Sayyid of Uttar Pradesh

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Sayyid or Mir
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The Sayyid (Arabic: سيد‎‎; plural sādah Arabic: سادة‎‎) of Uttar Pradesh in India are a Muslim community who are members of the wider Sayyid community of South Asia. They are also known as Mir and Pirzada. Many are also now found in Pakistan.[2]

History and origin[edit]

Sayyid literally means Mister or Sir. In the Arab world, the word is the equivalent of the English "Mister", as in Sayyid John Smith. The same concept is expressed by the word sidi (from the contracted form sayyidī 'my lord') in the Moroccan dialect of Arabic.[3]

As an honorific title, the term Al-Sayyid is given to males accepted as descendants of the Islamic prophet Muhammad through his grandsons, Hasan ibn Ali and Husain ibn Ali (Hasnain), who were the sons of the prophet's daughter Fatima Zahra and son-in-law Ali ibn Abi Talib. Daughters of male sayyids are given the titles Sayyida, Alawiyah, Syarifah, or Sharifah. Children of a Sayyida mother but a non-Sayyid father cannot be attributed the title of Sayyid; however, they may claim maternal descent and are called Mirza.[4]

Sayyids are Arabs by origin, and Sayyids and are by descent a branch of the tribe of Banu Hashim, a clan from the tribe of Quraish, which traces its lineage to Adnan, whose lineage traces back to the Prophet Ismael, the son of the Prophet Ibrahim or Abraham. In North India, most of the Sayyid families are descended from individuals invited by the Muslim rulers of the Delhi Sultanate, as advisors and administrators, and granted jagirs. During the period of Mughal rule that followed the Delhi Sultanate, they held the majority of the civil and ecclesiastic posts. They also provide an important element in the Mughal army, and many are still found in the old Muslim garrison towns such as Nuhta, in Bijnor District, Budaun, Kara in Awadh and Bayana. Many of these towns were founded by the Sayyid grantees, and they encouraged both Muslim immigrants and new converts which helped established Muslim towns in what was still a Hindu countryside. A further event that accelerated Sayyid immigration was the Mongol invasion of Central Asia, Iran and Iraq in the 13th Century, and sacking of such famous Muslim cities like Bukhara, Samarkand, Nishapur, Mashad, Isfahan, Hamdan, Baghdad and Basra by Hulagu Khan, the Mongol warlord. This is still reflected in the common surnames among the Sayyid such as Bukhari (literally an inhabitant of Bukhara), Mashadi, Baghdadi and Hamdani and so forth.[4]

Sayyids from Iran initially chose four places to settle in India. These were Hallaur, Baraha, Mohan and Bilgram.[5]

Many Sayyid were also settled in the countryside, and one such example were the Saadat-e-Bara, who ancestors came from Central Asia, and were granted estates near Meerut and Muzaffarnagar. This community played an important role in the politics of the Mughal Empire. Another branch of this famous clan are the Sayyid of the town of Bilgram in Awadh. Another example is that of Shia Sayyid family who came from Bukhara Cenatral Asia and got settled in Bahnera a small qasba (a small rural community) in Bijnor.[6]

In addition, many of the early Sufi saints that came to Uttar Pradesh belonged to Sayyid families. Most of these Sayyid families came from Central Asia and Iran, but some also originate from Yemen, Oman, Iraq and Bahrain. Perhaps the most famous Sufi was Syed Salar Masud, from whom many of the Sayyid families of Awadh claim their descent.[4] Sayyids of Jarwal (Bahraich), Kintoor (Barabanki) and Zaidpur (Barabanki) were well known Taluqadars (feudal lords) of Awadh province.[7] Even Nawab of Awadh Burhan ul Mulk Sa'adat Khan belonged to high-grade Sayyid noble family of Nishapur.[8]

Perhaps the most important figure in the history of the Sayyid in Uttar Pradesh was Sayyid Basrullah Shustari, who moved from Mashad in Iran in 1549 and joined the court of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. Akbar later appointed Shustari as his chief justice, and Shustari used his position to strengthen the position of the various Sayyid families. They were preferred in administrative posts, and formed a privileged elite. When the Mughal Empire disintegrated, the Sayyid played an important role in turbulent politics of the time. The new British colonial authorities that replaced the Mughals after the Battle of Buxar also made a pragmatic decision to work with the various Sayyid jagirdars. Several Sayyid taluqdars in Awadh were substantial landowners under the British colonial regime, and many other Sayyid still played their part in the administration of the state.[4] After abolition of zamindari system many Sayyid zamindars (e.g. that of Ghazipur) had to leave their homes.[9]

Present circumstances[edit]

The Sayyids are found throughout Uttar Pradesh, with Faizabad, Muzaffarnagar Balrampur, Raibareli, Hallaur, Wasa Dargah, Lucknow, Barabanki, Jaunpur, Bhadohi, Ghazipur, Kanpur Azamgarh, Allahabad, Amroha, Bareilly, Meerut and Aligarh being home to large Sayyid communities. They generally speak Urdu, and most also understand the various dialects of Hindi. The Sayyid are divided along sectarian lines, with a slight majority belonging to the Shia sect, especially in the Awadh region, while the Sunni are found mainly in the western districts. They are further divided into discreat endigamous clans, bases on territorial groupings. The most important ones are the Abidi Sadaat-e-Phoolpur Dist Balrampur Sadaat-e-Karari, Sadaat-e-Jais Sadaat-e-Bara, Sadaat-e-Kundharki, Sadaat Amroha, Sadaat-e-Barabanki,Sadaat-e-Saithal , Sadaat-e-Sirsi , Sadaat-e-Rudauli, Sayyids of Hallaur, Sayyids of Wasa Dargah, Sadaat-e-Bilgram and Sadaat-e-Barn, Sadoaat-e-Chholas, Sadaat-e-Jarcha and Sadaat-e-Nagli. Other groupings include the Alavi, Abidi, Baqiri or Baquari, Barcha, Bukhari, Jafari, Jalali, Kazmi, Naqvi, Rizvi, Tirmizi and Zaidi, each claiming descent from a particular Shia Imam. Sayyids often include the following titles in their names to indicate the figure from whom they trace their descent. If they are descended from more than one notable ancestor or Shi'a Imam, they will use the title of the ancestor from whom they are most directly descended.

Traditional Sayyid families rarely marry outside their community, with an emphasis of marrying into Najeeb Altarfain (of Sayyid descent from both the mother’s and father’s side) families. This insistence on endogamy has begun to decline among the more urbanized families, with an increase inter marriage with other group such as the Shaikh and Mughals.[10]

Historically the Sayyids of UP were substantial landowners, often absentees, and this was especially the case with the Awadh taluqdars. In the urban townships, Sayyid families served as priests, teachers and administrators, with the British colonial authorities given the community a preference in recruitment. Though they are less than 3% of Muslim population, they control a majority of economic resources.The community also has a very high literacy rate.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. Many Sayyids who remained on the land are now medium and small scale farmers. While in the urban areas, there has been a shift towards modern occupations.[10]

Genetic studies of Sayyids of Sub-continent[edit]

Classical multidimensional scaling based on RST genetic distances showing the genetic affinities of the Syeds with their non IHL neighbours from India and Pakistan (both in bold characters) and with various other Arab populations

A study of "Y chromosomes of self-identified Syeds from the Indian subcontinent" by Elise M. S. Belle, Saima Shah, Tudor Parfitt & Mark G. Thomas showed that "Syeds from the Indian subcontinent have a greater affinity to Arab populations than to their geographic neighbours" but also that "the Y chromosomes of self-identified Syeds from India and Pakistan are no less diverse than those non-Syeds from the same regions." The authors of the study suggested that Syed status, rather than being strictly patrilineal, may have been passed through other routes.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Project, Joshua. "Sayyid in India". Retrieved 22 September 2016. 
  2. ^ People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part Three edited by A Hasan & J C Das
  3. ^ People of India by Herbert Risely
  4. ^ a b c d People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part Three, edited by A Hasan & J C Das
  5. ^ The Right Honourable Syed Ameer Ali: personality and achievements, Shan Muhammad, Uppal Pub. House,sadte seebar 1991
  6. ^ Naim, C. M. (1 January 2004). "Urdu Texts and Contexts: The Selected Essays of C.M. Naim". Orient Blackswan. Retrieved 22 September 2016 – via Google Books. 
  7. ^ King Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh, Volume 1 by Mirza Ali Azhar, Royal Book Co., 1982
  8. ^ India in the early 19th century: an Iranian's travel account : translation of Mirʼat ul-ahwal-i jahan numa by Aḥmad Behbahānī, Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, 1996
  9. ^ Hasan, Mushirul (1 January 1997). "Legacy of a Divided Nation: India's Muslims Since Independence". Hurst. Retrieved 22 September 2016 – via Google Books. 
  10. ^ a b People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part Three edited by A Hasan & J C Das page 1246 to 1254 Manohar Publications
  11. ^ Y chromosomes of self-identified Syeds from the Indian subcontinent show evidence of elevated Arab ancestry but not of a recent common patrilineal origin, Elise M. S. Belle & Saima Shah & Tudor Parfitt & Mark G. Thomas; Received: 11 March 2010 / Accepted: 28 May 2010 / Published online: 29 June 2010

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