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Islam and Jainism

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Islam and Jainism came in close contact with each other following the Islam from Central Asia and Persia in the seventh to the twelfth centuries, when much of north and central India came under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate, and later the Mughal empire.

The Miyana Rajputs, many of whom were Jains (as per their last name) adopted Islam at the time of Allauddin Khilji (Kumar Suresh Singh, Rajendra Behari Lal, Anthropological Survey of India, P. 9390, Gujarat).

Muslim invaders and Jain institutionsEdit

The first mosque built in Delhi, the "Quwwat al-Islam" (near Qutb Minar) was built after the Jain temples built previously during the Tomar rule were sold to the Muslims.

Jainism in the Delhi SultanateEdit

Jinaprabha Suri (d.1333) writes in his "Vividhatirthakalpa" ("Guide to Various Pilgrimage Places") of his relationship with Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq (r.1325-1351). In two chapters that discuss his relationship with the Sultan (one of which was actually written by his disciple), Jinaprabha travels to Delhi to recover an image that had been taken from a temple. After impressing the Sultan with his poetic flair and his thorough knowledge of the various religious and philosophical schools in India, the Sultan awards him with some blankets and other gifts, which Jinaprabha reluctantly accepts. In the second chapter, Jinaprabha is called back to Delhi to settle some religious matters for the Sultan. He is greeted warmly by the Sultan and even introduced to the Sultan's mother. One of his chief ministers is ordered to wipe the mud from Jinaprabha's feet. After getting the image back from the Sultan's treasury, Jinaprabha is paraded around the town on an elephant as a display of his pre-eminence in debate. He accompanies the Sultan on his military campaigns and upon his return is awarded a quarter of town in Tughluqabad for the Jain community, including a hall for Jinaprabha to teach in. Amid great fanfare and celebration the Jain community is declared by our author as prosperous and "just as when the Hindus ruled and times were not so bad, the glorious Jinaprabhasuri taught all those who come to him, even those of other faiths, and all rush to serve him." Jinaprabha also secured edicts (firmans) to allow Jains to go on pilgrimage unharmed and untaxed (ibid.).

Under the leadership of Jinaprabhasuri and the Kharatara Gaccha, the Jains would remain an economically powerful and culturally vibrant community. While temples were desecrated, Jinaprabha speaks of these incidents as due to the power of the Dark Age (Kali Yuga), in which such things are going to happen. He also speaks of these desecrations as opportunities to earn "endless merit" by restoring temples, which laymen did with gusto.

Jainism in the Mughal periodEdit

Some Jain customs and characters that influenced the Mughal court of Akbar have been documented. Akbar honored Hiravijaya Suri, the leader of the Shvetambara Tapa Gachchha. Jain monks gained the respect of the Mughal emperors Jahangir and Shah Jahan. Akbar banned animal slaughter near important Jain sites during the Paryushana festival.

A Outsider's Comparison of Jain and Islamic FundamentalismEdit

Sam Harris, author of "Letter to a Christian Nation", compared the two fundamentalisms. In an interview he states: "The principal tenet of Jainism is non-harming. Observant Jains will literally not harm a fly. Fundamentalist Jainism and fundamentalist Islam do not have the same consequences, neither logically nor behaviorally."

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