|This article is in the process of expansion or major restructuring.|
|Republic of India
|Official languages||Hindi • English|
|Religion||Hinduism 80.5, Islam 13/4, other religions 6.1%|
India (Hindi: भारत गणराज्य, Bhārat Gaṇarājya) is a country in South Asia which contains a large number of Shiite Muslims, 30 to 50 million. Shi'a Muslims of India were mostly living in Deccan in south and Awadh and Kashmir in north, for many years; they even formed Shiite governments. They had strong relations with other Shiite governments and their people as well, especially Iranians. As a result of their similar culture and religion, different groups of Iranian religious scholars, poets and Sufi followers have migrated to India. Today Shi'a Muslims of India are scattered over different regions of this country, not particularly in historical Shiite centers. Currently Shiites are mostly living in cities such as Punjab and Delhi while fewer numbers of them are living in Lucknow, Hyderabad, and Jaipur.
Geography and History
Officially known as Republic of India, today India is part of Indian sub-continent. The total area of India is about 3/3 million square meter, which makes it the seventh biggest country in the world. Its population is 1/2 billion, the second-most populous country in the world. India is neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan from north-west, China, Butane and Nepal from north, Myanmar and Bangladesh from east and Indian Ocean from south.
Republic of India became independent from Great Britain in the mid-twentieth century. It was a colony of Great Britain since the 18th century. Indian people started seeking independence against the British government from 1884 and they finally succeeded in achieving independence in 1947, as a result Republic of India was established.
Currently, India includes 29 states which is administrated with a federal Parliamentary constitutional government. New Delhi is the capital of India. Indian Parliament consists of House of the People, whose members are directly elected by citizens of India, and Council of States, whose members are indirectly elected by members of legislative bodies of states. The President is indirectly elected by people through elected members of the Parliament of India as well as the Legislative Assemblies in States of India. The President does not have administrative authorities. Executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers. Prime Minister, who leads the executive power, is elected by the majority party in the Parliament.
The history of Indian sub-continent's civilization goes back to ancient times. Different original Hinduist and Buddhist tribes were living there. Nowadays a large number of diverse religions are residing in India. 80.5% of Indian people are followers of Hinduism while 13.4% are Muslim. Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism are the other live religions in this country.
Religions in India
Most famous religions of the world were originated in India and their followers largely are living in this country, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and Islam.
Each religion has its own follower, culture, language and place of worship. They enthusiastically support their religion while they respect each other's rituals. Existence of a mosque next to church or a temple may astonish tourists or foreigners but it is common in India. Hugely diverse rituals, culture and lifestyle of Indians is a result of diverse religions and religious ceremonies.
Religions in the Aspect of Law
The constitution of India does not refer to any specific religion as an official religion in the country. In fact, all the states in the country are free to form individual laws about Muslims, Christians, and Hindus. India is regarded among the most democratic countries in the world; it is the largest democracy in the world.
Politically, India has freedom in which religious and political freedoms are considerable. Different religions and denominations have freedom of action which is exceptional in the world.
Separation of religion from politics and secularism is regarded one of the most important principles of Indian Constitutional, which means equality and respect to all the religions and denominations. Laws are free-religious-biased and the laws passed in the country are nor in contrary to freedom of religion.
According to article 28 of Constitution of India, religious teaching in public institutions is forbidden. Therefore, state religious institutions do not exist in India and the government is forbidden to establish religious institution as well.
Islam in India
Entrance of Islam
According to a number of narrations, Islam appeared in India in the time of Prophet Muhammad (s). Representatives from Malabar in south-west of India were sent to Prophet Muhammad (s) in Medina. Although they arrived after the demise of the Prophet(s), they converted to Islam anyway.
Islam came to India with Muslim traders. Trade relations between Muslims and the Indian sub-continent people have existed since ancient times through coastal cities. Therefore, Indian people became familiar with Islam by means of Muslim traders. Gradually a number of Muslim traders have settled in several Indian cities as well as coastal harbors. Even mosques were built in these cities, such as Chimur; also several Shi'a Muslim became rulers in some cities.
Immigration of Muslims to India was not only a result of trading relations. When al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf al-Thaqafi was suppressing Muslims, groups of Arabs immigrated to India to settle in the west and south-west of this land. Moreover, Sufi Muslims who traveled and settled in India, expanded Islam. Abu 'Ali Sindhi, Husayn b. Mansur al-Hallaj, Shaykh Ismai'l, Abu Hafs Rub' b. Sahib al-Asadi and Baba Rayhan are the notable Sufi Muslims among them. After centuries, even more Sufi Muslims immigrated to India, especially from Iran.
Political History of Muslims
Muslims were politically dominant in Sindh Valley in the time of expansions of Muslims territories, currently the majority of this valley is part of Pakistan's territory. Muhammad b. Qasim successfully conquered Multan in 95/714. In Ghaznavid era, Muslims were dominant in the aspect of military and politics in India, as Muslims successfully conquered vast areas on the western regions of India. Also Ghurid dynasty (before 265/879 - 612/1215) were ruling over northern and western region of India.
Qutb al-Din Aibak who was the governor of Ghurid dynasty in Delhi, declared independence and founded Mamluk dynasty, the first Islamic government in India. His successor Iltutmish expanded their territory in the country, also his government was supported by the Caliph of Baghdad. Mamluk Sultanate as well as other Islamic governments, which ruled in India until the 10th/16th century, are known as Delhi rulers: such as Khilji dynasty (689/1290 – 720/1320), Tughlaq dynasty (720/1320 – 815/1413), Khidr Khan (r. 817/1414 – 847/1421), Lodi dynasty (855/1451 – 932/1526) and Afghan rulers (936/1530 – 947/1540).
In addition, a number of Islamic governments were founded over the other areas of India such as Deccan rulers: Bahmani Sultanate (748/1347 - 933/1527), 'Imad Shahi (896/1491 - 983/1575), Nizam Shahi (896/1491 - 1008/1599), Adil Shahi dynasty (895/1490 - 1097/1686) and Qutb Shahi (918/1512 - 1098/1687). Zahir al-Din Muhammad Babur, one of the descendants of Timur, has founded Mughal dynasty (932/1526 – 1275/1858) in the tenth century, which was ruling over most of the Indian territory, at its peak of power. Islam was expanding in India and Islamic culture and arts were thriving in India in the time of the Mongol dynasty.
Muslims and Independence of India
Indian Muslims along with people of other religions made huge efforts to end the colonization of Great Britain in India. When the British captured the lands in India, they feared Muslims' influence. Then they tried to divide and rule over the region. However, gradually Indian people untied and their leaders including Maulana Azad, Maulana Shaukat Ali, and Gandhi guided them to achieve independence. Muslims had greater goals in achieving independence, they pursued freedom and unconditional departure of British from India; in fact Muslims were the pioneers in Indian independence movement. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the leader and founder of Pakistan, tried to unite Muslims and Hindus in order to improve Indian's power to face the British. Eventually in 1947, the last British governor of India, announced the partition of British India into India and Pakistan. Promotion of Islam was significantly important for two reasons: first, Islam regarded belief, action and virtues as the factors for superiority, while Hindus believe in social orders and classes; second, spirituality is Islam was not limited to a special class.
Although the British made huge efforts to diminish the influence of Muslims in India, it led to a re-born of Muslims community in that country. However, the majority of Hindus did not support identity, culture and religion of Muslims enough, as a result Muslims preferred to achieve independence of Muslim community which caused the separation of Pakistan and Bangladesh from India. Independence of these two countries brought freedom, sovereignty and running Islamic rules for Muslims. On the other hand, Muslims who were living in Hindu regions of India faced some difficulties especially in Kashmir where the majority of people are Muslims, yet two third of the region is ruled by India.
Population of Muslims in India
The population of Muslims in India is more than any other country except for Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Uttar Pradesh state is the fourth largest state of India and its population is twice the population of Madhya Pradesh, the largest state of India. The majority of Indian Muslims, about 15 percent of them, are living in Uttar Pradesh. Bihar is the third state with the most number of Muslims in India which includes 12 percent of them. Also the least number of Muslims are living in Mizoram state.
The growth in the number of Muslims in India in four decades from 1961 to 2001 was about thirty percent; their number decreased only in the last decade. In average, the annual growth of the number of Muslims from 1961 to 2001 was about 2.7 percent which was more than the average of growth over the country which was estimated about 2.1 in the same period of time. The growth of the number of Christians, Hindus and other religion followers were also lesser than Muslims.
History of Shi'ism in India
History of Shi'ism in India goes back to ancient times. The number of Shi'a Muslims in different periods of time were different, even Shi'a rulers were governing over some regions in India. History of Shi'ism, Shi'a community and Shi'a rulers can be categorized into two sections of northern and southern regions of the Indian Subcontinent. Shi'a Muslims were largely settled in the north of India, which is geographically located in the valley of Send; today it is situated in the territory of Pakistan.
Shi'ism in Deccan (south)
Lexically Deccan, a word rooted from Sanskrit, means south, which refers to a region in southern part of the Indian-subcontinent. Throughout history, borders of Deccan have changed numerously, generally Deccan included southern lands of Vindhia Mountain range extending to southern lands of the Indian-subcontinent.
According to sources, development of Shi'ism in India, historically was a result of Iranian immigrations years after the Mongol attacks to Iran. Even there are evidences regarding tendencies of Tughlaq Shahs toward Shi'ism. However, due to growth in the number of Iranian and Sayyid immigrations to Deccan, Shi'ism massively expanded in the 7th/13th century. Simultaneously they influenced in political and social aspects of local rulers in Deccan. Meanwhile, Safavid rulers in Iran declared Shi'a Islam as the official religion in the country. Several Shi'a rulers came to power in Deccan in the tenth century. As they were in danger of attacks from the Mongol to India, they tried to have strong relations with Safavid rulers, in order to have support from them. Due to active presence of Iranians who were appointed in key positions and also immigration of Iranian poets and religious scholars to Deccan, Iranian and Shi'ite culture were expanding in India, which is quite noticeable from monuments of that time.
Bahmani Sultanate (748/1347 – 932/1527) was established by Hasan Gangu. In that time the number of Iranian and Sayyids from Hijaz increased which led to expansion of Shi'ism in India. Those immigrants were called as "Gharib" or "Afaqi". As Afaqis were appointed in governmental positions, local people showed reaction and it led to disputes between them. Iranians were mostly appointed in military and political positions in Bahmani government. Also the majority of Bahmani army was Sayyid immigrants. Iranian poems and religious scholars were highly admired and the official language of Bahmani was Farsi.
Although Bahmani rulers were Sunni and they followed Hanafi beliefs, they supported Shi'a Muslims and they admitted Imam Ali (a) was superior to previous Caliphs, Abu Bakr, 'Umar b. Khattab and 'Uthman b. 'Affan, in the aspect of knowledge. A number of Shi'a figures and scholars, such as Sadr al-Sharif and Mir Fadl Allah Inju, have achieved high positions in government. Bahmani rulers and their family members have given charities in Shi'ite cities such as Karbala. It is famously known that Hasan Gangu's wife, Makhdum Jahan, in her travel to Mecca and Medina helped Sayyids of Hijaz and provided the situations for their marriage.
Ahmad Shah I (825/1422 – 838/1434) was the first Bahmani ruler who officially converted to Shi'ism. Bahmani rulers were all followers of the family of Shaykh Siraj al-Din Junaydi, but he became the student of Ahmad Gesu-daraz, a Shi'ite Sufi. He also invited Ni'mat Allah Wali, a Shi'ite Sufi from Iran, to visit Deccan. However he did not choose Shi'ism as the official religion of his government, and Muslims in Bahmani Sultanate were mostly Sunni.
In the end of Bahmani Sultanate, disagreements between Afaq and Deccan people led to encounters which caused casualties among Shi'a Muslims. For instance only in one battle around 1200 Sayyids and Shi'a Muslims were perished. However the roots of such adversaries were mostly tribal rather than religious encounters.
Influence of Ni'mat Allahi Order in Deccan: Immigration of followers of Shah Ni'mat Allah Wali to India facilitated development of Shi'ism. Although Sufi Muslims were Sunni, they admired and valued twelve Shi'a Imams; they also respected Shi'ite religious ceremonies and rituals.
Mahmud Gawan, the Iranian Shi'a Minister: Mahmud Gawan (813/1410 – 886/1481) known as Sadr-e Jahan, was a notable and powerful prime minister of Bahmani Sultanate in Deccan. Although his belief in Shi'ism is in doubt, he certainly admired and respected twelve Shi'a Imams and his attitudes towards Shi'ite thoughts was most probably positive. Mahmud Gawan remained as the minister in the time of a number of Bahmani rulers.
Adil Shahi Dynasty
- Main article: Adil Shahi Dynasty
Development of Shi'ism in Bahmani era, let to establishment of Shi'ite governments in India. Yusuf Adil Shah who learned from Mahmud Gawan, has founded Shi'ite Adil Shahi government. According to several narrations Yusuf was a son of an Ottoman Sultan, who fled to Iran in order to escape death. Then in 864 A.H he moved to Deccan along with 'Imad al-Din Tajir. Mahmud Gawan, the minister of Bahmani Sultanate bought him as a slave for Bahmani palace. Yusuf managed to achieve high military ranks and became successful. After the death of Mahmud Gawan and Bahmani ruler, Sultan Muhammad III, which led to a crisis in Bahmani Sultanate, along with a number of high rank military officials, Yusuf declared independence as Adil Shah in Bijapur. He chose Shi'ism as the official religion of his government. Eight member of his family have continued Adil Shah Dynasty after the death of Yusuf in 916 A.H. Finally Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb (1069- 1118 A.H) overpowered Adil Shahi army and overthrown them.
Religious Politics of Adil Shahi Sultanate
Although Adel Shah declared Shi'ism as the official religion of his sultanate, he banned cursing Rashidi Caliphs in order to avoid religious disputes between Shi'a and Sunni Muslims. He also ordered to punish those who ridiculed them. Adel Shah allowed Sunni Muslims to have their own mosques and Adhan (Islamic call to worship God). He even gave them lands to compensate for previous actions. However, Sunnis Muslims of Deccan, led by Sultan Muhammad Bahmani, protested; as a result Adil Shah was forced to limit Shi'a ceremonies. The successor of Adil Shah was not as moderate as him. When his son was crowned, he formed Tabarri (avoiding enemies of God) groups who came to Bijapur streets in order to make people to denounce enemies of Ahl al-Bayt (a). In addition, he imitated Safavid institutions and symbols and ordered all officials to wear the hats of Qizilbashs.
Adil Shahi rulers supported Shi'a poets and religious scholars. Also a number of them were were appointed as court officials, such as 'Inayat Allah Shirazi, Fath Allah Shirazi, Khaji Sa'd al-Din, Shams al-Din Mahmud Sadr al-Jahan, Sayyid Murtada Sabzawari, Ghiyath al-Din Kamal and Hakim Atashi.
Qutb Shahi and Establishment of Hyderabad
Qutb Shahi (901 – 1098 A.H), a Shi'a monarchy in Deccan, was established after the disintegration of Bahmani Kingdom. Sultan Quli, a Qaraquyunlu prince, was the founder of Qutb Shahi dynasty, who fled from Sultan Ya'ghub Aq Quyunlu and migrated to Deccan with his uncle, Allah Quli, and some of his relatives and friends at the age of 12. He was warmly welcomed by Bahmani rulers. In the time of a rebellion, Sultan Quli managed to save Sultan Mahmud Bahmani's life. As a result he was highly respected by him and he was appointed as the ruler of Talang and Golconda; he was also titled as Qutb Mulk.
As Bahmani Sultanate was declining, Sultan Quli declared independence in 918 A.H and he confirmed Shi'ism as the official religion of his territory. Sultan Quli ordered to start all Khutba (Islamic Sermons) by the name of Twelver Shi'ite Imams and to mint coins by the name of Twelver Imams. In addition, he ordered to add the phrase "Hayya 'ala Khayr al-'amal" (The Time for The Best of Deeds Has Come!) to Adhan. Before starting his speeches Sultan Quli praised Shah Isma'il, the Safavid King to show his respect to him.
Mir Muhammad Mu'min Astarabadi
Shi'ism flourished in time of Qutb Shahi dynasty, in which famous Shi'a Muslims were appointed as rulers and official members of dynasty, such as Mustafa Khan Ardistani, the prime minister of Ibrahim Shah and Mir Muhammad Mu'min Astarabadi who was a sayyid from Astarabad. He had a good relationship with Shah Tahmasp and he was the teacher of his children. Mir Muhammad Mu'min Astarabadi left Iran in the time of Sultan Muhammad Khodabandeh (Uljaitu), and after his travel to Mecca and Medina to perform Hajj, he migrated to Deccan. Muhammad Quli appointed him as pishwa, which gave him significant influence in Qutb Shahi Sultanate.
Astarabadi helped in expansion of Qutb Shahi dynasty, improvement of management and development of Shi'ite culture in the region. Hyderabad was established in that time as well, and the architecture and monuments constructed in city were influenced by the architecture of Mashhad and the Holy Shrine of Imam al-Rida (a). Charminar is the most famous monument in the city, which is located in Andhra Pradesh in India. It is regarded as a symbol of the influence of Iranian and Shi'ite culture in Deccan. Astarabadi supported Shi'ite ceremonies and rituals, and he invited a number of Iranian religious scholars and poets to migrate to Hyderabad.
Nizam Shahi Dynasty
Nizam Shahi (895 – 1046 A.H) led by Ahmadnagar, was ruling over a part of Deccan especially around Junnar. Ahmad Nizam Shah, the founder of Nizam Shahi Sultanate, like the founders of other previous dynasties, was a ruler of Junnar. He defeated Bahmani army and declared independence in 895 (A.H.), then he established Nizam Shahi dynasty. Sultan Ahmad was not a Shi'ite ruler himself, but in the time of Burhan Shah I, the successor of Sultan Ahmad, Shi'ism became the official religion of Nizam Shahi Sultanate. Shah Tahir, a descendant of Fatimid, who migrated from Iran was appointed as the minister of Burhan Shah. Being influenced and taught by Tahir Junaydi, Shah Burhan officially declared Shi'ism as the official religion of Nizam Shahi in 944 A.H. As a result close relationships were established between Nizam Shahi and Safavid dynasties.
Shi'a Nawabs of Awadh in the North of India
Awadh is located in the north of India which was administrated by Shi'ite Nawabs in the eighteenth century. Shi'ism expanded in Awadh under the reign of Nawabs who were Iranians and Sayyids (descendants of Ahl al-Bayt(a)). Nawabs were successful in expanding Shi'ism, constructing religious buildings and holding religious ceremonies for Shi'a Muslims, especially in Muharram. Shi'ite religious scholars exercised profound influence over the government. Prominent structures such as Shah Najaf, which is similar to Imam Ali's (a) Holy Shrine, Qasr al-'Aza, a place for mourning ceremonies of Imam Husayn (a), Asif Imambara and Chota Imambara were built this era.
Lucknow, the Scientific City of Shi'a Muslims
Lucknow was the capital of the government of Shi'ite Nawabs of Awadh, which today is located in the center of Utter Pradesh State. This city flourished under the control of Nawabs of Awadh and became the cultural city of Shi'ite Muslims in India. Until the establishment of Pakistan, Lucknow was among the important centers of educating Shi'a Muslims. Having Shi'a Madrasas (schools), seminary centers and libraries made Lucknow an important city for Shi'ite Muslims, which was compared with other Shi'ite cities such as Qom and Najaf.
Before the independence of Pakistan, Kashmir State was mostly settled by Emirs, and it was controlled by Great Britain. It is regarded as one of the most important Shi'ite regions in India. Gilgit-Baltistan, a Shi'ite region in Kashmir, is currently administered by Pakistan. Jammu and Kashmir which are currently administered by India include important Shi'ite cities such as Srinagar and Kargil. History of Shi'ism in this region goes back to the time when Sufi groups and Sayyids moved to Kashmir.
Different Shi'ite Sects of India
After some incidents in early periods of Islam and after the demise of Prophet Muhammad (s), Muslims gradually disagreements arose over intellectual and theoretical matters. However such issues occur naturally in every Islamic and non-Islamic tribes and groups. Here are different Shi'ite sects in India: Twelver Shi'ites, Isma'ili Shi'ites, Dawoodi Bohra Shi'ites, Khoja Shi'ites, Mayman sect, Ja'fari sect and Al Kisa sect.
Twelver Shi'a Muslims
Shi'ite thoughts first appeared in India by means of companions of Prophet Muhammad (s) and Muslims in the first centuries after the emergence of Islam. Besides intellectual influences of Shi'ite governments of Iran including Saffarid, Ziyarid and Buyid dynasties played an important role. In the time of Mongol's ruling over Iran, a number of Shi'ites migrated to other regions, as Iran was ruled with irreligious leaders. Geographically, Iran was among the ideal regions for immigration of Shi'ites. Also immigration of Sayyids of Iran after the attacks of Mongols to their country led to expansion of Shi'ism in India. After the immigration to India, Sayyids were warmly welcomed by the governments of the 12th and 13th centuries. Sayyids mainly settled in Panipat, Nuhta, Bijnor and Jawar regions of India.
Isma'ili Movement greatly expanded in India in the third and the fourth centuries A.H. They believed Isma'il was the son of the sixth Imam and he was the seventh Shi'ite Imam.
Dawoodi Musta'li Isma'ili is the biggest Shi'ite sect in India who became famous as Bohra Shi'ites. Although Bohra themselves preferred to be known as Taiyabi Isma'ili Shi'ites, they use the term "tribe" about themselves in their conversations. These Shi'ites accepted the Imamate of the first six Shi'ite Imams, they believe Isma'il, the oldest son of Imam al-Sadiq (a), and he is next Shi'ite Imam.
A large number of Khojas had tendencies toward Twelver Shi'ism. As a result they have religious and intellectual relationships with Shi'ite Marja's including Ayatullah Sistani and other Marja's in Iran. A large number of them became famous as they had religious activities in Al-Iman Foundation in Bombay; they are known as new-converted Muslim in India. In addition, Khojas have an effective monopoly on the commercial trades between Mumbai and Gujarat. Currently they have three international associations with political and religious activities: Global Association, The Association of Africa and the Association of Gujarat.
The Fifth-Sect Muslims
This sect who call themselves the fifth sect, regard themselves as the true sect among all the Muslim sects according to their intellectual and belief-related tendencies; they believe in Rashidun caliphs. They also accept 'Ali b. Abi Talib (a) as the fourth caliph, although they have a special Kalam-wise approach toward him. Basically according to their thoughts Imamate is regarded as a political theory for them rather than a Kalam-wise theory. Geographically, the fifth sect followers are settled in Gujarat, Bombay, Emirates and Masqat.
A number of Shi'ites are known as the six-Imam Shi'ites. They accepted the Imamate of the first six Imams and they regard the other Imams as their children not Imams; they also believe obeying their orders is not necessary. They believe Taqlid (emulating a jurist) is rejected as they believe in Insidad bab 'Ilm (the door of knowledge is closed). The followers of Ja'fari Shi'ism only accept taqlid from Pir (master) and they regard him as the successor of the sixth Imam (a).
Ashab al-Kisa' Shi'ites
Today Shi'ites in India
The exact number of Shi'a Muslims in India is unknown. According to different sources the population of Shi'a Muslims in India is between thirty to fifty million people. Also several sources mentioned Shi'a Muslims of India are the largest population of Shi'ites in one country in the world after Iran.
Although Shi'a Muslims were mostly settling in Deccan and Faizabad, which had Shi'ite ruling system, currently Shi'ites are living all over India.
Presently the majority of Shi'a Muslim population are settled in Hyderabad, Delhi, Punjab, Amroha, Faizabad, Jona Pur, Lucknow, Rampur and Kashmir.
Twelver Shi'a Khojas (those who converted to Islam) are mostly from the state of Gujarat and the region of Kutch. There are almost twenty five thousand Twelver Khojas all over the country, who are living in the region of Kutch, the states of Gujarat, Bombay and cities such as Behuj, Baruda, Surat, Mandoy, Ahmedabad, Murby and Bhavnagar. These cities are administered by the Federation of Kutch and Council of Gujarat. Bombay is the main center of Twelver Khojas in India which hold the majority population of Shi'a Muslims.
Population of Shi'ite Muslims in India
Shi'ite Muslims in India are living in different states all over the country. They usually live in central and southern states. Shi'ites mostly are living in Uttar Pradesh mainly in Lucknow. This state has the second highest rate of literacy among other states in India. Hundred thousands of Shi'ites are living in Lucknow. Also large number of Shi'ites are living in Jaunpur as well. Kashmir is the second most populous Shi'ite rejoin in India after Lucknow; this state has the highest rate of literacy in India. Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and the state of Gujarat are the states where thousands of Shi'ite Muslims are living. Maharashtra state is the home of a large number of Shi'ites as well; this state is among the biggest states of the country. Generally, Shi'ite Muslims of India are scattered all over the country especially in the northern, western and eastern regions.
According to recent studies, India has 84 million Shi'a Muslims, which has the highest number of Twelver Shi'ite Muslims in the world. There are no accurate statistics on the number of Shi'ite Muslims in India. However Shi'ite scholars believe that they are about one fifth of the number of Muslims in the country; about thirty to fifty million Shi'ites. They are the largest Shi'ite minority in the world.
According to a number of studies, over three million Shi'ite Muslims are living only in Lucknow. Also in Lucknow state about 17 million Shi'ites are living; the majority are Twelver Shi'ite followers. In the historical city of Hyderabad in Deccan, over one hundred thousand Shi'ite Muslims. Also over two thousand Shi'a Muslims are living in Hyderabad.
Important Shi'ite Cities
1. Lucknow was previously the center of Muslim government and it included the most magnificent historical building of Indian Shi'ites in the country. Also the biggest Husayniyya of Shi'ites in the world are located in this city.
2. Alipur; 99 percent of the population of this city are Shi'ite Muslims.
3. Bombay; tens of thousands of Shi'ites are living in this city.
4. Delhi; the number of Shi'ites Muslims is significant in this city.
5. Jaunpur; Thousands of Shi'ites are settling in this city. They generally appreciate the Islamic Revolution of Iran.
6. Mubarakpur; a large number of Shi'ite scholars are living in this city.
7. Bengaluru; hundreds of Twelver Shi'ite families are living in this city. Over two hundred thousand Shi'ite Muslim are settling in Tamil Nadu state of India.
8. Aligarh; a large number of Shi'ite Muslims are living in this city. People of Aligarh are generally knowledgeable so that they mostly are working in scientific centers.
9. Naugawan Sadat; a large number of people are Shi'ite and most of them are Sayyids.
Shi'ites Political Parties and Organizations
Political and social activities of the majority of Shi'ite political parties and organizations in India are focused on participating in elections of Parliament. Shi'ite political parties in India are: the Unity of Muslims, the Lawful Association of Shi'ites, the Association of Shi'ism, the Association of Scholars etc. Different Shi'ite cultural centers and schools are also engaged with different activities. Regarding the lifestyle of ordinary Indian people, Shi'ite and Muslims have better situations. Here are a number of Shi'ite political parties and organizations:
1) The All Indian Muslim Personal Law Board
The All Indian Muslim Personal Law Board is currently located in Lucknow. Maulana Mirza Mohammad Athar was the first president of AISPLB. He made huge efforts to expand Shi'ism. All the members of this party are Shi'ites. The main purpose of this party is pursuing legal issues of Muslim community.
2) People's Democratic Front
This party was founded by Shi'ite Muslims in Lucknow, which is now trying to obtain legal authorization for their activities. The prominent Shi'ite scholar Kalbe Jawad is the head of this party.
3) Al-Iman Foundation
Al-Iman Foundation is instituted in Bombay. Thousands of Shi'ite Muslims including Khojas are members of this foundation headed by Sayyid Abedi. The main focus of this party is on religious and welfare aspects of Shi'ites.
4) Shi'ite Affiliated Centers and Institutions
In addition, there are other Shi'ite affiliated centers and institutions including: Tanzeem ul Makatib (with 937 religious schools), Imam Khomeini's Commemoration Committee, Imdad Al-Abbasi Committee, the Office of Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas, the Foundation of Imam al-Husayn, The School of Mashari' al-Sharayi', The Seminary of Imam al-Rida, the Seminary of Imam al-Husayn, the Seminary of Imam al-Khumayni, the Society of Bab al-'Ilm, Dar al-Jawad, Sultan al-Madaris, the School of Jawadiya, the Shi'ite College, the School of al-Imaniya, the School of Al-Wa'izin, Jami'a al-Zahra and Tawhid al-Muslimin.
Teaching Islamic Kalam and Fiqh started in the first centuries A.H. in India. Gradually schools and centers were built in order to teach and explain logical sciences, fiqh, hadith and exegesis so that enthusiastic ones who wants to learn religious teachings gather together. Later as Muslims separated due to disagreements, different groups concentrated on promoting and teaching their principles in order to extend their influence. As a result Islamic seminaries and schools became numerous where Iranian books on math, astronomy, logics, Kalam and philosophies were taught.
Teaching narrative and logical sciences, Kalam and hadith in Shi'ite schools played an important role in expansion of Shi'ite culture. Great scholars have been raised and learned in these seminaries who had magnificent influence on intellectual and belief-related subjects in Islamic world.
Maulana Sayyid Hasan Naqvi was the founder of Sultanul Madaris. He used his relationship with the Shi'ite ruler of Awadh in order to found a scientific and cultural center. Sultanul Madaris was founded in 1259 A.H. in Lucknow by Naqvi and he administrated it himself. He also brought facilities for clergymen of the seminary. Sadr al-Afazil was the highest degree of this school which was granted to the ones who passed the highest literature, fiqh, Usul and philosophy courses. It seems this school was the first Shi'ite school in India. Earlier, the scientific courses were held in the scholars' houses or Husayniyyas.
Madrasae Imaniya in Banaras
Banaras is one of the important cities of India where mostly Hindus come to worship. Muslims used to live in this city, however gradually their culture was affected by Buddhist culture. Imdad Ali noticed this change and encouraged Shi'ite Nawab of the city, Khorshid Ali Khan, to build a scientific center in Banaras. He passed away in 1282 A.H. but his wife continued his plan and built Madrasae of Imaniya with lots of waqf (donated properties). From the beginning Imdad Ali administrated the school and after him Ali Jawad brought this school to its peak prominence. Shams al-Afazil is the highest degree of this school.
Madrasa Mashariul Ulum (Jamia Nazimiya)
This school was founded by Sayyid Nazim, Najmul Ulama and a number of grand Shi'ite figures in 1890. The state of Utah Pradesh accepted to administrate the official affairs of this school. It has specific education, training and cultural system and clergymen are sent every year to different regions in order to promote religion, which made it a cultural center.
Jamiul Ulum Jawadiya
Jamiul Ulum Jawadiya was founded in 1928 by Sayyid Mohammad Sajjad al-Husayni in Prahlad Ghat in eastern region of Banaras. When Ayatullah Sayyid Zafar al-Hasan became the administrator of this school it reached its peak. On holidays he travelled to different regions in order to encourage people to support this school. Fakhr al-Afazil is the highest degree of this school.
Sayyid Sabt Hasan Jaisi, Maharaja Nawab Fateh Ali Khan and Maharaja Nawab Hamed Ali Khan Rampur held a congregation of Indian Shi'ites in order to promote social education of Shi'a Muslims in 1907. Consequently, in 1918 Shi'a College was founded as an academic Shi'ite center in the capital of Lucknow. The head of this college must be one of the Shi'ite scientific figures and the students are only Shi'ites. Shaykh Abd al-Halim Nadvi a Sunni scholar stated about this college: "Shi'a College is a magnificent cultural center whose graduate students play crucial role in adherence of Shi'ite principles and a number of them are remarkably brilliant at religious sciences and Arabic."
Madinatul Ulum College
This college is regarded among the most important education center of religious teachings in India. It is a center specifically for Twelver Shi'a Muslims which draw students from all over the country. It has two branches, one for religious sciences and the other for other sciences. Professor Ali Muhammad Naqvi is the head of this school. It was founded by the leaders of Indian Shi'ites in 1993. Currently Dr. Rostam Mohseni is the manager of this school.
Religious Schools for Women
Shi'a Muslims of India have a number of seminaries which are dedicated only to clergywomen in order to promote theology of Ahl al-Bayt (a). Here are a list of these schools: Jami' al-Zahra Tanzim al-Makatib (Lucknow), Madrasa Anwar al-Zahra, Jami'a Zeynabiya (Lucknow), Zeynabiya, Zahra Iju Kishen Center, Madrasa al-Zahra etc.
Madrasa Jamia al-Zahra in Lucknow has eight schools in three educational levels in which over 118 Muslim women are studying seminary lessons.
Madrasa Al-Zahra in Alipor has four schools in two educational levels in which over 33 Muslim women are studying.
Madrasa Jami al-Zahra in Sharif Albo has six schools in two educational levels in which over 45 Muslim women are studying.
Madrasa Maktab al-Zahra in Hasan Abad has five schools in two educational levels in which over 21 Muslim women are studying.
Shi'ite Libraries in India
A large number of libraries exist in India which are affiliated with Shi'ites or Shi'ites played a role in building them. Here are a number of the libraries:
Nasirya library is among the most valuable collection of religious and scientific works in Middle East. Maulana Jalil Sayyid Mohammad Qoli, Maulana Mir Hamed Husayn's father, was the founder of this library. He has written numerous works on Islamic culture and theology; during his lifetime he dedicated this library to his children. After the demise of Sayyid Muhammad Qoli, his son Mir Hamed Husayn followed his father's steps and expanded the library while he was writing and correcting his father's works.
After the demise of Mir Hamed the trusteeship of the library was given his son Maulana Sayyid Nasir Husayn. In that time the library was expanded as well and the books were moved to the present location of Nasirya library. It has over thirty thousand books, which includes five thousand manuscripts which are mostly rare original versions.
Raja Amir Husayn Khan was a knowledgeable man who founded a library. After the demise of Amir Husayn, his son Raja Ali Mohammad Khan managed the library; he learned religious sciences and became familiar with new sciences as well. When the British dominated over the country, knowledge and sciences in the Islamic sciences centers in Lucknow declined and the Islamic and scientific treasures were looted. Raja Mohammad Ali Khan bought a large number of the books and moved them to this library. It has about eighty thousand books including two thousand and five hundred manuscripts. The manuscripts are kept in Muhammad Ali Khan's house in Lucknow and the printed books are kept in the grand library of him in Mahmoud Abad castle.
The Library of Reza
The library of Reza in Rampur is among the biggest and most valuable libraries in India which has numerous books about eastern sciences. Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Turkish, Pashtu, Sanskrit and Indian manuscripts are available in this library as well as printed books in European, Eastern and Indian languages. The Library was founded about two hundred years ago by Nawab Fayz Allah Khan Bahador (1208A.H. 1749). In that time the library was expanded with huge efforts by Nawab. Meanwhile another place was specified for the library and the books were registered with the special logo of the library.
Shi'ite Religious Ceremonies
Shi'ite religious ceremonies such as celebrations and mourning ceremonies about Twelver Imams (a) are held on special days in India. Shi'a Muslims in this country also hold such ceremonies passionately specially in Muharram which are significantly important among Indian Muslims.
Conducting mourning Shi'ite ceremonies in India goes back to the tenth century A.H when Shi'ite governments were founded. Religious monuments were built in that time for Muslims to gather around for mourning ceremonies; these buildings are called Ashurkhana and Imambara.
Except for mourning ceremonies and chest-beating there are other religious ceremonies which are held especially in India such as:
Bande Mihnat: hanging green and red threads on the wrists and neck from the fifth to the tenth day of Muharram is called Bande Mehnat which is a mourning ritual in remembering the troubles that Imam al-Husayn's (a) family went through. It is common not to express happiness and joy in Muharram as well.
Ta'ziya: in India Ta'ziya is constructing the shrine of Imam al-Husayn (a) in a portable and smaller size. In Muharram Indians Shi'ites prepare mourning symbols and signs in a small part of their house called Azakhane.
Jaloos: groups of people who are performing mourning ceremony are called Jaloos. In Lucknow people bring a huge Jaloos from Asfi Imambara and it ends in Husayn Abad Imambara. A large number of elephants, camels, horses, drums and lights are moving with people during Ta'ziya. The grand ta'ziya of Asfi Imambara, Moom ta'ziya is also carried during the ceremony.
Jaloos Hanna: Jaloos Mehnedi or Jaloos Hana is held on the seventh of Muharram on the name of Qasim and his marriage.
Walking on coals: In mourning ceremonies while people are beating on their chests, they walk on fiery coals.
Making Pilgrimages to Karbala Symbols: A number of monuments are built for mourning ceremonies of Imam al-Husayn (a) in India which are called Karbala. They are similar to the shrine of Imam al-Husayn (a). In Ashura, people in Lucknow move toward the place and they observe fasting from dust to afternoon.
Symbolic Funeral of Karbala Martyrs: A special place is specified for symbolic burial ceremony of the martyrs of Karbala and the coffins of the martyrs are carried in the ceremony.
Using Blades and Chain-Beating: Some Muslims use blades (perform Tatbir) and perform chain-beating in Muharram in ceremonies as well.
The government of India also support the ceremonies of Shi'ite Muslims in Muharram as they stated that the first day of lunar year is holiday in the country. Some people celebrate the New Year with fireworks and some people observe fasting on the 9th, 10th and 11th of Muharram. It is said fasting is recommended by Prophet Muhammad (s) on the eighth and ninth of Muharram.