Mappila Muslim Culture

How a Historic Muslim Community in India Has Blended Tradition and Modernity

By Roland E. Miller

Subjects: Religion, Islam, India And South Asian Studies, History, Cultural Anthropology
Series: SUNY series in Religious Studies
Paperback : 9781438456003, 456 pages, January 2016
Hardcover : 9781438456010, 456 pages, June 2015

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Table of contents

A Note on Foreign Terms and Style
Part I. The Becoming of Mappila Muslim Culture: A Remarkable Development and a Symbol of Hope
1. The Mappilas and Their Composite Culture Setting
Mappila Identity
The Malayalam Cultural Setting
The Islamic Cultural Setting
2. The Emergence of the Mappila People and Their Culture
The Historical Shaping
The Cultural Legacy
3. The Issue of a Possible Indo-Muslim Influence on Mappila Culture
Two Language Worlds
Developmental Contrasts and Sporadic Culture Contacts
The European Cultural Intrusion and Its Connecting Role
Indo-Muslim Influences on the Mappilas: A Summary
4. The Four Pillars of Mappila Traditionalism
The Pillar of Arabic
The Pillar of the Qur’an
Traditionalist Religious Education
Traditionalist Clergy and Their Training
5. The Great Transition in Mappila Culture: Four Change Factors
Theological Reform
The Impact of Communism
Modern Secular Education
The impact of Gulf Money and Gulf Custom
6. Mappila Character and Personality Today
Mythical Elements in the Mappila Image
The Mappila Character and Personality
The Sense of Being Mappila
Part II. The Being of Mappila Muslim Culture: A Profile of Changing Customs and Notable Achievements
7. Key Life Moments: Birth, Marriage, Death
Pregnancy, Birth, and Early Childhood
Family Planning
Divorce: The Practices and the Problem
Old Age and Death
8. Family Custom: Home Life, Interrelationships, Inheritance
The Mappila Home and Its Rhythm of Life
Mutual Interrelations within the Family
The Mappila Inheritance Pattern
The Marumakkathāyam or Matrilineal Tradition
9. Aspects of Personal Behavior
Mappila Occupations
Mappila Dress and Ornamentation
Mappila Food
Cleanliness, Pollution, and Sanitation
Tabus: Stimulants and Extramarital Behavior
Pleasures and Role Models
10. The Landscape of Mappila Social Behavior: Group Distinctions, Educational Variety, Political Alignments, Theological Factions, Decision Making

Group Distinctions: Arab Descent, Caste-Like Clans, Class Features
Current Educational Profile
Mappila Political Alignments
The Mappila Political Alignments
The Mappila Theological Factions
The Community’s Decision-Making Process
photo gallery follows page 232
11. Social Behavior (cont’d): Leadership and Some Selected Leaders, Community Service, Community Relations
Mappila Leadership Resources and Representative Leaders
Mappila Social Service and Trusts
Mappila Relations with Non-Muslims
12. Religious Rituals and Festivals: Saints and Superstition
The Prescribed Rituals
Major and Minor Festivals
The Mappila Respect for Saints
The Celebration of the Saints
Superstition and Magic
13. Mappila Artistic Expression: Mosque Architecture, Embellished Houses, the Material Arts, Song, and Dance
Mosque Architecture
Embellished Homes
The Material Arts
Mappila Music: Song, Instruments, and Dance
14. Mappila Literature
Malayalam Literature Is Born: Mappilas Remain Aloof
Arabic Literature and the Mappilas: An Unfulfilled Vision
Arabic-Malayalam Literature: A Synthetic Medium
Literature in Malayalam Enters the Cultural Scene
Mappila Journals and Newspapers
Mappila Novelists in Malayalam: A Cultural Wave
Mappila Nonfiction Writers
Mappila Poetry
Conclusion: The Significance of Mappila Culture
A Resource for Wider Cultural Understanding
The Implication that a Cultural Renaissance is Possible
The Importance of Determined Behavioral Change
Appendix A: Islamic and Malayalam Terms for Culture
Appendix B: The Ali Raja Kingdom in Kannur
Appendix C: The Origins of Traditionalism in the Islamic Heartlands and Its Structure
Appendix D: The Nizamiyya Syllabus
Appendix E: Mappila Culture on the Laccadive Island (Lakshwadeep)

Thorough exploration of the distinct culture of the Mappila Muslims of Kerala, India.


This book provides a comprehensive account of the distinct culture of the Mappila Muslims, a large community from the southern Indian state of Kerala. Although they were the first Muslim community in South Asia, the Mappilas are little-known in the West. Roland E. Miller explores the Mappilas' fourteen-century-long history of social adaptation and their current status as a successful example of Muslim interaction with modernity. Once feared, now admired, Kerala's Mappilas have produced an intellectual renaissance and renewed their ancient status as a model of social harmony. Miller provides an account of Mappila history and looks at the formation of Mappila culture, which has developed through the interaction of Islamic and Malayali influences. Descriptions of current day life cycles, religion, ritual, work life, education, and leadership are included.

Roland E. Miller is Professor Emeritus of Islam and World Religions at Luther College, University of Regina, and Professor Emeritus at Luther Seminary, Minnesota. He is the author of Muslims and the Gospel: Bridging the Gap: A Reflection on Christian Sharing and Mappila Muslims of Kerala: A Study in Islamic Trends.