The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, Eaton’s examination of the proliferation of Islam in Bengali from the thirteenth through the eighteenth century, presents compelling arguments in support of a model striking in contrast to those endorsed by Eaton’s predecessors.
This paper will present a juxtaposition of the theories including a comprehensive examination of vital historical processes in cultural change. Eaton’s argument maintains the agrarian frontier was the foundation of economic growth and the political frontier is responsible for the collection of individuals and the activator in expansion of agriculture. Furthermore, the cultural frontier consists of a triad of processes over time merge Muslims and non-Muslims in the Bengal region.
Over the nineteenth and twentieth century, several theories developed explaining the diffusion of Islam in the Eastern Bengal region. Each of the theories serves as the basis of Eaton’s argument; in fact, the theories overlap and are carefully incorporated into Eaton’s thesis.
First, the theory Eaton calls “Immigration theory,” explains the large concentration of Muslims in Bengal are descendants of migrants arriving via land and sea, before the Moghul Empire. While it’s logical to assume that some Muslims immigrated to the Bengal region, this theory explains the spread of human populations rather than cultural diffusion.
“Religion of the Sword” theory assumes the Islamization in Bengal was the result of military and political coercion on the local population. But, it fails to answer why the large concentration of Muslims existed inversely in East Bengali. Later, I will address Eaton’s new findings relative to the large concentration of Muslims in East Bengal, rather than the W...
... middle of paper ...
...pic Eaton utilizes to explain the inevitable consolidation of deities, and formation of a monotheistic region. The depiction of superhuman beings in these texts served as a cultural translation for the increasingly literate non-Muslims. The epic was highly influential in depicting Islāmic cosmology as more similar to that of Hinduism’s.
The three processes of cultural change offered by Eaton, provides compelling evidence separating his theory and research from his predecessors’. A combination of geographical changes, expansion of multiple frontiers, establishment of a complex sociopolitical system, and sociocultural changes over a period of time resulted in the world’s second largest concentration of Muslims in Eastern Bengal.
Eaton, R. M. (1993). The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204-1760. Los Angeles: University of California Press.