Gujarati Muslims

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Gujarati Muslim
Regions with significant populations

• India • Pakistan • United Kingdom

• Canada • South Africa
Gujarati • • Urdu
Allah-green.svg Sunni, Shia, Shia Ismaili
Related ethnic groups

Gujarati peopleSurti Muslims . TurksMuhajirsArabsPersians

Pakistani peoplePashtunsJatsKhojaLohanas

The term Gujarati Muslims is usually used to signify an Indian Muslim from the state of Gujarat in North-western coast of India, who speaks the Gujarati language as a mother-tongue (first language) and follows certain customs different from the rest of Indian Muslims. Gujarati Muslims are very prominent in industry and medium-sized businesses, and there is a very large Gujarati Muslim community in Mumbai.[citation needed] Many members of this community migrated to Pakistan in 1947 and have settled in Karachi and Sindh, contributing greatly to the general welfare and economy of Pakistan. Having acquired a formidable reputation as some of India's greatest merchants and benefactors, the seven centuries aged old Gujarati diaspora is found scattered throughout the Near East, Indian Ocean, and Southern Hemisphere regions everywhere in between Africa and Japan with a notable presence in:[1] East and South Africa, Britain, France, Portugal, Dubai, Oman, Zanzibar, Mozambique, Aden, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Mauritius, Burma (now Myanmar), Madagascar, Pakistan, Réunion, and Hong Kong, comprising historically a pattern of independent 'free migrants' than indentured laborers.

According to the 2001 Census of India, the Gujarati Muslim population was 4,592,854, which is 9.064% of the total population of the state. Most Gujarati Muslims have Gujarati language as their mother tongue, but some communities such as the Momin Ansari, and others, have Urdu as their mother tongue.[2] The Gujarati Muslims are further sub-divided into groups, such as the Surti, Chhipa each with their own customs and traditions. Famous Gujarati Muslims include Badruddin Tyabji, a Congress president and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan.


Located in the westernmost portion of India, Gujarat includes the region of Kutch, Saurashtra, and the territories between the rivers Banas and Damanganga. Islam came early to Gujarat, with immigrant communities of Arab trading communities settling on the western seacoast of India as early as the 8th Century A.D, spreading Islam as soon as the religion gained mass acceptance in the Arabian peninsula. They were later joined by Persian traders from Greater Iran. Many of these early merchants were Ismaili Shia, both Mustaali and Nizari. They laid the foundation of the Bohra and Khoja communities. Gujarat at this time was ruled by the Valabhi dynasty. In the thirteenth century, the last Hindu ruler Karna, was defeated by Alauddin Khilji, the Turkic Sultan of Dehli. This episode ushered a period of five centuries of Muslim Turkic and Mughal rule, leading to a conversion of a number of Hindu Gujarati people to Islam, and the creation of new communities such as the Molesalam and Miyana communities.

In the sixteenth century, the Memon community immigrated from Sindh and settled in Kutch and Kathiawar. While in Bharuch and Surat, a schism occurred among the Bohras, and a new community of Sunni Bohras was created. Another Muslim sect, the Mahdawi also settled in Gujarat, and led to the creation of the Tai community. In 1593, the Mughal Emperor Akbar conquered Gujarat, and incorporated Gujarat in the Mughal Empire. This period led to the settlement of the Mughal community. A good many Sayyid and Shaikh families also are said to arrived during the period of Mughal rule. After the death of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, in 1707, Mughal rule began weaken after ruling for a century. Most of Gujarat fell to the Marathas, and this period saw the dispersal of further Pathan and Baluch, who came as mercenaries and were destroyed or defeated by the Marathas. Gujarat fell to British in the late 19th Century.[3]

Jamat Bandi[edit]

Gujarati Muslim society has a unique custom known as Jamat Bandi, literally meaning communal solidarity. This system is the traditional expression of communal solidarity. It is designed to regulate the affairs of the community and apply sanctions against infractions of the communal code. Almost all the main Gujarat communities, such as the Chhipa, Ghanchi, Khoja, Dawoodi Bohra and Sunni Bohra have caste associations, known as jamats. Social organization at the Jamat Bandi level varies from community to community. In some communities, the Jamat simply runs a mosque and attached rest house, and a madrasah. Some larger communities, such as the Bohra and Khoja have developed elaborate and highly formalized systems with written and registered constitutions. Their organizations own large properties, undertake housing projects and schools, dispensaries and weekly newspapers.


Historically, each of the Muslim communities are endogamous. Gujarati Muslims in the United Kingdom have shown that endogamy remains important with the existence of matrimonial services specifically dedicated to the Gujarati Muslim community.[4] However, this is not the case with Gujarati Muslim communities in the USA, where marriages outside the community are becoming increasingly common. This can be largely attributed to there being a much smaller community in the USA when compared to the size of the community in the UK.

The region of Kutch has always been historically distinct, with the Muslims there accounting for about twenty percent of the population. This region is characterised by salt desserts, such as the Rann of Kutch. Because of this landscape, the Kutch Muslims are Maldhari pastoral nomads found in the Banni region of Kutch. Most of them are said to have originated in Sindh, and speak a dialect of Kutchi which has many Sindhi loanwords. Major Maldhari communities include the Jats, Halaypotra, Hingora, Hingorja, Juneja and Samma tribes.[5]

Surti Muslims[edit]

There is evidence of Arabs settling along the Konkan-Gujarat coast as early as the 9th, 8th and perhaps 7th century.[6] Arab traders landed at Ghogha (located just across the narrow Gulf of Cambay from Surat) around the early seventh century and built a masjid there facing Jeruselum.[7] Thus Gujarat has the oldest mosque in India built between 624-626AD by the Arabs who settled there. These Arabs and others who settled in Bharuch and Surat were sailors, nakhudas, and merchants who belonged to various South Arabian coastal tribes while others were from the Persian Gulf, and large numbers married local women, adopting the local Gujarati language and customs over time.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Where on earth do they speak Gujarati?". Retrieved 29 January 2014. 
  2. ^ name="Indian Census 2001 - Religion" Indian Census 2001 - Religion
  3. ^ Muslim Peoples: A World Ethnographic Survey editor Richard V Weekes pages 294 to 297
  4. ^ Gujarati Muslim Marriage, a dedicated service to assist Gujarati Muslims to marry within the community.
  5. ^ People of India Gujarat Volume XXI Part Two edited by R.B Lal, P.B.S.V Padmanabham, G Krishnan & M Azeez Mohideen pages 487-491
  6. ^ Wink, André (1990). Al-Hind, the making of the Indo-Islamic world (2. ed., amended. ed.). Leiden: E.J. Brill. p. 68. ISBN 9004092498. Retrieved 29 January 2014. Up to about the tenth century the largest settlement of Arabs and Persian Muslim traders are not found in Malabar however but rather more to the north in coastal towns of the Konkan and Gujarat, where in pre-Islamic times the Persians dominated the trade with the west. Here the main impetus to Muslim settlement came from the merchants of the Persian Gulf and Oman, with a minority from Hadramaut. 
  7. ^ Schimmel, Annemarie (1980). Handbuch der Orientalistik.. Leiden: Brill. p. 65. ISBN 9004061177. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  8. ^ Dunn, Ross E. (1986). The adventures of Ibn Battuta, a Muslim traveler of the fourteenth century. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 218. ISBN 9780520057715. Retrieved 30 September 2013.