Punjabi Shaikh

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Punjabi Shaikh
A Khattri nobleman, in 'Kitab-i tasrih al-aqvam' by Col. James Skinner, aka Sikandar (1778-1841).jpg
A Khattri nobleman, in Kitab-i tasrih al-aqvam by Col. James Skinner in (1778-1841)
Total population
10 million
Regions with significant populations
 Pakistan Europe United States Canada Australia Dubai Saudi Arabia United Kingdom
Allah-green.svg Islam 100%
Related ethnic groups
Shaikhs in South AsiaKhatrisKamboj/Kamboh/KambojaMuslim RajputsLoharArain

Punjabi Shaikh (Urdu: پنجابی شيخ‎) are prominent branch of Shaikh in South Asia.


Sheikh (Arabic and Punjabi: شيخ ), is an Arabic word meaning elder of a tribe, lord, Honorable revered old man, or Islamic scholar. In South Asia it is used as an ethnic title generally attributed to Muslim trading families.

From the beginning of Muslim rule in South Asia in 713 AD, the Muslim technocrats, bureaucrats, soldiers, traders, scientists, architects, teachers, theologians and sufis traveled from the rest of the Muslim world to the Islamic Sultanate in South Asia and settled permanently.

In South Asia, after the advent of Islam, some high caste (Brahmins and Khatris) converted to Islam in the Punjab region and adopted this title. They are known as Punjabi Shaikh (Punjabi) پنجابی شيخ. Punjabi Shaikhs are mostly urban and non agriculturist but a few families also cultivate their own land in the western districts. Their main professions are business and public service. In Punjab, they stereotypically have a reputation for business acumen. The Khawaja Shaikh, with their sub-division the Chiniotis and the Qanungoh Shaikh are two such communities.

Before the independence of Pakistan in 1947, Khatris were living in all the districts of Punjab. Most of them were concentrated in the western districts. People from all classes; Khatris, Rajputs, Gujjars, Gakhars, etc.; had converted to Islam. The Siddiqui Shaikhs and Quraishi Shaikhs,Abbasis are communities that are the descended from these converted classes. They are found in Punjab as Punjabi speaking Shaikhs and also found in Sindh as Sindhi speaking Shaikhs.

The Saraswat Brahmins, including Mohyals, adopted Sheikh as their title upon high cast conversion to Islam. Similarly, many Rajput clans had converted to Islam during the early 12th century and were also given the honorary title of Sheikh (elder of the tribe) by their Arab rulers. Sheikh rajputs were the earliest in Rajputs to embrace Islam.

Muslim Khatris[edit]

Main article: Muslim Khatris

The Muslim Khatri (Urdu: کهتری ‎) are the Khatri converts to Islam. Although a large majority of Khatris are Hindus, some converted to Islam. The conversion started in the 12th century and continued till 1947. In western districts of the Punjab (Sargodha, Mianwali, Multan, Jhang, Chakwal, Rawalpindi and Faislabad) converted Khatri traders called themselves "Khoja". Some time they are called "Khoja Sheikh".

Ismaili Shaikh[edit]

Main article: Ismaili Shaikh

The Hindu Brahmins, Kshatriya;Bhanushali Kataria (Also known as Katarmal), Thakur, Rana, Rathores, Bhattis, Chauhans and other Rajput elite class converted by different Ismaili Pirs to Islam, who arrived in Punjab, Ismaili Pirs gave the new converts of Punjab hereditary title of Shaikh, as well as the Muslims who immigrated from Arabia and Persia and who settled in Punjab and were previously Sayyid after their conversion to Ismailism had to change their cast due to a belief in Ismailism that Imam is the only Sayyid. So for centuries Shaikhs have enjoyed respect from both Muslims and Hindus. Although later majority of Ismaili Sheikhs excepted Sunni faith. Ismaili Sheikhs of Punjab are the least known of the Ismaili's unlike their counterpart in Sindh and Gujrat, the khoja community.

Khawaja Shaikh[edit]

Main article: Khawaja Shaikh

Members of the Khatris caste, after converting to Islam adopted the title Khawaja Shaikh (Arabic: خواجہ شيخ‎) and to this community belong many prominent Muslim trading families of South Asia. Aroras and a small community called Khukhrains which are trading communities consider themselves Khatris but are different in terms of origin, history, culture and language. Aroras and Khukhrains speak Multani or Seraiki.

Qanungoh Shaikh[edit]

Main article: Qanungoh Shaikh

Qanungoh Shaikhs (Persian: قانونگوہ شيخ‎) belonged to all the districts of the Punjab. They have different lineages and represent families who were holding hereditary office of Qanungoh (Law readers) during the Muslim period.

This designation was used in the Punjab and other provinces of India and Pakistan for hereditary registrar of landed property in a subdivision of a district.

(Nasier Sheikh, father of Ajaz and Omar Sheikh, is the leader of the brilliant Qanungoh Shaikh)

Siddiqui and Quraishi Shaikhs[edit]

Main article: Siddiqui

The Siddiqui and Quraishi are also clans of Shaikh found in the Punjab.

Kashmiri Shaikh[edit]

Main article: Kashmiri Shaikh
Muhammad Iqbal, the national poet of Pakistan

Kashmiri Shaikh are another community living in different districts of the Kashmir and Punjab. They emigrated from Kashmir during the 19th and 20th centuries. Allama Shaikh Muhammad Iqbal belonged to this group. Muhammad Iqbal grandfather Shaikh Rafiq migrated to Sialkot in the early 19th century.

See also[edit]


  1. Denzil Ibbetson, Edward MacLagan, H. A. Rose, " A Glossary of The Tribes & Casts of The Punjab & North West Frontier Province", 1911, pp 502 Vol II
  2. Wendy Doniger, tr. "The Law of Manu", (Penguin Books, 1991 ) Verses 43-44, Chapter 10.
  3. A.L. Basham " The Wonder That Was India", ( Sidgwick & Jackson, 1967)
  4. D. Ibbetson, E.MacLagan, H.A. Rose, pp 58, Vol I
  5. Abu Fazal, "Ain-i-Akbari", translated by H.Blocmann & H.S. Jarrett, (Calcutta, 1873–94) 3 Vols., a gazetteer of the Mughal Empire compiled in 1590 AD.
  6. D. Ibbetson, E.MacLagan, H.A. Rose, pp 513–514 Vol II

External links[edit]