The Malabar Muslims are one of the earliest group to profess Islam in the Indian subcontinent. Unlike the rest of India where Islam gained foothold through conquest via land form the neighboring countries, the Malabar coast received Islam directly from Arabia via the sea trade. History tells us that Islam may have reached the shores of Malabar during the life time of Nabi Muhammad s.a.w. himself. Malabar was also then in contact with the traders and missionaries especially from Yemen who helped spread to shape and spread Islam in Malabar.
Since Kerala is separated by the Ghats form the rest of India, Islam grew in partial isolation from the rest of India yet in contact with the rest of the Islamic world such as Arabia and South East Asia through trade. As such certain differences can be observed in the way Islam is practiced. While in most of the Indian subcontinent the Hanafi Mazhab is observed, in Kerala, like in Malaysia the Shafie Mazhab is observed. This is not surprising as the Malabaris were part of the ‘team’ spreading Islam to South East Asia