This Month’s People Group Focus: The Mappila
The Mappila belong to the largest Muslim group in the Indian state of Kerala. They also live in the Lakshadweep Islands 200 – 300 km off the southwestern coast of India. A small number of Mappilas have settled in the southern districts of Karnataka and the western parts of Tamil Nadu; a few also live in Sri Lanka.
Malayalam is the state language of Kerala and the Mappila share this common language.
The Lakshadweep Islands are covered with coconut and breadfruit trees, which provide the basis of the Laccadive Mappila’s economy. Kerala’s 589.5-kilometer coastline and a large number of rivers also make it a fertile place for fish, so the fishing industry also plays an important part in the economy.
Some important facts about the Mappila:
- 100% of the Mappila are Muslims. They migrated from the Kerala coast to the Islands around the 7th century. They came as Hindus, but were Islamized by the Arabs and formed the first native Islamic community in South Asia.
- They belong to one of the four schools of the Sunni branch of Islam called the Shafi’i.
- There are 2 to 3 caste-like groups among the Mappila, but they live in the same neighborhoods, eat together freely and worship in the same mosques.
- Monogamy (one husband, one wife) is normal among the Mappila, in spite of the fact that Islam allows a man to have up to four wives. A man has little authority over his children. Divorce is easy; over half of the marriages end in divorce.