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Memon Community's composition

(some issues for consideration)

by

Dr. Mohamed Taher


 
What is the original name:
a) Memon
b) Momin
c) Meymanah
d) Mehman
e) Ma'mun
f) My-mani
h) Maimonides
Branches of Memon Community
a) Bantva
b) Halai
c) Cutchi (kutchi)
d) Bombaywala
e) Gondal
f) Sindhi
g) Surati
h) Kutiyana
i) Okhai
j) Jethpur
k) Bagassra
l) Junagarh
m) Dhoraji
n) Rajkot
o) Vantheli
p) Porbandar
q) Vasawad
r) Kathiawar
s) Nasarpuria
t) Jamnagar
u) Morbi-Tankara Memon Association (M.T.M.A
v) Palwala ....Amreliwala

 
                                 "Memon braderi jaisi saf-e awwal ki aur hausla mand tajir braderi bedar ho kar siyasat mein dilchispi lene lage hai. Yeh ek khush aind bat hai, aur yahi duniya mein kamiyabi va kamrani hasil karne ki rah hai. Meri dua hai ki aap apne maqasid mein kamiyab hoon" M.A.Jinnah      
(Translation: A front line, and courageous business minded Memon community has awakened and is getting involved in politics. It's heartening, and this is the way to achieve glory and success. Pray that your ambitions are  fulfilled).

Some messages that I received about the history:
ajoo:   ajoopk1@hotmail.com
Subject: MEMON COMMUNITY & LANGUAGE
Sat, 26 May 2001 22:00:55 +0500
I am sending some additional information for origination of Memon community which are very true & Historical. It is clear from Memon history all 03 versions that Memons are Basically Original Sindhi's. they migrated to other areas of India from Sindh and due to environmental changes, there languge be come changes, like gujrat/memony.kathiawari etc..but you see these all are derived from sindhi languge. What we are I describe here: We basicaaly muslim tribefrom Arab, we were traders, (KHANA BADOSH),while our tribe was traveling through Arabic sea, leading by Zubair, we were captured by Raja Dahir. Zubair escaped from Dahirs prison and approached to HAJAJ BIN YOUSUF, who later send MOhammad Bin Qasim to release our family.While we released one of Our BIG tribe, now so called SINDHI MEMONS, due to greenish/properit sindh area decided to stay there permanently, at that time due to charity/honesty/prayer we were called Momins. Our SINDHI MEMON community started preaching Islam, and all residential be came muslims, After a little time a small group of our tribe decided to trade through out india they went BHUJ/HALAR/KUCH..etc, stay there, due to environmental changes ther lagnguge slightly changed from sindhi, and this new change later identified as GUJRATI/MEMONY/KUCHI/KATHIAWARI etc. You see these resembles SINDHI. After a long time When British ruled INDIA for 100 years, they pronounced us MAMMON instead of MOMIN please check OXFORD DICTIONARY..MAMMON= Follower of Wealth)later it changes to MEMON...PLease come in front..realise your identity & Rule on SINDH again..rest people are the migratee not orignaly sindhi..BUT we!. (REASEARH: Engr.Abdul Razzaque Memon, Organizer/General Secretary" UNITED MEMON JAMAAT OF PAKISTAN...NEW SAIDABAD/HALA SINDH-PAKISTAN)

forum@memon.com
RE: MEMON COMMUNITY AND LANGUAGE
From: Engr. Abdul Razzaque Memon
Message
I am asked info, to give historical reference of my reasearch work. Every one will accept it that, reasearch work always derived from some historical backgrounds, and for missing items, logics/IQ's,Wisdoms/ are being utilized and a querry is generated to reach the facts, later same is spilitted in forum for updation.
If you go through all three versions of memon history, you will find there that, there are very strong reasons to accept/beleive, that Memon community came into existance in SOUTHEN SINDH at NAGAR PARKER THATTA & spread overall the world due to one or other reasons, but i stronggly accept it due to its tradional tribal nature for business purpose & in in process til now.
It is in history that this tribe, where ever stuck, he started his Identity from there as ininially, Sindhi Memon, later Kuchi memon, Kathiawari, Halari, Okhaee etc., etc. It is also evedance they also identified as Japani memon, Khandwala/Daroo Wala, etc..etc.
It is witness of my research, that By nature memon community is basically a business & relegious community where ever they now live, what identity they posses, either Sindhi Memon or Kuchi/Halar memon & there characteristcs are very similiar. All are relegious minded first with, generous/kind hearted/peacefull/charitable/educated characteristics.Now it is clear that belonging to business ther alway in movement from first day till now, you will find them in Singapoor/UK/USA/south africa /DXB/SAUDI...etc etc. & they live like as it is there home place. so in term we can say them KHANA BADOSH. NOW question arises that whether they were Muslim tribe reached SINDH from Arab or Belonged to Hindu LOHANA community. They are Basically Sindhi,it is clearly seems from three reaserch versions & I dont have any Objection on it. It is clear from that research that Arab ruled Sindh for 300 years..Then question arrises that who were they, either soldier of Muhammad Bin Qasim or those who kept SIndhi Hindus Muslim..History clears that MB Qasim soldiers were in process to reach upto Multan..then Who were they,& which muslim family was there captured by RAJA DAHIR as it comes in History, You say Lohana From Thata,why not from other areas of Sindh, but I beleive it was that Arab Muslim trader family so called MOMINS. It is said that lohana when became muslim they were compelled to migrate from SINDH. It is not true..You see from that day Many nations are arriving sindh & settled down there, may be of any creed. But fact is this which I derived, that a small tribe of Memons, who was traveling due to business purpose left Sindh & then Returned & settled at Karachi /Thatta with slight change in there Orignal Sindhi language, later Identified as KUchi/Kathawari or Gujrat..etc.History revealed that, Most Buzrigan e islam are burried here. So if Memon was not that Muslim Arab tribe, then why they called Momins. Momin is a great word, why it was not utilized for other Saints spread Islam from, so it is Witnessed that Memons were those Momins (Arab Muslims) not Hindu Lohana...Yes Lohana also became Muslim and also later called memon with those Momins.Now if we say Memons were momin on which we all agree that where is sent from Memon, You know Momin means superior Muslim,so is it possible that moderate muslim, learn Islam to Momins, it means it mere memons,who were momins & arab Muslim Tribe..
RESEARCH IN LIGHT OF LOGICS

What is the origin of the name Memon.
Different sources have attributed the name differently. The narratives about the origin are many, and some of these are summarized below:

a) A source records their origin as as, derived from Maymenah (right wing of the Yemeni forces that were placed in Sindh) and the name later got changed to Memon, and are originally the descendants of this Yemeni Muslims of Banu Tamimi Tribe. According to this source Memon's are of Arab origin.

b) From another source the report is that the name emerged from, Mehman, lit. a guest and since these moved out of Sindh and went from place to place. Another oral tradition has the legend that mehman later got transformed as Memon.

c) Yet another source says they were originally given the status of Ma'mun, i.e., protected, from the persecution of the non converts, these Mamun in the course of time, took the name, Memon.

d) Another source opines that on their conversion to Islam, under the influence of the Sufi saint, Pir Yusufuddin, they were called Mu'mins (faithful), and the distorted form of this appeared later as Memon.

e) My-Mana: There was a Buddhist community in Sindh called My-Mana. This community became Muslims. My=measure, Mani=precious stone, jewelry. My-man means jewelers, and this usage has its oral narrative: "Memon hal yo makke, Sher sahimi takke" (even if a Memon goes to Mecca, he takes his measures with him).

These difference however link the community of Memon, as a group, hailing from Sindh, probably from the tribe of Lohana, converted from hinduism, or migrated from another land, got displaced from Sindh due to political havoc and reached different places. Then are these all from the same tribe, and from a single group. The answer is most probably yes.  Those who went to Halar (in present state of Rajasthan) became famous as Halai; those who went to Surat, are likewise, Surati; those who moved to Kutch are Cutchi Memon, and so on. What is most common among all these groups is they have a social and cultural commonness. Religiously most of these are Sunni, only the Bohra and Khoja groups are Shias. All those in Sindh had some form, mostly followed till this date, a practice of identifying themselves with their ancestral family name (called nukh).

The theory that these are all one, has just one single instance. I searched the Internet for Akbani (i.e., my nukh, I being a Cutchi Memon). I found many names. One brother from Indonesia, Rafiq Akbany, replying to my inquiry whether he is a Cutchi Memon, wrote to me that his family is Halai and they had migrated from India almost hundred years back. In this particular case the nukh is common between Halai and Cutchi Memon. Br. Rafiq Akbany says , I quote: "this surname is shared by both Halai and Cutchi Memon equally-but for sure its exclusively a Memon surname". The origin of a nukh is interpreted differently, some report it as a representation of the profession or the trade they followed. And, interestingly, an oral narrative goes, that Akbani originated from I quote the message I got from Br. Rafiq Akbany "My grandmother used to say that this surname signifies Ag (fire) and Pani (water) as one of the characteristics of Akbani's". But contrary to this source of information for the surname, the my family tree now on the Internet shows that the first known member of the family was one Akab (Akbani from the House of Akab).

We are then a heterogeneous group, with different origins, occupations, following different Islamic schools of Law, different Islamic movements, not even inter-marrying (yet, endogamous), in short, each Memon branch having no link with the other.

The Memon are Sunni Muslims, and there is no difference between them and other Sunnis in the doctrines of the faith. The differences are of cultural and linguistic culture. Culturally and linguistically, Memon are still closer to other Memon groups. By and large, there have been changes, and today Cutchi Memon's have adopted to local practices, and in most cases left their own language. Thus there is no mis-nomer in calling  these as tamil Memon's (speaking Tamil), Urdu Memon, Bengali Memon, Hindi Memon, and so on. Most of these almost fifty years back left the Cutchi language-- language was the major feature of the name.

What is the composition of the present community. For instance, a local Cutchi Memon group forms a Jamat and in the by-laws of the Jamat, are included provisions for its activities and functions. The tendency among the Jamat's is to remain Cutchi, that is retain the customs and blood ties that have descended thro''' ages.

How strong are the blood ties and what are the reason to have this idea of blood ties.  Blood ties, in Memon community as a rule today, is decided by birth, not by choice. There is no conversion to join the fold, nor any choice for marrying outside the fold. It is a closed, and compact system of social co-existence.  Such an idea of tribal unity and distinctness is rooted in the Semitic, or more specifically Arabic system. There is little difference, that is, the Arabian tribes however inter-marry among the equals. Here lies the origin of the Arabic word, Kufu', that is relations among the equals. It is the joining of the equals of the same status or same standard, by whatever measure, or by whatever standard it is socially agreed.  What is Kufu': Kufu' means equals among the unequal. This concept of equality is used in all walks of life, education, social interaction, economics, ethnicity, and so on. While this Kufu' has been used in Islamic parlance to mean that people have a tendency to identify some as equals. The tribes of Arabia married among equals of other tribes and this is their practice.

A slave marrying a rich lady, or a king marrying a commoner, or a black marrying a non black, and so on, where considered as issues in which cases Kufu' would be applicable. Culturally all interactions would go only in between equals, and not diagonally or in a criss-cross.  While Islam strongly breaks the unevenness among the people, and brings them together in the salat, in social transactions, however the society has been by and large doing things materialistically. Exceptions of slave marriage or slave dynasty do exist, but in general Memon's follow a classified pattern in interactions and in cultural transactions, such as, the upper class, middle and the lower levels of this society.

However by passage of time and by whatever the Indian influences, probably as a result of the cultural synthesis among the Memon, there was a specific impact.  The use of the term Kuf got reduced to its usage only in the case of marriage, and that too marrying among their own group.  Thus Kuf became a question of status in a single aspect of Memon's social life, that is, marriages can be only within the respective Memon branch.  A major exception to this emerged in inter-jamat marriages, and it became known as the 1956s (Chappania). This year the Bombay Cutchi Memon Jamat and the Halai Memon Jamat regularized the inter-jamat marriages, until then held as illegal and worth boycotting.

But few Jamat among Cutchi Memon's do not accept the merger and don't still agree to the idea of marrying outside their own fold. What makes this rigidity so strong and gives life for ages. If the earlier leaders of the community were not educated, surpassingly, (and not even aware of the western mores), the present pop culture generation still sticks its guns. Why ???

"In the Cutchi Memon Jamat, there are two schools of thought. One is conservative and the other is progressive. The conservative section does not allow inter-jamat (non-Kutchi Memon) marriages, and the progressives are not opposed to a Cutchi Memon marrying a non-Kutchi Memon women. Till the late fifties, the conservative section was dominant. This was the period of the economic dominance of the Cutchi Memon Jamat in Bombay, but with the decline of its economic power after the partition of India, the power of the conservative section also declined. In other parts of India, such as, Bangalore and Kerala, economic position of the conservatives did not reflect such a drastic change. Even today their Jamat sticks to conservatism and does not permit exogamy. In cases of exogamous marriages, neither the spouses nor their offspring's are eligible for membership in the Jamat and thereby are not entitled to the benefits of welfare programs enjoyed by the Jamat members".  (Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer, p. 198)

...(interviewing Mr. Bawla, Cutchi Memon, Bombay, Dr. Engineer notes further Engineer) "On probing further, we found that Mr. Bawla happened to be a liberal and was ready to accept exogamous marriages. But at the same time he was not ready to accept the loss of his Cutchi Memon identity in the process as he considered that his community was far superior, economically and culturally, and more developed as compared to other Memon.  He agreed that, of late, the Halai Memon had risen on the economic ladder, and they were very demonstrative about their wealth. On enquiry, whether or not the Cutchi Memon are part of the Memon International (which is an organization that unites all Memon irrespective of their subdivisions), he did not show much interest. This is contradistinction with the positive claims of the Halai Memon" (p. 199).

...(interviewing Mr. P, Cutchi Memon, Bombay, Dr. Engineer notes) "Both Mr. P. and wife are religious. They are convinced about the 'Purity' and 'Superiority' of the Cutchi Memon Jamat. According to them Cutchi Memon's are culturally, economically and physically superior to Halai Memon. ... In the Cutchi Memon Jamat, dominated by the conservatives during the pre independence period, Mr. P and his brother worked for the conservative section against the progressives because the latter stood for the membership on non-Kutchi Memon (spouses) in the Jamat after marriage. ... When voting took place on the issue (in 1956),  the conservatives lost. Inter-Jamat marriages are no longer considered a taboo" (p. 204).

Is it haram to marry a non Cutchi? All will say no, it is not Haram. Then why this persistence against a Halal and permissible deed??? If it was wrong to marry a Muslim or Muslima from the non-memon community, and if Memon community wants to keep itself pure and un-adulterated, why are their constitutional discrepancies, when it comes to a well-off member, or considering a case of illegal affair of those among the haves or in the case of a rich and prosperous member of the community. Is Kufu' only for the commons and not for the Lords???

Boycotting the members who do not adhere to the constitution of the group is good. If the Jamat wants to boycott its members, it must follow this practice for one and all, and it must follow it for only those actions that are only Islamically incorrect, and not memonically incorrect! Do we have such pure and pristine leadership who can stand up and say Sir, I respect you but you are bound by the principles which the Jamat holds! Do we have Jamat who can culturally and socially involve all its members for an all round development.

Whereas the present Jamat are hardly devoting their time and efforts for social movement among the members - most Cutchi Memon Jamat are loose and fragile groupings that send circulars, on death or marriage. Invitations are mailed, and these circulars or notices, are delivered by various devices. None by personal touch -- the original device that our ancestors followed to keep the group knitted well and to make the personal touch matter the most prominent and main concern!!!

Last word: I have been to Kutch, to see the roots, to connect my own family links, and to get an exposure to what it means to be in Kutch. I saw that that land is as common as any other small towns of India, nothing distinct, nothing so much making me feel personal, except the presence of a few old timers, a few old graves and a few marked properties of the bygone Cutchi Memon's. Most of the riches that we had, most of the philanthropists we had went off from this new found land, and settled elsewhere.  Bombay for instance has one of the largest number of charitable foundations that were set up by our elders.  I was a nominee of the All India Federation of Cutchi Memon, but even here petty matters take away major energies. May we have a joint prayer for a joint federation of at least All Cutchi Memon's in India, irrespective of their confused present status - half Cutchi Memon, quartet Cutchi Memon, and so on. Let us first stand united and then do whatever our ancestors expected from us.
 

Sources referred:

Islamic Perspective: A Biannual Journal. A special issue on Bohras, Khojas and Memon. Ed. by Asghar Ali Engineer, Bombay, Institute of Islamic Studies. vol. 1, Jan 1988 (contains: history, results of a sample survey of Memon's in Bombay, Bhuj, etc.)

Origins of Memons(http://www.geocities.com/memoncanada), provides three versions on the origins.

Our roots (http://acm.cs.umn.edu/~ashiq/prakash1.html), provides sources for our roots and has much discussion on developing a strong archive for tracing complete history of Memon. The Memon community in Mombasa, Kenya, is very active and publishes its newsletter, Prakash (http://acm.cs.umn.edu/~ashiq/prakash.html), available freely on this web site.

Memon groups (http://members.xoom.com/turab/bm.html)

Other sources on Memon:
Abraz -ul Haq. By Sayyid Amiruddin Nuzhat, 1290 A.H., 1873 A.D., (Urdu), written under the patronage of a saint, Ali Shah Kadri, who is a descendant of Peer Yusufuddin. 40 pages.

Chopro (Diary), by Joshi Bhajani (d/o Joshi Hansraj Ramanis), date?, place?

Bombay Gazetteer, James Campbell, part 5.

Bombay Gazetteer, James Campbell, part 2. Mussalmans and Persis, vol. IX., pt II. Bombay Government Central Press, 1899.

Salehmohamed H. Abubaker Bakhrani's Gujarati manuscript, 1954, unpublished? and lost. He is the first Memon historian. 500 pages.

Late Mr. Kassam Khamisa's Gujarati manuscript, who resided in Kamachumu in Tanzania, wrote about the Gamrais. Memon who moved from Nasserpur (Sindh), came to Maddi (old name for Mandvi port, Cutch), one or two families settled in Lalpur, a village near Maddi. On coming to Maddi, they were called Gamadia (villagers), hence Gamrai. unpublished manuscript, lost?

Memon Kom jo itihas, by Zakaria Hashim. date?

Dadani, A Q M., "A glimpse into the past", in All India cutchi Memon Federation, special number, 1983, Bombay.

Naz Mangroli, Memon, Tari Arsi, Golden Jubilee Souvenir, 1984.

Karim Mohammad Master, Maha Gujarat na Mussalmani, Baroda, 1969.

Misra, S.C. Muslim communities in Gujarat, Bombay, 1963.

World Memon Foundation's booklet, London.

Mirza Mohammad Quasim's book (title not traced, cited by Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer, p. 43). 1905. This book traces the roots of Memon's, as being converts of low caste Hindus settled around Sindh and Kutch, based on Tod's Annals of Rajasthan.

Abdul Karim Naliwala's book (title not traced, cited by Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer, p. 43).  Naliwala opines that the Memon's were converts from Khemani Rajputs, not Lohanas.

Asir, Abdur Rahman, Memon Qaum ni utpatti (the origin of the memon community). Lohanas were originally rulers of Sindh and their capital was Brahmanabad. The Memon community according to this writer came into existence in 7th century, not as others report, in 14 or 15th century.

Karimbaksh Khalid's book (title not traced, cited by Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer, p. 43). According to this book Memon were actually the descendants of Arabs, belonging to the Banu Tamim tribe.