The total Muslim population in Amravati district increased from 98,444 (m. 50,592; f. 47,852) in 1951 to 1,19,882 (m. 62,761; f. 57,121) in 1961. The percentage of Muslims to total population, thus, increased from 9.55 in 1951 to 9.72 in 1961. Muslims are found to be concentrated in towns, such as, Amravati, Acalpur, Paratvada, Morsi, Daryapur and Badnera. Of the total Muslim population, 59,644 live in urban areas and 60,238 in rural areas of the district.
The Muslims in Amravati district seem to have immigrated from the Central Provinces, Northern India and Hyderabad State. The immigrants mainly comprise Sayyads, Saikhs, and Pathans. The Sayyads claim themselves a higher position in social stratification; but this does not prohibit them to intermarry. The Sayyads are descendants of Ali, the son-in-law, and Lady Fatimah, the daughter, of the Prophet. They use the title Sayyad or Mir before, and sometimes Sah after, their name, while married women prefix or suffix the title of Begum. The Saikhs, who are regarded to be respectable in social status, commonly use either Saikh or Muhammad as their first names. The Pathans, originally the descendants of Afghan immigrants, add Khan to names of men and Khatun or Khatu to those of women.
A considerable number of Muslims in the district are
converted Hindus. These include the professional castes of
Momin (weavers), Pinjari (mattress makers), Bagvan (gardeners),
Dalal (agents), Kalaigar (tinsmiths), Darji (tailors), Kasai
(butchers), Sulaha (weavers), Attar (perfumers) and Rangari
A majority of Muslims are backward educationally as well as economically. Very few of them are found in the learned professions. A number of Muslims are employed in the police, army and the subordinate ranks of Government service. A few of the Muslims are landlords, whereas a considerable number of them are either tenant cultivators or land labourers. The number of Muslims in retail trade and hawking is quite large.
Muslims in the district belong to the two leading forms of
faith, the Sunni and the Siah, the former being found in far greater number than the latter. The main difference between the Sunnis and Siahs is that according to the latter the Caliphate or spiritual leadership descended in the Prophet's family, and therefore, it necessarily devolved on Lady Fatimah and her husband-Ali. the fourth Caliph. They reject the first three Caliphs after Muhammad, viz., Abu Bakar, Omer and Usman. After Ali, they hold that the Caliphate descended to his sons Hassan and Hussain. The central incident of Siah faith is the assassination of Hussain (the son of Ali) near Karbala. The martyrdom of Hussain is celebrated during the first ten days in the month of Muharram by the Siahs. They count the month to begin from the fading of the old moon instead of the new moon and pray three instead of five times a day.
The Muhammedan religion has laid down five principles and observances, viz., (1) ' There is but one God and Muhammad is His prophet'; (2) five prayers per day; (3) observance of fast during Ramzan; (4) distribution of alms to pilgrims desiring to go to Mecca, and to the poor religious beggars; (5) the Haj or pilgrimage to Mecca.
The festivals common with all Muslims are Muharram,
Ramzan and Bakri-Id. Muharram, the first month of the Muslim year, is celebrated as the anniversary of the martyrdom of Hussain at Karbala. It is a month of mourning. The Ramzan fast, which is incumbent on every Muslim, is broken on the day called Id-ul-Fitr or Ramzan-Id (first day of Shawwal). The Ramzan-Id, which is believed to have been initiated by the Prophet, is a day of rejoicing, thanks giving and bounteous charity. Bakri-Id or Id-ul-Azha (tenth day of the last month) is a festival of sacrifice ' in the name of God '. The Wafat or the day of the Prophet's death (twelfth of Rabi-ul-Awwal) is another holy day of great religious importance.
The Muslims, like the Hindus, desire an issue, especially a male one. The issueless parents resort to charms and mystic
means suggested by exorcist. Pregnant ladies are required to
abide by several restrictions as regards their food, behaviour and
movements. They are supposed to be alerted about spiritual
charms and evil spirits.
For the first delivery the lady goes to her father's house, and
stays there till her confinement is over. The newly-horn babe is
given a bath, and the words Allaho Akbar (God is great) are
repeated in his ear.
This is followed by a number of petty rituals, the chief among them being the naming ceremony. The Bismillah ritual, which can be called the rite of initiation, takes place when the child reaches the age of four years, four months and four days. The Sunta or circumcision ceremony, distinguishing the Muslims from others, is gone through at the age of six or seven.
Among the Muslims marriage is a contract for the fulfilment of social obligations in the family. Early marriages were widely prevalent in the past. The marriageable age for a boy is regarded to be over twenty and for a girl to be over fourteen. However, there are numerous cases of boys and girls getting married earlier than this.
After the parties agree to the betrothal, the horoscopes of the pair are generally taken into consideration. The settlement of marriage is announced after going through the formalities of mangni, the asking of the girl's hand in marriage. Mehr (dowry) is settled at the time of mangni.
Marriage is regarded to be an occasion of rejoicing. The celebration is supposed to start with the sending of reciprocal gifts (sacaq). The bride as well as the bridegroom are anointed with turmeric, henna or mehndi. They are required to observe certain taboos to avoid an evil eye or black magic.
The chief ceremony is the nikah or marriage service. In this ritual the witnesses obtain consent of the bride to accept the bridegroom in marriage, and announce this to the kazi (marriage registrar) and the assembled guests. The kazi registers the marriage. The agreed sum of girl's dowry (mehr) is entered in the register and the bridegroom declares before all present that he has chosen her as his wife with the said sum of dowry. The bride's father expresses his readiness to give his daughter in marriage. The guests are entertained with music, drinks, etc. The couple is acquainted to each other during the jalva ceremony. The main rituals come to an end with the ceremony of leave taking (rukhsat) when the bride accompanies the groom to his home.
Though not very much in practice, polygamy is permitted up to a number of four wives. The prohibited degrees of marriage include consanguinity, affinity and fosterage. A Muslim can marry his wife's sister in case of his wife's death or can marry a widow. He is prohibited from marrying a polytheist.
Divorce is at the option of the husband who can divorce his
wife at his own will, and the Koran does not demand any justi-
fication from the husband. He has only to pay alimony (mehr)
to the divorced wife. A woman can claim divorce on grounds
of ill-treatment, insufficiency of maintenance and impotence on
the part or the husband. Three major forms of divorce are
recognised by Muhammedan law, viz., talaq-i-ahsan, talaq-i-rajai and talaq-i-husn. The first two forms of divorce are reversible
whereas the third one is irreversible. A divorced woman cannot
remarry during a probation period of three months called
iddat. Her first husband is supposed to maintain her during
Cases of women asking for divorce are rare. A woman seeking divorce has to apply to the kdzi which, according to Muhammedan law, as a repudiation of her wifehood at her own desire. In this case she forfeits her claim for mehr.
Divorce is regarded as a social disgrace among the supposedly
higher classes of the Muslims. The lower classes do not attach
much importance to it. Widow remarriage is permissible.
When the death of a Muslim approaches, the chapter from
the Koran (telling of death and the glorious future of the true believer) is recited to him, so that the dying man may also repeat it. After death the requisite rituals are gone through. The dead body rubbed with camphor and perfumes is shrouded in a kafan and is mounted on a bier called janaza. The entire ceremony is marked with respect for the dead. The bier is lifted by bearers who are caste men. On way to the graveyard hymns from the scriptures are recited. The janaza is buried, the head being kept to the north and leaning to the right side so that the face turns towards Mecca. The kinsmen pray for the soul of the dead.
Due to long period of Muhammedan dominance in the country, customs particularly of lower-caste Hindus show in several respects the influence of Islam in the district; e.g. Canda Sah Vali, or Canda Khan Vali as he is also called, is known as a Jinn who resides in mud forts. He is enshrined in a platform over which a white flag waves. The flag must be renewed on the day of Dasara by the village patel, otherwise stones are thrown on the houses at night time by the annoyed Vali and the safety of the village is endangered. As the story goes Canda Sah Vali was a great magician in times gone by. He used to take away a king's daughter for days together, but at last got caught and was ordered to be buried alive by the enraged king, who however, granted the last request of the magician to raise in memory a new flag on every Dasara near the village cavdi. Similarly, the Dhanoje Kunbis commonly revere the Daval Malik, a Muhammedan saint, whose tomb is at Uprai in the district. An urus or fair is held here on Thursdays, the day sacred to Muhammedan saints, and on this account Dhanoje Kunbis will not shave on Thursdays. They also make vows of mendicancy at the Muharram festival, and go begging for rice and pulse; they give a little of what they
obtain to Muhammedan beggars and eat the rest. At the Muharram they tie a red thread on their necks and dance round the alava, a small hole in which fire is kindled in front of the tazias or tombs of Hussain. The tomb of Cilam Sah Vali at Amravati Camp is an object of reverence to both alike; so are also the rock of Bairam and the Makbara of ' Dulha Rahman', the mythical headless Gazi of Acalpur. In many villages of the district will be found the grave of some local ascetic who made himself dear to the villagers. To the Hindus he is guru and they paint one side of his tombstone with vermilion and do puja, in his honour accordingly; but to the Musalmans he is a pir and the other side therefore whitewashed at the Great and Lesser Id with a cloth of bright green.