A Mappila (Malayalam: ???????), also known as a Muslim Mappila, Moplahs or Jonaka Mappila, is a member of the largest Muslim group in the Indian state of Kerala. The community arose primarily as a result of the pre- and post-Islamic Arab contact with Kerala, mainly based upon trade.
Muslims of Kerala, of which Mappilas constitute a majority, make up a large community in Kerala state: 26.56% of the population. As a religious group they are the second largest after Hindus (54.75%). Mappilas share the common language of Malayalam with the other inhabitants of Kerala. Islam reached Malabar Coast as early as the 7th century AD and was assimilated with the culture and traditions of the local people. Over the centuries, the strong relations of the Mappilas with the traders from Arabia have created a profound impact on their life and culture. This has resulted in the formation of the unique tradition in literature, art, music, and history of the Mappilas Most of the Mappilas follow Shafi'i School, while a large minority follow movements that arose within Sunni Islam.
There's a difference of opinion on the exact origin of the word "Mappila" ("Moplah" in Colonial sources). By and large it is considered to be derived from a combination of the Malayalam language words maham ("great") or mam ("mother") and pillai ("son"). Some people believe that Mappila means "Son-in-Law" as the Muslim visitors often married local women and thus became sons-in-law. (Tamil Mappilai = Son in law). Another opinion is that many of Hindu Nairs who adopted islam, were sometimes termed as the "Muslim Pillai", from this the term "Mappila" may have originated. "Pillai" is another term for the Hindu Nair community.
Mappila was a term originally used to denote visitors and immigrants to Malabar including the Muslims, Christians and the Jews, who became the trading communities of ancient Kerala. The Saint Thomas Christian community of southern Kerala are also called "Nasrani Mappilas". The Muslims of ancient Kerala were referred to as J?naka or C?naka Mappila (Yavanaka Mappilas), to distinguish them from the Nasrani Mappila (Saint Thomas Christians) and the Juda Mappila (Cochin Jews).
According to the 2001 census, about one-quarter of Kerala's population (or 7,863,842 people) were Muslims. Some have settled in other states within India. There are substantial numbers of Mappilas in nearby districts of Kodagu, Mangalore, Bangalore, Coimbatore, etc. Furthermore, a substantial proportion of Mappilas numbering between 3 million and 4 million people have left Kerala to seek employment in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. Remittances from these expatriate communities makes Kerala one of the main contributors of foreign exchange to the Indian economy.former Minister of State for Railways E. Ahamed, is a notable politician from this community.
A small number of Mappilas have settled in the southern districts of Karnataka and western parts of Tamil Nadu, while the scattered presence of these people in major cities of India is comparable with other major communities in Kerala. The diaspora groups of Mappilas in Arab states of the Persian Gulf and Malaysia are comparatively large and, among the natives, they are also known as "Malabaris" or "Malwaris."
The long-standing Arab and later Portuguese contact (e.g. Goa) with the coastal areas of India left its permanent mark in the form of several communities. The Mappila community of Kerala came into existence through the immigration of Arab traders to these regions.[verification needed]
Islam came to South Asia before Muslim invasions of Indian subcontinent. Arab traders used to visit the Malabar region, which was a link between them and ports of South East Asia, to trade even before Islam had been established in Arabia. This relation started as early as the 4th century CE. The Mappilas are the descendants of communities of Arab traders who had come to Kerala. These Arabs were primarily from the Hadramawt valley of Yemen. The Mappilas are believed to be the first community of Muslims in India, and Islam may have been brought to the coasts of Kerala by the Arabs within a few years of Muhammad's proclamation of his mission in the 7th century CE, and Mappilas who were Islamized by the Arabs may be considered as the first native Islamic community in South Asia.
The trade of Arabs in the Malabar coast prospered due to the rich availability of pepper and other spices from its land. With many other factors, the support they got from local Hindu rulers helped them to establish a monopoly in the commercial activities in the Indian Ocean.
According to tradition, the first Indian mosque was built in 621 CE by the last ruler of the Chera dynasty, who converted to Islam during the lifetime of Muhammad (c. 571-632) in Kodungallur and facilitated the proliferation of Islam in Malabar. But this tradition hasn't found any historical evidence. There are a few more legends of the Mappilas which relate them with early Hindu culture in Kerala; first one is regarding one Uppukutan Mappila who appears in the legend of Parayi petta panthirukulam (The twelve tribes born of a Pariah Woman) and another one is the story of Ouwayi, a Jonaka Mappila, who through extreme devotion made the goddess of Kozhikode appear before him.
The 14th century Muslim traveller Ibn Battuta was surprised when he discovered that the Mappila communities near Calicut were the followers of Imam Shafi'i while the rest of the Indian Muslims were not.
The monopoly of overseas trade in Malabar was safe with the Arab-Mappila alliance until the arrival of Portuguese in Kerala. At the time, a good number of Mappilas were enlisted in the naval force of Zamorin, the ruler of Calicut. The naval chiefs of the Zamorin were usually from the Mappila community; they were given the title of Marakkar. Initially, Portuguese traders were successful in reaching in an agreement with the Zamorin and hence got support from Mappilas. However, fearful of losing their monopoly in the trade-routes to Europe via the Indian ocean, the Mappila merchants persuaded the Zamorin to attack the Portuguese, killing the traders left behind by Vasco da Gama. This led to war between Calicut and the returning Portuguese fleets, who allied with their Hindu rival in Cochin. During this period, Portuguese forces tried to establish monopoly in spice trade using violent methods against the Arabs and other Muslim merchants from the Middle East. The possibility that a few Muslim traders from Basra, Damascus, Tunis and Egypt joined the Mappila community during this period can not be ruled out.
Portuguese-Zamorin relation deteriorated and the military of Zamorin, including Mappilas, engaged the Portuguese colonial forces in 1524 CE. The Portuguese attacked and looted the town of Calicut. They set the town to fire and, in the arson, many buildings including the Jami' Mosque of Mappilas were destroyed. Ships containing trading goods were drowned, along with thousands of merchants and their families; anyone who was an Arab was killed. All this resulted in the Mappila losing control of the spice trade they had dominated for more than a thousand years as well as losing more than half of their population at the hands of their enemy.
In the Mysorean invasion of Kerala, Mappilas gave support to the invading military of Hyder Ali in 1765. In the following Mysorean rule of Malabar, Mappilas were favoured against the Hindu landlords of the region and the most notable advantage for the community during this time is the grant of customary rights for the Mappila tenants over their land. However, such measures of the Muslim rulers widened the communal imbalance of Malabar and the British colonial forces taking advantage of the situation allied with the Hindu upper-caste communities to fight against the Mysore regime. The British won the Anglo-Mysore War against Tippu Sultan and, consequently, Malabar was organised as a district under Madras Presidency. The British repaid landlord communities with a slew of measures: The first one being the abolishing of tenant rights over land. The partisan rule of British authorities brought the Mappila peasants of Malabar into a condition of destitution which led to a series of uprisings against the landlords and British in 1921; it took in the form of a communal war known as Mappila Rebellion that lasted for six months and cost the lives of about 10,000 people. Mohommed Haji was proclaimed the caliph of the Moplah Khilafat (Caliphate) and flags of "Islamic Caliphate" were flown. Eranad and Valluvanad were declared Khalifat kingdoms. The riot was controlled by the British military and many Mappilas lost their lives in the military action and many were taken as prisoners, mostly to Port Blair.
The book Moplah Rebellion 1921, offers an alternate explanation of the 1921 Moplah rebellion and its root causes.
Since the death of Tipu in 1792, the Malabar region had witnessed attacks by Moplahs on Hindus, and also attacks specifically on Hindus who tried to reconvert back to Hinduism, after Tipu's death. The book by C. Gopalan Nair, clearly shows a pattern of murders by the Moplahs the earliest being recorded in 1836, consistently year after year, leading to the 1921 riots. The Moplah resistance was not aimed at the British from 1836 to 1920. It was aimed at consolidation of the Muslim religion in Malabar district, to make sure Muslims did not re-convert, and also to instil fear of Muslims in that area, to push Hindus out of the area. The following events were taken word by word from the ref
The above events indicated that the British were handling a Moplah revolt, since the death of Tipu. The Moplah riots became an uncontrollable, macabre event, due to the poor foresight of the Indian National Congress. Having known that the Ernad taluk was smouldering with religious discontent, and violence since the death of Tipu, the Indian National Congress, at the instance of Gandhi decided to tie up with the Khilafat movement.
".....Mrs. Besant, who attended this Conference, made a splendid speech, protesting against the second part of the Resolution, but she was defeated and the non-cooperation resolution was carried by a large body of Moplahs, who formed the bulk of the audience and be- longed to the Ernad Taluk. " There were nearly a thousand delegates at the roughest calculation, most of them being peasants with a large sprinkling of Moplahs, coming from every nook and corner of Ernad Taluk in all stages of attire, some of them just corqe ; from the plough and the farm." (West Coast Spectator, dated 29th April, 1920). These were duped by political: leaders into passing a resolution on Khilafat, which they did not understand. ...."
The seed was thus sown on 28 April 1920. If the Conference had been held at any other station outside Ernad Taluk, the Khilafat Resolution would never have been passed. Manjeri was the scene of more than one Moplah outrage, and was the last place where the Conference should have been held. In Ernad Taluk, the Moplahs preponderate and there was nothing surprising in the passing of the Khilafat Resolution with an overwhelming majority of Moplahs at the Conference.
The next stage was the visit of Messrs. Gandhi and Shaukat AH to Calicut on 18 August 1920, and their speeches on Khilafat and Non-co-operation which led to the establishment of Khilafat Committees in Malabar.
Once the stage was set for a broader role of the Moplahs in the Non-cooperation Movement, the stage was set for the raising of a Moplah corps for the purpose of this agitation. But throughout this time, the Khilafat movement did not align its activities with Congress. Instead it setup 100 Khilafat committees across the Malabar district, and recruited on its own. The speeches made in those meetings where done by religious leaders of the mosque, and not the political members of the Congress or the nationalist movement.
So, in enrolling, and allowing the Moplahs to organize themselves into a movement, Congress had committed a major blunder, as the book itself mentions "These were duped by political: leaders into passing a resolution on Khilafat, which they did not understand. ...."
In the months to follow, the Moplahs raised a corps of 15,000 people, though the final arrests made at the end of the rebellion mentions the number as 38,000 plus. These corps started doing their own parades, and sooner that later, the religious agenda of Jihad had been brought in, as the macabre killings during the rebellion suggest. The book captures the fear of the District administration, following the growth of this armed resistance, and increase in ferociousness of their activities and plans.
"....but now, the District Magistrate felt that the unchecked continuance of such combustible demonstrations of contempt and defiance of constituted authority would result in riot and danger to human life, especially so, as one outcome of the previous meetings was an organised system of intimidation throughout the District ...."
By end of 1920, the situation had gone out of control. The Moplahs, passed the Khilafat edict, declared Ali Musaliar as the Caliphate leader, and passed a resolution that they would collect taxes henceforth and not the British. These events snowballed into the eventual riots.
A section of Muslim community, to this day claim that the riot was a class revolt. However, it is clear from the above series of events starting from 1836 show that the Moplah uprising was there in the works for almost a century. It was sufficiently inflamed, and the series of mis-steps by the Indian National Congress in 1920, led the Moplahs to use religious doctrines to assemble a corps of armed resistance members. This was further aided and fueled by the religious speeches in Mosques, and the leadership of this movement by a cleric, Ali Musaliar. During the riots, much of the Kovilagams, and mansions of the upper class was raided, looted, women kidnapped and raped, and menfolk butchered. So, the Khilafat movement, had misused the legitimacy of a freedom struggle to put in place its own agenda of Caliphate, and the macabre, murderous agenda as set forth by its religious leaders.
In the aftermath of the riots, the following Moplah leaders were sentenced to death by the Courts of Madras, under British law in India.
The modern theological orientations amongst the Muslims of Kerala are primarily divided into three; Sunnis, Mujahids (Salafis) and Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, though all these belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. The Sunnis referred here are identified by their conventional beliefs and practices and adherence to the Shafi'i madh'hab, while the other two theological orientations, the Mujahids and the Jama'ats, are seen as movements within the Sunni Islam. A minor group of followers may be found with Tablighi Jama'at. Both Sunnis and Salafis again have been divided to sub-groups.
It is a popular form of social entertainment among the Mappila community of Kerala, south India, prevalent all over Kerala. It is generally presented by females numbering about fifteen including musicians, as a part of wedding ceremonies a day before the wedding day. The bride, dressed in all finery, covered with gold ornaments, is the chief spectator; she sits on a peetam, around which the singing and dancing take place. While they sing, they clap their hands rhythmically and move around the bride using simple steps. Two or three girls begin the songs and the rest join the chorus.
Mappila Paattu or Mappila Song is a folklore Muslim devotional song genre rendered to lyrics in Arabic-laced Malayalam, by Muslims or Mappilas of the Malabar belt of Kerala in south India. Mappila songs have a distinct cultural identity, as they sound a mix of the ethos and culture of Kerala as well as West Asia. They deal with themes such as religion, love, satire and heroism. Most of the mapillapatu are mixed with Malayalam, Urdu, Persian, Arabic, Tamil etc. it keeps many 'ishals' (tunes), prasams (rhyming parts) and things like that. Moyinkutty Vaidyar is one of the oldest poets in mapilapattu.
Kolkkali is a popular dance form among the Mappila Muslims in Malabar. It is played in group of 12 people with two sticks, similar to the Dandiya dance of Gujarat.