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Mahdavia (Arabic: مهدوي mahdawi) or Mahdavism, known as Zikri in Pakistan, is an Islamic movement founded by Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri in India in the late 15th century. Syed Muhammad claimed to be Imam Mahdi at the holy city of Mecca, in front of the Kaaba in 1496, and is revered as such by the Mahdavia community.
Mahdavis are followers of Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri who declared himself to be the Mahdi.
The Mahdavis had strictly adhere to the five pillars of Islam, sunnah tradition, and sharia, while having high respect and reverence for the House of Muhammad and his immediate progeny (ahl-e bayt), the Rashidun caliphs, and the companions of Muhammad (sahaba).
Mahdavis also respect all four schools of Islamic jurisprudence, but widely follow traditions similar to Hanafi jurisprudence.
They offer prayers five times a day led by their murshids, or spiritual guides; fast during Ramadan; offer special thanks on Dugana Laylat al-Qadr past midnight between 26 and 27 Ramadan; perform hajj; and pay zakat. They also attach great significance to zikr (remembrance of Allah), after dawn (fajr) prayers, and in the evening after asr prayer.
Syed Muhammad was disturbed by the spiritual and moral degradation of Muslims. He preached a message of non-materialism and spirituality.
Mahdavis follow the seven obligations of sainthood, known as faraiz-e-wilaya Muhammadiya. These obligations are: rejection of material lust (tark-e-dunya), quest for divine vision (talab didar-e-Ilahi), company of truthfuls and ascetics (sohbat-e-sadiqan), migration (hijrah) from place to place to avoid materialist lust, retreat and solitude (uzlat az khalq), resignation to the will of God (tawakkul), repetition of the names of God (zikr-e-Ilahi) and distributing tithe (ushr). Followers of Jaunpuri strictly follow some of these obligations in their day-to-day life. Most of them initiate renunciation in the advanced stage of their lives, after getting retirement from the jobs or by handing over business to their heirs. Their renunciation is in any way not related to celibacy, because almost all of them get married.
Mohammad Jaunpuri declared himself to be the Mahdi, and as such a "caliph of Allah". He claimed to teach the true inner meaning of the Qur'an and strictly adhere to the Sunnah of Muhammad. Jaunpuri's declaration was ignored by the ulema of Mecca, but after he repeated his declaration in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, he gained a group of followers and established a line of caliphs who led the movement after his death.
After Jaunpuri's demise in 1505, the Mahdavi movement went through a militant phase, lasting during the reign of the first five Mahdavi caliphs. The movement was persecuted under the Sultan Muzaffar Shah II (r. 1511–1526) of Gujarat Sultanate.
The second Mahdavi caliph, Bandagi Miyan Syed Khundmir and his fukhra disciples (the persons who renounce the world and keep remembering Allah with zikr), faced organised persecution by the regime of Muzaffar at the behest of his court-appointed Mullas and was killed in 1523 along with hundreds of unarmed and peaceful disciples. Syed Khundmir's tomb is located in the town of Champaner in the Panchmahal district of the western Indian state Gujarat, where thousands of seekers and followers, from different parts of India and other countries, arrive to pay tribute.
After failure to re-appear in that year, the movement lost much of its fervor and entered a "quietist" phase, which lasted throughout the 17th century. In the 18th century, the movement mostly died out in northern India.
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Zikris are an alleged offshoot of the Mahdavi movement found mostly in the Balochistan region of western Pakistan. Zikri Muslims are concentrated on the southern coast of Balochistan, Makran. There is a community of Zikris in Karachi who tend to live in economically disadvantaged areas. The name Zikri comes from the Arabic word dhikr.
Zikris believe in a mysterious Mahdist figure known as Nur Pak, or "pure light". Zikris believe Nur Pak walked the earth before Adam and will return at the end of days to restore true Islam.
Zikris are of ambiguous origins, and their relationship to the Indian Mahdavi group is disputed. Outside observers have claimed the Mahdi figure of the Balochi Zikris was Muhammad Juanpuri. However, the Balochi Zikris dispute this, denying that Muhammad Jaunpuri visited Balochistan and insisting their Mahdi is a different figure from a later period.
Zikris make a pilgrimage (ziyarat) to Koh-e-Murad, "Mountain of Desire" in Balochi, on the 27th of Ramadan in commemoration of their Mahdi. They observe this day as a sacred holiday. The descendants of the original believers of the Mahdi continue to lead the Zikri community and are known as murshids. Zikris refer to them as waja as a form of respect. Early that morning, Zikris observe Shab-e-Qadr, the commemoration of Muhammad receiving his first revelation from the Angel Gabriel.
Zikri places of worship are called Zikr-khanas. Zikris gather three times a day at Zikr-khanas and perform a special prayer in a square formation with the leader in the middle. This prayer consists of formulae in Persian and Balochi, Quranic verses, and the repetition of God's name while standing, sitting, and prostrating. This ritual is their form of zikr, the South Asian spelling of the Arabic dhikr. Zikri worshippers wear white or light-colored clothing, wash before participating, and cover their head with a scarf or handkerchief called a rumal. Non-Zikris are forbidden to attend Zikri worship services at the Zikr-khana. Zikr-khanas were often built on astanas, places deemed holy by the Zikri community. This could be a place a murshid meditated or the former home of a community leader.
On special occasions, Zikris observe chaugan, the reading of Balochi poetry, where members stay up all night performing devotions. One reciter stands in the middle of the formation reciting poetry until they grow tired and are replaced by a new reciter. Those listening stand.
Zikris have faced persecution from other Muslims for their beliefs. After the establishment of Pakistan, Sunni Muslims attacked Zikris and subjected them to forced conversions. Under the military government of Zia-al-Haqq, Sunnis sought to have Zikris declared as non-Muslims. In the 1990s, Zikris were harassed, and protestors called for the destruction of their shrines.
The persecution of Zikris by Sunni militants as of 2014 has been part of the larger backlash against religious minorities in Pakistani Balochistan, targeting Hindus, Hazaras, Shias, and Zikris, resulting in the migration of over 300,000 Shias, Zikris, and Hindus from Pakistani Balochistan. The militant groups Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and the Pakistani Taliban were responsible.
The United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in 2004 stated that there were "approximately 200,000" Zikris. They are a majority in the Gwadar District of Balochistan With the general rise of Islamic extremism and jihadism in the region since the 1980s, Zikris have been discriminated against, targeted, and killed by Sunni militants in Pakistan.
The number of Mahdavis is not known with any confidence. Gall (1998) stated that they were "estimated to number over 750,000 people", and there are sizable communities in Karachi, the Pakistani part of Makran, Lasbela District, and Quetta, and in Pakistan's Sindh province. Their concentration in urban Karachi is due to many Mahdavis having relocated to the city, especially the neighborhood of Lyari Town.
Non-governmental organizations including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) are working with local activists to create a greater awareness of the Mahdavis predicament. Recently,[year needed] police protection has been provided to some Mahdavis pilgrims.
Community in India
Anjuman E Mahdavia is a Mahdavia community center in Hyderabad, Telangana, India, established in 1902. L. K. A. Iyer in 1930 reports the existence of a community of "Mahdavia Musalmans" in Mysore Donabaghatta, Channapatna, Kirugavalu. There is a village named Donabaghatta in Karnataka. Large groups of Mahdavis resided in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka-Bengaluru, etc. The 1962 Gazette of Karnataka State has recorded the Mahadavia Sect of Islam in the state.
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