Islam in Bangladesh
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Islam is the largest religion of Bangladesh, the Muslim population is approximately 148.6 million, which is the fourth largest Muslim population in the world (after Indonesia, Pakistan and India), constituting 90.4% of the total population as of 2010. Religion has always been a strong part of identity, but this has varied at different times. A survey in late 2003 confirmed that religion is the first choice by a citizen for self-identification; atheism is extremely rare. Bangladesh is a secular state, however the United Nations has recognised the country as mainly moderate Muslim democratic country.
Islam was introduced to Bengal during the Rashidun Caliphate in the 8th century, mainly by the arrivals of Arab and Persian missionaries and merchants, and conquests of the region. One of the notable Muslim saints was Shah Jalal. He arrived in the region of Sylhet in 1303 with many other disciples to preach the religion to the people.
During the opening years of the 13th century, the Muslim conquest of Bengal took place, mainly as a sequel to Muhammad Ghori's expeditions late in 1192 spanning northern India. Syed Shanasiruddin was originally from Iraq but came to Bangladesh to spread Islam. Early Arab Muslims however established commercial as well as religious contacts within the region before the conquest, mainly through the coastal regions as traders and primarily via the ports of Chittagong. Arab navigation in the region was the result of the Muslim reign over the Indus delta. The activities of the Muslims were expanded along the entire coast of South Asia including the coasts of Bengal. The religion of Islam entered the region in many different ways, the Muslim traders, the Turkish conquest and, the missionary activities of the Muslim Sufis. One of the authentications of the Arab traders present in the region was the writings of Arab geographers, found on the Meghna River located near Sandwip on the Bay of Bengal. This evidence suggests that the Arab traders had arrived along the Bengal coast long before the Turkish conquest. The Arab writers also knew about the kingdoms of Samrup and Ruhmi, the latter being identified with the empire of Dharmapal of the Pala Empire.
Between the 8th century and 12th century, the Buddhist dynasty known as the Pala Empire ruled Bengal. During that time, the majority of the population in Bengal were thought to be Buddhists. After the decline of the Pala dynasty, the Sena dynasty came to power. The large scale conversion to Islam began in the 13th century and continued for hundreds of years. Conversion was generally collective rather than individual. Islam attracted numerous Buddhists and Hindus. Sufis were responsible for most conversions. During Ikhtiyar Uddin Bakhtiyar Khilji's control of the Bengal, Muslim missionaries in India achieved their greatest success, in terms of number of converts to Islam.
Hazrat Shah Jalal (R)
Before the conquest by the Muslims, Sylhet was ruled by local chieftains. In 1303 the saint, Hazrat Shah Jalal(R), came to Sylhet from Delhi with a band of 360 disciples to preach Islam and defeated the Raja Gour Gobinda. As a result, Sylhet developed into a region that was home to numerous saints and Islamic shrines His uncle, Sheikh Kabir, one day gave Hazrat Shah Jalal (R) a handful of earth and asked him to travel to Hindustan with the instruction that he should settle down at whichever place in Hindustan whose soil matched completely in smell and color, and devote his life for the propagation and establishment of Islam there. Hazrat Shah Jalal (R) journeyed eastward and reached India in 1300, where he met with many great scholars and mystics. He arrived at Ajmer, where he met the great Sufi mystic and scholar, Pir Khawaja Gharibnawaz Muinuddin Hasan Chisty, who is credited with much of the spread of Islam in India. In Delhi, he met with Nizamuddin Auliya, another major Sufi mystic and scholar. A great battle between Hazrat Shah Jalal (R) and Raja Goour Gobinda was held and Hazrat Shah Jalal (R) defeated Raja Goour Gobinda.
During the later stages of his life, Shah Jalal (R) devoted himself to propagating Islam to the masses. Under his guidance, many thousands of Hindus and Buddhists reverted to Islam. Hazrat Shah Jalal (R) become so renowned that even the famed Ibn Battuta, whilst in Chittagong, was asked to change his plans and go to Sylhet to visit him. On his way to Sylhet, Ibn Batuta was greeted by several of Hazrat Shah Jalal (R)'s disciples who had come to assist him on his journey many days before he had arrived. Once in the presence of Shah Jalal(R), Ibn Battuta noted that Shah Jalal (R) was tall and lean, fair in complexion and lived by the mosque in a cave, where his only item of value was a goat from which he extracted milk, butter, and yogurt. He observed that the companions of the Sheikh, Shah Jalal (R) were foreigners and known for their strength and bravery. Ibn Battuta also mentioned that many people would visit him and seek guidance. Hazrat Shah Jalal (R) was therefore instrumental in the spread of Islam throughout north east India including Assam.
Bangladesh has a vast amount of historic mosques with its own Islamic architecture.
- Shahbaz Khan Mosque-1679
- Shona Mosque-1493
- Bagha Mosque-1523
- Noyabaad Mosque-1755
- Khan Mohammad Mridha Mosque-1703
- Sixty Dome Mosque -15th century
- Saat Masjid-1669
- Lalbagh Fort-1664
Role of Sufism
Bangladesh is a Sunni majority Muslim country. The tradition of Islamic mysticism known as Sufism appeared very early in Islam and became essentially a popular movement emphasizing worship out of a love of Allah. rather than fear. Sufism stresses a direct, unstructured, personal devotion to God in place of the ritualistic, outward observance of the faith and "a Sufi aims to attain spiritual union with God through love" An important belief in the Sufi tradition is that the average believer may use spiritual guides in his pursuit of the truth. Throughout the centuries many gifted scholars and numerous poets have been inspired by Sufi ideas.
Sufi masters were the single most important factor in South Asian conversions to Islam, particularly in Bangladesh. Most Bangladeshi Muslims are influenced by Sufism. However, there are many movements who were against Sufism and are still active in Bangladesh today.
The Qadiri, Maizbhandaria, Naqshbandi, Chishti, Mujaddid, Ahmadi, Mohammadi, Sohradi and Refai orders were among the most widespread Sufi orders in Bangladesh in the late 1980s. Although a formal organization of ordained priests has no basis in Islam, a variety of functionaries perform many of the duties conventionally associated with a clergy and serve, in effect, as priests. One group, known collectively as the Ulama, has traditionally provided the orthodox leadership of the community. The Ulama unofficially interpret and administer religious law. Their authority rests on their knowledge of Sharia.
The members of the Ulama include Maulanas, Imams, and Muftis. The first two titles are accorded to those who have received special training in Islamic theology and law. A maulvi has pursued higher studies in a madrassa, a school of religious education attached to a mosque. Additional study on the graduate level leads to the title maulana. The madrassas are also ideologically divided in two mainstreams.The Ali'a Madrassa which has its roots in Aligarh Movement of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan Bahadur and the other one is Quomi Madarassa. This means the Ulamas are also not in full agreement about their interpretation of Islam, of its theology and law.
In Bangladesh, where a modified Anglo-Indian civil and criminal legal system operates, there are no official sharia courts. Most Muslim marriages, however, are presided over by the qazi, a traditional Muslim judge whose advice is also sought on matters of personal law, such as inheritance, divorce, and the administration of religious endowments.
In the late 1980s, the ulama of Bangladesh still perceived their function as that of teaching and preserving the Islamic way of life in the face of outside challenges, especially from modern sociopolitical ideas based on Christianity or communism. Any effort at modernization was perceived as a threat to core religious values and institutions; therefore, the ulama as a class was opposed to any compromise in matters of sharia. Many members of the ulama favored the establishment of an Islamic theocracy in Bangladesh and were deeply involved in political activism through several political parties.
Traditions and sects
The majority of Muslims in Bangladesh are Sunni, who mainly follow the Hanafi school of thought (madh'hab). The main groups include the Deobandi and Barelvi movements. The Bishwa Ijtema (World Congregation) is an event held annually by Tablighi Jamaat which focuses on prayers and meditation, attracting 5 million people from across Bangladesh and South Asia.
The Ahle Hadith  have a large followers all over Bangladesh. There are three main groups of Ahle Hadith, the majority are part of the Ahlehadeeth Andalon Bangladesh, led by Muhammad Asadullah Al-Ghalib. The other groups are the Jamiyate Ahle Hadith, and the Ahle Hadith Tablig-e-Islam. There are about 1500 Ahle Hadith mosques, and 50 madrassas in the country.
Non-sectarian Muslims who reject the authority of hadith, known as Quranists, Quraniyoon, or Ahle Quran, are also present in Bangladesh. In South Asia during the 19th century, the Ahle Quran movement formed partially in reaction to the Ahle Hadith movement whom they considered to be placing too much emphasis on hadith. Many Ahle Quran adherents were formerly adherents of Ahle Hadith but found themselves incapable of accepting certain hadiths. Notable Quranists of Bangali descent include Anisur-Rahman and Abdur-Rab.
There are also few people who are Ahmadiyya and Shi'a Muslims. The Shi'a observance commemorating the martyrdom of Ali's sons, Hasan and Husayn, are still widely observed by the nation's Sunnis, even though there are small numbers of Shi'as. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which is claimed to be non-Muslim by mainstream Muslim leaders, is estimated to be around 100,000, the community has faced discrimination because of their belief and have been persecuted in some areas.
Muslim population by district
Status of religious freedom
The Constitution establishes Islam as the state religion but provides for the right to practice—subject to law, public order, and morality—the religion of one's choice. The Government generally respects this provision in practice. The Government (2001–2006) led by an alliance of four parties Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, Islami Oikya Jote and Bangladesh Jatiyo Party banned the Ahmadiya literatures by an executive order. However, the present government, led by Bangladesh Awami League strongly propagates secularism and respect towards other religion. Despite all Bangladeshis saying that religion is an important part of their daily lives, Bangladesh's Awami League won a landslide victory in 2008 on a platform of secularism, reform, and a suppression of radical Islamist groups. According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2009, Simultaneous strong support of the secular Awami League and the near unanimous importance of religion in daily life suggests that while religion is vital in Bangladeshis' daily lives, they appear comfortable with its lack of influence in government.
Family laws concerning marriage, divorce, and adoption differ depending on the religion of the person involved. There is also, Anglo-Indian Civil Law in some of these regards in parallel. There are no legal restrictions on marriage between members of different faiths but to get marriage registered under Muslim religious laws, the bride and the bride-groom must be Muslims by birth or by conversion.
Under the Muslim Family Ordinance, female heirs inherit usually half of that inherited by male relatives, and wives have equal divorce rights. Men are not permitted to have more than one wife, and society strongly discourages polygamy. Laws provide protection for women against arbitrary divorce and the taking of additional wives by husbands without the first wife's consent, but the protections generally apply only to registered marriages. Marriage is governed by family law of the respective religions. Under the law, a Muslim husband is required to pay his former wife a lump sum alimony fixed at the time of registration of marriage and further variable amount of alimony for 3 months for maintenance.
There are approximately 100,000 Ahmadis concentrated in Dhaka and several other locales. While mainstream Muslims rejected some of the Ahmadiyya teachings, the majority supported Ahmadis right to practice without fear or persecution. However, Ahmadis are continued to be subjected to harassment and violence from those who denounced their teachings.
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Post-1971 regimes sought to increase the role of the government in the religious life of the people. The Ministry of Religious Affairs provided support, financial assistance, and endowments to religious institutions, including mosques and community prayer grounds (idgahs). The organization of annual pilgrimages to Mecca also came under the auspices of the ministry because of limits on the number of pilgrims admitted by the government of Saudi Arabia and the restrictive foreign exchange regulations of the government of Bangladesh. The ministry also directed the policy and the program of the Islamic Foundation Bangladesh, which was responsible for organizing and supporting research and publications on Islamic subjects. The foundation also maintained the Baitul Mukarram (National Mosque), and organized the training of imams. Some 18,000 imams were scheduled for training once the government completed establishment of a national network of Islamic cultural centers and mosque libraries. Under the patronage of the Islamic Foundation, an encyclopedia of Islam in the Bengali language was being compiled in the late 1980s.
Another step toward further government involvement in religious life was taken in 1984 when the semiofficial Zakat Fund Committee was established under the chairmanship of the president of Bangladesh. The committee solicited annual zakat contributions on a voluntary basis. The revenue so generated was to be spent on orphanages, schools, children's hospitals, and other charitable institutions and projects. Commercial banks and other financial institutions were encouraged to contribute to the fund. Through these measures the government sought closer ties with religious establishments within the country and with Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
Islam being the central component of national identity plays a significant role in the politics, life and culture of the people. When in June 1988 an "Islamic way of life" was proclaimed for Bangladesh by constitutional amendment, very little attention was paid outside the intellectual class to the meaning and impact of such an important national commitment. Most observers believed that the declaration of Islam as the state religion might have a significant impact on national life, however. Aside from arousing the suspicion of the non-Islamic minorities, it could accelerate the proliferation of religious parties at both the national and the local levels, thereby exacerbating tension and conflict between secular and religious politicians. Unrest of this nature was reported on some college campuses soon after the amendment was promulgated.
Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh (a.k.a. 'Jamaat') is the largest Islamist political party in Bangladesh. This is one of the leading political parties in Bangladesh and largest Islamic party in subcontinent. The party joined the Bangladesh Nationalist Party to lead government and hold two key Ministries with Khaleda Zia's government. This party was in the side of Pakistani army in Liberation War of Bangladesh. And now they are after a long time the justice process for their terror and violent war crimes have been started and is alleged that the current leader of the party, Motiur Rahman Nizami (as well as previous leaders, and other party members) participated in alongside the Pakistani army in perpetrating the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities as Razakars and members of the Al-Badr militias.
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