|India 900,000||Pakistan 700,000|
The term Memon refers to a Muslim commercial community from the western part of South Asia, including Memons historically associated with Kathiawar. It also can refer to Kutchi Memons and Sindhi Memons. They are associated with the Memon language. Many Memons migrated to Karachi after the Partition of India in 1947.
Sindhi, Gujarati origins
Memon lineage traces back to Lohanas of Multan and Sindh. The origin of the name comes from Mu'min (مؤمن , “believer” in Arabic) and later evolved to present name Memon. The Memon community was founded in the 15th century by 700 families comprising 6,178 persons total. According to Anthovan, those Lohanas of Thatta who converted to Islam became Memons and were invited by Rao Khengarji Jadeja, ruler of Bhuj in the 16th century, to settle in Bhuj. It is from there that Kutchi Memons migrated to Kathiawar and mainland Gujarat. Surat in Gujarat was an important trading centre from 1580 to 1680 and Memons made their bounty there. Memons became significantly affluent as a result of trading in Surat.
Due to the mercantile nature of the community, Memons began a significant migration beyond the borders of India in 18th- and 19th-centuries. This led to communities developing in the Middle East, South Africa, Sri Lanka and East Asia. Memon traders set up a network of joint stock companies acting in coordination with other members in an area ranging from Central Africa to China. Memon donors made significant financial contributions to construct mosques during this time, including Juma Masjid Mosque and Jamia Mosque. By late 19th century several thousand Memons had settled in Bombay due to trading. Memon representative leaders traded with British capitalists to develop their Indian monopolies. The area of Bombay which the Memon traders ended up congregating in later became known as the Memonwada.
The early 20th century saw a consolidation of the Memon community in South Asia as well as South Africa. They began to organise important societies including Memon Education and Welfare Society and Memon Chamber of Commerce. Memon community made significant financial contributions to preserve the Ottoman Empire but were unable to prevent its decline. The partition of Pakistan and India led to significant migration in both directions for the community. During middle of the twentieth century a handful of Memon financial dynasties were born. However, the dynastic wealth of the Memon families stagnated during the late twentieth century due to the partition of Pakistan as well as political turmoil of the country.
While Memons are generally Sunni Muslims, many continue to follow Hindu common law in matters regarding property inheritance, community leadership structure and mutual support for members. Some Memons continue to follow caste hierarchy practices. Memon see themselves to be from the Hindu Kshatriya lineage. Even within Memons, there are caste hierarchies that some follow regarding marriage practices.
According to folklore, the blessings of the Islamic saint Sayad Kadiri upon the Memons are responsible for their success in business and trade. A more pragmatic explanation for their success is that Memon have been historically considered honest brokers. Following commercial caste model, Memons also offer support community members in financial matters by giving loans and offering business assistance.
Today, Memon communities are scattered throughout the world including UAE, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, UK, USA and Canada. However, major concentrations of Memon remain located in Karachi, Pakistan and Gujarat, India. In Karachi there is a community of Memon people from Bantva and their descendants known as Bantva Memons. Also another prominent category is Halari Memon who works under the banner of Halari Memon General Jama'at. Halari Memon is a group of several subcategories and are also the follower of Hanfi Muslim. Memons were also one of three classes living in South Africa when Mahatma Gandhi went there in 1893, Memons were basically traders serving the Indian diaspora in South Africa. Memons are known for their involvement in business and philanthropy, with Memons having played a major part in the building of Pakistani industry.