Which communities are included in Muslim OBCs

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The majority (over 95 percent) of the Muslim population in India is Sunni. Sunni are the majority direction in Islam, which is in the tradition (Sunnah) of Prophet Muhammad sees. The majority of Sunni Muslims in India follow the Hanafi legal interpretation. 1 Another popular school of law, albeit less represented, is the Shafiite school, which can be traced back to the early Arab influence in southern India (D'Souza 1973). The legal interpretations are supported by the majority of religious and legal scholars (Ulama) and the legal practitioner (Fuqaha) represents. 2

A differentiated approach to the ostensible homogeneity does not mean, however, that criticisms regarding the lack of Muslim representatives in the social life of India should be overlooked (cf. Engineer 2003). Corresponding personalities are still an exception today. The current Indian president is a Muslim 3 and Muslims certainly occupy a prominent place in the Bollywood film industry, but overall they are clearly underrepresented in management positions in administration, the army or industry. Although the literacy rate of Muslims is above the overall Indian average, a disproportionately large number of Muslims live below the poverty line (Reifeld 2001; Ara 2004). Nevertheless, it would not be entirely correct "by Muslims in general from a 'backward community' 4 (backward community) to speak (...) if this characterization applies to the majority "(Oesterheld 1996).


In the north and west of India, Muslims are much more present than in the east and south, which is certainly also due to historical reasons in the context of the spread of Islam. While the proportion of the population in the Himalayan high valley of Kashmir is over 95 percent, two thirds of the population live in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, it makes up just two percent in Orissa, on the Bay of Bengal (see Table 1 ).

Union state / territoryNumber of Muslims in percent
Andhra Pradesh6.986.8569,16
Arunachal Pradesh20.6751,88
Himachal Pradesh119.5121,96
Jammu & Kashmir6.793.24066,97
Madhya Pradesh3.841.4496,36
Manipur *190.9398,81
Tamil Nadu3.470.6475,56
Uttarakhand (Uttaranchal)
Uttar Pradesh30.740.15818,49
West Bengal20.240.54325,24
Andaman & Nicobar Islands29.2658,21
Dadra & Nagar Haveli6.5242,95
Daman & Diu12.2817,76
Puducherry (Pondicherry)
A total of138.188.24013,43

* The data from three subdivisions for manipulation are missing; the 2001 census served as the basis.

According to the data from the census with regard to the settlement areas (see Table 2), around 88 million Muslims live in the countryside (rural residence), which is not quite two thirds of the religious minority. The urban share, which is slightly above average in the overall Indian context (urban residence) of Muslims must also be seen against the background of emigration to Pakistan, which was founded in 1947, in the context of the partition of India. 5 The resulting lasting social vacuum weakened the remaining Muslim community in India economically and politically even more (cf. Haq 1995). Despite government measures to improve the macroeconomic situation in the first decade after independence, it was mostly urban groups that benefited. In some places, this massively promoted rural exodus. In this context there is also the elimination of privileges for landowners Zamindars. 6 However, the abolition failed to overcome feudal structures in which the rural population and socially disadvantaged groups are still firmly integrated today (cf. Alam 2003).

~~Times (%)Female (%)
A total of138.188.24071.374.134 (51,65)66.814.106 (48,35)
In rural areas88.794.74445.473.491 (51,21)43.321.253 (48,79)
In urban areas (urban)49.393.49625.900.643 (52,43)23.492.853 (47,56)

Religious structures

Islam in India is described to a large extent as "indigenized", that is, shaped by local influences and Hinduism (cf. Schimmel 1994). Religious forms that are known as popular Islam and that include popular piety or mystical notions of order and belief (such as in Sufism) are considered more widespread in comparison to strict orthopraxis (doctrine of doing the right thing) (see Malik 1999; Schimmel 1994 ). 7

Syncretistic tendencies and cults of saints, in which mystics have the possibility of personal encounter with Allah go out, sometimes include a pronounced worship of graves. Therefore, the position of mediators (Pirs) criticized between the believer and God. Orthodox representatives reject rites and symbols as distortions of the "true faith".

The "Islamization", repeatedly portrayed there as insufficient, must be viewed against the background of a threat to the sacred geography known as the "center-fringe area". This socio-religious order, interpreted as an ideal and a fixed disposition, is subject to the logic of the holy center of Mecca (Makka al-mukarrama) and the less sacred peripheries. With the "regionalization of Islam on the Indian subcontinent", the periphery challenges the center and threatens to replace it (cf. Malik 2001; also Gephart 1999). For advocates of a "spiritual centralism" the danger is made clear by the great popularity and high social significance of the numerous Dargahs (Tombs of Sufi saints). The perceived or constructed threat to religious "purity" lies primarily in the integrative function of such places. There are spiritual experiences between Muslims, Hindus and members of other religious communities who also use these shrines.

Different religious structures also become clear again and again in connection with violent differences of opinion. Mostly they are presented as the reason for such disputes. However, although reports of bitter sectarian violence (sectarian violence) come more from Pakistan, but above all from Iraq, such events also have a "bloody tradition" in India. The violent actors agree in their belief in a single God and Muhammad as his last prophet and orient themselves religiously on the five pillars of Islam. Nevertheless, the lines of conflict in internal Islamic disputes are far more multidimensional than the supposed bipolarity between Sunnis and Shiites. 8 For example, supporters of the reform sect become the Ahmadiya in India repeatedly forcibly marginalized because they are viewed as heretics. The approximately three percent share of the Shiites in the total Indian population comprises several million people as a minority within the Muslim minority. Nevertheless, the term "Shiites" is only used as a concept of order. This mostly refers to the numerically largest parliamentary group (also in Iran), the so-called Twelve Shiites (also Ithna Ashari). In turn, Shiite Islam is split up into numerous subsects. There is no uniform religious understanding.

Caste and social structures

Social structures are just as complex and multidimensional. The caste system - as a typical social characteristic of the subcontinent - has also left its mark on the diverse Muslim social structures (cf. Zainuddin 2003).

At first glance, this seems unusual insofar as Islam does not provide for social inequality and is supported by a universal community of believers (Arabic: Umma) goes out. The majority of Islamic jurists and religious scholars, the Ulama, therefore strictly denies the existence of a caste system among Muslims (cf. Nadwi 1977, 1980). The religious-theoretical becomes accordingly Umma rated as: "the dominant trait of Muslim social life is the international brotherhood, a transcendental religious and spiritual affinity cutting across all the barriers of race, language and nationality" (Nadwi 1977: 118).

Regardless of the political dimensions of the caste system, it serves as a frame of social meaning, which is expressed in the drawing of social boundaries and behavioral instructions (Skoda 2003). Weddings between members of different castes or (sub) sects are rare and are mostly openly rejected (cf. Mehdi 2002). Furthermore, besides language, boxes probably serve as the decisive category for the existence of sub-companies (communities).

The lack of religious legitimation of the caste system, however, is often replaced by ideological notions of purity that can be traced back to a cultural adjustment. These are factors that are perceived as primordial, such as birth and "ethnicity" (cf. Oommen 2003), as is the case with the frequent division into descendants of immigrants (Ashrafs) and local converts (Ajlafs) corresponds.

Each of these two categories is divided into further sub-units. So are for example Ashrafs as an immigrant Muslim upper class divided into four main groups Sayyid, Sheikh, Mughal and Pathan. Subdivide accordingly Ajlafs, mostly descendants of converts from lower Hindu castes, mainly in Julahas (originally Weber), Kasabs (originally butcher), Dhobis (originally washer), Hajjams (originally hairdressers), Lohars (originally metal craftsman or blacksmith), Rangrez (originally dyer), Malis (originally gardener) and Lal Begis 9 . Since the Indian legal situation was designed in such a way that only socio-economically disadvantaged groups among Hindus (lower casts, other backward classes, Dalits and tribal groups) are considered socially and promoted in the sense of an "affirmative action" (keyword: The Mandal Commission), corresponding Muslim equivalents are excluded. As a result of this, and through an increasingly felt disappointment towards the state, there has been solidarity between similar, socially disadvantaged groups for several years. Some (political) actors are trying to achieve this Dalit-Muslim-Unity bring about, i.e. a union between Muslims and Dalits (literally: Broken, Self-designation of the under-privileged, casteless, "untouchable" Hindus). 10

A clearly racist component of the caste system is revealed by the often idealized purity (purified practice) from "local influences". So this purity is not only religiously but also "ethnically" motivated. The hierarchically high standing Sayyids legitimize their privileged position through their descent through Fatima, the daughter of the prophet Mohammed (cf. Reetz 2006). Incidentally, the Hanafi school of law also knows a social hierarchy and subordination. 11

The understanding of "the Muslim minority" with regard to their attitude towards India has always been inconsistent and shows the contradictions of this collective term. The two main conceptual currents differ in their integrative approach, mostly represented by mystics, poets and artists, and an understanding of a certain exclusivity (Osterheld 1996: 173). According to the last-mentioned view, the majority of the Orthodox Ulama is represented, it is about a (religious) "keeping clean" of local influences. It also touches on the political issue of whether Muslims should feel a bond with their home country or whether their commitment to Islam excludes any other loyalty. This discourse is only a small part of the fundamental discussion about the pragmatic principles of necessity and common good in Islam. The discussion in India, which is subordinate to this debate, can be concretized by defining the self-image: "Indian Muslims" or "Muslim Indians"? The question arises whether Muslims have a territorially and culturally defined homeland, or whether this is exclusively in the Umma lies - as it is orthodox Muslims, but also Hindus 12 interpreter. In the opinion of these two groups, "being Muslim" has the supposedly final connotation, regardless of regional characteristics Umma to belong (see Chakrabarty 2003). This is connected with an idea of ​​"the Indian branch of the Muslim family whose heartland is in West Asia" (Baig 1974: xii). Based on this understanding, Nadwi founded the movement to maintain the caliphate (from 1919-24) as well as the worldwide participation of Muslims in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which he attributes to a "religious relationship" (Nadwi 1977).

This overview serves to raise awareness of the enormous diversity of Islam in India. In view of the heterogeneity of different religious practices and the numerous social differences that have not been dealt with in more detail, a concept that follows the idea of ​​a homogeneous and self-contained group reveals itself to be a mirage.


[1] Sunni Islam knows four schools of law that represent different legal conceptions. The Hanafi school of law is followed in most of the Muslim countries of West, South and Southeast Asia. Abu Hanifah, named Imam Al-Azam in honor, was born in Kufah around 699 AD and died in Baghdad in 767. The interpretation he conceived was used after his death, in addition to the authentic traditions of the sayings and habits of the Prophet (Sunnah), the Koran, the hadiths and individual judgments made the basis of jurisprudence. The Hanafi school is referred to as a moderate Sunni school of law (cf. Heberer 2001).

[2] In addition, the legal system of the Shiites (Jafaria) and the widespread common law (Urf), which also includes non-Islamic sources.

[3] Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabhudin Abdul Kalam became the fourth Muslim President of India in July 2002 after Zakir Hussain (1897-1969), Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed (1905-1977) and Muhammad Hidayatullah (1905-1992). A.P.J. Abdul Kalam comes from the southern state of Tamil Nadu and not from the Hindi-speaking north, which makes up the majority of the country's political elite.

[4] Groups classified as "backward" have been able to sue for reservations in the education system and in the public service since the introduction of the recommendations of the Mandal Commission. The "backward" category, however, always refers to caste affiliations. The dispute as to whether members of religious minorities who officially do not belong to a caste can count themselves in this category due to their socio-economic status and the de facto existence of castes in all religions leads to conflicts again and again.

[5] Four fifths of the approximately seven million emigrants came from the Punjab. A not inconsiderable number of these emigrants were also made up of intellectuals, so that it is often spoken of as the emigration of the "Muslim elite".

[6] The Zamindari system, which produced a privileged class of landowners, often led to social tensions due to the land and land rights obtained by the Mughal rulers. After India's independence, these privileges were abolished, as a result of which Muslims were hit harder economically, especially in the north of the country.

[7] Accordingly, the teachings of Ibn Arabi, one of the most famous Muslim mystics, are more popular in India than in other regions and countries with a Muslim majority. His teaching focuses primarily on knowledge, has Neoplatonic influences and contains distant parallels to Hindu teaching. It speaks of the "Gnostic character of his system" (Khoury 1991).

[8] Between these two major currents within Islam there are always disputes (especially in the context of the Muharram festival in Lucknow, see Sprung (2005): Muslims against Muslims in Lucknow). Both groups mutually deny their religious legitimacy. In terms of religious history, this can be traced back to Ali's claims to legitimacy, the prophet's son-in-law and nephew, to the office of caliph. On Shiism especially in India, see J.N. Hollister (1953): The Shi'a of India. London: Luzac & Company.

[9] The Lal Begis, are a group at the bottom of the social hierarchy. See.Dileep Karanth: Caste in Medieval India: The Beginnings of a Reexamination, online at:

[10] The subject can also be found in the book review by Khan (2005).

[11] According to this, "Arabs are socially higher than non-Arabs, and among the Arabs themselves the Quraish - that is, the member of the Prophet's tribe - is again the most excellent" (Malik 1999).

[12] Finally, the construction of a strong other preserves its own "uniform" and marginal identity and creates emotional boundaries (cf. Chakrabarty 2003).

This article belongs to the focus: Islam in South Asia.


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