Muslim community of Nepalgunj exchange Eid Greetings. Photo by Nihal Akhtar
The history of Muslims in Nepal spans back several centuries, to a time when Muslim traders from India and other parts of the world would visit Nepal for business and trade purposes. This was during the 13th century, a period when the Mughal emperor Akbar was in power. The presence of these traders helped to establish cultural and economic links between Nepal and other parts of the Muslim world.
Fast forward to the late 17th century, and the Mughal Empire was in decline. Some of its Muslim soldiers and officials chose to migrate to Nepal, where they were welcomed by the Nepalese rulers. These migrants were known as the “Khans” and they settled in various parts of Nepal, including the Kathmandu Valley and the Terai region. The Nepalese rulers recognized the skills of these migrants as skilled fighters and administrators, which proved to be valuable to the kingdom.
In the early 18th century, a group of Muslim merchants established the first mosque in Nepal in Kathmandu. Known as the Kashmiri Mosque, it still stands in the heart of the bustling market area of Kathmandu today. This was a significant event in the history of Muslims in Nepal, as it marked the establishment of a place of worship for the Muslim community in the country.
Throughout the 19th century, Muslim traders and officials continued to migrate to Nepal from India and other parts of the Muslim world. They played a significant role in the country’s economic and cultural life and some even held high-ranking positions in the Nepalese government. The presence of Muslims in Nepal helped to create a diverse and vibrant society, with various communities contributing to the country’s growth and development.
In the 20th century, the Muslim community in Nepal grew significantly due to immigration and conversion. Today, Muslims make up approximately 4% of Nepal’s population, with the majority concentrated in the Terai region which borders India. Despite some instances of communal tension in the past, Muslims in Nepal have generally lived in peace and harmony with other communities. They have contributed to Nepal’s culture, economy, and society, and have played a vital role in the country’s development.
In today’s terms, Nepali Muslims have been able to live in harmony with other communities in Nepal. While there have been occasional incidents of communal tension in the past, the majority of Nepali Muslims have been able to coexist peacefully with their non-Muslim neighbors. Nepal has a diverse population with different ethnic and religious groups, and the Nepalese people have a long history of tolerance and respect for diversity. The Nepalese government has also made efforts to promote interfaith harmony and peace in the country.
Though we can see there have been instances of extremist groups attempting to incite violence and create division between communities in Nepal, including against Muslims. However, these groups are a minority and their actions are not representative of the majority of Nepalese people. Generally, the Muslim community in Nepal has been able to contribute to the country’s cultural, economic, and social life while living peacefully alongside other communities.
However, if we trace Muslims in Nepal from a political perspective, there is no record of Muslims holding political positions in Nepal before the establishment of the monarchy in the mid-18th century. However, during the reign of King Prithvi Narayan Shah, who is credited with founding the modern Nepalese state, Muslims were welcomed into the country and some were appointed to high-ranking positions in the government.
After the establishment of the monarchy, Nepali Muslims continued to play a significant role in the country’s political and administrative affairs. Some Muslims served as advisors to the kings and held positions in the royal court, while others served as governors or administrators of various regions of the country.
During the early years of democracy in Nepal, which began in 1951, there were a few Muslim political leaders who played a role in the country’s politics. However, their influence was limited, and it wasn’t until the 1990s that Muslim political representation began to increase with the establishment of more inclusive democratic institutions.
Today, there are Muslim politicians who hold positions in the Nepalese government, including in the national parliament and in various local government bodies. The Muslim community in Nepal continues to play an active role in the country’s political life and in shaping the future of the nation.
Nepali Muslims have made significant contributions to Nepal’s sustainability by promoting economic growth, cultural diversity, social welfare, and political participation. These contributions have helped to build a more inclusive and prosperous society in Nepal. We cannot deny that Nepali Muslims are proud of their identity as people of the the land of Himalayas and none can erase the true facts.