Is There a Connection Between Buddhism and Islam in Asia?
Buddhism and Islam in Asia: A Complicated History This history has been written by many scholars over the centuries. Yet, very few have managed to write a comprehensive account. The problem is the subject was so fragmented that trying to bring it all together was next to impossible. Still, scholars agree there were four main periods when Buddhism and Islam in Asia first diverged. They were the Khmer, Chinese, Tibetan, and Indian faiths.
The first was mostly peaceful, as the government encouraged religious practices. During this time, the government encouraged widespread literacy and created schools. This helped improve social conditions. Islam and Buddhism in Asia: A Complicated History Religion was accepted as part of mainstream Buddhism in China and established the largest Buddhist community in the country. By the thirteenth century, the religion had spread to other areas of central and southern Asia. When the Portuguese brought Buddhism to India, the converts became known as Theravada Buddhism and Islam.
Islam in Asia: A Complicated History This process took a longer period of time and was marked by profound schism. When the Safed dynasty replaced the Mahomedans as the ruling power in India, they adopted a moderate approach toward Buddhism. However, following the demise of the Safed dynasty, the Safedists criticized the Mahomedan philosophy as “Slaywa Dhyan” (“Dhamma Dhyan”), a commentary on the scriptures of Buddha. When the Mughals brought Buddhism to Pakistan, the locals adopted it as their official religion and converted to the Mahayana Buddhist path.
Buddhism and Islam in Asia:
A Complicated History Buddhism had been introduced into China initially as Buddhism was spreading across Asia as a new religion. The first Muslims were converts from Hinduism. Following the death of Buddha, Rome and India became rivals. Some Muslims were even killed in the wars. In the 8th century, a Mosque was built in northeast India on the orders of the emperor Yang Hoheng. The mosque was later converted into a Buddhist temple.
Some scholars argue that Islam and Buddhism were brought about by the takeover of Tibet by the Buddhist monk Caiphi who moved to India and founded the language and scripture of Zen that is used today in both Islam and Buddhism. It is also argued by some that Buddhism evolved independently in India under the influence of Indian Brahma-izations. However, most scholars do agree that both Islam and Buddhism are derived from the teachings of Buddha and are compatible with each other.
One can say that the two monastic religions started as schools of Buddhism and Islam. Later they were combined. During the earlier times, it seems that there was less interaction between the religion and the culture of the country. But this has changed gradually. Today, when you visit any part of India, whether it is Delhi Jodhpur or Aurangabad, you will find people wearing Muslim and Buddhist clothes respectively.
When Buddhism spread into India, people found it difficult to adapt to the new religion. They were not used to being ruled by monks. Some scholars argue that these were not true Muslims but simply converts. In the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Buddhism became so dominant that the local population, mainly Hindus, had to convert to Islam. So what about in other parts of India – did Islam emerge first or was it followed by Buddhism?
The main school of thought on this matter is known as the early Jataka School. Its proponents argue that there is a long and complicated history between Buddhism and Islam in Asia. They base their view on the passages found in the Jataka tales.
According to them the early Buddhists and Islam in Asia first began to intermingle in the seventh century, when Buddhism first arrived in India. It is recorded that at this point there was a great demand for Islamic furniture, so the Buddhist monks from Sarnath arrived there on pilgrimage and brought with them their teaching. There is therefore a link between the spread of Buddhism and Islam in Asia and the spread of Islam in the Middle East.
At the same time, Islam started to spread in the region. In the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, there were already some small Muslim communities. By the time the Buddha arrived in India, Islam had gained enough territory to make itself significant. One of the reasons why the scholars of the Jataka tales choose to leave out any reference to the Buddha or mention of Islam is that they could not find any evidence to support this.
However, the problem with this chronology is that many scholars have drawn their conclusions on the basis of very little if any, evidence. Most of those who write about Buddhism and Islam in Asia note the presence of pre-Buddhist structures like the Buddhist monasteries in China and the Muslim Basilica in Rome. They also note the pre-Muslim period and how these elements found their way into Buddhism and Islam. The pre-Buddhist elements in both religions certainly must have had an impact.