Labbais of the Coromandel coast. There were also a considerable number of
Muslims of Abyssinian origin, most of whose ancestors were originally
imported as slaves. As large parts of Afghanistan formed an integral part of
the Mughal Empire, Afghans living in India could hardly be placed in the
category of immigrants.
    Muslims of foreign origin, formally united by Islam, had racial and
religious differences which influenced politics and society. The Turanis
(Central Asians) and the Afghans were Sunnis; the Persians (Iranians) were
Shias. There was much rivalry for political prominence .and social promotion
among these Muslims of diverse origins. However, Muslims of foreign origin
considered as a distinct group, constituted the principal element in the ruling
class of the Mughal period. They claimed superiority to the Hindustani
Muslims, i.e., Hindu converts and their descendants on the basis of birth, race
and culture.
    The overwhelming majority of the Muslims were descendants of Hindu
converts; but there was a tendency on their part to claim foreign descent with
a view to securing political and social advantages. They were generally
looked down upon by bona fide Turanians and Iranians; but they were
received on equal terms in mosques during the Friday prayers and also on
occasions of principal religious festivals. There was no bar to inter-marriage
on racial grounds. A Muslim of low birth could rise to a high rank in the
nobility by dint of ability or through the favour of fortune. The Muslim
society had far greater internal mobility than the Hindu society.
    Apart from racial and religious differences, i.e. Shia-Sunni disputes, there
were clear-cut social differences within the Muslim society. Three classes are
mentioned in a sixteenth-century Persian work: (a) the ruling class
comprising the imperial family, the nobility and the army; (b) the
intelligentsia, comprising theologians (ulema), judges (qazis), men of
learning and men of letters; (c) the class catering to pleasures, comprising
musicians, minstrels and dancing girls. This classification is obviously
incomplete and unsatisfactory. For example, it does not make a note of the
producing classes—the peasants and the artisans—who formed the backbone
of state and society, and the lower ranks of the official bureaucracy or the
minor officials.