A Mappila, also known as a Muslim Mappila, formerly spelt as Moplah or previously known as Jonaka Mappila, is a member of the largest Muslim community in the Indian state of Kerala. Muslims of Kerala, of which Mappilas make up a large majority, constitute 26.56% of the population of the state (2011), and as a religious group they are the second largest after the Hindus (54.73%). Mappilas share the common language Malayalam with the other religious communities of Kerala.
The Mappila community originated primarily as a result of the pre and post-Islamic Arab contacts with Kerala, which was fundamentally based upon commerce. As per tradition, Islam reached Malabar Coast, of which the state is a part of, as early as the 7th century AD. The uninterrupted association of the Mappilas with the merchants from the Middle East have created a profound impact on their life, customs and culture. This has resulted in the formation of an unique tradition - although within the large spectrum of Malayali culture - in literature, art, and music.
Most of the Mappilas follow Shafi'i School, while a large minority follow movements that developed within Sunni Islam. Mappila is classified as a "Other Backward Class" in the affirmative action tables in Kerala.
"Mappila" was a term originally used to denote foreign visitors and immigrants to Malabar Coast including the Muslims, Christians and the Jews. These three were the dominant the trading communities of historical Kerala. The Muslims were referred to as Jonaka or Chonaka Mappila ("Yavanaka Mappila"), to distinguish them from the Nasrani Mappila (Saint Thomas Christians) and the Juda Mappila (Cochin Jews).
According to the 2011 census, about one-quarter of Kerala's population are Muslims. A small number of Mappilas have settled in the southern districts of Karnataka and western parts of Tamil Nadu, while the scattered presence of the community in major cities of India can also be seen. Furthermore, a substantial proportion of Mappilas have left Kerala to seek employment in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
It is generally agreed among scholars that Arab merchants frequented the Malabar Coast, which was the link between the West and ports of East Asia, even before Islam had been established in Arabia. Some historians assume that the Mappilas can be considered as the first native Islamic community in South Asia.
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.
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.
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.