Shaikh of Uttar Pradesh

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Regions with significant populations
India • Pakistan
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Related ethnic groups
ShaikhShaikh hashiri SiddiquiShaikhzadaShaikh AnsarZamindaraShaikh of BiharShaikh of RajasthanShaikh

The Shaikh are a Muslim community found in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. They are part of the larger Shaikh community of South Asia. Quite a few Shaikh have immigrated to Pakistan, where they form an important element in the Urdu speaking community while some of them moved to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar from the states of Punjab and Haryana either during or before the independence of India and Pakistan. They are also known as Punjabi Shaikh. Common surnames used by the community include: Sayyid, Ansari, Quraishi, Osmani, Siddiqui, Farooqi, Adnani, Behlim, Faridi.


Shaikh is a word or honorific term in the Arabic language that literally means "elder." It is commonly used to designate an elder of a tribe, a revered wise man, or an Islamic scholar. In the context of Uttar Pradesh, the title Shaikh signifies actual or claimed Arab descent and connotes a status group. The Shaikh do not constitute a single homegenous community, but represent instead a congeries of a large number of separate sub-groups. For example, the Shaikhs are divided into a number of sub-groups, referred to as biradaris, based on descent and source of origin and their members not only identify themselves as members of separate groups, but are strictly endogamous. Examples of important Shaikh biradaris are the Qidwai, Siddiqui, Ansari, found in Barabanki, Farrukhabad, Azamgarh, Kannauj, Grand Shaikhs belonging to Allahabad and Behlim found mainly in Bulandshahr District.[1] The most members of Kayastha community converted to Islam and adopted the Shaikh title. The Muslim Kayasths use Siddiqui, shaikhzada as their surnames, and consider themselves belonging to the Shaikh community.[2]

Throughout the history of the Delhi Sultanate and its successor the Mughal Empire in South Asia, Muslim technocrats, bureaucrats, soldiers, traders, scientists, architects, teachers, theologians and Sufis flocked from the rest of the Muslim world, and the region that now forms Uttar Pradesh was the centre of Islamic power in India. Over time, the name Shaikh was given to these Muslim families, many of whom were settled in fortified Muslim settlements, known as Qasbas. They played a key role in the early Islamic history of Uttar Pradesh, serving as courtiers and administrators for the Delhi Sultanate and later Mughal rulers. Often these early settlers from the Central Asia were granted jagirs (estates), and were the earliest Muslim colonists in the region. One such community of early Shaikh colonists are the Qidwai, whose ancestor was Qazi Qidwa, a son of the Sultans of Rum, in what is now modern Turkey. The Qazi is said to have been sent him to the Awadh region to spread Islam, where he is said to have won over fifty villages to Islam. These fifty villages were latter awarded to him, and the region became known as Qidwara.[3] According to another tradition, Kazi Kidwa is said have defeated a local ruler in the Awadh region by the name of Raja Jagdeopur. This Raja was said to have belonged to the aboriginal Bhar community. The original settlement of the tribe was Juggaur in Lucknow district, from where they spread to Barabanki District. These early colonists were often required to make converts, and these converts often adopted the clan name of those at whose hand they accepted Islam, and this led to a substantial growth in the Shaikh community.

Muslim Kayasths[edit]

The Muslim Kayasths are also significant part of the Shaikh community of Uttar Pradesh. Muslim Kayasths 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.[4] The Muslim Kayastha are part of the Muslims of Uttar Pradesh as well as the Muslims of the Punjab region. 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. 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.

Present circumstances[edit]

Historically, the Shaikh of Awadh were substantial landowners, often absentees, and while those of Rohilkhand and the Doab were small scale farmers. In the urban townships, Shaikh families served as priests, teachers and administrators, with the British colonial authorities given the community a preference in recruitment. The independence the 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.

The Shaikh of Uttar Pradesh are Sunni. They are fairly widely distributed found in almost all the districts of the state. In the urban areas, Shaikh often live in their own quarters, while they tend to live in their own villages, rarely in multi-clan villages. In western Rohilkhand, particularly in Bijnor and Amroha district where they make a quarter of the population. As all the Shaikh, Siddiqui, Osmani, Abbasi and Sayyid communities descend from different individuals belonging from the same tribe Quraish so basically all are Quraishi. This Quraishi community use their direct ancestor's name in order to give their exact identity. Throughout history one can find countless examples of these communities intermarrying with each other. There is still a marked preference of marrying with close kin, and they practice both parallel cousin and cross cousin marriages. In their old settlements, often extended families live in close proximity. But as many have begun to migrate to the large urban centres like Delhi or Mumbai, there sense of corporate identity is breaking down, with marriages into the wider Muslim community, with a similar process occurring in Pakistan.

Their primary occupation of the rural Shaikh is still cultivation. The Shaikh cultivate wheat, paddy, maize, sorghum, sugar cane, pulses and vegetables. A few also have mango, guava, and banana orchards. Those of western Uttar Pradesh have benefited from the changes brought about the Green Revolution, while those in the east have seen a decline in their living standards, especially the large taluqdar families.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Social Stratification edited by Dipankar Gupta Oxford University Press
  2. ^ Endogamy and Status Mobility among Siddiqui Shaikh in Social Stratication edited by Dipankar Gupta
  3. ^ Caste and Social Stratification Among Muslims edited by Imtiaz Ahmed page 212 Manohar 1978
  4. ^ Khanam, Azra (30 August 2013). "Muslim Backward Classes: A Sociological Perspective". SAGE Publications India. Retrieved 15 April 2018 – via Google Books.