idols and pictures into his home and why did he worship them?

“Nobody told us that it is wrong”, he says. “Our parents did it and so we do it.”

Some things never change, do they? The same excuse that the people gave Rasoolullah 1400 years ago, the religion of our forefathers. But with one difference, it was a huge struggle for Rasoolullah to make them change. But with these people, all that we needed to do was to ask them once, to take out all the articles of shirk and they did it. A measure of how Allah helps the weak; people like us who would run away if we faced the smallest opposition.

So what next?

Well, we intend to build a masjid in your village, if you agree, so that there will be an Imaam who can teach you how to pray and can educate you and your children about the basics of Islam.

What do you need?

We need some land to build the masjid.

“Here is the land”, he says as he takes us to a plot by the roadside. He calls the owners, two brothers, also like him with Hindu sounding names. We explain to them what we intend to do with the land and that we will be happy to pay them for it. They refuse to sell the land.

Because they insist on giving it free of cost.

How many such Muslims in this village? 100 families; maybe more than 500 individuals. How many more like them? Many thousands. All Muslims who know nothing about Islam and who worship idols. All people who are willing to change, revert to Islam and start worshiping Allah if someone can show them how. People who simply need to be taught. People who are more than willing to learn. People in whose hearts there is not an iota of resistance. People who just simply don’t know because we were all too busy to tell them. People who left Islam simply because their brother Muslims couldn’t care less.

By now my hands and feet are cold. My heart is beating like it intends to tear itself out of my body and run away. My eyes don’t stop watering – am I crying?? I don’t know.

The question comes into my mind, “What will happen to these people if they die like this, in this state?”

The answer shatters my mind like lightning, “It is not what will happen to them, it is what will happen to you.”

What does a masjid (including the salary of an Imaam for two years) cost?
Rs.3 laks

That’s $6000.

What does a palace in Jannah cost?

What will be the cost when Allah asks, “What did you do?”

15 / View Comments

15 responses to “Who are You? The Story of Muslims in Rural Coastal Andhra”

  1. Jamal says:

    Hey you are being Hinduphobic…don’t you know that you are offending Hindus by making fun of their worship? You shouldn’t do that! Shame on you!

    • Ilm says:

      Please tell me this is a joke! -_-

    • Ehsaan AbdisSalam says:

      Dear Jamal,

      May Allah guide you and I.
      I think your comment is rather unthoughtful…i.e. you haven’t thought about it at all!
      I say this because there is nothing in the article that is intended to offend Hindus or make fun of them. You may wish to point out what exactly it is that so irks your sensibilities.

      It is a sad, matter of fact, reflective reporting of the reality that exists in huge swathes of rural India; Muslims who have sadly lost their identity and purpose.

      You are asking the Shaykh to be ashamed when he is merely pointing out that we, as Muslims, are failing in your duty to help people (such as those highlighted in the article) return to the light of guidance and the knowledge and freedom of worshipping Allah alone!!!

  2. Manna says:

    Assalamu’alaikum brother,

    May Allah subhana wata’ala help you be a means of guidance back to His way. Let me know if there is a link to more details on the progress of the masjid and how to donate.

    BarakAllahu feek.

  3. Aasiyah's Mum says:

    Assalamu alaykum, any official details on how to donate? JazakAllahu khairon.

  4. Bint A says:

    Please let us know how we can contribute for the masjid inshaAllah

  5. a struggling muslimah says:

    Assalamu alaikum,
    I am aware of it. This is not just in coastal area, but also in other parts of andra as well. Muslims do not have knowledge of the religion.more shirk than a dargah. They cover a stick in cloth(as goddess) during some celebration.
    Yes- this is not the trail of those people alone. It is our trial , trail for our dawah at other parts of India.

  6. Shocking. It makes me want to travel to this region, learn the language and teach the people. Unfortunately I cannot do that. But if there is a Muslim organization that is helping to teach these people, I will donate right now Insha’Allah.

  7. AdemC says:

    WE should be very cautious not to be spiritually arrogant or we may do more harm than we realize, without meaning to.

  8. dr ikram says:

    Im a muslim living in hyderabad,andhra pradesh. Many similar or worse situations exist in andhra pradesh.these people just dont know that they are practising hinduism in the name of islam. I remember one incidence where one of our colleagues asked these people who muhammed was.the muslim showed him the photo of gandhi and told him this is muhammed. Entire villages are being converted to
    Christianity by missionaries due to absence of muslim organisations. But foryunately many muslims n muslim organisations are waking upto the reality n trying to reach.

  9. nabil mullah says:

    Salamaleikum Mirza baig and the other readers of this page
    i am very sorry to say that the writer has a very poor knowledge of his fellow muslim brothers residing in coastal andhra because there are many muslims(infact might be atleast 80%) in rural areas of coastal andhra who are strict adherents of Islam and do not indulge in shirk as stated above .The particular story you are talking is true only if you are referring to these following communities among muslims who are known colloquially and locally among the muslim as well as non muslim population as LADAAF AND DOODEKULU(cotton weavers) . These people were the backward people of those pre nizami eras who were non muslims and accepted islam for comming out of social deprivation and these people were never given proper dawah to the islam, that is the reason why they follow all the customs of local population as well as islam (not totally and correctly when question of Islam arises). we the muslim population of costal andhra were out of muslim rule for alomost more than 200 years after nizam ceded the costal andhra to the british and french as part of protection treaty to protect hyderabad state from marathas and tipu sultan ,I accept that we might not look complete muslims as u think muslims ought to be ,we speak telugu fluently but that is not our mother tongue ,we speak dakhani urdu a variant of urdu exactly the way hyderabadi urdu is a variant of URDU .Andhra has got a lot of muslim organisations which practice dawah ,preaching of islamic principles ,and maintain many madrasas in every major town of costtal andhra which include many like guntur, vijaywada,ponnur,bapatla,chirala,machilipatnam,ongole,elurunarsaraopet,sattenapalli,vishakapatnam,narsapuram and hundereds if facts are to be taken out now. Andhra muslims have over the time time have blended in with the local non muslim population which makes us look like local andhra people but as far as Imaan is concerned we are only muslims .
    the only population which has remained aloof from the main stream islam are the above communities .
    The sad part is you happened to visit a person of that communities only . you should take some more time out in the near future and visit many more muslim families of costal andhra so that you can clear your misconceptions .

    I my self belong to a family which settled in andhra 900 years ago and i never my self saw more than 10 cases as mentioned above by you. i accept there are few but not every body is the same .

    • nabil mullah says:

      i will be very happy and obliged to have a debate over the issue to clear out your misconceptions regarding islam in andhra and andhra muslims

  10. Mohammed imamudeen atiq says:

    Assalamualaikum brother pls let me know the exact location of the village and its name. Inshalla i would likw to contribute for the cause.

  11. gouse says:

    Stop the nonsense to abusing andhra Muslim. I was really shocked how to abusing each other Mindless fellow.it was the fact the cast of dudekula not genuine practice islam.but you haven’t right to blaming us mr arrogant. You can visit andhra properly ofter visiting our state.we have so many maszid from visakapatnam to anatapur all over andhra.we have madarasa a lot to teaching children Islam. Yes one thing we aren’t like extremists. We are not wahabisam idealization. We are practicing ahele sunnatul jamaat.

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