|Regions with significant populations|
|• India • Pakistan|
|• Gujarati • Hindi • Urdu|
|• Islam 100% •|
|Related ethnic groups|
|• Sindhi Shaikh • Shaikh of Rajasthan • Shaikh|
The Shaikh are a Muslim community found in the state of Gujarat in India. They are part of the larger Shaikh community of South Asia. Included within the Shaikh community are the Shaikhda of Bharuch district and the Sodagar of Patan.
History and origin
The word Shaikh in Arabic means a tribal elder or headman.
The term Shaikh can cover a community of no definite origin, since the name has been used by any individuals of wide background. Mostly influential people or poor farmers converted by Sufi saints used to adopt Shaikh title.
They played a key role in the early Islamic history of Gujarat, serving as courtiers and administrators for the Sultans of Gujarat and later Mughal rulers. After the breakup of the Mughal Empire, they became rulers of a number of states in the Kathiawar region, with Mangrol being the most important.
The community is found mainly in Ahmadabad, Godhra, Baroda, Rajkot, Junagadh, Bhavnagar and the Kutch District. They are essentially an urban community, except the Shaikh of Kutch. The Kutchi Shaikh have three groups of equal status, the Shaikh Dada, Shaikh Sayed and Shaikh Fakeer. The first two are found in Kanyabee village and the last group in Shaikh Sumrasar village of the Bhuj taluka.
Shaikh by District History & origin
The Shaikh of Bharuch include the Hansotis, a unique community, who initially arose from Hansot taluka. They are prominent in the fact that they to this day possess a venerable archaic proto-Urdu tongue. The Hansoti language has defiantly retained Arabic & Turkic words, whilst later Urdu dialects, such as standard Delhi (northern region) or Dakhani (southern region) do not. Some may ascribe it to the geographical middle zone, popularly entitled Bombay Urdu. The ethnic mix of Hansotis, on the precursor stock, includes a dizzying variety of additions e.g. phenotypic features, covering the range from Yemen,Iraq & Syria to Khorasanian (Central Asian Turco-Persian), native Indic nationalities to Ethiopic Habshis! One often sees their men being barrel-chested, broad-shouldered with Turkic eyes & noses, children with brown hair, & even the odd example of blue or green eyes & ginger hair. There are tall men possessed of a Punjabi, Rajput or Sindhi cast. Hansot's most famous historically attestable son, the widely known personage Shaikh Samad, reported directly to the Mughal Emperor Akbar. (vide Navsari sanad regarding the Parsi community).
The Shaikh of Gujarat are largely an urban community, with the exception being the Shaikh of Kutch, who are largely farmers. In Kutch, the Shaikh undertake rain fed agriculture, and grow mainly wheat, sorghum and groundnuts. A few rear goat, sheep and cattle. Those in the urban area engage in a number of occupation, and have traditions similar to other Gujarati Muslims community. The majority of the Shaikh are Sunni, the only exception being the Shaikh families of the town of Khambhat, who are Shia. Like other Gujarati Muslims, they too have a state wide caste association, the Shaikh Samyukh Mowath Jamat. The Shaikh of Gujarat have differing native languages depending on their particular ethnogenesis. Some speak Gujarati with large number of Urdu loanwords, while those of Kutch speak Kutchi. ., & yet others speak archaic proto-Urdu e.g. Hansotis.
The Sodagar or Arab Shaikh are a small sub-group within the larger Shaikh community. They originate from the Hadhramaut region of Yemen, and settled in the city of Patan, during the period of Mughal rule, and intermarried with the Sunni Bohra community. The community were involved the buying and selling of silk, and exporting it to the Middle East. They still maintain links with the Middle East, being fluent in Arabic. But the Sodagar mohalla in Patan has declined, with many of their houses becoming crumbling ruins. They have their own caste association, the Jamat Shams Sofdagaran, which is involved in the up keep of their jamat khana, in the town of Patan. They are strictly endogamous, and do not marry with other Shaikh groups. There are still cases of intermarriage with Arab communities in the Middle East.
- People of India Gujarat Volume XXI Part Three edited by R.B Lal, P.B.S.V Padmanabham, G Krishnan & M Azeez Mohideen pages 1278-1282
- Muslim Communities in Gujarat by Satish C Misra pages 112-114