In Malabar region conversion to Islam was not a serious thread to Hindu rajas. Only the Bramhinical Hinduism feared it. The lower caste converted to escape degradation and to occupy new social position and also they expected civil employment with Muslim. The first mosque in India was built up in Cranganore. Instead of adopting a new architectural style Arabs followed the existing temple architecture. There are different opinions for why Arab traders constructed mosque in earlier times, some say the mosques were constructed for converting Malayalees and to some others, these were for establishing mosques for the traders.
Arab trades in Malabar Coast existed before the advents of Islam in Arabia. The pre Islamic Arabs had settled in Chaavil, kalyan, and Suppara. It was primarily commercial in natural than cultural. Arabs had colonies in south India. The sea trade was left to foreigners as the Brahmanical Hindus were temperament allergic to the sea and left such ‘vulgar’ business. Arabs monopolized the trade until they were ousted by Portuguese in 15th century. Balhara dynasty in the north and the Zamorin of Malabar were most partial to Arabs they allowed Muslims for building up most, practicing religion and intermarriage. The Mappilas or indigenous Muslims of Malabar coast originated as part of and on going process of peaceful communication and economic relationship between Arabia and Kerala.
Mappilas of south Malabar followed the matrilineal way of inheritance which is visibly just opposite of what Islam asks them to follow. There are two theories for how Mappilas stated to follow these ways. In Kolathnadu (North Malabar) Mappilas were obliged to conform to the general practice of the country. Secondly it is argued that this way Mappila got with their relation with the Nayars. From the Nayar society the Mappila life was influenced the customs of family life, dress habits, marriage practises like tying the tali, paying dowry to the bride groom and purifactory ablution after birth. Within matrilineal Muslim community, there are theoretically two endogamous castes. The Brahmin /Nayar converts’ class could be divided as Kirigans (aristocratic class). The other Muslim matrilineal caste group is Islams who were the converts from Thiyya. Mappilas are followers of Marumakkathayam before Islam came here. Converts should retain the rule of inheritance to which they were previously subjects and the heads of new religion should encourage conversion by making the changes as carry and agreeable as possible to the new converts.
If we study the system in Arackkal dynasty, it can be easily understood the close relationship with the existing circumstances and cultural assimilation. The terms like ‘Arakkal swaroopam’ is very much similar to the denotations which were common to all other kingdoms ruled in Kerala that time. The power rested in the hands of the oldest female member of the family and she would be renamed as ‘Arakkal Beebi’ Ali Raja wanted to preserve the marumakkathayam practice in tact and independently of outside interference. He made a friendship with Ottoman Empire and set this traditional system of matrilineal succession recognised and ratified by the ottoman who adhered to the tenets of Islamic Shari‘at. Matrilineal and the joint family system have now broken. The decline of matrilineal, joint family and polyandry ended and epoch. The Mappila succession Muslim personal law of 1937, shareeath act, the Mappila Marumakkathayam Act1939 were some of the administrative interventions which resulted Mappilas to go a more homogenised Muslim platform.
The cultural impact of Mappila to the Kerala culture is very influential. Several trade names came to Malayalam from Arabic language. The Arabic words when introduced into Malayalam have undergone some considerable changes phonetically and semantically depending on phonetical habits of Malayalam language. In Mappila songs Arabic Malayalam was evolved and came into prominence. The impact of the new language -Arabic-Malayalam-was very reachable to the society. It was taught in primary religious education and Mappila songs were written in this language. The first Quran translation was written in Arabi-Malayalam by Arakkal Mayin Kutty.
The style of architecture and construction of mosques are highly influenced by temple/local architecture. Unique styles of mosque architecture are different from that of Mughal architecture. These were built in perishable wooden building and without any visible minarets. In those days, mosques were constructed in/ near temple sites and the masons and carpenters were mainly the lower caste Hindus. Their available model of architecture was the temple architecture. Mappila houses were built in ‘naalukettu’ style. They adopted a locally comfortable dress and food manner.
The arrival of Portuguese dismantled the trade monopoly of Arabs. The coming of the first Portuguese sailor Vasco da Gama was read as the extension of crest Vs cross war in the Middle East. And it augmented the Portuguese Muslim revelry. He had religious and commercial motives and to break the monopoly of Arab trade from the coast. Gama’s missions were aimed at Christianity and spices. Conquest, commerce and conversion were his objectives. The king of Malabar welcomed European because the sea trade was very important to him. The Arabs made ceaseless attempts to prejudice the mind of the king against the Portuguese. Their strange mercantile behaviour of accepting goods more than double the value and giving excess weight on all the salt alarmed the foreign Muslim all the more. Zamorin in the beginning helped the Portuguese as he did for any foreign traders, but when Pedro Alvarez Cabral impolitical bombardments of Calicut reverberated for over a hundred year along the cost and on the Indian Ocean. In these years Portuguese moved to Cochin and Kannur. The Portuguese was hostels only to the Muslims and their faiths and not to the Nayars and unbelievers to the Malabar. Kunjali Marakkars were the hereditary admirals of the Zamorin. After a while the Portuguese sailors succeeded in making alliance with Zamorin when they captured Chaliyam in 1571 and Zamorin allowed a space for a factory to be open to Portuguese despite the strong protest of Mappilas. So In 1595, Muhammad Kunjaali Marakkar of Kottakal challenged Zamorin by declaring himself as the ‘king of moors’, and he was described as the reformer of Islam, lord of Indian seas. With a joint operation by Zamorin and Portuguese defeated Kunjali in 1600 and he was killed.