Shaikh of Uttar Pradesh

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Total population
8,076,000 [1]
Regions with significant populations
 India Pakistan
UrduHindiKhari BoliAwadhi
Allah-green.svg Islam 100% •
Related ethnic groups
Shaikh SiddiquiShaikhzadaQidwaiZamindaraShaikh of BiharShaikh of RajasthanShaikh

The Shaikh are a Muslim community found in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. They are part of the larger Shaikh community of South Asia. Quite a few Shaikh have immigrated to Pakistan, where they form an important element in the Muhajir community. Common surnames used by the community include Sayyid, Quraishi, Farooqi, Osmani, Siddiqui and Shaikh.[2]

History and origin[edit]

Shaikh is a word or honorific term in the Arabic language that literally means "elder." It is commonly used to designate an elder of a tribe, a revered wise man, or an Islamic scholar. In the context of Uttar Pradesh, the title Shaikh signifies actual or claimed Arab descent and connotes a status group. The Shaikh do not constitute a single homegenous community, but represent instead a congeries of a large number of separate sub-groups. For example, the Shaikhs are divided into a number of sub-groups, referred to as biradaris, based on descent and source of origin and their members not only identify themselves as members of separate groups, but are strictly endogamous. Examples of important Shaikh biradaris are the Qidwai((Siddiqui,Farooqi)), found in Barabanki,Farrukhabad,Kannauj, District,Grand Shaikhs belonging to Allahabad and Behlim found mainly in Bulandshahr District.[3]

Throughout the history of the Delhi Sultanate and its successor the Mughal Empire in South Asia, Muslim technocrats, bureaucrats, soldiers, traders, scientists, architects, teachers, theologians and Sufis flocked from the rest of the Muslim world, and the region that now forms Uttar Pradesh was the centre of Islamic power in India. Over time, the name Shaikh was given to these Muslim families, many of whom were settled in fortified Muslim settlements, known as qasbas. They played a key role in the early Islamic history of Uttar Pradesh, serving as courtiers and administrators for the Delhi Sultanate and later Mughal rulers. Often these early settlers from the Central Asia were granted jagirs (estates), and were the earliest Muslim colonists in the region. One such community of early Shaikh colonists are the Qidwai, whose ancestor was Qazi Qidwa, a son of the Sultans of Rum, in what is now modern Turkey. The Qazi is said to have been sent him to the Awadh region to spread Islam, where he is said to have won over fifty villages to Islam. These fifty villages were latter awarded to him, and the region became known as Qidwara.[2] According to another tradition, Kazi Kidwa is said have defeated a local ruler in the Awadh region by the name of Raja Jagdeopur. This Raja was said to have belonged to the aboriginal Bhar community. The original settlement of the tribe was Juggaur in Lucknow district, from where they spread to Barabanki District.[4] These early colonists were often required to make converts, and these converts often adopted the clan name of those at whose hand they accepted Islam, and this led to a substantial growth in the Shaikh community.[2]

Many Shaikh families claim descent from the sahaba of Mohammad or directly from Muhammad.


Their sub-divisions include:[5]

Basically Shaikh community descend from the Quraish tribe of Arabia which is the tribe of Muhammad. This simply means that Muhammad was Quraishi and so are his descendants. In the same way all the Rashidun Caliphs were Quraishi and so are their descendants. Shaikh or Quraishi are broader terms which includes Sayyid, Siddiqui, Farooqui, Osmani, Abbasi and Quraishi communities. So the families descending from Muhammad use Sayyid as family name, whereas families descending from Abu Bakr As-Siddiq, Umar Farooq and Caliph Uthman use Siddiqui, Farooqi and Osmani as family names respectively in order to show as to whom exactly they descend from among the Quraish.

The family name Shaikh is also used by many Muslim families of Brahmin, Kayastha and Rajput ancestry.

Family Name Ancestor or Descent Distribution
Sayyid claim descent from Muhammad through his grand sons Hasan ibn Ali and Hussain ibn Ali Throughout Uttar Pradesh
Abbasi claim descent from ‘Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib, the uncle of the Muhammad They are found throughout Uttar Pradesh, with major settlements in Lakhimpur Kheri and Kakori
Ansari claim descent from A1-' Ansar, ' the helpers, a term used for the early converts of Al-Madinah, but when all the citizens of Al-Madinah were converted to Islam, they were all named 'Ansar, while those Muslims who accompanied Muhammad from Mecca to Al-Madinah were called Muhajiroon or " exiles” Throughout Uttar Pradesh, particularly in the districts of Lucknow and Barabanki. The Ansaris of Firangi Mahal in Lucknow (originally from Barabanki District), have produced several prominent Ulema.
Behlim or Bahaleem a Turk tribe that came to India during the rule of the Khilji dynasty, although according to other traditions, they originate from Yemen Found mainly in the Doab region. A few families are also settled in Basti and Gonda districts.
Bani Israil or Bannu Israil literally the children of Israel, they claim descent from the Baghdadi Jews who settled in India during Mughal rule and converted to Islam in the 17th Century Found mainly in Rohilkhand and the Doab
Faridi trace their ancestry back to Fariduddin Ganjshakar, who was the khalif (in Sufism a nominated successor) of Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, who himself was the khalif of Moinuddin Chishti, the founder of the Chishti Sufi order in South Asia. Farīd was descended from Umar ibn Khattab, the second khalif of Islam, and the Faridis are a branch of the Farooqi shaikhs. Found mainly in Rohilkhand, particularly in Badaun District, with a few families in Agra and Mainpuri
Farooqi who take their name from the second Caliph of Islam, Umar ibn Khattab, who was surnamed Farooq, which in Arabic means the discriminator between truth and falsehood Found throughout Uttar Pradesh
Hashemi after Hashim, the great-grandfather of Muhammad, who according to the tradition, was surnamed Hashim on account of his liberality in distributing bread (hashm, "to break bread) to the pilgrims at Makkah. The Hashemi Shaikhs are distinct from the Hashemi Sayyid, as they trace their descent from members of the Banu Hashim clan, and not directly from Muhammad Found mainly in Awadh. The Mujavir of the shrine of Syed Salar Masood belong to a Shaikh Hashemi family.
Ja'fri after Ja'far ibn Abi Talib, a cousin of Muhammad, who from his charity was called Abul Masikin, "the father of the poor" found mainly in Kanpur, Fatehpur, Hamirpur, Allahabad and Varanasi districts
Kamboh or Zuberi Different traditions as to their origin, with many UP Kambohs claiming Arab ancestry Found mainly in Meerut, Saharanpur, Etah and Bareilly districts
Kayastha Muslim a community of Muslim converts from the Hindu Kayastha caste. They are also known as Lala and are Shaikh by courtesy Found mainly in Allahabad and Kanpur, and produced the taluqdar families of Sarwa Jalalpur in Sitapur district and Azizabad in Raebareli district, in both these districts, they were substantial land owners
Khurasani descendants of immigrants from the province of Khurasan in Iran, some families claim descent from Abu Muslim Khorasani Found mainly in Awadh
Milki or Malik who were originally a Persian tribe, which settled in India at the time of Qutb-ud-din Aibak Found mainly in Awadh, Allahabad, Fatehpur and Gorakhpur
Nagar Muslim converts from the Nagar Brahmin caste Found mainly in Doab, particularly in Bulandshahr District
Pirzada means offspring of the saint", a term of very wide meaning which may mean the descendants or followers of any spiritual guide or pir Found mainly in the Doab region of western Uttar Pradesh
Qureshi after the Arabic tribe to which Muhammad belonged extremely wide spread, found in every district in Uttar Pradesh
Qidwai claim descent from Qazi Qidwa, a son of the Sultans of Rum. In what is now modern Turkey. There are differing traditions as to the ethnic origin of the Qazi. Some sources claim he was a descendant of Abu Bakar, the first caliph of Islam. While other sources claim that he was a Sayyid by lineage Found mainly in Awadh
Shaikhzada literally son of a Shaikh, are mainly Faruqi and Siddiqi families that have historically been involved in the administrative roles in both the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire Found in the Qasbas of Thana Bhawan, Deoband, Kairana and Gangoh, all in the Doab region of Uttar Pradesh
Siddiqui who take their name from the first Caliph, Abu Bakr, who received from Muhammad the title of As Siddiq or "one who speaks the truth" Found in almost every district in Uttar Pradesh, major settlements in Allahabad, Kaushambi and Lakhimpur Kheri. They have produced the taluqdar family of Mahmoodabad.
Sulemani the supposed descendants of Solomon Mainly in Awadh
Usmani the descendants of the third Caliph of Islam, Uthman ibn Affan Found throughout Uttar Pradesh
Zamindara or Rautara converts from Rajputs and Brahmin groups in Azamgarh Found in Azamgarh District

Present circumstances[edit]

Historically the Shaikh of Awadh were substantial landowners, often absentees, and while those of Rohilkhand and the Doab were small scale farmers. In the urban townships, Shaikh families served as priests, teachers and administrators, with the British colonial authorities given the community a preference in recruitment. The independence and partition of India in 1947 was traumatic for the community, with many families becoming divided, with some members moved to Pakistan. This was followed by the abolishment of the zamindari system, where land was redistributed to those who till the land.

The Shaikh of Uttar Pradesh are divided along sectarian lines, with some being Shia, while others are Sunni. They are fairly widely distributed found in almost all the districts of the state. In the urban areas, Shaikh often live in their own quarters, while they tend to live in their own villages, rarely in multi-clan villages. In western Rohilkhand, particularly in Bijnor and Jyotiba Phule where they make a quarter of the population. As all the Shaikh, Siddiqui, Farooqi, Osmani, Abbasi and Sayyid communities descend from different individuals belonging from the same tribe Quraish so basically all are Quraishi. This Quraishi community use their direct ancestor's name in order to give their exact identity. Throughout history one can find countless examples of these communities intermarrying with each other. There is still a marked preference of marrying with close kin, and they practice both parallel cousin and cross cousin marriages. In their old settlements, often extended families live in close proximity. But as many have begun to migrate to the large urban centres like Delhi or Mumbai, there sense of corporate identity is breaking down, with marriages into the wider Muslim community, with a similar process occurring in Pakistan.[6]

Their primary occupation of the rural Shaikh is still cultivation. The Shaikh cultivate wheat, paddy, maize, sorghum, sugar cane, pulses and vegetables. A few also have mango, guava, and banana orchards. Those of western Uttar Pradesh have benefited from the changes brought about the Green Revolution, while those in the east have seen a decline in their living standards, especially the large taluqdar families.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part Three edited by A Hasan & J C Das
  3. ^ Social Stratification edited by Dipankar Gupta Oxford University Press
  4. ^ Barabanki: A Gazetteer Volume XLVIII by H. R Neville page 100 1904 Government of India press
  5. ^ Tribes and Castes of Northwestern Provinces and Oudh by William Crook 1895 Government of India Press
  6. ^ a b People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part Three edited by A Hasan & J C Das page 1300to 1254 Manohar Publications