Muslim Kayasths

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Kayastha Musalmaan
Total population
(5-10 million)
Regions with significant populations
• India • Pakistan
Languages
UrduHindiEnglish
Religion
Islam
Related ethnic groups
KayasthaShaikh of Uttar PradeshShaikhs in South Asia

The Muslim Kayastha (Urdu: مسلمان کائستھ‎) are community of Muslims, descendents of members of the Kayastha caste of northern India, mainly in modern Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Bihar who embraced Islam during the rule of Muslim dynasties.[1][2] The Muslim Kayastha are part of the Muslims of Uttar Pradesh as well as the Muslims of undivided Punjab.The Muslim Kayastha are considered to be Shaikh and follow Sunni Hanafi fiqh. The Muslim Kayasths have intermarried with the other Muslim communities over the centuries and have lost their community consciousness and consider themselves to be part of the Urdu speaking Muslims of Pakistan and northern India.[3] They live in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India, the provinces of Sindh and Punjab in Pakistan and many have now settled in United Kingdom, United States and Canada.

History and origin[edit]

The Kayastha (also known as Kulshreshtha / Kulshrestha) community has historically been involved in the occupations of land record keeping and accounting. Some Hindu Kayasth found favour with Muslim rulers for whom the acted as Qanungo employees of the court and judicial systems. This close association, led to the conversion of many members of the Kayastha community to Islam. They speak Urdu, although they are also fluent in Hindi in India,[4] while they also speak Sindhi and Punjabi in Pakistan. The Kayasth use Siddiqui, Maniharzada and Farooqi as their surnames, and consider themselves belonging to the Shaikh community.[5] The Muslim dynasties also recruited individuals from the different Hindus castes by merit and trained them as civil servants these persons then became part of the Kayasth caste.[6]A number of Shaikh groups found in Uttar Pradesh are converts from the Kayastha or Kayasth Hindu caste that embraced Islam during the rule of Muslim dynasties.[7]

According to the Hindu scriptures known as the Puranas, the Kayasthas were descendants of Chitragupta, a Hindu god assigned with the task of keeping complete records of actions of human beings on the earth. Upon their death, Chitragupta has the task of deciding heaven or the hell for the humans, depending on their actions on the earth. Chitragupta Maharaj (Chitragupta the King) is the patron deity and forefather of Kayasthas, a Hindu caste and are scribes, Officials, administrators, writers, magistrates, judges. lawyers, chief executive officers and village accountants in ancient South Asia. Kayasthas celebrate: Qalam and Dawaat (pen and ink-pot) worship, a ritual in which pens, papers and books were worshipped. This clearly shows that they were clerks and official record keepers of the kings. Kayasthas were valued in the second millennia by most kingdoms and princely states as desired citizens or immigrants within South Asia. The Muslim kingdoms treated the Kayasthas more as a community rather than a Hindu caste because they developed expertise in Persian (the state language in Islamic India), learned Turkish and Arabic, economics, administration and taxation. This gave them an edge over the Brahmins (the priestly Hindu caste), who traditionally had reserved the study of Sanskrit shastras to themselves. They successfully adapted themselves as scribes and functionaries under Islamic rule and later on under the British. Some historians hold the view that during the reign of the Mughals, a number of upper caste Hindus who were educated and endowed with sharp intellect attained administrative positions through rapid adaptation to the Persian language and culture of the new rulers of South Asia. These influential upper caste Hindus got together and formed a new caste known as Kayastha. Their secular viewpoint to life, adaptability and lifestyle was an asset which allowed them to succeed. This close association with Muslim rulers led to the conversion of most members of the Kayastha community to Islam. The Muslim Kayasthas outnumbered the Hindu Kayasths as more than eighty percent converted to Islam. The Muslim Kayasthas have intermarried with the other Muslim communities over the centuries and have lost their community consciousness and consider themselves to be part of the Urdu speaking Muslims of northern India. The Muslim Kayastha community also adapted to changes, such as the advent of the British Raj. They learned English, the more affluent ones sent their children to the United Kingdom, they became civil servants, tax officers, junior administrators, teachers, legal helpers and barristers, and rose to the highest positions accessible to natives in British India.[5]

The Muslim Kayasth have traditionally been a literate and landless community living as Patwaris and Qanungohs (land record keepers). The only exception being the large taluqdar families, who were substantial landowners. They have high rates of literacy, and many have played important roles in the cultural life of the North Indian Muslim community.

Present circumstances[edit]

The Muslim Kayastha are considered to be Shaikh and follow Sunni Hanafi fiqh. The Muslim Kayasthas have intermarried with the other Muslim communities over the centuries and have lost their community consciousness and have assimilated into Urdu speaking Muslims of Pakistan and northern India. They live mainly in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India, the provinces of Sindh and Punjab in Pakistan and many have now settled in United Kingdom, United States and Canada.

Religion[edit]

The Muslim Kayasths are Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi fiqh (school of jurisprudence).

Distribution[edit]

India[edit]

The Muslim Kayasth are mainy settled in the northern Indian states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and also in other states: Jharkhand, West Bengal, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. In Uttar Pradesh, the Muslim Kayasth live in the urban and semi-urban centers of the state.[7] [8][4] There is also large community also in Delhi, capital of India.

Pakistan[edit]

After the independence in 1947, many Muslim Kayasthas migrated and settled in the provinces of Sindh and Punjab in Pakistan. In Sindh province, they are mainly settled in the urban centers especially in Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur. In Punjab province, they have settled in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Multan and Faisalabad. There is also large community also in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan.

Overseas[edit]

Many Muslim Kayasth have emigrated to the Western countries in Europe, North America and Australasia, and now have settled in United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Australia.

See also[edit]


References[edit]

  1. ^ People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part 2 by K S Singh page 1046
  2. ^ Muslim Backward Classes: A Sociological Perspective
  3. ^ Muslim Kayasths
  4. ^ a b People of India Uttar Pradesh page 1047
  5. ^ a b Endogamy and Status Mobility among Siddiqui Shaikh in Social Stratication edited by Dipankar Gupta
  6. ^ Calcutta Review, Volumes 100-101
  7. ^ a b Muslim Kayasthas of India by Jahanara KK Publications ISBN 978-81-675-6606-5
  8. ^ District gazetteers of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh . Volume XLVII Pratabgarh District edited by H.R Nevill