Islamic revivalism – the Feraizi Movement

Islamic revivalism – the Feraizi Movement

  • Faraizi Movement nineteenth century religious reform movement launched by Haji Shariatullah. The term Faraizi is derived from ‘farz’ meaning obligatory duties enjoined by Allah.
  • The Faraizi Movement became very popular among the Muslim peasantry in various districts of Bengal during the British Rule. The Movement was founded to give up un-Islamic practices and act upon their duties as Muslims.
  • The movement was also concerned with the British influence upon Muslims and a call for social justice was raised.

Hazi Shariat Ullah

  • The organizer of this movement, Hazi Shariat Ullah was born in a peasant family of Bahadurpur village in Faridpur district of modern Bangladesh in 1781. He travelled to Mecca to learn the Quran and Islamic theology. Here he came across the Hanafi ideals. He spent twenty years abroad to master Islamic scholarship and returned home in 1818.
  • Returning home he launched a Faraizi movement to make the Bengal Muslims follow the true canons of Islam. For historical reasons the Muslims of Bengal had been following many indigenous customs, rituals and ceremonies which were far from the principles of Islam. Haji Shariatullah regarded British rule in Bengal as injurious to the religious life of the Muslims.
  • Haji Shariatullah announced that Islam was being defiled by various malpractices and suggested reform measures.
  • Though started as a religious movement, it soon became political in nature. Shariat Ullah termed British-ruled India a “Dar-ul-Harb” or a land of the enemy and felt it was not suitable for the habitation of pious Muslims.
  • He garnered public opinion against exploiting zamindars and indigo planters and very soon millions of poor Muslim farmers, artisans and jobless weavers became his disciples in Barisal, Mymensingh, Dhaka and Faridpur. It was an awakening for Bengali Muslims and they were bold enough to protest against the zamindar’s misrule.

Dudu Mian

  • In 1837 Shariat Ullah died, leaving the reins of the rebellion to son Dudu Mian (1819-60), an able and a politically conscious organizer. He transformed the Faraizi movement from being socio-religious to socio-economic-political.
  • Dudu Mian asked his disciples to stay away from anti-Islam activities. Acccording to him, Allah was the owner of the land hence the zamindar had no right to collect taxes. He called upon his men to abstain from paying taxes to the zamindar, from farming indigo for the planters and from supporting the British. His disciples swelled in numbers.
  • Dudu Mian’s headquarters were at Bahadurpur. He led his followers to raid treasuries and offices of zamindars and indigo planters.
  • The uniqueness of Dudu Miyan’s Faraizi Movement was that they had established their own law and their own law courts. The government courts were generally boycotted. A Munshi was appointed who exercised control over every two or three villages, adjudicated and settled civil as well as criminal cases. The courts established by the Faraizi Movement had become very popular among Muslim peasants as peasants found redress against the oppressions of the zamindars.
  • He used his organisational skills in dividing Bengal into several zones or halkas, each led by a Caliph. The Caliph organised the farmers, thwarted zamindars’ and indigo planters’ exploitation and raised funds for the forthcoming resistance.

Spread of Faraizi Rebellion

  • Gradually the Faraizi movement spread from Dhaka and Faridpur to Bakarganj, Comilla, Mymensingh, Jessore, Khulna and large parts of South 24-Parganas. For more than a quarter of a century he remained the controversial figure in Eastern Bengal. He had become a household name in these places.
  • The zamindars and indigo planters joined hands with the government to stop Dudu Mian. Between 1838 and 1847 he was imprisoned at least four times but had to be released owing to lack of witness against him. When the Sepoy Mutiny broke out in 1857, he was imprisoned at Alipore Jail as a precautionary measure.
  • Dudhu Miyan died in Dhaka in 1862, but the movement continued. His son, Noah Mian, took up his task but his focus shifted from anti-British activities to religious activities.
  • In absence of a strong centre, the movement became sporadic and there were isolated actions against the landlords, particularly in places where the Faraizis had their traditional centers.

Analysis of  Faraizi Movement

  • Faraizi Movement weakened and eventually became a religious sect only. The Faraizi Movement was essentially an agrarian movement, though the demands were carefully dressed up in religious catchwords. Dudu Mian had invoked a new awareness among peasants by uniting them against zamindars and indigo planters.
  • The movement failed because of lack of political education among its leaders, anti-Hindu attitudes, and religious narrow mindedness, forcible induction of people, extortion and lack of proper leadership.

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