Shia Islam in India
|Over 50 Million|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Most of India.|
|Indian Languages · Indian English|
|Beliefs and practices|
|Current Branches of Shi'ism|
Shia Muslims are a large minority among India's Muslims. However, there has been no particular census conducted in India with regards to sects, but Indian sources like Times of India and Daily News and Analysis reported Indian Shia population in mid 2005–2006 between 25% and 31% of entire Muslim population of India which accounts them in numbers between 40,000,000 to 50,000,000 of 157,000,000 Indian Muslim population. However, as per an estimation of one reputed Shia NGO Alimaan Trust, India's Shia population in early 2000 was around 30 million with Sayyids comprising just a tenth of the Shia population. According to some national and international sources Indian Shia population is the world's second-largest after Iran.
Shia population was also acclaimed publicly as second largest by the 14th Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh quoted in the year 2005. One of the lingering problems in estimating the Shia population is that unless the Shia form a significant minority in a Muslim country, the entire population is often listed as Sunni. Shiites are estimated to be 21–35 percent of the Muslim population in South Asia, although the total number is difficult to estimate due to the intermingling between the Islamic schools and branches and practice of taqiyya by Shias.
There are many big and small towns and villages with majority Shiite Muslim population in India. Many Sayyids between 11th to 16th century migrated to the Indian subcontinent to escape the persecution of Shias in mostly Sunni ruled Middle East, also there was peace time migration from Iran in large numbers and Sayyids from Nishapur, Sabzawar, Shiraz etc. from Iran migrated mostly to northern Indian Ganges plains. Prominent places in India with majority or considerable Shia Muslim population are Kargil, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Hallaur, Amroha and others.
One of the example traced back to 15-16th century where Sayyid from Imam Reza (A.S.) Sayyid Hishammuddin migrated from Nishapur (Khorasan Razavi Provience, Iran) to Karari and settled and prospered there from Mughal times till date. Among the Shias of India, an overwhelming majority belongs to the Ithna Ashari (Twelver) division, while the Shias among the Khoja and Bohra communities are Ismaili. Dawoodi Bohras are primarily based in India, even though the Dawoodi theology originated in Yemen. India is home to the majority Dawoodi Bohra population most of them concentrated in Gujarat out of over 1 million followers worldwide.
As per historical evidences and the genealogy maintained by the Sayyids who migrated to India from Middle East and Persia the history of Shia Islam in India traces long back around 1000 years. According to historical records earliest known Muslim settlers in Awadh region (now a part of state of Uttar Pradesh) were father and son duo Saiyed Salar Dawood Ghazi and Saiyed Saiyed Salar Masud Ghazi. In 422 AH/1030 AD Saiyed Salaar Dawood Ghazi his son Saiyed Salaar Masud Ghazi and nefew Saiyed Salaar Sulaiman established themselves at Satrikh (also known as Sulaimanabad), district Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh. In the year 462 AH/1070 AD Saiyed Abdullah Zarbaqsh and Saiyed Zaid Shahsawar viz. the son-in-law and grandson (daughter's son) of Saiyed Salaar Dawood Ghazi established the town Zaidpur, district Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh. The rulers of various dynasties of India and also in the 11th century the rulers of Multan and Sindh were adherents of Shia Islam. The Nawabs of Awadh
Shia culture and belief has left its influence all over India with Imam Hussein ibn Ali becoming the revered personality in India not only for the Shias but also from non-Muslim communities, especially the Hindus of northern India who participate in ceremonies commemorating Hussein ibn Ali's martyrdom on the Day of Ashura.
Shaykh al-Mufid writes that before the Battle of Karbala, Hussein ibn Ali and the commander of the enemy forces, Umar ibn Saad, met at night and talked together for a long time. After that meeting Umar ibn Saad sent a letter to the Governor of Kufa, Ubayd-Allah ibn Ziyad in which he wrote that Hussein ibn Ali has suggested that he go to ‘one of the border outposts’ of the rapidly expanding Muslim empire as a way of resolving conflict. Other traditions name that border outpost as Al Hind or India. Even though Hussein ibn Ali himself was not able to go to India, some of the Shia did emigrate there for various reasons, including those who came as refugees from Umayyads and Abbasids persecution. These refugees brought with them rituals which kept alive the remembrance of Karbala and their Shia Identity.
Its narrated by Abd al Razzaq al Muqarram in his work of Maqtal al-Husayn that prior to his martyrdom, Al-Abbas ibn Ali while asking water for Mohammad's family from the Yazid I's army expressed his desire to go either Rome or to India. This made some people weep in the army of Yazid.
It has been believed that in 7th century few ladies from the household of Prophet Mohammad after Battle of Karbala came to Punjab province which became a part of Pakistan. One of the prominent of them was Ruqayyah bint Ali, the daughter of Ali through his wife Umm ul-Banin, Ruqayyah bint Ali was the sister of Al-Abbas ibn Ali and wife of Muslim ibn Aqeel. Still her shrine in Lahore, Punjab of Pakistan, is visited by people all around and she is referred as Bibi Pak Daman.
Most of the Persians Shias migrated to South Asia to prosper and obtain high positions in Muslim Sultanates and later Mughal Empire. There were also rebels and nobles who lost royal favour and migrated to Mughal Empire. The Mughals also preferred to employ foreign Muslim officials that had no local interests and thus were loyal to the Mughal emperor. The Humayun has returned from exile in Persia with thousands of Persians soldiers and nobles this increased the influence of the Shia Persians in Mughal Empire.
Persecution of Shia Islam in India begins from Kashmir where Ashura Procession is banned decades ago. shias are not allowed to mourn on the day of Ashura in Kashmir imposing strict restrictions on procession openly violation the Freedom of religion in the state. Shiites in India faced persecution by some Sunni rulers and Mughal Emperors which resulted in the martyrdom of Indian Shia scholars like Qazi Nurullah Shustari (also known as Shaheed-e-Thaalis, the third Martyr) and Mirza Muhammad Kamil Dehlavi (also known as Shaheed-e- Rabay, the fourth Martyr) who are two of the five martyrs of Shia Islam.
Shias also faced persecution in India in Kashmir for centuries, by the Sunni invaders of the region which resulted in massacre of many Shias and as a result most of them had to flee the region. Shias in Kashmir in subsequent years had to pass through the most atrocious period of their history. Plunder, loot and massacres which came to be known as ‘Taarajs’ virtually devastated the community. History records 10 such Taarajs also known as ‘Taraj-e-Shia’ between 15th to 19th century in 1548, 1585, 1635, 1686, 1719, 1741, 1762, 1801, 1830, 1872 during which the Shia habitations were plundered, people slaughtered, libraries burnt and their sacred sites desecrated. Such was the reign of terror during this period that the community widely went into the practice of Taqya in order to preserve their lives and the honor of their womenfolk. Village after village disappeared, with community members either migrating to safety further north or dissolving in the majority faith. The persecution suffered by Shias in Kashmir during the successive foreign rules was not new for the community. Many of the standard bearers of Shia Islam, like Sa’adaat (Saiyeds) or the descendants of the Prophet Mohammad and other missionaries who played a key role in spread of the faith in Kashmir, had left their home lands forced by similar situations.
India's role in battle of Karbala
Nathanvilal Wahshi, a Hindu Writer narrated about the arrival of a helper for Hussein ibn Ali’s cause on the eight day of Moharram. Hussein ibn Ali welcomed him and immediately confirmed his Indian Identity. Hussein ibn Ali then goes on to praise India and its people in the following words:
Upon asking more about the guest’s background he finds out that he is an Indian merchant residing in neighboring city of Basra, his father had been entrusted with the treasury of the war booty by none other than Ali. For this reason the merchant holds himself morally responsible for assisting Hussein ibn Ali in any possible way when the later is in trouble. Hussein ibn Ali appreciated gesture, but discouraged the merchant from taking up arms in following words:
Hussein ibn Ali said : What have you said in passion, Why should my eyes doubt your fidelity? My lord is aware of my conscience. What’s the difference between Hindu and Muslim is the quest for truth. This has the guiding principle for the People of the Cloak or Ahl al-Kisa. ”.
Shia Muslim Dynasties in India
Few prominent ones of the Indian Shia Muslim dynasties are as follows:
- Bahmani Sultanate (1347–1527 AD)
The Bahmani Sultanate also called the Bahmanid Empire or Bahmani Kingdom was a Muslim state of the Deccan in southern India and one of the great medieval Indian kingdoms. Bahmanid Sultanate was the first independent Islamic and Shi'ite Kingdom in South India. .
- Sharqi Dynasty (1394 CE to 1479 CE)
The Sharqi sultanate was an independent medieval Shia Muslim dynasty of North India, one of the many kingdoms that came up following the disintegration of the Delhi Sultanate. Between 1394 CE to 1479 CE, Sharqi dynasty ruled from Jaunpur in the present day state of Uttar Pradesh.
- Berar Sultanate (1490–1572 AD)
On the establishment of the Bahmani Sultanate in the Deccan (1348), Berar Sultanate was constituted one of the five provinces into which their kingdom was divided, being governed by great nobles, with a separate army. The perils of this system becoming apparent, the province was divided (1478 or 1479) into two separate provinces, named after their capitals Gawil and Mahur.
- Bidar Sultanate (1489–1619 AD)
Bidar Sultanate was one of the Deccan sultanates of late medieval India. Its founder, Qasim Barid was a Turk, domiciled in Georgia. He joined the service of the Bahmani sultan Muhammad Shah III. He started his career as a Sar-Naubat but later became the Mir-Jumla (prime minister) of the Bahmani sultanate.
- Qutb Shahi dynasty (1518–1687 AD)
The Qutb Shahi dynasty was a Turkic dynasty (whose members were also called the Qutub Shahis). They were the ruling family of the kingdom of Golconda in southern India. They were Shia Muslims and belonged to Kara Koyunlu.
- Adil Shahi dynasty (1527–1686 AD)
The Adil Shahi dynasty ruled the Sultanate of Bijapur in the Western area of the Deccan region of Southern India from 1490 to 1686. Bijapur had been a province of the Bahmani Sultanate (1347–1518), before its political decline in the last quarter of the 15th century and eventual break-up in 1518. The Bijapur Sultanate was absorbed into the Mughal Empire on 12 September 1686, after its conquest by the Emperor Aurangzeb.
- Nawabs & Kings of Awadh (1722–1858 AD)
Of all the Muslim states and dependencies of the Mughal empire, Awadh had the newest royal family, the Nawabs of Awadh. They were descended from a Persian adventurer called Sa'adat Khan, originally from Khurasan in Persia.
- Najafi Nawabs of Bengal (1757–1880)
- Nawabs of Murshidabad
Nawabs of Murshidabad succeeded the Nawabs of Bengal as Nawab Bahadur of Murshidabad, following Mansur Ali Khan's abdication. They got the title changed as the title of the Nawab of Bengal was abolished in 1880.They had little or no say in the share of the revenue collected and were ceased to use any force.
- Nawabs of Rampur
Population and circumstances
India, the only non Muslim nation in the world with Shiite population of 3–4 percent of its entire population, has recognized the day of Ashura listed as Moharram as the Public Holiday in India. India also has the Birthday of Imam Ali as public Holiday in states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, whose capital Lucknow is considered as the centre of India’s Shiite Muslim community. The Birthdate of Ali is not recognized by any country in any of its states other than India and Iran as public Holiday. It is also a known fact that when Saddam mercilessly quelled a Shia uprising in 1992. The world media remained silent and damage to the shrines of Hussein ibn Ali and his half-brother Al-Abbas ibn Ali, in the course of Baathist attempts to flush out Shia rebels was a tightly kept secret of the Saddam regime but Indian media Doordarshan was the only network in the world to have shown that footage.
India being a secular country, Shiite Muslims in India practice their religion freely without any restriction. However, in post Godhra riots a Shia Ex Member of the Parliament Ehsan Jafri was reported to be burnt to death by Hindu mob led by Indian National Congress leader Meghsingh Chaudhary (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulbarg_Society_massacre) in his own residence in the state of Gujarat in 2002.
Shias also claim to be sidelined in India, hence the All India Shia Personal Law Board was formed after segregation from the All India Muslim Personal Law Board in 2005 to address the legal needs of the Shia population. AISPLB feels that there should be a national policy for the Shias to prevent their exploitation by vested interests. The attitude of the government towards Muslims especially in Maharashtra came in for criticism. The newly formed All India Shia Personal Law Board had 69 members at the time of formation compared to 204 members in the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. The Shia body had the support of the erstwhile royal family of Lucknow, some 2000 descendants of the family claim to have extended their support. Shias claim they have been sidelined by the Sunni-dominated law board, which was set up in 1972. Maulana Mirza Mohammed Athar, president of the breakaway All India Shia Personal Law Board explained the reason for segregation saying that, Shias have formed a forum of themselves because the All India Muslim Personal Law Board never took interest in their well being." Shias and Sunnis do not interpret family laws in a similar way. Shiites also have different Mosques and Burial grounds in India.
However, some external sources such as the BBC claim that there are close to 20 million Shia's in India and the Pew Research Center figure them between 10 to 14 percent giving the numbers between 16,000,000 to 24,000,000. However, the Pew Research Center report is not considered authentic by many Shias and also national and International reports after taking into consideration the report released by Britannica Book of the year in 1997 which put the estimates of Shia population in India in 1996 over 26,000,000 out of entire Indian Muslim population of 103,000,000 at that time.
There are notable Shia Muslims involved in many prominent Indian affairs, such as Arts, Business, Diplomates, Bureaucracrates, Journalism, Sports, Science, Religion, Literature, Politics, etc.
Azim Hashim Premji, being 3rd richest Indian, belongs to Shia community. Bismillah Khan, the winner of Bharat Ratna award is regarded as one of the most important figures in Indian music. In Politics, majority of Shia Muslims, like other Muslims of India are generally supporters of the Indian National Congress.
Some Shia organisations in India include:-
- All India Shia Personal Law Board
- Madrasah al Waizeen (College of preachers)
- Jamia Nazmia
- Sultan al Madaris
- Anjuman Haideri Hallaur
- Shia Companions organisation
Azadari in India
Azadari or the mourning practice of Imam Husain ibn Ali is very much prevalent across India. One thing which is worth noting in Indian Azadari is the participation of non Muslims in Shia rituals on the day of Ashura.
The Hindu rulers of Vijayanagar during the 16th and 17th centuries even donned blackened garments and helped to arrange the Kala Tazia (Black Tazia) processions. Even the Scindias of Gwalior and the Holkar Maharajas of Indore conducted Majlis or Muharram congregations. In Lucknow Hindus regularly join Muslims in the Azadari and Alam processions. The Sufi saints of India along with the Shi'ite Scholars encouraged the mixing and merging of indigenous elements from the rich cultural heritage of the land to that of Muharram thus proclaiming the message of peaceful co-existence among communities and united resistance to tyrannical authority.
The carrying of Alams through fire by men is more common. There are several occasions when these are traditionally practiced particularly in the town of Vizianagaram 550 km outside of Hyderabad where 110 Alams are taken through the fire. A significant aspect of firewalking in the context of Moharram commemorations in Andhra Pradesh is the participation of Hindus in the ceremonies. In Vizinagaram 109 of the Alams are carried by Hindus.
- Saadat Zaidpur
- Grand Ashura Procession In Kashmir
- List of Shia Muslim Dynasties
- Public Holidays in India
- Public holidays in Iran
- Five Martyrs of Shia Islam
- Persecution of Shia Muslims
- Sayyid in Uttar Pradesh
- Sayyid in Gujarat
- Sadaat Nasirabad
- Naugawan Saadat
- Sadaat Amroha
- Sadat e Bara
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