The Qanungoh(Variation of Spellings as Qanungo, Kanungoh, Kanungo, Canungo, Canungoh, Cahnugo and Cahnungoh) have tribal and marital affinities with varied regional groups such as the Kukhran, Muslim Rajputs, Mohyal Brahmins, Awan, and Khattar as well as Rohillas, Rind and Gardezi and also Kakkezai (Pashtuns) in the Jullunder area. Some people known as Shiekhkhel are also said to have been the Qanungoh in North Waziristan. A small number of Qanungoh Shaikh also live in India and Bangladesh.
Qanungoh Shaikhs belong to all the districts of the Punjab as well as some districts in the Sarhad and Balochistan provinces, although can be found in small numbers in Seistan, Paktika and Khost provinces in Iran and Afghanistan where they are sometimes referred to as Hindki. A minority of Qanungoh Shaikhs adhere to the Shia Islam whilst others hailing from lower Punjab and Baluchistan are Sunni belonging to various Sufi orders. Some Qanungo Shaikhs have also been known to be of the Zikri denomination.
Many well-known political figures and other great academics have arisen from the Qanungo Shaikhs in the past, contemporary examples being Wasim Sajjad (Former President of Pakistan), Manzoor Qadir who drafted the first constitution of Pakistan, Sheikh Anwarul Haq and also Shaikh Aftab Ahmed (MNA-Attock) who currently works alongside Nawaz Sharif.
Qanungoh Shaikhs represent the descendants of the Muslim Qanungohs of what is now Pakistan who are styled Shaikh and often retain their tribal or familial names.
The title of Qanungoh appeared in the Sub-Continent between 1270 and 1290 possibly owing to migrations of the minor Arab aristocracy prompted by Hulegu Khan's destruction of the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad. The hereditary office of the Qanungoh was well established and instituted during the Khilji dynasty. The loose suzerainty of the Mamluk Caliphs over the Khiljis served as a further conduit for the movement of literate people from Central Asia and the Middle East to the Delhi Sultanate to serve as administration over the local populace.
Their office continued and was greatly extended under the Mughals. For the purposes of Qanungoh Shaikhs, the northern expansion of the Mughal empire particularly under Akbar resulted in people representing largely Khatri and other Punjabi tribes as well as some Baluch and Pakhtoon tribes acquiring the title of Qanungoh. This was a golden age for the Qanungoh and these groups through marital and political affiliation collectively instituted and integrated the Qanungoh Shaikhs as a powerful and wealthy clan. From the early 15th Century onwards a small number of Sikhs also joined the Qanungoh, the descendants of whom became the Rulers of Kangra.
During the British period the Qanungoh continued in their hereditary office although their importance declined particularly following the Indian Mutiny. As their influence waned during this period they were popularly portrayed as corrupt, debauched and tyrannical.
Today certain voting areas in Pakistan retain the name of Qanungoh Halqas based on the jurisdiction of the regional Qanungoh, although the title does not officially exist. Qanungoh Shaikhs even today remain influential and amongst most literate elements of Pakistani society.
The British subsequently chronicled the Qanungoh Shaikhs as follows:
|“||Qanungo , lit . 'an expounder of law '. The title of a family in Karnal who were original modis or store keepers and who also engaged in commerce at Joli . One member of the family was appointed Qanungo of Karnal and the family then settled there .Originally Mahajan by caste , its founder Maidi Mal had a son Rai Mal , ancestor of the present Qanungo family , but he subsequently embraced Islam and his son Shaikh Tayab by a Muhammadan wife is said to have risen to the rank of wazir at the Mughal court and to have obtained his brothers appointment as Qanungo . Qanungo families are also found in Hoshiarpur where a family of Jirath Khatris who were one Qanungos of Bajwara in Mughal times :in Gujarat :in Jullundur at which town there was an old Sahgal Khatri family which held the office and is now partly Mohummadan||”|
The above description of the origins of the Shaikh is only somewhat accurate owing to its recentness and also as the history of Sheikh Tayab's non-Muslim family is an issue in dispute. No historian has fully been able to trace the exact lifestyle of Shaikh Tayab's family prior to his conversion and acceptance of the title of Wazir in the Mughal court. In fact, the Shaikhs themselves are unsure concerning this area of their ancestry and only fragmentary records of this time remain, one being the Shaikh family tree currently in the possession of Shaikh Abdul Rashid. It has been suggested that the Shaikhs are originally of Royal Arabian descent, although it is likely that the alternative theory of Sheikh Tayab, the great Wazir of the Mughal Court, is the most likely ancestry of the Shaikhs and agrees with their ancestral family tree.
The Gazetteer of the Attock District 1930 records that Attock District had a significant population of Shaikhs.
|“||Shaikhs are usually comparatively recent converts from Hinduism and accordingly contain many very varying elements (have different lineages and are not necessarily related to each other).Their numbers have fallen almost 50 percent since the census of 1891 , and they now number less than 4000. They are found almost solely in Attock Tahsil , and own ten villages on the sandy upland running from Cambelpur to the edge of the Chhachh. In the Sarwala they own ten percent of the cultivated area and pay 12 percent of the revenue.||”|
After independence of Pakistan in 1947, nearly all Qanungoh Shaikh of East Punjab, Haryana and other parts of northern India escaped from pogroms and genocide in India and settled in Pakistan.
- Shaikhs in South Asia
- Gujarati Shaikh
- Kashmiri Shaikh
- Kashmiri Shaikh
- Khawaja Shaikh
- Khawaja Shaikh
- Khoja Sheikh
- Muslim Kayasths
- Muslim Khatris
- Punjabi Shaikh
- Phaphra Sheikh
- Rajasthani Shaikh
- Shaikh Farooqui
- Shaikh Siddiqui
- Sindhi Shaikh
- Encyclopaedia of Historiography By M.M. Rahman pgs. 68-75 Published by Anmol Publications PVT. LTD., 2006
- Mughal Land Revenue System By Lanka Sundaram pgs 51 and 86 Published by READ BOOKS, 2007.
- The Panjab chiefs : historical and biographical notices of the principal families in the Lahore and Rawalpindi divisions of the Panjab by Lepel Henry Griffin, Sir; Charles Francis Massy
- Calcutta Review Vol. XI University of Calcutta pg.380 Jan-June 1849 (2)
- A glossary of the tribes and castes of the Punjab and North -West provinces , compiled by H A Rose , vol II Page 258
- Gazetteer of the Attock District 1930 published by Sang-E-Meel Publications Page 115