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Muslims in Arakan (Burma) by Ba Tha

 Category: History  Publisher: U Ba Tha  Published: 1 April 1966  Tags: ArakanMuslimsNatives of ArakanRohingya |  Download


History says that the early Muslims had entered Arakan firstly through its coastal parts and secondly through its mountain passes. They were the races of Arabia and India.They came to Arakan as traders, missionaries, warriors andrefugees. They were welcomed and well treated by the Arakanese kings because of their honesty, loyalty, braveryand the good services rendered by them.

Arakan saw the light of Islam very early in Islamichistory through an intimate contact with the Arab warriors,sailors, merchants and missionaries who used to call at theold ports of Arakan. The Arabs were a trade-loving nationand for the purpose of commerce, trade and missionary workthey travelled from one country to another. In the 8th centuryC.E. Burma was a ready and good market for the indigenous industries and products. As there was barter system in forceand no currency bar, the Arabs found a very good harbour along the coastlines of Arakan for the purpose of trade. Arakan, as history tells us, became a developed andeconomical country establishing active commercial relations with Arab traders. The Arabs being traders were expert insea-piloting and commanded both the Western and the Eastern waters. The Arabs, who were masters of the Eastern seas from the 8th to the 16th century, not only had heard of Arakan and the Delta Region of Burma, but also visitedthem. During this period their influence was very strong andthey controlled the maritime trade between the Persian Gulf and China, including Arakan. At that time Burma was knownto them as Arakan and Lower Burma. The Arab geographers,missionaries and historians Ibn Khurdadbeh (844-848 C.E.), Sulayman (851 C.E.) and Ibn Faqih (902 C.E.), named Arakan and Lower Burma as Rahma. Their 9th century writings mention its products such as cotton, yak tails, velvet,woods, aloes, rhinoceros and precious metals gold and silver.

During the reign of Maha Sandra, who ascended the throne of Waithali in 788 C.E., several merchant ships were wrecked on Ramree Island. The crews were Arabs. They were sent to Arakan Proper and settled in villages.

The king, Maha Sandra of Arakan, favoured them inevery respect. They were expert in trading. They could go easily from one place to another by small local boats. Arakan is a fertile and agricultural country; therefore they did not return to their motherland, Arabia, but made their homes in the villages. They intermarried and intermixed with the indigenous races of Arakan, who changed their religion and became Muslims. They adopted the nationality of their wives and transferred their properties to them (wives). They had discarded their seafaring lives and turned to agriculture. They built mosques and started missionary work.