India Is "My Second Country"
By Zamhasari Jamil
ON JULY 20, 2001 I arrived in India for further education of Islamic Studies in Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi under Indian Council for Cultural Relation (ICCR) scholarship scheme.
In the early days in Jamia Millia Islamia, my teacher Dr. Syed Shahid Ali and some of my classmates and other friends asked me, "Why do you come to Jamia Millia Islamia with the subject of Islamic Studies?" Toward this question, I replied simply, "The history of the spread of Islam all over Indonesia especially and in Southeast Asia generally are co-terminus with the history of Gujarati Muslim traders who came to the concerned country not only for the trading bussiness but also for spreading the Islamic messages. Thereby, I have to come to India for the subject that I have chosen before I am going to the city of Mecca where the religion of Islam is cradled."
As we have known, Indonesia is an archipelago in Southeast Asia consisting of 17,000 islands (6,000 inhabited) and straddling the equator. The largest islands are Sumatra, Java, Bali, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, the Nusa Tenggara islands, the Moluccas Islands, and Irian Jaya (also called West Papua), the western part of New Guinea. Its neighbor to the north is Malaysia and to the east is Papua New Guinea.
The 17,000 islands that make up Indonesia were home to a diversity of cultures and indigenous beliefs when the islands came under the influence of Hindu priests and traders in the first and second centuries A.D. Muslim influences began in the 13th century, and most of the archipelago had embraced to Islam by the 15th century.
Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population. And today 88% of Indonesians are Muslims, while Protestant 5%, Roman Catholic 3%, Hindu 2%, Buddhist 1%, other 1%. Ethnically it is highly diverse, with more than 300 local languages. The people range from stone-age hunter-gatherers to a modern urban elite.
As my Indian friends, some of my Indonesian friends is also no less astonished with my choice of the subject, i.e. Islamic studies. While India today is well-known with the Information Technology. Besides, India also is very famous among Indonesian young generations as one of the leading film-making countries in the world. There are too many Indian movies are aired by Indonesian private TV stations. Therefore, there are some shining stars like Dilip Kumar, Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Amitab Bachan, Sridevi, Aishwarya Ray, Prity Zinta, Rani Mukherji, Kajol etc. who are well-known in Indonesia.
In my view, India is also a cradle of religions. Today, according to Registrar General (Census Information), 81.3% of Indian are Hindus, while Islam 12%, Christian 2.3%, Sikh 1.9%, other (including Buddhists, Jains, and Parsis) 2.5%. And ethnicity of Indian contains Indo-Aryan 72%, Dravidian 25%, Mongoloid and other 3% (2000).
The Republic of India occupies most of the subcontinent of India in southern Asia. It borders on China in the northeast. Other neighbors are Pakistan on the west, Nepal and Bhutan on the north, and Burma and Bangladesh on the east.
The country can be divided into three distinct geographic regions: the Himalayan region in the north, which contains some of the highest mountains in the world, the Gangetic Plain, and the plateau region in the south and central part. Its three great river systems have extensive deltas and all rise in the Himalayas: the Ganges, the Indus, and the Brahmaputra.
The great Moghul empire was founded by Muslim disseminators in 1526 and centered on Delhi, which lasted, at least in name, until 1857. Akbar the Great (1542–1605) strengthened and consolidated this empire. The long reign of his great-grandson, Aurangzeb (1618–1707) represents the greatest extent of the Mogul empire.
Although India is the second largest country of Muslim population in the world, but their presence also can be seen in the remarkable contribution to the economic, socio-cultural and political life of the country. No less siginificant is as Prof. Aktarul Wasey, Director of Zakir Hussain Institute of Islamic Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi wrote in his article "Indian Muslims Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow" that "Muslim community has become a vital and inalienable component of Indian nation. As part of the global Islamic ummah they have set an example of peaceful and honourable co-existence with a non-Muslim majority while making significant contributions to the study of Islamic principles and sciences."
Last but not least, I would like to express my sincere thanks and gratitude to H.E. Vice-Chancellor, Foreign Students' Advisor, Faculty of Humanities and Languages of Jamia Millia Islamia, Indian Council for Cultural Relation (ICCR) New Delhi and Embassy of The Republic of India, Jakarta. I also wish to express my great indebtedness to my distinguished teachers in the Department of Islamic Studies, my teacher in the Department of English, my teacher in the Department of Urdu, my teachers in the Department of Arabic and my teachers in the Department of Political Science of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.
I am happy to welcome all Jamia Millia Islamia Family to my home country Indonesia. And my permanent address is Jalan Sidodadi No. 01 Rantau Panjang Kiri RT. 14/04 Kecamatan Kubu, Kabupaten Rokan Hilir, Provinsi Riau - Indonesia 28991. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The writer is an Indonesian student of the Department of Islamic Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.