Islam in Malta: A long lasting connection
The Maltese islands- mythical and brilliantly unique. It is regarded as the crown jewel of the Mediterranean sea. Islam in Malta has a history of over thousand years. The country is located at the centrum of the The Mediterranean, which is south of Sicily and north of Africa. The Maltese islands are built of three islands. These islands are named Malta, Comino and Gozo.
Maltese islands are declared as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Therefore, it is quite normal that Malta is popular among travelers. Maltese archipelago features a lot of historical sites. Although, it is lesser-known to the world that our peaceful religion Islam has set foot in this brilliant island state a very long ago.
Islam in Malta from Ifriqiya
Islam came to Malta in the year 870 CE as a consequence of a conflict between a ruler and an emperor. At that time, Malta was ruled by Euphemius. He was an admiral and a ruler under the great Byzantine emperor Michael II. Euphemius was accused of abducting and marrying a young Nun from a convent. At that time, the Governor of Sicily was an admiral named Constantine. Byzantine emperor ordered Constantine to arrest Euphemius and severe of the marriage.
Euphemius successfully defeated Constantine and organised an uprising against the Byzantian Emperor Michael II. But he understood, in front of the great Byzantian army, his rebellion was nothing but a speck of dust.
Alarmed, he appealed to the Muslim leaders of Ifriqiya ( Comprised of present-day Tunisia, Western Libya and Eastern Algeria). He signed a deal that the Muslim rulers will help him to take Sicily and Malta from the emperor. In return, he will support the spread of Islam in these regions.
The Ifriqiya at that time was ruled by Aghlabids. They were a semi-independent Emirate. The Emir of that time was Ziyadat Allah I who accepted the plea. He then bestowed the conquest to the 70 years old Qadi, Asad b. Al Furat. This person was highly respected in the emirate.
Then the Aghlabids contacted the Umayyad Emirate of Cordoba. Together, the Aghlabids and Umayyads conquered the Sicily and Malta. Thus the two-century of Islamic Domination on the Maltese archipelago began.
The Normans in Malta
Malta was exclusively Islamic by religion and Arabic by language from 870 to 1091 CE. Then the Norman conquest occurred. Even after that a significant Islam society remained in the state. The Normans allowed Muslims to practice their religion freely. They never forced anyone to convert. During the reign of King Roger II, Malta became a state of multi ethnicity and religious tolerance. The Norman rulers were more tolerant and decent than the Christian ones.
Ibn Athir wrote,
“They [the Muslims] were treated kindly, and they were protected, even against the Franks. Because of that, they had a great love for King Roger.”
However, in 1224, King Fredrick II banished all Muslims from the island state. It is said a severe religious uprising was the reason. The banished Muslims went and built a colony in Lucera.
The Ottomans in Malta
In 16th century, Ottomans tried to reconquer Malta from the Christian Knight Templars. In the year 1522, Sultan Suleyman laid a siege to Rhodes. It lasted six months until the knights were starved and surrendered. The Sultan allowed them to leave with their arms and even provided ships for them.
Under the rule of the grandson of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella o Castille, Malta became a part of the Spanish Empire. The Spanish Emperor granted the Knights Malta as their home after they got evicted from the Rhodes. These Knights were called the Knights of Malta.
In the year 1565, Suleyman again sent approximately 200 ships and an army of 48000 to invade the island. But after four months, the troop got defeated. The knights fought bravely to secure their home.
The Mujahids of Indian in Malta
India gained its independence in August 1947. It was achieved after a long struggle which involved everyone from the country. Including the Islamic communities. The Ulemas and Mujahids of India played a vital role in this independence. In fact, the great revolt or Sepoy mutiny of 1857 was initiated by the Ulema.
Twenty years after this revolt, Shyakhul Hind Maulana Mahmood Hasan formed ‘ Samratut Tarbiyat’ in the year 1877. This organisation fought against British for more than three decades.
The movement was set to liberate India from the British with the help of Turkey and Afghanistan. After the British came to know about this in 1916, 200 Ulemas were arrested. They were then sent to Malta. Malta was, at that point of time, an island prison camp for the British.
Present-day Islam in Malta
Islam in Malta is a minority religion now. The lasting legacy of Islam cannot be denied. Surprisingly, Islamic culture has left behind its signs and signatures in Malta. The Maltese language is derived from Arabic. The Arabic language provided Maltese with the basic linguistic structure and 50% of vocabulary.
Some linguists consider Maltese as an Arabic Dialect. For example, the word God in Maltese is Alla. It is evident that it came from the Arabic word Allah. Similarly, the Maltese word of Soul is Ruh.
There is also one mosque in Malta, at the Islamic centre of Paola. This mosque serves the 4000 Muslims in this island state.