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Mahdavia, or Mahdavism, is a Mahdiist (Arabic: مهدويmahdawi) sect founded by Muhammad Jaunpuri in India in the late 15th century.

Jaunpuri declared himself to be the Imam Mahdi, the prophesied redeemer in Islam, while on a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1496 (AH 901).

The movement was strong in the 16th and 17th centuries, but largely died out during the 18th century. There remains a community of Mahdavis in Balochistan, known as Zikri (from the Arabic term dhikr "devotional prayer").


Jaunpuri declared himself to be 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 Mohammed. He claimed that religion has three main aspects: Eeman, Islam, and Ehsan, and that Muhammad did not explain the third part (i.e., the commandments of Ehsan) and that conveying this part was left to the Mahdi. Jaunpuri's declaration was ignored by the ulema of Mecca, but after he repeated his declaration in Gujarat, he gained a group of followers and established a line of "caliphs" who led the movement after his death. After Muahmmad's death 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 Gujarati sultan Muzaffar II (r. 1511–1526). The second Mahdavi caliph, Khundmir, led an army against Muzaffar and was killed in 1523. Mahdavism started out as a "millennial" movement, expecting the second coming of Jesus in the year AH 1000 (1596). After Jesus' 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.[1] In the 1790s, Tipu Sultan expelled all extant Mahdavi communities from his realm. After the 1799 siege of Seringapatam, the British government invited the Mahdavis to re-settle in Mysore.[2]

Zikri Mahdavis[edit]

Zikri Mahdavis, or Zikris, are an offshoot of the Mahdavi movement found mostly in the Balochistan region of western Pakistan and eastern Iran.[3] Zikri derives from the Arabic word dhikr, meaning "remembrance, devotion, invocation".

They too follow Prophet Mohammed, the Five Pillars of Islam and offer namaz prayers in the common mosques like the Hanafi Muslims but with the condition that the Imam must also be of Mahdavi belief. The content of their prayer, which they call Zikr-e-Elahi, refers to the worship of God.[clarification needed] In addition to the Hajj, Zikris also visit (ziyarat) to the Koh-e-Murad ("Mountain of Desire" in Balochi), where the Imam al-Mahdi is believed to have stayed. Thus, Zikris are a sect who follow the Sufi Order, introduced by the medieval saint Syed Muhammad of the capital city of the Sharqi dynasty. This city was also known as The Shiraz of the East, due to the many Islamic scholars residing in the city.

The cultural and commercial festivals of the Zikris in Balochistan are similar to those of other Balochs, but their rituals have adapted a few distinctive practices which distinguish the followers of this order from other Muslims. Thus, Khanqahs serve the purpose of mosques. However, they have no pulpits; instead, there are stones and mats on which to observe the Dhikr. Towards the end of Ramadan the annual assemblage of Zikris, called the Zikir-e Elahi, takes place on Koh-e Murad in Pakistan's Balochistan province.

The number of Zikris is not known with any confidence. Gall (1998) stated that they were "estimated to number over 750,000 people",[3] while the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in 2004 stated that there were "approximately 200,000".[4] The Zikri form a local majority in Pakistan's Gwadar District,[4] and there are sizable communities in Karachi, Makran, Lasbela District, and Quetta, in Pakistan's Sindh province, and in Iran's Sistan and Baluchestan Province.[citation needed] Their concentration in urban Karachi is due to many Zikris having been forced to abandon their villages, settling in the city, especially the neighbourhood of Lyari Town.[citation needed]

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.[5][6][7][8][9] As a result, the Zikri community has been shrinking and becoming less visible, with many converting to the Sunni Hanafi, and some to the Ismaili Nizari, sect of Islam.[citation needed] Non-governmental organizations including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) are working with local activists to create a greater awareness of the Zikri predicament. Recently,[year needed] police protection has been provided to some Zikri pilgrims. Many Zikris have converted to Sunni and attend Mosque and fast during Ramadan.

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 Balochistan. The persecutions were due both to banned militant organizations such as Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Pakistani Taliban and to the efforts of the Pakistan governmental agencies to counter Baloch nationalist.[6][7][8][9]

Mahdavia Islam in South India[edit]

Anjuman E Mahdavia is a Mahdavia community center in Hyderabad, established in 1902.[10] L. K. A. Iyer in 1930 reports the existence of a community of "Mahdavia Musalmans" in Mysore Donabaghatta, Chennapatna. There is village named by Donabaghattta in Karnataka. [11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Timothy R. Furnish, Holiest Wars: Islamic Mahdis, their Jihads, and Osama bin Laden, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005, pp 38–41.
  2. ^ L. K. A. Iyer, The Mysore: Tribes and Castes, Vol IV (1930), p. 383: "the benign British government issued a proclamation assuring peace and inviting all the Mahdavis to the territory of Mysore to resettle there, and they then settled in different places after their exile."
  3. ^ a b "Zikris (pronounced 'Zigris' in Baluchi) are estimated to number over 750,000 people. They live mostly in Makran and Las Bela in southern Pakistan, and are followers of a 15th-century mahdi, an Islamic messiah, called Nur Pak ('Pure Light'). Zikri practices and rituals differ from those of orthodox Islam... " Gall, Timothy L. (ed). Worldmark Encyclopedia of Culture & Daily Life: Vol. 3 - Asia & Oceania. Cleveland, OH: Eastword Publications Development (1998); pg. 85 cited after
  4. ^ a b Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Annual Report on International Religious Freedom (2004), p. 656.
  5. ^ "The Zikri question has become one of the leading issues during last few years which mobilized enormous resistance by the religious groups, particularly the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), in Balochistan" Mansoor Akbar Kundi, Balochistan, a socio-cultural and political analysis, Qasim Printers, 1993, p. 83.
  6. ^ a b "Human Rights Commission of Pakistan worried over mass migration of Hindus from Balochistan". dna. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "Meanwhile, in Balochistan". Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "Pro-Taliban takfiris hail ISIS: Zikri-Balochs, Hindus threatened to death". The Shia Post. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  9. ^ a b "Gunmen target minority sect in Pakistan". Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  10. ^ "Hyderabad: The State government has declared April 19 as optional holiday on the occasion of ‘Hazrat Syed Mohd. Juvanpuri Mahdi Ma’ud (AS)’ instead of April 20.". Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  11. ^ The Mysore. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 

Other sources[edit]

  • Ziaullah Yadullahi (trans.), Maulud Sharif, Jamiat-e-Mahdavia, Bangalore (2007).
  • Azhar Munīr, I. A. Rehman, Zikris in the light of history & their religious beliefs, Izharsons, 1998.

External links[edit]