Girish Mahajan

Arabs in India

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A small but recognizable people with Arab origins have over time settled in the India. Genealogically they are grouped as Indo-Arabs or Indians with Arab ancestry. Those who arrived in Kerala and Gujarat for trading goods were later recruited to the army. Most Arabs were traders, and businessmen who sold or traded silk, diamonds and other valuables resulting in wealthy business men. The city of Surat and villages within the city are known for Arab settlements. Variav and Randev are the few villages that Arabs started their lives in. In Hyderabad, Chaush are Arab community of Hadhrami descent whose ancestors were recruited as soldier by Nizam of Hyderabad.In coastal Karnataka, Iraqis arrived during the reign of Tipu Sultan. They claim their ancestry from Banu Assad. These population migrations may have been favored by both the Nizam of Hyderabad and Tipu Sultan of Mysore because both had their ancestral linkages to these populations.The Asaf Jahi Dynasty claimed Arab ancestry from Asir Province and Tipu Sultan from the Bani Hashim of Hijaz Province in Arabia. Many Arabs having Adnani ancestry such as Quraishi, Ansari, Sayyid tribes and other descendants of the Sahaba were employed by the Princely States in their military as they were found efficient during warfare. In Kerala, Syed Thangals of Hadhrami descent settled around 17th century as missionaries to propagate Islam. There are also Shia Sayyids in Northern region of country who claim descent from Wasit, Iraq like Zaidis although many Arab genealogists dispute this fact. Sunni Sayyid of the country also claim Arab descent from Sufi missionaries but it is hard to say that every Sufi really belonged to Arab. Most of the Sufis migrated from Persia. Sunni Sayyids claim their Arab ancestry through Imam Hassan or Imam Hussain in which case their names would have Hassani, Hussaini or Hashmi. Some also claim descent from both and are termed "Najeeb AlTarfayn" or "Noble on both sides". Many Sufi Saints such as Abdul-Qadir Gilani and Moinuddin Chishti and their descendants claim themselves as Najeeb AlTarfayn although many genealogists dispute this fact. Sunni Sheikhs also claim Arab descent from Sufis or migrants but it remains hoax. They don't know their tribe but trace lineage from Umar - Farooqi, Abu Bakr- Siddiqui, Uthman - Usmani and Ali - Alawi or Mir, who established the Rashidun Caliphate. Many who can vaguely trace their lineage to the Quraish tribe call themselves Quraishi but many Non-Arab backward Muslim communities such as Butchers and Leathersmiths were also bestowed this name by previous Muslim rulers. Many having the name Ansari claim their lineage to the Ansar tribes of Madina Munawwara and the companions of the Prophet Muhammad such as Abu Ayyub al-Ansari. Many of the present Sheikhs converted from Hindu castes such as Kayasth and Rajput.




A small but recognizable people with Arab origins have over time settled in the state of Gujarat in India, primarily due to the proximity of Arabia to India. They now form one of the large Muslim communities in that state. They are also known as Chavuse, especially in Saurashtra. In Gujarat the term Arab strictly refers to families that came in the 17th, 18th and 19th Century from the Arabian Peninsula. The Arabs of Surat, Gujarat traveled from the Hejaz region of Saudi Arabia and the Hadhramaut region of Yemen, while many others claim to be from other Arab States of the Persian Gulf. During the 18th Century, when Gujarat was divided into a number of states, many Arabs were recruited by the various rajahs for yet their armed forces. Arabs soldiers made a large part of the armies of Bhavnagar and Jamnagar states. During the early twentieth century, the Arabs abandoned Arabic for Urdu.

The Arabs are now found in the districts of Junagadh, Bhavnagar, Panchmahal and Surat. They are divided in 169 clans, but generally divided into groups, the Hejazi, originating from Saudi Arabia, and the Hadhramis from Yemen. Their main clans are the Akvon, Acari, Ansari, Anuj, Kathiri, and Quraishi. Each clan is of equal status, but the Quraishis are accorded seniority on account of the fact that they were the tribe of the Prophet Mohammad.

Uttar Pradesh

  • Banu Israil-The exact circumstances of their settlement in India is unclear, but their traditions make clear that they were Muslims at the time of their settlement. They are largely an urban community, occupying distinct quarters in a number of towns and cities in western Uttar Pradesh, such as Banu Israilyan in Aligarh. Quite a few of them occupied important administrative positions under both the Sultanate of Delhi and its successor, the Mughal Empire. This was especially true of the Banu Israil of Aligarh, where the community were the heredity kotwals, a post which entailed being both the head of police and garrison commander
  • Fareedi- Descendants of Fariduddin Ganjshakar, the Sufi Saint of Pak Patan in Pakistan. Most Fareedis live in Pakistan while some have moved to what is India now, mostly in the province of Uttar Pradesh, basically Badayun region. From there some moved forward to Bangladesh.Most Fareedis carry the name Farooqi but some carry the name Fareedi or Faridi. Some even carry the name Masudi or Masoodi. Those in charge of Baba Farid's carry the title Diwan in addition to the name Farooqi.
  • Mukeri-The name Muker is said to have derived from the Arabic makeri, meaning those who helped in the construction of Makkah. They were initially called Makkai, which meant the resident of Makkah, which was later corrupted to makeri. They are divided into two endogamous groups, the Mukeri and Shaikh Banjara. They rank themselves as Shaikh. The Shaikh Banjara are further divided into the Makrani, Muqri, Barmaki, Siddiqui and Shaikh. Different groups have different traditions to their origin, with the Makrani claiming Baluch ancestry.The Muker in Bihar claim to be descendants of early Arab settlers, whose initial area of settlement in South Asia was the Makran region. According to their tradition they arrived in Bihar during the period of Khilji ruler, and were initially known as Makrani, which was eventually shortened to Muker.
  • Mujavir-The word mujavir literally means caretakers, and the Mujavir are the caretakers of the shrine of the famous Sufi, Saiyid Salar Masood in Bahraich. They claim that their ancestors came from Iraq, and were appointed custodians of the shrine. The Mujavir speak Urdu among themselves and Hindi with outsiders.
  • Karnataka

    The Assadis are Arabs who were immigrants from Karbala, Iraq. They claim that they are a part of the Banu Asad tribe. They are found in Tokur, Shirva, Bolar, Udupi, Mangalore. Although they come from a prominent Shiite tribe, they are Sunni. They claim that their ancenstors arrived in India during the reign of Tipu Sultan. This fact may be true because Tipu Sultan also claimed ancestry from Arabia and perhaps favored their migration.

    Hyderabad and Surrounding Areas

    Hadhrami Arabs in Hyderabad are known as Chaush are most concentrated in Barkas, Hyderabad. Most emigrated from Hadhramawt in Yemen during the reign of the Asaf Jahi Dynasty as part of the military of the Nizam State because the Nizams also claimed ancestral linkage from Arabia while many others were mercenaries working for local landlords and Nawabs. Many have migrated outside of Hyderabad to other Indian States although in small numbers. They can be identified by their Hadhrami tribal names.

    Present circumstances


    The Arab community is mainly landless. Military and security services in the armies of the states of Jamnagar, Junagadh and Bhavnagar was their traditional occupation. They are now mainly in urban community, and have taken up a number of professional occupations such as the law and medicine. A significant number have also emigrated to Arab states of the Persian Gulf such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The community have a caste association, the Akhil Gujarat Arab Samaj, which is active in community affairs. Another community that is active in community affairs is the Surati Sunni Vohra Community, which keeps lists of the Surati people and marriages within the community, and well as all Surati affairs. They are Sunni Muslims, The community have remained strictly endogenous, with virtually no cases of intermarriage with neighboring Gujarati Muslim communities.

    Rest of India

    Most of the other Indo-Arab Communities in India have migrated and mixed with the local populations or have emigrated out of India for better employment and living conditions with majority of the Diaspora in the Middle East and Western countries.


    Arabs in India Wikipedia

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