The First Indian to accept Islam

Cheraman Perumal, of Kodungallur, Kerala, was the first Indian to accept Islam. Many historians have recorded this fact in their writings. For example, M. Hamidulla writes in “Muhammad Rasoolullah” quoting some old manuscripts from India Office Library (ref no. Arabic, 2807, 152-173)

“There is a very old tradition in Malabar, South-West Coast of India, that Chakrawati Farmas (perhaps another name for denoting Cheraman Perumal) one of their kings, had observed the splitting of the moon, the celebrated miracle of the Holy Prophet at Mecca, and learning on inquiry that there was a prediction of the coming of a Messenger of God from Arabia, he appointed his son as regent and set out to meet him.

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He embraced Islam at the hand of the Prophet, and when returning home, at the direction of the Prophet, died at the port of Zafar, Yemen, where the tomb of the “Indian king” was piously visited for many centuries.”

The Holy Quran makes the following reference to the miracle of Holy Prophet –

“The Hour is nigh and the moon was cleft asunder”

Thus it is clear that Cheraman Perumal was the first believer of India. However, there are differences of opinion among historians concerning the year in which it took place. (It is not in the scope of MeraWatan to sort out the chronological differences).

Advent of Islam

It is difficult to estimate the exact date when the Indo – Arab relations began. History has it that about 2200 years ago, Arabs used to visit Kerala to sell pepper, sandalwood, elephant horns. It is through Arabs, the Christianity and Judaism reached Kerala first. They had settled long before the arrival of Prophet. As Islam’s glory became established in Arabia, the relation was strengthened day by day. A group of Arabs arrive at Kerala

A group of Arabs set to visit Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka) where it was believed to have the footsteps of Prophet Adam. On the way, they landed at Kerala.

Cheruman Perumal, who was the king of Kodungallur, sent his men to investigate the matter. Sheikh Sahirudhin Ibn Baqiudhin Al Madani, one among the team, replied, “We are Arabs, We are Muslims. We have landed here while on the way to Ceylon”. The king, who’d earlier heard of Islam, became more curious to hear directly from the inhabitants of Madina- the center of Islam. Sahirudhin replied positively to all the questions. The king was overjoyed to learn more about the new faith and converted to it on the spot.

Ahmed Zainudhin Makhdum has mentioned this in his world- renowned masterpiece, Thuhfathul Mujahideen. (Another historic text, Keralolpathi, reports that Perumal left for the pilgrimage at Makkah). Anyway the king kept his conversion a secret and asked the travelers to do the same. He presented many gifts to the travelers and while seeing them off, he told that he would be coming with them while they wee returning back to Arabia.

The king visited each part of his country and introduced many administrative changes whereby he divided each part of his country among his relatives. ‘One among his sons, who arrived late from his visit to Kashi, was left with the land of ‘Kozhi’ and ‘Chullikkad’ which later came to be known as Kozhikode. He was given the power to nominate the Grand Qazi of Kozhikode, give permission for the ships leaving for Makkah and to conduct the Mamanga festival. (refer Keralolpathi).

The journey

The king spent weeks in seclusion. In midst of his quiet life, he set out on the journey along with the Arab travelers who’d promised him earlier. On the way, they stopped by Koylandi and from there to Dharmapatnam where they halted for 3 days.Then they set out to Shehr Muqalla. On reaching there, they set for the Hajj pilgrimage and thereafter returned to Malabar. He aspired to spread the message of Islam. But on the way, he fell sick and breathed his last. His companions left for Malabar with the letter written by the king just before his death

The oldest mosque in India

The king visited each part of his country and introduced many administrative changes whereby he divided each part of his country among his relatives. ‘One among his sons, who arrived late from his visit to Kashi, was left with the land of ‘Kozhi’ and ‘Chullikkad’ which later came to be known as Kozhikode. He was given the power to nominate the Grand Qazi of Kozhikode, give permission for the ships leaving for Makkah and to conduct the Mamanga festival. (refer Keralolpathi).

Pulpit of the mosque

The journey

The king spent weeks in seclusion. In midst of his quiet life, he set out on the journey along with the Arab travelers who’d promised him earlier. On the way, they stopped by Koylandi and from there to Dharmapatnam where they halted for 3 days.

Then they set out to Shehr Muqalla. On reaching there, they set for the Hajj pilgrimage and thereafter returned to Malabar. He aspired to spread the message of Islam. But on the way, he fell sick and breathed his last. His companions left for Malabar with the letter written by the king just before his death.

Perumal in Theyyum Songs

The Perumal story is sung in the Theyyum songs as follows:
‘Perumal who began his journey secretly handed over his Kovilakam (palace) to the Samudiri in Dharmapattanam. His companions were with him. The Prophet used to halt at Jeddah. Perumal went there and embraced Islam and adopted the name Tajudhin.’

The Arakkal records also shows that Perumal left for Makkah and changed his name to Tajudhin after embracing Islam

The practice of receiving Pan from a Muslim woman when the King Samudiri ascends throne and the saying ‘I shall guard the sword (kingship) until my uncle returns from Makkah’ continued until 1890s.

Two facts: Story Untold

Islam spread along the western coast, including Kerala, long before the Muslim invasion of North India.

Islam spread in Kerala either at the time of Prophet or just before his death.

Summarized from Kerala Muslims – History of freedom struggle by KM Bahaudhin

C.V. Kunhiraman

C.V. Kunhiraman describes the story of Cheraman Perumal in ‘Karthikodayam’ as follows:

Cheraman Perumal left for Makkah after embracing Islam. Before leaving, he divided his kingdom among his son-in-laws and relatives at the Thiruvanchikulam Temple (see pic). This happened 1400 years ago.

The Panthalam, Kottarakkara and Kollam dynasties came into being after this.

Perumal presents a gift to the Holy Prophet

A tradition of the Holy Prophet has also been reported from one of the companions, Abu Saeed al Khudri, regarding the arrival of Cheraman Perumal:

hadith

“A king from India presented the Messenger of Allah with a bottle of pickle that had ginger in it. The Holy Prophet distributed it among his companions. I also received a piece to eat.” Hakim reports in ‘Al Musthadrak’


Video : The Cheraman Perumal Mosque at Kodungallur


Video : The muezzin ( one who calls to prayer) at Cheraman Perumal Mosque at Kodungallur