Many are seeking a list after former Shi’ah Waqf Board chairman Waseem Rizvi embraced Hinduism. Several famous Muslim personalities have chosen to change their religion and become Hindu. Some such personalities have accepted Sikhism and Buddhism as well. We pick seven names from India that are arguably the most prominent in the league.
Annapurna Devi was a famous musician. She was the first wife of great sitar player Pandit Ravi Shankar. Her original name by some accounts is claimed to be Roshan Ara Khan, but other researchers dispute it, saying that the name was given by Maharaja Brijnath Singh in the absence of her father Alauddin Khan, the founder of the Maihar Gharana in music, who was away during her birth. However, that she was a Muslim initially is not disputed. Pandit Ravi Shankar was a disciple of Khan. He and Alauddin’s daughter fell in love and, in a move quite unexpected of Muslims, she changed her religion and married him in Almora on 15 May 1941. She became Annapurna Devi and is still remembered by this Hindu name.
Annapurna was an expert in the musical instrument surbahar. She herself was a great master of music. She trained many famous exponents of music. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Nityanand Haldipur and Nikhil Banerjee remained among her disciples.
Initially, Ravi Shankar would perform on stage, accompanying his first wife. But then, the couple divorced in 1982 after it was discovered Ravi Shankar’s acquaintance Sukanya Rajan, whom many had presumed was like a daughter to the maestro, was expecting Ravi Shankar’s baby (Anoushka).
Ravi Shankar and Annapurna had a son named Shubhendra Shankar who was himself a great musician too. Annapurna remained engaged in music throughout her life and led a Hindu way of life. She died in 2018 in Mumbai.
Ashish Khan Debsharma was a great player of the sarod. He was born to a Muslim family. He won the Grammy Award in the year 2006 in the Best World Music category. He was from the Maihar Gharana too. He received many awards while also being a professor of Indian classical music at the California Institute of Arts, University of California, the US.
In 2006, at a press conference in Kolkata, Ashish Khan announced he was converting to Hinduism. Since his ancestors were Debsharma, he would use the same last name. He said that his family had never officially converted to Islam. However, his father Ali Akbar Khan did not accept his claim. He said that his son could do whatever he liked but that did not mean he was speaking the truth. “My family has always been Muslim,” Ali Akbar Khan had said at that point. Ashish has turned 82 years old. He lives in the US.
Happy Salma Wanasari is a big film star of Indonesia. She was born on 4 January 1980. She is also a model and writer who has received awards for many Indonesian films. She changed her religion. Happy, born in a Muslim family, duly accepted Hinduism.
Salma married photographer Tjokorda Bagus Dwi Santana Kertayasa, a prince from Ubud, Bali, on 3 October 2010, after which she received a royal title and changed her name in Jero Happy Salma Wanasari. They had a traditional Sundanese wedding reception in Sukabumi on 16 October 2010. From her marriage, she converted from Islam to Hinduism. The couple have two children: Tjokorda Sri Kinandari Kerthyasa (b 2015) and Tjokorda Ngurah Rayidaru Kerthyasa (b. 2018).
Haridasa Thakur was a well known Vaishnava saint in the 15th century. He was associated with the Hare Krishna Bhakti movement. He was born in Bengal. Since childhood, he was inclined towards Krishna devotion. He was one of the chief disciples of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Thakur had been raised in a Muslim family and then converted to Vaishnavism as a young man. Advaita Acharya repeatedly proclaims that becoming a Vaishnava, regardless of one’s background, removes all past conditioning.
Khushbu Sundar (born Nakhat Khan), who made a foray into politics from films, was earlier with the Indian National Congress. Now she is in the Bharatiya Janata Party. Apart from films in southern India, she did several films in Hindi. She was born in a Muslim household in Mumbai on 29 September 1970.
When she stepped into films as a child artist, her parents named her Khushbu. But for the last 36 years, she has been living in Chennai. She often stokes controversies. When she married actor, director and producer Sundar C in the year 2000, she also changed her religion. She became a Hindu. They have two daughters named Avantika and Anandita.
The birth name of famous actress Nargis was Fatima Rashid. She was born on 1 June 1929 in Allahabad (called Prayaga in ancient India and Prayagraj now). Later she earned a name as the top actress in the film world. Then she stepped into politics. She is counted among the all-time great actresses of Indian cinema.
Sanjay Dutt’s mother and Sunil Dutt’s wife Nargis had had a long affair with Raj Kapoor. But when it ended, she married Sunil Dutt. It is rumoured that a set of the film Mother India had caught fire and Nargis was stuck in it. Dutt, in a bid to save her from burning, had to strip her, after which she laid the condition that he had to marry her. Nargis changed her religion for this marriage, accepting Hinduism. Nargis was a mother also to two daughters Namrata and Priya. Namrata is married to Kumar Gaurav and Priya has been a Congress MP.
The famous film named Zubaida was named after the actress on whose life it was based. She started her film career with the first talkie film of Indian cinema, Alam Ara. Later, she changed her religion and married Maharaj Narsingir Dhanrajgir Gyan Bahadur.