|Regions with significant populations|
|Mithila • Tharuhat|
|Bhojpuri • Awadhi • Maithili • Nepali • Newari • Urdu• Arabic|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Tibetan Muslims, Indian Muslims|
Nepalese Muslims, while mainly Sunni, constitute a heterogeneous group of Madhesi Race. Their ancestors arrived in Nepal from different parts of South Asia and Tibet during different epochs, and have since lived amidst the numerically dominant Hindus. About 97% of the Muslim community live in the Terai region, while the other 3% are found mainly in the city of Kathmandu and the western hills. The community numbers 971,056, about 3.7% of the total population of Nepal. Districts with large Muslim population include Rautahat (17.2%), Bara (11.9%), and Parsa (17.3%) in the central Terai bordering the state of Bihar, Kapilbastu (16.8%) and Banke (16%) in the western Terai and Sirahi (7%) and Sunsari (10%) and Saptari (10%) eastern Terai.
Muslims have lived in Nepal for long period of time and have shared common historical experiences with the Hindu majority, and as such have developed a stronger identification with the Nepali state. However, the Terai Muslims, on the other hand, like other Terai communities, also continue to have strong ties across the border and receive cultural sustenance from the larger Muslim population of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
The history of the Muslim community in Nepal is in fact the history of three distinct groups, the Tibetans, Kashmiris and the Madhesi.
According to the Vamshavalis, Kashmiri Muslims arrived in Kathmandu during the reign of King Rama Malla (1484-1520 AD). They built a mosque, the Kashmiri Takia, and engaged in different occupations such as scribes to correspond with the Delhi Sultanate, and as scent manufacturers, musicians and bangle suppliers. Some were admitted as courtiers to the Malla durbar, and many traded with Tibet. The descendants of these migrants live in Kathmandu, numbering about two thousand. They tend to be well-educated and speak a mixture of Nepali and Urdu at home rather than Kashmiri. Many Kashmiri Muslims of Kathmandu are also fluent in Newari. While many work as petty businessmen, some have joined government service or entered politics.
The Kashmiri merchants who first arrived in the 1970s set up curio shops in Kathmandu´s tourist quarters. There has been a spurt in arrivals from Srinagar since the political turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir escalated in 1990. Many shopkeepers arrived with their stocks of handicrafts, rugs and furs. These recent arrivals have little or no interaction with the older Muslim residents, and most do not even know that there is an old Kashmiri Muslim stock in Kathmandu.
Muslim migrants of Tibetan origin include both Ladakhis and those from Tibet proper. The latter arrived mostly after the Chinese Communist takeover in 1959, and in their language and dress these Tibetan Muslims are indistinguishable from their Tibetan Buddhist counterparts. Today, many are engaged in the trade of Chinese consumer durables and selling curios. On the whole, this groups tends to be more affluent than the other Muslim communities.
The story of the Tibetan Muslims is that of a unique community, that has blended different cultural strains to forge a distinct identity, that has been kept alive even in the face of adversity. According to the community,s traditions, Islam arrived almost a thousand years ago in Tibet, a region that has always been synonymous with a monolithic Buddhist culture. Sometime in the 12th century, it is believed, a group of Muslim traders from Kashmir and Ladakh came to Tibet as merchants. Many of these traders settled in Tibet and married Tibetan women, who later converted to the religion of their husbands. Author Thomas Arnold, in his book, The Preaching of Islam says that gradually, marriages and social interactions led to an increase in the Tibetan Muslim population until a sizable community came up around Lhasa, Tibet’s capital.
The Muslim society in the Terai region is organized along the principles of caste, but differs in many respects from the caste system found among the Madhesi Hindus. Although Muslim groupings are endogamous, and there are elements of hierarchy, there is no religious and ideological principles providing foundation for the concept of caste. For example, there is no question of ritual pollution by touch or restriction on interdinning. But each grouping does maintain a separate and distinct identity, especially with regards intermarriage. Below is a brief description of the larger groupings:
While the smaller groups provide diversity, the largest community of Islam adherents, more than 74 percent—of the Muslims are found in the Madhesh region, a narrow Terai plain lying between the lower hills of the Himalaya and the border with India. Concentrated in the Madhesh districts of Banke, Kapilvastu, Rupandehi, Parsa, Bara and Rauthat, some of the Madhesi Muslims were present here at the time of Nepal´s unification while others migrated from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Arabia, Tibet, Egypt, Persia from the 19th century onwards as wage labourers. While most are small-time proprietor farmers, a substantial number still work as tenants and agricultural labourers. At home they do speak Urdu, but also Awadhi, Bhojpuri and Maithili & Nepali depending on whether they are of the Western or Central or Eastern Madhesh.
The Muslim society in the Madhesh (Terai) region is organized along the principles of caste, but differs in many respects from the caste system found among the Madhesi Nepali Hindus. Although Muslim groupings are endogamous, and there are elements of hierarchy, there are no religious and ideological principles providing a foundation for the concept of caste. For example, there is no question of ritual pollution by touch or restriction on interdining. But each grouping does maintain a separate and distinct identity, especially with regard to intermarriage. Below is a brief description of the larger groupings:
Members of Madhesh-based Muslim communities reside in the Kathmandu valley and are the leaders of a revival and reform of Islam informed by global Islamist discourses and enabled and promoted by petrodollars and new technologies of communication linking them with Muslims communities around the world. The movement has both religious and political dimensions (though the two intertwine significantly in Islam), each represented by distinct organizations with their internal hierarchies and rules for membership. They provide scholarships for Muslim youth, support for mosques and madrases, and religious trainings. These organizations have centers in the Terai as well, but the national centers are in the Kathmandu valley. Their ideological influences range from the Muslim Brotherhood, to Salafism, to the Jamaat-e Islami.
List of communities
|Sayyid||one||throughout the Madhesh region|
|Sheikh||None||throughout the Madhesh region|
|Iraqi||None||throughout the Madhesh region|
|Pathan||mainly landowners and cultivators||throughout the Madhesh|
|Thakurai||mainly landowners and cultivators||Parsa and Bara districts|
|Ansari||traditionally weavers, most are cultivators, business man||throughout the Madhesh|
|Gostya (गोस्त्या)||butchers||Mid-west Madhesh|
|Faqir||religious teachings and practicing sufism||throughout the Terai|
|Jat||landowners and cultivators||Mid-west Madhes|
|Kabaria||traditionally fruit and vegetable sellers||Mid-west and CentraL Madhesh|
|Gaddi||traditionally cattle herders, most now cultivators||Mid-west madhesh|
|Hajjam||barbers||throughout the Madhesh|
|Patihar||selling threads, needles and ribbons||throughout the Madhesh|
|Kawasi||selling threads, needles as well as fruits and vegetables||throughout the Madhesh|
|Churihar||bangle makers and sellers||Central Madhesh|
|Teli||traditionally oil manufacturers, some are cultivators, and are petty traders||Central Madhesh|
|Dhuniya||traditionally cotton carders, most are now cultivators||Central Madhesh|
|Darzi||tailors and thread manufacturers||Central Madhesh|
|Kasgar||traditionally potters||Central Madhesh|
|Halwai||traditionally sweet makers, most are petty traders and landowners||throughout the Madhesh|
|Rangrez||traditionally cloth dyers and calico printers||throughout the Terai|
|Dhobi||traditionally washermen||throughout the Madhesh|
|Dharkar||weavers and manufacturers of cane chairs||throughout the Madhesh|
|Natuwa||labourers||throughout the Madhesh|
|Nat||traditionally tumblers and acrobats||throughout the Madhesh|
|Halalkhor||scavengers and labourers||throughout the Madhesh|
- A minority within a minority: Nepal’s Tibetan Muslims mark Ramadan
- A Refugee’s Ramadan
- Nepalese Muslim Society elects new working committee
- Government of Nepal. Central Bureau of Statistics., Nepal in figures 2006 (PDF), Kathmandu.
- Understanding Nepal : Muslims in a plural society by Mollica Dastider ISBN 978-81-241-1271-7
- The Preaching of Islam by Sir Thomas W. Arnold ISBN 978-81-7151-259-1
- Caste Hierarchy and Interethnic Stratification in the Muslim Society of Nepal by Shanker Thapa Tribhuvan University Journal Volume XVIII, June 1995
- Understanding Nepal : Muslims in a plural society by Mollica Dastider ISBN 978-81-241-1271-7
- Caste Hierarchy and Interethnic Stratification in the Muslim Society of Nepal by Shanker Thapa, Tribhuvan University Journal Volume XVIII, June 1995
- Sijapati, Megan Adamson (2011). Islamic Revival in Nepal: Religion and a New Nation. London and New York: Routledge.
- Sijapati, Megan Adamson (June 2012). "Mawdudi's Islamic Revivalist Ideology and the Islami Sangh Nepal". Studies in Nepali History and Society. 17 (No. 1): 41–61.