Commentary on
William Logan’s ‘Malabar Manual’


In this book, Malabar, Mappillas are defined from two entirely different perspectives. One is the general English tone of them having been a solace inducing effect on the downtrodden castes in the location. The other perspective is that them being utter rascals and scoundrels. The second perspective could have much to do with the Hindu (Brahmin) and Nayar experience with them. Naturally, the English side will not get to feel the realities of the terrors connected to feudal language communication.

QUOTE: How the Muhammadans came to adopt this same style for their mosques is perhaps to be accounted for by the tradition, which asserts that some at least of the nine original mosques were built on the sites of temples, and that the temple endowments in land were made over with the temples for the maintenance of the mosque. Before Muhammadanism became a power in the land it is not difficult to suppose that the temples themselves thus transferred were at first used for the new worship, and this may have set the fashion which has come down to the present day. So faithfully is the Hindu temple copied, that the Hindu trisul (or trident) is not unfrequently still placed over the open gable front of the mosque. END OF QUOTE.

No comment.

QUOTE: .—The word Mappilla is a contraction of Maha (great) and pilla (child, honorary title, as among Nayars in Travancore), and it was probably a title of honour conferred on the early Muhammadan immigrants, or possibly on the still earlier Christian immigrants, who are also down to the present day, called Mappillas. The Muhammadans are usually called Jonaka or Chonaka Mappillas to distinguish them from the Christian Mappillas, who are called Nasrani Mappillas. END OF QUOTE

This attempt to portray the word ‘Mappilla’ as some kind honourable title might have been the attempt of the Christians of Travancore. Seeing that the Nayars were the constable class, with much power over the common lower caste, this verbal association might have done some help. However, with regard to the ‘Mappillas’ of Malabar, who were the Muslims, there is no such association possible. Many of the earlier Mappillas could be off-spring of Arabic sailors who had a marital relationship on the Malabar Coast (not Travancore coast). Beyond that a vast majority of Malabar Mappillas are the converts from the lower castes, including Cherumar and above up to Makkathaya Thiyyas of south Malabar.

QUOTEs: 1. Some years after his death Malik-ibn-Dinar and his family set-out for Malabar.

2. To this they rejoined that they, foreigners, could not know his country and its extent and would have no influence therein ; whereupon, it is said, he prepared and gave them writings in the Malayalam language to all the chieftains whom he had appointed in his stead, requiring them to give land for mosques and to endow them END OF QUOTE

The above quotes are with regard to how Malik Dinar set up Islam in Malabar for the first time. It is seen mentioned that the Perumal king who had gone to Arabia and converted to Islam did give the written letter of introduction for them to show to the rulers of the various small kingdoms of Malabar.

QUOTE: The race is rapidly progressing in numbers, to some extent from natural causes, though they are apparently not so prolific as Hindus, and to a large extent from conversion from the lower (the servile) classes of Hindus END OF QUOTE.

It is seen here that the Islamic religion is expanding exponentially primarily due to the oppression the lower castes face from their Hindu overlords.

QUOTE: Regarding the increase in the Muhammadan population between 1871 and 1881, the following remarks occur in the Presidency Census (1881) Report, paragraph 151:—“Conspicuous for their degraded position and humiliating disabilities are the Cherumars. This caste numbered 99,009 in Malabar at the census of 1871, and in 1881, is returned at only 64,7251. This is a loss of 34.93 per cent, instead of the gain 5.71 per cent, observed generally in the district. There are, therefore, 40,000 fewer Cherumars than there would have been but for some disturbing cause, and the disturbing cause is very well known to the District Officer to be conversion to Muhammadanism. END OF QUOTE.

The above quote more or less stands testimony of the fact that it was the lower-caste conversion that boosted the Muslim Mappilla population in Malabar, especially in South Malabar.

QUOTE: Zamorin Rajas of Calicut, who, in order to man their navies, directed that one or more male members of the families of Hindu fishermen should be brought up as Muhammadans, and this practice has continued down to modern times. END OF QUOTE

This is a very curious information. However, it might be true. Yet, the question remains as to why the fishermen caste (lower-caste) men were not made use of in his navy? There is the larger question of what kind of a ‘navy’ this tiny kingdom had. There is nothing to suggest that the king of Calicut had any such thing. For, due to the fact that the fishermen folk and other seafarers were lower castes, and hence of a ruder and cruder type, from the perspective of the higher castes, there is no way a navy could be created using them. Then the only other option would be to form one with a Muslim team. Being Muslims, their mental attitude would be that of being on the top.

However, it is still not possible to imagine the Muslim fishermen as a group being culturally different from the lower caste fishermen.

QUOTE: In particular he (Cherman Perumal) invited a Muhammadan and his wife to come from his native land of Aryapuram and installed them at Kannanur (Cannanore). The Muhammadan was called Ali Raja, that is, lord of the deep, or of the sea END OF QUOTE

May be this information might be from the fake history book, Keralolpathi. However, there is no need to doubt the authenticity of the above statement. For, Keralolpathi seems to have been written from various hearsays prevalent at the time of writing the book. The name Ali Raja, as I had mentioned earlier, could really be Aazhi Raja, if the meaning of the name given is accurate.

QUOTE: Note.—Considering that Muhammad himself was born only in the 7th century A.D., the date mentioned is obviously incorrect, if, as stated, this Perumal organised the country against the Mappillas. END OF QUOTE

If there is any substance in the above statement, it is possible that the higher castes had tried to suppress the spread of Islam in an earlier age.

QUOTE: As regards Muhammadan progress in Malabar, writing in the middle of the ninth century A.D., a Muhammadan has left on record “I know not that there is any one of either nation” (Chinese and Indian) “that has embraced Muhammadanism or speaks Arabic.” (Renaudot’s “Ancient Accounts of India, etc” London, 1733). END OF QUOTE.

This is the effect of trying to understand huge histories from minutes information based on traveller accounts. Most traveller accounts with regard to historical incidences are based on their personal experiences. However, the landscape was astronomically larger than anything they could have imagined.

QUOTE: The traveller thereupon concluded that here at last was a trustworthy king, and so he settled down at Calicut and became the Koya (Muhammadan priest) of Calicut. END OF QUOTE.

This is with regard to a story of how an Arabian merchant tested the honesty of the then king of Calicut. The story can be correct or incorrect; however the summarisation made based on this solitary incident might be foolish. However, this might be one of the events that led to the Mappilla Muslim domination on the king of Calicut. There might be other unconnected incidents also.

QUOTE: “To the infidels he supplies this in vessels ; to the Moslems he pours it in their hands. They do not allow the Moslems to touch their vessels, or to enter into their apartments ; but if any one should happen to eat out of one of their vessels, they break it to pieces. END OF QUOTE.

That was Ibn Bututa’s words. These words might be true in the exact location and time period he visited Malabar. Beyond that, these records might not be sufficient evidence to prove anything. However, the repulsion to a low-caste convert might be the reason.

QUOTE: indeed there exists a tradition that in 1489 or 1490 a rich Muhammadan came to Malabar, ingratiated, himself with the Zamorin, and obtained leave to build additional Muhammadan mosques. The country would no doubt have soon been converted to Islam either by force or by conviction, but the nations of Europe were in the meantime busy endeavouring to find a direct road to the pepper country of the East. END OF QUOTE.

This might be true of that time. For, converting people to a religion in a feudal language social set-up is different from anything a native-English mind can conceive. It is a powerful manner to regiment people under the religious leaders. To this extent, the aims of Islam might not be in sync with the real aims of Prophet Muhammad. However, the same is true about other religions also.

It is not a surprise from this background to understand that the English Company rule did not support any kind of religious conversion to Christianity. Nor was Missionary activity allowed inside the locations where they were in rule.

QUOTE: The arrival of this Portuguese expedition aroused at once the greatest jealousy in the Moors or Muhammadans, who had the Red Sea and Persian Gulf trade with Europe in their hands, and they immediately began to intrigue with the authorities for the destruction of the expedition. END OF QUOTE.

There is a typical correctness in the above statement with regard to the subcontinent. Trade and commerce are not really as understood in native-English nations. Economic supremacy is the enslavement of the others in feudal languages. Because it can cause terrific changes in the verbal codes. It is due to this non-understanding of the real intentions of the feudal language speakers that the native-English nations are keeping the nations open to them. No other sane population would allow any competing feudal language population to enter and takeover the businesses.

QUOTE: A few Moors resided there, and possessed better houses than those of the native population, which were merely composed of mats, with mud walls and roofs thatched with leaves END OF QUOTE.

That was about Cochin. It might be true that Islam is an egalitarian religion. However, the Muslims who live in the subcontinent, do not speak any egalitarian language. They are part and parcel of the feudal language social systems, in the subcontinent. Hence, their egalitarianism would be confined to their religious brethren, who also would have to display some kind of subservience to their superiors.

QUOTE: one Kuti Ali of Tanur had the effrontery to bring a fleet of two hundred vessels to Calicut, to load eight ships with pepper, and to despatch them with a convoy of forty vessels to the Red Sea before the very eyes of the Portuguese. END OF QUOTE

Well, the fight for dominating the pepper trade is the core issue here. Pepper was an essential part of the European and British culinary traditions. And hence a very profitable business. However, it would be a very great mistake to imagine that the whole populations of Europe and Britain were involved in the competition f