The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India Volume I Part 16

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6. _Polygamy, divorce and widow-remarriage_.

7. _Devices for procuring children, and beliefs about them_.

8. _Pregnancy rites_.

9. _Childbirth and naming children_.

10. _The Ukika sacrifice_.

11. _Shaving the hair and ear-piercing_ 12. _Birthdays_.

13. _Circ.u.mcision, and maturity of girls_.

14. _Funeral rites_.

15. _Muhammadan sects. s.h.i.+ah and Sunni_.

16. _Leading religious observations. Prayer._ 17. _The fast Ramazan._ 18. _The pilgrimage to Mecca._ 19. _Festivals. The Muharram_.

20. _Id-ul-Fitr._ 21. _Id-ul-Zoha._ 22. _Mosques._ 22. _Mosques_ 23. _The Friday service._ 24. _Priest. Mulla and Maulvi._ 25. _The Kazi._ 26. _General features of Islam._ 27. _The Koran._ 28. _The Traditions_ 29. _The schools of law._ 30. _Food._ 31. _Dress._ 32. _Social rules. Salutations._ 33. _Customs._ 34. _Position of women._ 35. _Interest on money._ 36. _Muhammadan education._

1. Statistics and distribution.

_Muhammadan Religion._--The Muhammadans numbered nearly 600,000 persons in the Central Provinces in 1911, or about 3 per cent of the population. Of these about two-fifths belong to Berar, the Amraoti and Akola Districts containing more than 70,000 each; while of the 350,000 returned from the Central Provinces proper, about 40,000 reside in each of the Jubbulpore, Nagpur and Nimar Districts. Berar was for a long period governed by the Muhammadan Bahmani dynasty, and afterwards formed part of the Mughal empire, pa.s.sing to the Mughal Viceroy, the Nizam of Hyderabad, when he became an independent ruler. Though under British administration, it is still legally a part of Hyderabad territory, and a large proportion of the official cla.s.ses as well as many descendants of retired soldiers are Muhammadans. Similarly Nimar was held by the Muhammadan Faruki dynasty of Khandesh for 200 years, and was then included in the Mughal empire, Burhanpur being the seat of a viceroy. At this period a good deal of forcible conversion probably took place, and a considerable section of the Bhils nominally became Muhammadans.

When the Gond Raja of Deogarh embraced Islam after his visit to Delhi, members of this religion entered his service, and he also brought back with him various artificers and craftsmen. The cavalry of the Bhonsla Raja of Nagpur was largely composed of Muhammadans, and in many cases their descendants have settled on the land. In the Chhattisgarh Division and the Feudatory States the number of Muhammadans is extremely small, const.i.tuting less than one per cent of the population.

2. Occupations.

No less than 37 per cent of the total number of Muhammadans live in towns, though the general proportion of urban population in the Provinces is only 7 1/2 per cent. The number of Muhammadans in Government service excluding the police and army, is quite disproportionate to their small numerical strength in the Provinces, being 20 per cent of all persons employed. In the garrison they actually outnumber Hindus, while in the police they form 37 per cent of the whole force. In the medical and teaching professions also the number of Muhammadans is comparatively large, while of persons of independent means a proportion of 29 per cent are of this religion. Of persons employed in domestic services nearly 14 per cent of the total are Muhammadans, and of beggars, vagrants and prost.i.tutes 23 per cent. Muhammadans are largely engaged in making and selling clothes, outnumbering the Hindus in this trade; they consist of two entirely different cla.s.ses, the Muhammadan tailors who work for hire, and the Bohra and Khoja shopkeepers who sell all kinds of cloth; but both live in towns. Of dealers in timber and furniture 36 per cent are Muhammadans, and they also engage in all branches of the retail trade in provisions. The occupations of the lower-cla.s.s Muhammadans are the manufacture of gla.s.s bangles and slippers and the dyeing of cloth. [299]

3. Muhammadan castes.

About 14 per cent of the Muhammadans returned caste names. The princ.i.p.al castes are the Bohra and Khoja merchants, who are of the s.h.i.+ah sect, and the Cutchis or Memans from Gujarat, who are also traders; these cla.s.ses are foreigners in the Province, and many of them do not bring their wives, though they have now begun to settle here. The resident castes of Muhammadans are the Bahnas or cotton-cleaners; Julahas, weavers; Kacheras, gla.s.s bangle-makers; Kunjras, greengrocers; Kasais, butchers; and the Rangrez caste of dyers who dye with safflower. As already stated, a section of the Bhils are at least nominally Muhammadans, and the Fakirs or Muhammadan beggars are also considered a separate caste. But no caste of good standing such as the Rajput and Jat includes any considerable number of Muhammadans in the Central Provinces, though in northern India large numbers of them belong to this religion, while retaining substantially their caste usages. The Muhammadan castes in the Central Provinces probably consist to a large extent of the descendants of Hindu converts. Their religious observances present a curious mixture of Hindu and Muhammadan rites, as shown in the separate articles on these castes. Proper Muhammadans look down on them and decline to take food or intermarry with them.

4. The four tribal divisions.

The Muhammadans proper are usually divided into four cla.s.ses, Shaikh, Saiyad, Mughal and Pathan. Of these the Shaikhs number nearly 300,000, the Pathans nearly 150,000, the Saiyads under 50,000, and the Pathans about 9000 in the Central Provinces. The term Saiyad properly means a descendant of Ali, the son-in-law, and the lady Fatimah, the daughter of the Prophet. They use the t.i.tle Saiyad or Mir [300]

before, and sometimes Shah after, their name, while women employ that of Begum. Many Saiyads act as Pirs or spiritual guides to other Muhammadan families. The external mark of a Saiyad is the right to wear a green turban, but this is of course no longer legally secured to them. The t.i.tle Shaikh properly belongs only to three branches of the Quraish tribe or that of Muhammad: the Siddikis, who claim descent from Abu Bakr Siddik, [301] the father-in-law of the Prophet and the second Caliph; the Farukis claiming it from Umar ul Faruk, the third Caliph, and also the father-in-law of the Prophet; and the Abbasis, descended from Abbas, one of the Prophet's nine uncles. The Farukis are divided into two families, the Chistis and Faridis. Both these t.i.tles, however, and especially Shaikh, are now arrogated by large numbers of persons who cannot have any pretence to the above descent. Sir D. Ibbetson quotes a proverb, 'Last year I was a butcher; this year I am a Shaikh; next year if prices rise I shall become a Saiyad.' And Sir H. M. Elliot relates that much amus.e.m.e.nt was caused in 1860 at Gujarat by the Sherishtadar or princ.i.p.al officer of the judicial department describing himself in an official return as Saiyad Has.h.i.+mi Qurais.h.i.+, that is, of the family and lineage of the Prophet. His father, who was living in obscurity in his native town, was discovered to be a Lohar or blacksmith. [302] The term Shaikh means properly an elder, and is freely taken by persons of respectable position. Shaikhs commonly use either Shaikh or Muhammad as their first names. The Pathans were originally the descendants of Afghan immigrants. The name is probably the Indian form of the word Pushtun (plural Pushtanah), now given to themselves by speakers of the Pushtu language. [303] The men add Khan to their names and the women Khatun or Khatu. It is not at all likely either that the bulk of the Muhammadans who returned themselves as Pathans in the Central Provinces are really of Afghan descent. The Mughals proper are of two cla.s.ses, Irani or Persian, who belong to the s.h.i.+ah sect, and Turani, Turkish or Tartar, who are Sunnis. Mughals use the t.i.tle Mirza (short for Amirzada, son of a prince) before their names, and add Beg after them. It is said that the Prophet addressed a Mughal by the t.i.tle of Beg after winning a victory, and since then it has always been used. Mughal women have the designation Khanum after their names. [304] Formerly the Saiyads and Mughals const.i.tuted the superior cla.s.s of Muhammadan gentry, and never touched a plough themselves, like the Hindu Brahmans and Rajputs. These four divisions are not proper subcastes as they are not endogamous. A man of one group can marry a woman of any other and she becomes a member of her husband's group; but the daughters of Saiyads do not usually marry others than Saiyads. Nor is there any real distinction of occupation between them, the men following any occupation indifferently. In fact, the divisions are now little more than t.i.tular, a certain distinction attaching to the t.i.tles Saiyad and Shaikh when borne by families who have a hereditary or prescriptive right to use them.

5. Marriage.

The census returns of 1911 show that three-fourths of Muhammadan boys now remain unmarried till the age of 20; while of girls 31 per cent are unmarried between 15 and 20, but only 13 per cent above that age. The age of marriage of boys may therefore be taken at 18 to 25 or later, and that of girls at 10 to 20. The age of marriage both of girls and boys is probably getting later, especially among the better cla.s.ses.

Marriage is prohibited to the ordinary near relatives, but not between first cousins. A man cannot marry his foster-mother or foster-sister, unless the foster-brother and sister were nursed by the same woman at intervals widely separated. A man may not marry his wife's sister during his wife's lifetime unless she has been divorced. A Muhammadan cannot marry a polytheist, but he may marry a Jewess or a Christian. No specific religious ceremony is appointed, nor are any rites essential for the contraction of a valid marriage. If both persons are legally competent, and contract marriage with each other in the presence of two male or one male and two female witnesses, it is sufficient. And the s.h.i.+ah law even dispenses with witnesses. As a rule the Kazi performs the ceremony, and reads four chapters of the Koran with the profession of belief, the bridegroom repeating them after him. The parties then express their mutual consent, and the Kazi, raising his hands, says, "The great G.o.d grant that mutual love may reign between this couple as it existed between Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Joseph and Zuleika, Moses and Zipporah, His Highness Muhammad and Ayesha, and His Highness Ali and Fatimah." [305] A dowry or _meher_ must be paid to the wife, which under the law must not be less than ten silver _dirhams_ or drachmas; but it is customary to fix it at Rs. 17, the dowry of Fatimah, the Prophet's favourite daughter, or at Rs. 750, that of the Prophet's wife, Ayesha. [306] The wedding is, however, usually accompanied by feasts and celebrations not less elaborate or costly than those of the Hindus. Several Hindu ceremonies are also included, such as the anointing of the bride and bridegroom with oil and turmeric, and setting out earthen vessels, which are meant to afford a dwelling-place for the spirits of ancestors, at least among the lower cla.s.ses. [307] Another essential rite is the rubbing of the hands and feet of the bridegroom with _mehndi_ or red henna. The marriage is usually arranged and a ceremony of betrothal held at least a year before it actually takes place.

6. Polygamy, divorce and widow-remarriage.

A husband can divorce his wife at pleasure by merely repeating the prescribed sentences. A wife can obtain divorce from her husband for impotence, madness, leprosy or non-payment of the dowry. A woman who is divorced can claim her dowry if it has not been paid. Polygamy is permitted among Muhammadans to the number of four wives, but it is very rare in the Central Provinces. Owing to the fact that members of the immigrant trading castes leave their wives at home in Gujarat, the number of married women returned at the census was substantially less than that of married men. A feeling in favour of the legal prohibition of polygamy is growing up among educated Muhammadans, and many of them sign a contract at marriage not to take a second wife during the lifetime of the first. There is no prohibition on the remarriage of widows in Muhammadan law, but the Hindu rule on the subject has had considerable influence, and some Muhammadans of good position object to the marriage of widows in their family. The custom of the seclusion of women also, as Mr. Marten points out, operates as a bar to a widow finding a husband for herself.

7. Devices for procuring children, and beliefs about them.

Women who desire children resort to the shrines of saints, who are supposed to be able to induce fertility. "Blochmann notes that the tomb of Saint Salim-i-Chishti at Fatehpur-Sikri, in whose house the Emperor Jahangir was born, is up to the present day visited by childless Hindu and Musalman women. A tree in the compound of the saint Shaih Alam of Ahmedabad yields a peculiar acorn-like fruit, which is sought after far and wide by those desiring children; the woman is believed to conceive from the moment of eating the fruit. If the birth of a child follows the eating of the acorn, the man and woman who took it from the tree should for a certain number of years come at every anniversary of the saint and nourish the tree with a supply of milk. In addition to this, jasmine and rose-bushes at the shrines of certain saints are supposed to possess issue-giving properties. To draw virtue from the saint's jasmine the woman who yearns for a child bathes and purifies herself and goes to the shrine, and seats herself under or near the jasmine bush with her skirt spread out. As many flowers as fall into her lap, so many children will she have. In some localities if after the birth of one child no other son is born, or being born does not live, it is supposed that the first-born child is possessed by a malignant spirit who destroys the young lives of the new-born brothers and sisters. So at the mother's next confinement sugar and sesame-seed are pa.s.sed seven or nine times over the new-born infant from head to foot, and the elder boy or girl is given them to eat. The sugar represents the life of the young one given to the spirit who possesses the first-born. A child born with teeth already visible is believed to exercise a very malignant influence over its parents, and to render the early death of one of them almost certain." [308]

8. Pregnancy rites.

In the seventh or ninth month of pregnancy a fertility rite is performed as among the Hindus. The woman is dressed in new clothes, and her lap is filled with fruit and vegetables by her friends. In some localities a large number of pots are obtained, and a little water is placed in each of them by a fertile married woman who has never lost a child. Prayers are repeated over the pots in the names of the male and female ancestors of the family, and especially of the women who have died in childbirth. This appears to be a propitiation of the spirits of ancestors. [309]

9. Childbirth and naming children.

A woman goes to her parents' home after the last pregnancy rite and stays there till her confinement is over. The rites performed by the midwife at birth resemble those of the Hindus. When the child is born the _azan_ or summons to prayer is uttered aloud in his right ear, and the _takbir_ or Muhammadan creed in his left. The child is named on the sixth or seventh day. Sometimes the name of an ancestor is given, or the initial letter is selected from the Koran at a venture and a name beginning with that letter is chosen. Some common names are those of the hundred t.i.tles of G.o.d combined with the prefix _abd_ or servant. Such are Abdul Aziz, servant of the all-honoured; Ghani, the everlasting; Karim, the gracious; Rahim, the pitiful; Rahman, the merciful; Razzak, the bread-giver; Sattar, the concealer; and so on, with the prefix Abdul, or servant of, in each case. Similarly Abdullah, or servant of G.o.d, was the name of Muhammad's father, and is a very favourite one. Other names end with Baksh or 'given by,' as Haidar Baksh, given by the lion (Ali); these are similar to the Hindu names ending in Prasad. The prefix Ghulam, or slave of, is also used, as Ghulam Hussain, slave of Hussain; and names of Hebrew patriarchs mentioned in the Koran are not uncommon, as Ayub Job, Harun Aaron, Ishaq Isaac, Musa Moses, Yakub Jacob, Yusaf Joseph, and so on. [310]

10. The Ukika sacrifice.

After childbirth the mother must not pray or fast, touch the Koran or enter a mosque for forty days; on the expiry of this period she is bathed and dressed in good clothes, and her relatives bring presents for the child. Some people do not let her oil or comb her hair during these days. The custom would seem to be a relic of the period of impurity of women after childbirth. On the fortieth day the child is placed in a cradle for the first time. In some localities a rite called Ukika is performed after the birth of a child. It consists of a sacrifice in the name of the child of two he-goats for a boy and one for a girl. The goats must be above a year old, and without spot or blemish. The meat must be separated from the bones so that not a bone is broken, and the bones, skin, feet and head are afterwards buried in the earth. When the flesh is served the following prayer is said by the father: "O, Almighty G.o.d, I offer in the stead of my own offspring life for life, blood for blood, head for head, bone for bone, hair for hair, and skin for skin. In the name of G.o.d do I sacrifice this he-goat." This is apparently a relic of the subst.i.tution of a goat for Ishmael when Abraham was offering him as a sacrifice. The Muhammadans say that it was Ishmael instead of Isaac who was thus offered, and they think that Ishmael or Ismail was the ancestor of all the Arabs. [311]

11. Shaving the hair and ear-piercing.

Either on the same day as the Ukika sacrifice or soon afterwards the child's hair is shaved for the first time. By the rich the hair is weighed against silver and this sum is distributed to beggars. It is then tied up in a piece of cloth and either buried or thrown into a river, or sometimes set afloat on a little toy raft in the name of a saint. Occasionally tufts of hair or even the whole head may be left unshaven in the name of a saint, and after one or more years the child is taken to the saint's tomb and the hair shaved there; or if this cannot be done it is cut off at home in the name of the saint. [312]

When a girl is one or two years old the lobes of her ears are bored. By degrees other holes are bored along the edge of the ear and even in the centre, till by the time she has attained the age of two or three years she has thirteen holes in the right ear and twelve in the left. Little silver rings and various kinds of earrings are inserted and worn in the holes. But the practice of boring so many holes has now been abandoned by the better-cla.s.s Muhammadans.

12. Birthdays.

The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India Volume I Part 16

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