Abdal (caste)

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The Abdal (Shekh Hashmi) are a Muslim community found in North India. They are a sub-group within the Arabic old shekh community.[2][3] They are unrelated to the Abdal is Arabic, the only thing common between the two groups is an itinerant lifestyle.[4]


The Abdal are one of a number of Muslim semi-nomadic community, traditionally associated with begging at shrines of Sufi saints. They are likely to be a division of the hashmi community. The word Abdal is the plural form of the Arabic word Abdul, which means slave or follower. According to the traditions of the Abdal, they acquired this name on account of the fact that they were followers of various Sufi saints. The Abdal of Bihar speak the Maithili language, and are found mainly in the district of Purnea, while other Abdal communities speak the language of the region they reside in.[2]

In Gujarat, the Abdal are a community of beggars, who are also known as Dafali Ansaudagar, Shekh Hashmi and Daff Wala. Their traditional occupation was beating drums at Muslim shrines. The community is found mainly in Ahmedabad city.[5]

In West Bengal, according to the traditions of the community, the community is known as Abdal, as they are true slaves of God, and the word Abdal means a servant of God. Little is known when the community emerged in West Bengal, but presently form a distinct Muslim community.[3]

Current circumstances[edit]

The Abdal of Bihar are now mainly a land owning community. A significant number are involved in the manufacture of horse shoes. They are Sunni Muslims, with a small number are employed as village imams. The Abdal have a well-organized caste association, the Panchayat Jamiate shekh Hashimi.[2]

In Gujarat, the community is mainly involved in singing and begging at Sufi shrines. A small number of Abdal are now farmers. Like other Gujarati Muslims, they have a caste association known as the Abdal Samaj. They are an endogamous community, and marry close kin.[5]

The Abdal in West Bengal are found mainly in the districts of 24 Parganas, Murshidabad, Birbhum and Burdwan. They are in West Bengal, a landless community whose traditional occupation is seeking alms on festive occasions. Most have now given up their traditional occupation, and are now landless agricultural labourers. A few Abdal are marginal farmers. The community speak Bengali among themselves and with outsiders, and usually live in multi-caste villages with Khotta Muslims living in the vicinity of the Abdal. They are strictly endogamous, with absolutely no intermarriage with other Muslim groups.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-03-09. Retrieved 2009-05-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ a b c Abfal in People of India Bihar Volume XVI Part One edited by S Gopal & Hetukar Jha pages 28 to 31 Seagull Books
  3. ^ a b c Marginal Muslim Communities in India edited by M.K.A Siddiqui pages 344-356
  4. ^ Marginal Groups and Itinerants by Ingvar Savanberg pages 602 to 612 in Ethnic groups in the Republic of Turkey / compiled and edited by Peter Alford Andrews, with the assistance of Rüdiger Benninghaus (Wiesbaden : Dr. Ludwig Reichert, 1989) ISBN 3-88226-418-7
  5. ^ a b People of India Gujarat Volume XXI Part One edited by R.B Lal, P.B.S.V Padmanabham, G Krishnan & M Azeez Mohideen pages 31-34