Episode 14: The Delhi Sultanate


Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

In this episode of the history podcast, Omar and Jay discuss the period of Delhi Sultanate with Jay and Gaurav. We go over all the major dynasties and also discuss the religious, economic aspects of this time.

As Omar Ali puts it, the legacy of Delhi Sultanate is the legacy of Islam in the subcontinent.


1. The Emergence of the Delhi Sultanate, 1192-1286 by Sunil Kumar
2. The History and Culture of the Indian People: Volume 6: The Delhi Sultanate
3. India in the Persianate Age: 1000-1765 by Richard M. Eaton
4. Medieval India – Vol. 1 by Satish Chandra
5. Advanced Study in the History of Medieval India: Volume I by J L Mehta
6. A Comprehensive History of India: The Delhi Sultanat (A.D. 1206-1526), ed. by Mohammad Habib and Khaliq Ahmad Nizami

Book Review: India, Bharat and Pakistan – a Not so Gentle Reminder

Lawyer and author J Sai Deepak is back with the book of his India that is Bharat Quadrology. I had reviewed his first book India that is Bharat almost a year back – you can find my review here.

The Summary: 

J Sai Deepak’s second book dissects the time from the fall of the Mughal empire to the Khilafat movement relying heavily on the tools developed in the first book and a vast number of primary sources. The author also investigates the trail of the Islamic doctrine consolidated during the Fatwa-e-Alamgiri (compiled on orders of Aurangzeb) back to the 13th century Islamic scholar Taymiyyah and Syed Ahmad Sirhindi (a contemporary of Mughal Emperor Akbar).

The two figures covered in detail among the post Mughal Ulema are Shah Wahiullah Dehlawi and Syed Ahmad Baraelvi – the two giants who have shaped the Islamic revivalism in the 18th century. The establishment of Wahhabi power center in Northwest of Punjab, establishment of the various schools of Islam in North India – Deobandi, Barelvi, Ahl-i-Hadith, Ali-garh and the British crackdown of Wahhabism are all discussed in sufficient detail before jumping off to Syed Ahmad Khan and the modern genesis of the two-nation theory. The author then covers all the important events from the Partition of Bengal to the Khilafat movement – relying heavily on primary sources. The book ends with a summary of the Khilafat riots – especially the Mopla massacre.

My 2 Annas:

It took me 3 weeks to complete the first section of the book. I completed the rest of the book in 2 days. I think this statement itself is a review in a nutshell. If I had to give a one phrase review for book 1 it would be “Overstated yet immensely Consequential“, if I have to do the same for book 2 it would be “About time or Oh My Gods“. This is not to say I don’t have disagreements with the book – especially some of author’s conclusions, but the overwhelming thrust of the book is something I strongly agree with.

Firstly, the book busts all the popular notions of two-nation theory and it being solely a creation of the British. The author effectively traces the modern origins of the two-nation theory to Syed Ahmad Khan and the Aligarh movement at the very least. The book also covers some of the lesser-known events from the 19th century – the Wahhabi movement and the conflict in the Northwestern frontier province. The book makes it abundantly clear that Islamic revivalism was less a reaction to Colonialism and more a reaction to Hindu and Sikh resurgence. The fact that both the British and Muslims saw each other as closer religiously and hence more acceptable/worthy instead of the “Hindu” is driven through via a vast number of primary sources. 

The common trope among the secular (even Hindutva discourse) about the Syncretic nature of Sufis is addressed (though I felt the author didn’t fully go into this question).

Location 528

Pan-Islamism and its proponents – especially Al-Afghani are also covered in the book.

Secondly, the book also goes into origins and progress of “Moderate Nationalism” under Indian National Congress right up to the ascendency of the “Mahatma”. I had expected the author to be slightly unfair to the Indian National congress and especially the role of Gandhiji but to my surprise he hasn’t. Though some conclusions may seem a tad unfair at times but because the author relies heavily on primary references the “judgement” is moderated. Most importantly the support of Khilafat which is put firmly on the shoulders of Gandhiji in Hindutva circles, is clearly shown to be a mainstream view of Indian National Congress years before ascendency of Gandhiji, absolving Gandhiji of some of the blame.

The inability of the “Indian nationalism led by Hindus” in dealing the Islamic exceptionalism both before and during the period of “Hindu-Muslim” harmony is on display in the book. The author compares “Coloniality” of the Hindus to the “Rootedness” and “Intransigence” of Muslims for these defeats. Whereas there can be no doubt that Muslim “Intransigence” was important, I find the blame laid on “Coloniality” not watertight.

Take example of Jawaharlal Nehru and Kemal Pasha “Attaturk”. Both were modernizers who tried to jettison the past of their respective countries. What separated them both wasn’t any rootedness or lack of deracination – but a personal attribute, namely political ruthlessness, incidentally something Mohammad Ali Jinnah shared. Kemal Pasha not only broke the tradition of the Khalifa but also forced the Roman alphabet overnight on the Turks. Similarly, in India the two heads who had the most clear-eyed vision of the thread of Islamic exceptionalism were Dr Ambedkar and Veer Savarkar (both “Modernists”). I would instead put the blame on Hindu naivete which is an unfortunate byproduct of Hindu Pluralism – we simply never understood the other. Most of our ReConquistadors (with notable exceptions) did not pursue Reconversions.

Another thing I found mildly irritating in the book (continued from book one) – is the use of the term Middle eastern coloniality/consciousness. Ironically the term “Middle Eastern” itself reeks of its Western Colonial origins. I would have used the term Islamic or Arabic instead, but this is sematic disagreement which doesn’t matter much.

a Not so Gentle Reminder:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results“.

The disagreements with the author’s conclusions notwithstanding, the book is a not so Gentle Reminder for the India that is Bharat. In retrospect, the compromises Bharatiya nationalism offered, from accepting disproportionate Muslim representation to supporting the fanatical Khilafat movement, may have worked against the Indian civilization itself. While it may be unfair to excessively blame the Bharatiya leaders from the past, it’s imperative to call out those who are flirting with the same approach in the 21st century (incidentally my position a few years ago). Essentially the Hindu leadership made a Faustian bargain and sold their brains. Though Swatyantraveer Savarkar is almost absent from the book, he cast a long shadow in my mind while I read the book.

Another popular trope I felt the author could have busted was the trope that Islamic intransigence in India is largely the legacy of “it having been spread by the sword”. The Mopla carnage was undertaken by descendants of Arab traders who came without any major conflict. Maybe violent intransigence and exclusivity is a feature not a bug.

The book becomes unputdownable after the Lucknow Pact, as the Hindu-Muslim unity discussed here which didn’t even last a decade remains as relevant today as ever. The riots covered in the end of the book – especially the Mopla carnage is almost unbearable to read reminding the reader of Kashmir. The letter by Annie Beasant to Gandhiji stands out. The book also brings into focus some of the lesser-known riots like Kohat. Incidentally the trigger for the Kohat ethnic cleansing was blasphemy, a topic which continues to remain as relevant as ever.

As I write this review a century after Mopla Riots, raids are conducted on Popular Front of India members while the PFI supporters can call for Hartals with partial success in Malabar coast. If the first book was a red pill in a blue jacket (Akshay Alladi (@akshayalladi) / Twitter), this is a केसरी (Saffron) pill in a green jacket.

I have skipped over many topics from the book in this review for brevity, but I would urge the reader of this post to buy and read this book in its entirety and engage with the uncomfortable facts it lays down infront of us.

The book ends with the following quote

Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

The above line becomes even more relevant especially give the way history is taught in India. I would end this review with a quote (in one of its many forms) most people reading this review would recognize.

अश्वत्थामा हतः इति, नरो वा कुंजरोवा !

Council in Support of the Resistance of Herat

Establishing “Council in Support of the Resistance of Herat”

Kabul-09 August 2021
As our beloved country burns in the flames of foreign invasion, and the ancient city of Herat has turned into a stronghold of honor and liberty, a number of Herat youths have come together in Kabul with much love for their homeland to form a support mechanism for a people’s resistance movement against foreign invasion in Herat. The name “Council in Support of the Resistance of Herat” has been agreed for this newly formed council.
The following were agreed in the session on August 9, 2021:
1) While appreciating and supporting the epic resistance by the People’s Resistance Movement of the Western Zone, and Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces, and also humble thanks to their efforts, sacrifices, and guiding the free and devout people of Afghanistan, especially the people of Herat;
2) Stressing on the important role and leadership of His Excellency Mohammad Ismaeel Khan at these crucial times for the future of the country and defending our land and honor;
3) Realizing the difficult times that the country is going through and stressing on collaboration, compassion, and companionship with the brave soldiers of our country, especially ANDSF, by the political parties and figures, social, political, media and religious institutions, women, businessmen, academics, doctors, and every individual citizen of the country;
4) Believing that the fate of Herat and the West Zone of the country is not separate from the rest of the country;
5) Calling on the central government to localize administrative and security institutions, and strengthen solidarity and coordination between the people’s resistance movement and ANDSF at national and provincial levels;
6) Emphasizing the core mandate of the Council for Integrating and Supporting People’s Resistance in Herat which includes strengthening solidarity, support, and coordination among influential figures and institutions in Kabul to assist people’s resistance movement and ANDSF in Herat and the West Zone;
7) Emphasizing on the responsibility of all citizens, and national, international, regional, provincial, and local institutions in further strengthening national unity and solidarity for defending national integrity of Afghanistan, as well as defending the lives, property, and honor of all citizens of Afghanistan, including Herat and the West Zone;
The Council in Support of the Resistance of Herat is established.

This council has a leadership board, and three functional committees (political, public relations, and fundraiser/financial support). Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta is elected as the president of the council unanimously.
More details about the council will be released soon. For more information, please contact Faridoon Azhand at:
WhatsApp: +93 (0) 797416062
Email: [email protected]
Continue reading Council in Support of the Resistance of Herat

Afghans march supporting the ANDSF against the Taliban across Afghanistan

Vast numbers of Afghan civilians in many cities across the country have been chanting “Allah Akbar” and other calls to support their beloved ANDSF (Afghan National Defense Security Forces) in the battle with the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Daesh. The cheering started at night in Herat and spread throughout the country. People were chanting on the streets, on roof tops, in mosques, through mosque speakers. Men, woman and children. There are hundreds or more articles and videos about this. Including:

https://menafn.com/1102564159/Anti-Taliban-chants-thousands-including  -vice-President-Saleh-took-to-streets 



Anti-Taliban chants, thousands including vice-President Saleh took to streets

Mass popular cheering for the ANDSF synchronized across the country hasn’t  happened before in Afghanistan.

Among the first to publicly discuss that popular chants were beginning in Herat was one of Afghanistan’s greatest living intellectuals, Davood Moradian–founder and director-general, Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies. (Is there interest in interviewing him for BP?)

I would recommend that everyone read Davood’s very fine article on how Britain has long supported violent extreme Islamists in Afghanistan and has been flirting with or even appearing to support the Taliban for over a dozen years. In former US defense secretary Robert Gates book, President Karzai famously asks Secretary Gates why Britain was de facto supporting the Taliban. Gates responded with silence. The British have repeatedly sabataged Afghans in many other ways too. Here are some highlights from Davood’s article about Britain’s negative role in Afghanistan:

Continue reading Afghans march supporting the ANDSF against the Taliban across Afghanistan

West Asian ancestry in South Asian Muslims

Recently a Bohra Patel emailed me to express some exasperation that people are quoting me saying that the ancestry of South Asian Muslims is almost all from Hindus (or non-Muslims). Basically, I say things like this “99% of the ancestry of South Asian Muslims is indigenous.” This means some people are going to be 75% indigenous, but the majority probably have no West Asian segments of DNA. This does not mean they don’t have a genealogical line of descent. I myself am ~100% South Asian if you look at my genes…but my maternal grandmother’s father was from a lineage that had migrated to Bengal in the 19th century from Delhi. Before they were in Delhi they had left Persia in the 17th century with the forced conversion of the whole religious class to Shia Islam. This is validated through a Koran with all direct male line descendants listened. I am not one of those descendants (my maternal grandmother is not “in the book”), but I’m pretty sure my distant cousins who are paternal descendants no longer have any detectable Iranian ancestry either. Why?

The reason is that eight generations back there is only a 50% chance that you will any segment of identifiable DNA from an ancestor. Another way to say this is that 200 years ago you had many ancestors, but there’s only a 1 out of 2 probability that you will have identifiable DNA passed down through the generations from that person. Since my Iranian lineage (a man who left Iran, settled in South Asia, and married into the South Asian Muslim community) dates back 350 years, it’s totally unsurprising that there’s no evidence that isn’t documentary at this point.

In any case, I’m looking more closely at the assertion I made above. I ran a supervised analysis on some samples. You can see the results below. I’ll probably do f-stats too…but that takes a while to run. I may ‘update’ my estimate from 1% to closer to 5%, though I’m not convinced. The Bohra Patel is in the sample, it’s clear they are enriched for “Yemenite Jewish” ancestry. But, even with 200,000 markers, there are Hindu individuals that are 1-2% (Tamil Brahmin) because of the way the model is set up.

Really what’s needed are huge Y chromosome panels. Since that’s an unbroken lineage, and the gene flow is mostly through men from everything we know.

But the real problem is Iranian ancestry because there is something of a “cline” in the northwest of the subcontinent. How exactly are we supposed to detect Iranian ancestry in Punjabis that is recent? Ultimately it’s going to have to be IBD segments in large panels.

That being said, there is an indirect way to detect Muslim West Asian ancestry: look for Turkic and African segments. These come from Muslims, and so can serve as a tracer that is much more distinct from the Indian genetic landscape.

Finally, the flip side of these comments about the minimal impact of West Asians on the genes of South Asian Muslims is that it should make us more skeptical of the arguments of some Hindu nationalists and Muslim fundamentalists about how brutal the Turks were. I’m sure they were brutal…but they didn’t leave much of a genetic impact on Muslims, let alone Hindus. Most people were likely pretty insulated from the predations, probably because cities were demographic sinks anyhow.

Continue reading West Asian ancestry in South Asian Muslims

The Koran; a very short introduction

An old review I happened to revisit today. It was written for the Pakistani news-magazine Herald in 2002,  you can see a reference to “colonization of the Middle East” which indicates it was a different era and a different me 😉

The Koran (in the OUP “Very Short Introductions” series,) Oxford 2000.

The Koran: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions Book 13) by [Michael Cook]

Pious Muslims may feel that in the presence of the text and its commentaries, they do not need Professor Michael Cook’s “very short introduction” to the Koran. The pious may also wish to stay away because Professor Cook was once associated with the notorious “Hagarene hypothesis” (put forth in the 1977 book: Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World by Patricia Crone and Michael Cook) though he has since backed away from some of the more extreme claims of that book. But “The Koran, a very short introduction” turns out to be a very witty and interesting book, full of insights that the most pious Muslim will find informative and stimulating. Continue reading The Koran; a very short introduction

Islam on the fringes

Decided to start reading India in the Persianate Age: 1000–1765. It’s a fast and easy read (and, it’s an affordable book for a nonspecialist like me who only spends $100 or more on genetics texts). I jumped ahead in a few passages, which seem to be adaptations from papers I’ve read from the author before.

In relation to discussions on this weblog and comments I’ve made:

1) The author describes islands and pockets of wholly Muslim peasants in eastern Bengal observed by the Mughals in the 16th century. These Mughals indicate that these people are not truly Hindu or Muslim, at least initially. This is line the common thesis that Islamicization is a function of the weak to nonexistent integration of these frontier peasants into Indian culture. Mughal observers also note the physical appearance of these people: small, dark-skinned, and beardless. This seems entirely accurate (I cannot grow a beard!).

The author observes that tax receipts over several decades in Bengal exhibited a pattern that is suggestive of a massive population increase in the east and stability in the west. In fact, there were two-fold increases in the east at the same time that districts in the west declined by 10%.

The thesis by the author, which seems broadly creditable, though not proven, is that the transition to high-intensity rice agriculture in the plains of the eastern delta, and in particular east of the Padma, arrived after the Mughal expansion into the reason. As such, the transition to a “higher religion” occurred under Islam, and therefore these people became Muslim (at least nominally). The analogy that is obvious here would be the Christianization of the Montagnards and other Southeast Asian “hill people” during the colonial period, as they had been detached from Theravada Buddhist civilization.

2) The author deploys a similar model, with modifications, for western Punjab. The model here is that Jat who moved up from Sindh abandoned obligate pastoralism and engaged in agriculture, and fixated upon the tombs and shrines of Islamic eminences. Due to the emphasis on paternal lineage, the author observes that the Islamicization of names occurred quantitatively over 300 years, from the 15th to the 18th century (initiation to completion).

The main qualm I have with this model is this: the Jats/people of Punjab do not look to be from Sindh if modern Sindhis are representative of ancient Sindhis. In the language familiar to readers of this weblog Sindhis are enriched for “Iranian-related ancestry” vis-a-vis Punjabis, who are enriched for “steppe.” The Jats in particular are highly enriched for “steppe” ancestry. Going by genetics alone this model is difficult to accept, though as noted in this space it does seem that caste-like stratification has ancient roots in this region, and so that may serve as some explanation.

Note: The model in Bengal implies that Islamicization and Hinduicization occurred in East Bengal simultaneously. That is, most of the sponsors of agricultural reform and intensification happened to be Muslim, but some were Hindu, and in the case of Hindu sponsored developments the regions became Hindu. Further investigation though would be warranted for Bengali Brahmins in the eastern regions, who would then presumably be migrants from the western zone, because it is hard to credit animistic tribes needing the services of literate priestly elites.

Browncast Episode 118: Professor Ahmet Kuru, Islam, Authoritarianism and Underdevelopment

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify,  and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. This website isn’t about shaking the cup, but I have noticed that the number of patrons plateaued a long time ago.

In this episode we talk to Professor Ahmet Kuru. Professor Kuru teaches at San Diego State and is the author of (among others) “Islam, Authoritarianism and Underdevelopment”. We discuss his book and the causes of the (relative) decline of the Islamicate world in the last 800 or so years.

Expanding CAA

Expanding CAA (working evolving draft)


Would like to propose expanding CAA to include the following groups of muslims to:

  • get everyone’s feedback on what can practically pass the Indian Lokh Sabha quickly
  • see if several major Indian leaders will publicly endorse this

The following text will be continually edited based on feedback.

Proposing to expand CAA to include the following “AND ONLY THE FOLLOWING” groups of muslims IF AND ONLY IF they can prove persecution inside Bangladesh, Pakistan or Afghanistan:

  •  13 classes AND ONLY 13 CLASSES of Muraqabah Sufi muslims:
    • 3 classes of Muraqabah Irfan Sufi Shia muslims
      • Sixer Ishmaeli Muraqabah Irfan Sufi Shia muslims
        • Dawoodi Bohra Sixer Ishmaeli Muraqabah Irfan Sufi Shia muslims
      • Twelver Jafari Muraqabah Irfan Sufi Shia muslims
    • 10 other classes of Muraqabah Sufi muslims
      • Chisti Muraqabah Sufi muslims
      • Qadiri Muraqabah Sufi muslims
      • Pir Nund Rishi Muraqabah Sufi muslims
      • Pir Shirdi Sai Nath Muraqabah Sufi muslims
      • Pir Kabir Muraqabah Sufi muslims
      • Pir Janardhan Swami Muraqabah Sufi muslims
      • Pir Hazrat Babajan Muraqabah Sufi muslims
      • Pir Syed Mohammed Baba Tajuddin Muraqabah Sufi muslims
      • Pir Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar Muraqabah Sufi muslims
      • Pir Baba Budan Muraqabah Sufi muslims
  • Agnostic, Atheist and Ex muslims
  • LBGTQ plus muslims
  • Female femnist muslims


Any and all Muraqabah Sufi muslims admitted under CAA need to be certified and verified as Muraqabah Sufi muslims by a council of Muraqabah Sufi muslims chaired by Pir Diwan Sahib Syed Zainul Abedin. Pir Diwan Sahib Syed Zainul Abedin will appoint a committee of Muraqabah Sufi muslims at his own discretion to assist him in this task.


Any and all Agnostic, Atheist and Ex muslims, LBGTQ plus muslims and female femnist muslims admitted under CAA need to be certified and verified by a council of muslims chaired by Tarek Fatah . Tarek Fatah will appoint a committee of muslims at his own discretion to assist him in this task.


In addition to approval by above councils of muslims, any and all muslim CAA applicants are subject to extensive deep background security checks and can be vetoed by the Indian government for any reason.

NO OTHER MUSLIMS will be permitted to apply for CAA. No other aspect of CAA will be affected.

Please provide your suggestions about how to improve the above draft.

The Abbasid invention of Islam

Since many readers of this weblog have rather naive views of Islam and its interaction with the Indian subcontinent, I thought they might appreciate my post on my other weblog, The Myth Of Arabian Paganism, And The Jewish-Christian Origins Of The Umayyads.

It wasn’t emphasized in the piece, but I will make it clear here: the development of Sunni Islam as we understand it was strongly conditioned on the cultural influences from the matrix of Iranian-Indian religious and social thought which matured in Turan. In fact, one of the early Abbasids, the son of an Iranian mother, even considered moving the capital of the Caliphate to Central Asia, in particular, the city of Merv.

The aspects of Islamic thought most clearly a product of this period and place? I believe that this is the hadith culture embedded within the institutions of the madrassa. Many argue the madrassa is a modification of the Central Asia vihara, and the analysis of proper practice due to religious law was a major function of the religious within these viharas.

Brown Pundits