Mohammad Habib

Indian historian (1895–1971)

Mohammad Habib (1895–1971) was an Indian historian, who taught at the Aligarh Muslim University. He was involved in the Indian Independence movement, and was an associate of both Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. In 1947, the year of India's independence, he delivered the presidential address to the Indian History Congress.


  • The Quranic conception of God was, and can still be, a revolutionary force of incalculable value for the attainment of human welfare.”
    • quoted in Peter Hardy in Historians of India, Pakistan and Ceylon. by Philips, C. H. (Cyril Henry), 1912- [1] and in E. Sreedharan - A Textbook of Historiography, 500 B.C. to A.D. 2000-Orient blackswan (2019)
  • The most important fact of the Middle Ages was the rise of Islam. . .. In the thought of the Prophet of Islam as revealed in the Quran and the Hadis (the Prophet's conversations sic) two basic ideas stand out—the principle of unity in the cosmic order and the principle of the brotherhood of those who believed in (the Prophet's) creed. Islam wrought one of the most vital and the most bloodless revolutions in human history. ... Medina under the Prophet was a working-class republic. . . . There was no governing class and no subject people.
    • quoted in Peter Hardy in Historians of India, Pakistan and Ceylon. by Philips, C. H. (Cyril Henry), 1912- [2] and in E. Sreedharan - A Textbook of Historiography, 500 B.C. to A.D. 2000-Orient blackswan (2019) [3]
  • The peaceful Indian Mussalman, descended beyond doubt from Hindu ancestors, was dressed up in the garb of a foreign barbarian, as a breaker of temples, and an eater of beef, and declared to be a military colonist in the land where he had lived for about thirty or forty centuries…. The result of it is seen in the communalistic atmosphere of India today.
  • The Hindu feels it his duty to dislike those whom he has been taught to consider the enemy of his religion and his ancestors; the Mussalman, lured into the false belief that he was once a member of a ruling race, feels insufferably wronged by being relegated to the status of a minority community. Fools both! Even if the Muslims eight centuries ago were as bad as they were painted, would there be any sense in holding the present generation responsible for their deeds. It is but an imaginative tie that joins the modern Hindu with Harshavardhana or Asoka, or the modern Mussalman with Shihabuddin or Mahmud.
    • Politics and society during the early medieval period: collected works of Professor Mohammad Habib, Volume 1 (1974); p. 12
    • Quoted in Identity and Religion: Foundations of Anti-Islamism in India by Amalendu Misra; published by SAGE Publications, p. 210
  • No honest historian should seek to hide, and no Musalman acquainted with his faith will try to justify, the wanton destruction of temples that followed in the wake of the Ghaznavid army. Contemporary as well as later historians do not attempt to veil the nefarious acts but relate them with pride. It is easy to twist one’s conscience; and we know only too well how easy it is to find a religious justification for what people wish to do from worldly motives. Islam sanctioned neither the vandalism nor the plundering motives of the invader; no principle known to the Shariat justified the uncalled for attack on Hindu princes who had done Mahmud and his subjects no harm; the shameless destruction of places of worship is condemned by the law of every creed. And yet Islam, though it was not an inspiring motive, could be utilised as an a posteriori justificiation for what had been done. It was not difficult to mistake the spoliation of non-Muslim populations for a service to Islam, and persons to whom the argument was addressed found it too much in consonance with the promptings of their own passions to examine it critically. So the precepts of Quran were misinterpreted or ignored and the tolerant policy of the Second Caliph was cast aside in order that Mahmud and his myrmidons might be able to plunder Hindu temples with a clear and untroubled conscience.
  • In 1330 the country was invaded by the Mongols who indulged in arson, rape and murder throughout the Valley (of Kashmir). The king and the Brahmans fled away but among the inhabitants who remained… Muslim ways of life were gradually adopted by the people as the only alternative…
    • Some Aspects of the Foundation of the Delhi Sultanate, Dr. K.M. Ashraf Memorial Lecture (Delhi, 1966), p. 20.
    • Quoted from Indian muslims: Who Are They, p. 91 & Growth of Muslim population in medieval India, A.D. 1000-1800, p.160; by K. S. Lal

About Mohammad Habib

  • Shorn of Marxist jargon, the thesis propounded by [Mohammad] Habib is very simple - the Turkish conquest of India was a historical necessity, a fortunate event in the history of its people. ... in short, Habib's "historical" explanation is factually incorrect, his understanding of Marxism faulty, and his interpretation of Turkish rule over India a futile effort to eulogize Islam's advent in the sub-continent.
  • [He was] so conscious of the negative aspects of the medieval Islamic civilization or so sensitive to the devastation that the wars and campaigns of the sultans wrought on the inhabitants.
  • The urge among Muslims to justify to their non-Muslim contemporaries (and indeed to themselves) the historical record of their community in South Asia is evident in such works of the nineteen- twenties and nineteen-thirties as Professor Muhammad Habib’s Mahmud of Ghaznin (1927)... In the first, Professor Habib attempts to correct what he says was a then recent tendency among Muslims of the sub-continent to adore Sultan Mahmid as a saint. The sultan is rather to be regarded as a foreigner to India and as an imperialist, not as a mujahid.
    • Peter Hardy - Historians of medieval India_ studies in Indo-Muslim historical writing.-(1960), 11.
  • Before writing this book it is clear that Professor Habib drank deep both of the teachings of Sir Saiyid Ahmad Khan and of western intellectual potions of a generation ago. There is the ‘protestant’ view of Islam as against the ‘catholic’—the urge to return to the Prophet and away from the accretions of later ages. There is, too, the western distinction between religion as social and religion as personal, the western urge to study the interpenetration and interaction of religious, social, and economic factors in the life of a society, the organic revolutionary conception of society and. of historical change. The whole tonc of the book is rational, secular, urbane, and dispassionate. The author's political position at the time of publication appears to be that of an Indian nationalist who, though he speaks as ‘a Muslim—for he feels the need to put Mahmud in a proper historical perspective—yet believes that differences in religion are private and personal and to be submerged in the larger unity of Indian nationhood.
    • Peter Hardy in Historians of India, Pakistan and Ceylon. by Philips, C. H. (Cyril Henry), 1912- [4]
  • The significant feature of Professor Habib’s Marxist interpretation of medieval Indian history is not that Marxism has absorbed Islam but that Islam has absorbed Marxism.
    • Peter Hardy in Historians of India, Pakistan and Ceylon. by Philips, C. H. (Cyril Henry), 1912- [5] 309 , also in Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
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