Islam and Jainism

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Islam and Jainism interacted with each other in the Indian subcontinent following the Islamic conquest of the subcontinent from Central Asia and Persia in the seventh to the twelfth centuries, and thereafter when much of Northwest, north and central India came under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate, and later the Mughal Empire.


  • Jaina religious institutions and works of art must have also become victims of the forces of vandalism let loose in the country in the wake of foreign invasions. Revealing in this context are the incidents recorded in two inscriptions in Mulgund. One found on a pillar in the Parasvanatha temple, refers to an encounter with the Mohammadans who burnt the temple of Parasvanatha and states that the preceptor Sahasrakirti … died in the fight. Another on a pillar in the Chandranatha Basadi states that Bandambike, wife of Nagabhupa, reconsecrated the image of Arhat Adinatha, which was polluted by the Mohammadans. The former epigraph bears no date and the latter is dated in A.D. 1675. It is not known whether the two records allude to one and the same raid by the Mohammadan aggressors or to two assaults on different occasions.
    • P.B. Desai, Jainism in South India and Some Jaina Epigraphs, Jaina Samskriti Samraksha Sangha, Sholapur, 1957, quoted from Shourie, Arun (2014). Eminent historians: Their technology, their line, their fraud. Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India : HarperCollins Publishers.
  • 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.
  • There is, I'm happy to say, a religion of peace in this world, but it's not Islam. The claim that Islam is a religion of peace that we hear ceaselessly reiterated is completely delusional. Now Jainism actually is a religion of peace. The core principle of Jainism is non-violence. Gandhi got his non-violence from the Jains. The crazier you get as a Jain, the less we have to worry about you. Jain extremists are paralysed by their pacifism. Jain extremists can't take their eyes off the ground when they walk lest they step on an ant.
  • While my argument in this book is aimed at faith itself, the differences between faiths are as relevant as they are unmistakable. There is a reason, after all, why we must now confront Muslim, rather than Jain terrorists, in every corner of the world. Jains do not believe anything that is remotely likely to inspire them to commit acts of suicidal violence against unbelievers... But "the rise of Islamic fundamental- ism" is only a problem because the fundamentals of Islam are a problem. A rise of Jain fundamentalism would endanger no one. In fact, the uncontrollable spread of Jainism throughout the world would improve our situation immensely. We would lose more of our crops to pests, perhaps (observant Jains generally will not kill anything, including insects), but we would not find ourselves surrounded by suicidal terrorists or by a civilization that widely condones their actions.
    • Sam Harris - The End of Faith_ Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason (2004, W.W. Norton & Company)
  • Jain temples had been constructed in the region from early on. A temple at Taranagar (Reni district) was said to have been founded in Samvat 999 (942), another at Nohar in Samvat 1084 (1027), and a third at Bhinasar outside Bikaner town in Samvat 1204 (1148). However, no trace of these structures survived. During Muslim attacks, many idols, especially small ones, were saved from defilement by being hidden in the saddle bags of people fleeing into the desert. The only actual remains of Jain temples found so far are at Pallu (Nohar district), about sixty miles south-east of Suratgarh. Here also, almost nothing of the old temples survived except a few sculptures and architectural fragments. .... After the Muslim invasions ceased, it was the Jains who first resumed construction of temples.
    • Commenting about the fate of ancient Jain temples in Rajasthan. Jain, M. (2019). Flight of deities and rebirth of temples: Espisodes from Indian history. 129-30
  • Now Man Singh’s prophecy seems to have been reported to Jahangir. He could, however, take no action against him as Rai Singh had been pardoned and Man Singh was living under his protection at Bikaner. In the twelfth year, however, when Jahangir visited Gujarat where there were many Jains, he decided to embark upon their persecution. They were accused of having built temples and other buildings which were reported to be centres of disturbance, Their religious leaders were accused of immoral practices (probably of going about naked). They were generally believed to be a troublesome class of Hindus. Jahangir first of all summoned Man Singh to the court. Afraid of meeting a mere ignominious fate he took poison on his way from Bikaner to the Emperor. Jahangir issued orders thereupon for the expulsion of the Jains from the imperial territories. These orders do not seem to have applied to the territory of the Rajput Rajas where the Jains were driven to seek protection.
    Jahangir here seems to have been prompted by religious rather than political motives. Unlike Guru Arjun, Man Singh had been left alone for several years after his alleged act of treason. All Jains were punished irrespective of their political proclivities. Still further there was a section of the Jains which did not even acknowledge Man Singh as their leader. They were also included in the order of expulsion. Dr Beni Prasad is wrong in stating that the order of expulsion was confined to one sect alone.
    • About persecution of Jains by Jahangir. Sharma Sri Ram. 1988. The Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors. 3rd ed. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal. ch 4
  • Here the Jain temple cities stand out. These were built, with elaborate ornamentation, from the tenth century on, and they are built in the same style to this day. The city of Satrufijaya, Palitana, is the most sacred of the Jain temple cities: most of its nearly 900 temples date from the sixteenth century; but the original temples, built in the eleventh century, were completely destroyed by the Muslims. Similarly, the town of Ajmer, founded by Ajaipal, one of the Cauhan kings, was sacked in 1024 AD by Mahmud of Ghazna, and again by Muhammad Ghuri in 1193; it had a Jain college, built in 1153, which was turned into a mosque by putting a massive screen of seven arches in front of the pillared hall which was left standing: 'the hut of two-and-a- half days', built supernaturally, according to Muslim tradition, in two-and-a-half days. Other great Jain temples, like the one at Ranakpur, in Rajasthan, built around 1439, were equipped with holes in the ground leading to cellars where the images could be hidden from the Muslim iconoclasts. We know of underground Jain temples which were built for the protection of images in Mughal times, and it is quite likely that these existed in our period as well, or that underground portions were beginning to be added to temples, with narrow passages as their entrance... In a Jain poem we hear of another image, which was fashioned in the city of Kannanaya in the Cola country in 1176; when in 1192 AD Prthiviraja, the Cauhan leader, was killed, Ramadeva sent a letter to the Jains, stating: 'the kingdom of the Turks has begun; keep the image of Mahavira hidden away' . This image, accordingly, was kept concealed in the sand at Kayamvasatthala and remained there for about sixty years.
    • Al-Hind-The-Making-of-the-Indo-Islamic-World-Vol-2-The-Slave-Kings-and-the-Islamic-Conquest-11th-13th-Centuries
  • But, in the long run, Jainism could not escape Islamic iconoclasm in this region. The Muslims razed many of the Jain temples to the ground, destroyed Jain libraries, and allegedly killed unknown numbers of followers. Later Jain temples of the area are copies of the earlier ones of Abu and Sanganer, but of inferior quality, and showing influence of Muslim architecture... Jain architecture, always chaste and elegant, was basically Hindu, but because of their wealth the Jains were much more given to temple-building, becoming the greatest patrons of architecture in Western India, and patronizing mosques at times. Mter Kumarapala's reign, Jainism went into decline even in Gujarat. His successor Ajayapala (1173-76) began to destroy many of the temples built in the previous reign and in general did not favour Jainism much. Jain temples were beginning to be swept to destruction by the Muslims in Anahilvada as early as 1298 AD.88 From the end of the thirteenth century until Akbar's reign, at the close of the sixteenth century, no Jain or Hindu temple of any pretensions was raised in Gujarat, but destroyed temples, like at Satruiijaya, Palitana, and at other places, were sometimes rebuilt.
    • Al-Hind-The-Making-of-the-Indo-Islamic-World-Vol-2-The-Slave-Kings-and-the-Islamic-Conquest-11th-13th-Centuries
  • One day at Ahmadabad it was reported that many of the infidel and superstitious sect of the Seoras (Jains) of Gujarat had made several very great and splendid temples, and having placed in them their false gods, had managed to secure a large degree of respect for themselves and that the women who went for worship in those temples were polluted by them and other people… The Emperor Jahangir ordered them banished from the country, and their temples to be, demolished. Their idol was thrown down on the uppermost step of the mosque, that it might be trodden upon by those who came to say their daily prayers there. By this order of the Emperor, the infidels were exceedingly disgraced, and Islam exalted…
    • Ahmadabad (Gujarat) Intikhab-i-Jahangir Shabi Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own historians, Vol. VI, p. 451.
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