History of Memon Community
Memon is a courageous and unique position holder mercantile community. It participates actively in all the social activities such as, health, education and cultural programs. When the forefather of this community embarrassed with Islam, they were named as "Momin" and with the passage of time, they are now known as "Memon". The conversion of the religion resulted to a lot of calamities, which were faced with utmost courage, and boldness to overcome calamities. They had to migrate from their homeland. God accepted these trials for the sake of Islam and He bestowed blessings and such a high capabilities that Memon community is prominent in all walks of modern life. On the occasion of the presentation of history of early period of the community, we are highly thankful of God that we are part and parcel of this community.
Summary of the Rise and Sacrifices of Memon Nation
Before Islamisation, Memon Nation belonged to Hindu Lohana Race, which was distinguished into 84 branches. The peoples of Memon Nation accepted Islam in 1424-25 A.D. During this period (824 Hijri), the capital of Sindh was Thatta and it was governed by Mr. Murkab Khan. Hajrat Yousufuddin Qadri (god bless him) came to Sindh during the aforesaid period and he became permanent resident of Sindh on the request of the governor. He preached Islam with great zeal and Markab Khan and his minister Ayub Khan became discipal of Hazrat Qadri. Sardar Seth Sundarji and Sardar Seth Hunsraj were honourable members of the Darbar or Court of the Government. They were sons of Sardar Seth Oji Bin Manik. First of all, Manakji accepted Islam on the blessed hands of Hazrat Qadri. Later on his son Oji and both son of the Seth Ravji named Sundarji and Seth Hunsraj was embarrassed with Islam.
As a result of the acceptance of Islam by two well-known i.e. Sardars, Seth Sundarji and Seth Hunsraj, seven hundred families belonging to 84 branches of Lohana Hindu race were embarrassed with Islam. Hazrat Qadri (God bless him) entitled them as Momin, which was later on changed to Memon.
The Great Pir Hazrat Abdul Qadar Jilani (God bless him) at the verge of death, advised his son Tajuddin to go and preach Islam in Sindh. He, however, failed to do so, but a descendent of Hazrat Jilani (God bless him). Hazrat Syed Yousufuddin Qadri migrated from Arab (Iraq) to Sindh. He settled at Thatta, the then Capital of Sindh, Soon he succeeded to convert Lohana Hindu families and their Sardars (Leaders) to Muslims.
When 700 Hindu Lohana families accepted Islam, the Lohana Hindu race was highly surprised and to stop the conversion of their religion, they arranged a great meeting under the leadership of their "groove" the great religious personalities, such, as Joshi Takemal, Joshi Malmal, Joshi Odhemal, In this meeting it was decided that the daughters and daughter-in-laws, who were in possession of the Lohana Hindu families, must not be allowed to keep relation, converted with newly "Nu-muslims" so that they might not be converted from Hindu religion to Islam. In addition to do this, they made social bye cot to Muslims and stopped all trade and relations with Muslims.
This decision, naturally, resulted to great difficulties to Nu-Muslim. The members of Nu-Muslim Lohana families had to face a very complicated situation because many wives, daughters and other relations were still Hindu and they had to either leave them or to reject the change of the religion. These difficulties may easily be realized.
In short, lot of relations was broken all trade relation purchasing and selling activities were stopped. The necessary usage articles of life were not available to Nu-muslims. It became highly difficult to live in these circumstances. Majority of the population was Hindu and the meager minority of Nu-Muslim could not face the majority and only solution of the situation was migration from their native land. They consulted this situation with Hazrat Qadri, who advised to migrate from Thatta. In the light of this advice the Nu-muslims migrated and populated to a nearby town Waryah, Soon, the great shortage of sources of necessities of life, compelled six hundred families of Nu-muslims to again migrate to Halar Pargana of Kathiawar (Gujarat). Now remaining 100 families consisting of majority of women was left in Waryah town. The families, who were named Kayaya families could not migrated for one reason or other and kept living in the Waryah Town till 947 Hijri.
Seth Adam was designated as the first "Amir" of Memon Nation in Moj Waryah town and he constructed a residential house in the town Markan, the son of Seth Adam, was named Ruknuddin by Hazrat Qadri. He kept living his whole life in the Waryah town, however his son namely Samat left the town and migrated to Cutch in 1442 A.D. The then capital of Cutch was Bhuj and Raja Khangarji governed it. He was the creator of Cutch State and he invited Kunna Seth to settle in Cutch in 1597 A.D. (947 Hijri). Alongwith the family of Kunna Seth, Memon families also migrated to Cutch. This second migration was made due to the wishes of Raja Khangarji through Seth Kunna.
Till 1535 A.D. the population of 100 remained Memon families was increased in Waryah town. Most of them also migrated to various places of Cutch State. In this way small communities of Memons were established at various towns of Cutch.
The migration of Memon Nation to far off towns of Kathiawar (Gujarat) and Cutch created many Memon Communities locally. Memons nation was divided into many classes or Biradari.
Main Biradari of Memon
- Halai Memon: It has already said that six hundred Memon families were migrated to Pargana Halar, Kathiawar and were settled permanently over there. They remained at Halar for a long time and were known as Halai Memon.
- Cutchi Memon: It has also said that many families migrated to Cutch and they settled at Cutch permanently and were known as Cutch Memon.
- Okhai Memon: Few Halai Memon families, later on, migrated from Cutch to Okhai Bunder and remained there for a long time. They were known as Okhai Memon.
- Sindhi Memon: The Memon families, who remained settled in Sindh, were dispersed in far off towns of Southern Sindh. These Memon Families were mostly agriculturist and they could not leave their agriculture land. These were known as Sindhi Memon or simply Memon, however the other Biradari of Memons called them Sindhi Memon.
This distribution of Memons on the basis of their locations becomes permanent. The different atmospheres and social and economical tradition of these far off locations effected these Memon Biradari. Now they appear different, however, origin of the Memon Biradari is same.
In many aspects different Memon Biradari are different but one thing in same in all these Communities. Each Memon Community live under one classified system and this characteristic is genetical. As a result of separate classes. These Biradari were established and they began to live under a separate classified system. This resulted to segregated and localized thinking. This unliked and bad considerations divided Memon Community into different Biradari permanently. In addition to this, the aforesaid four Biradari (Halai Memon, Cutchi Memon, Okhai Memon and Sandi Memon) were sub-divided into small Memon Biradari. Soon Halai Memons was sub-divided into Kathiawar and Gujarat Halai Memon Biradari.
Sub division of Halai Memon Biradari
The small number of families living in a place created a small Memon Biradari. In this way Kathiawar and Gujarat Memon Biradari created large number of small Memon Biradari locally. Halai Memon were dispersed at far off places of Halar Pargana, Kathiawar and Gujarat and they established very small sub classes of Halai Biradari.
In the beginning, the entire local small Halai Memon Biradari remained well connected under central Memon Biradari or Jamat but soon the small Memon Biradari acquired importance and they were started to be called Halai Memon of the particular place.
Although, Memon nation (Halai Memon, Cutchi Memon, Okhai Memon and Sindhi Memon Biradari) was dispersed in various places of Indo-Pakistan and they established small Memon Biradari at each place. These small Memon Biradari were called on the basis of the place, for example Cutchi Memon Jamat Karachi, Cutchi Memon Jamat Bombay etc. However, the families of all these small Memon Biradari were provided facilities equally, irrespective of separate Memon Biradari. In all Jamat activities each Memon, irrespective of separate Biradari, could participate as a member of the Jamat. This condition still exists in Cutchi Memon Biradari but in Kathiawar and Gujarat Memon Jamat this characteristic is lost. Now Halai Memon Biradari is divided into many Jamats and number of locally named Halai Memon Biradari is very many, however important locally named Jamats are as follows:
The Condition of Halai Memon Biradari
At one-time members of Memon Bradari was populated in very small groups of various places of Kathawar and Gujrat. In this period the government of Gujarat was under the control of Marwaries who showed unbearable cruelties to Muslims and it was very difficulty time for Muslims. The great difficulty of this period was that travelling from one place to another was impossible because the journey through se was difficult due to Maratha and British Government and the nation of Gujarat namely Saknma who looted the travelers. Lands Passages were blocked by Maratha. The economic condition of Gujarat Province was declining day by day. The industrial and commercial activities were stand still. The Marwari Mahajain was controlling all taxes system and they were very harsh and cruel to Muslim merchants and Muslim landlords.
In this period, the prevailing economic condition of Gujarat was destroyed totally and the condition of common men was worst and they were living hand to mouth.
It was so difficult time in the history of Halai Biradari that there was danger that whole Biradari may be completely finished. However the Biradari remained disciplined, cooperative, united and courageous and kept facing the difficult situation cool mindedly. They work hard, remained patient and contributed their mercantile activities under their genetical capabilities and worst financial constrains could not stopped their commercial and economical activities. In those days, there was no foreign trade and local commercial active was under the control of Mercenaries. However Memon Biradari kept mercantile activities at the lowest possible rate did not left their profession
The Memon merchant of this period was working ideally. They used o travel with commercial groups or through their representatives for exporting goods.
Many times hey take small quantity of grains and other articles on the back of horse's donkeys and bull carriages, from one village to another alone. There was nominal number as of bounded Muslim merchants.
In the period of Shah Alam Sani the whole Gujarat province began to be controlled by Maratha and they began to govern the province totally, Now good peace conditions were prevailing however the effects of previous bad conditions of Memon Biradari were still prevailing.
Later Memon Biradari tried hard to overcome their difficulties and problems boldly. The British Government kept Gujarat as separate state but role of local authorities was weakened and British Agents acquired power from local authorities. During this period, the conditions of Memon Biradari improved a lot and many families became financially sound however, majority could not achieved good conditions. At last a greater change occurred and the Golden time of Memon Biradari started. This was the period, when British Government was leaving and giving Independence to the peoples of Indo-Pakisatn.
By the grace of God, this golden period of Memon Biradari is still continued. It is to point out the major rule to acquirer this condition was of small communities of Memon Biradari of Kathiawar and Gujarat, which are now named on the basis of their local cities.
The Condition of Okhai Memon Biradari
Okhai Memon Biradari also faced the worst condition as detailed in connection with Halai Memon Biradari. Okhai Bunder was not under direct control of Maratha government, however Maratha used to reach the coastal areas including Okha Bunder to kill, destroy and snatch all commodities of the people, resulted to poverty of Okhai Memon Biradari and this condition continued for a long period. The Okhai Memon Biradari was religious minded and they prevented them from Gambling known as "Satta Bazi". It is a praise worthy act of the community which is still prevailing in the members of the Biradari.
The progress of the communities started at the early period of British Government slowly Many families are now in good financial condition, however majority belong to middle class peoples. This Biradari is characterized by ideally disciplined and united community. In the beginning the commercial activates of the Biradari was united and co-operative in a disciplined manner, which resulted to epoch making success in British Government period.
They used to control the wholesale market untidily and dictate the rates of Goods. So they became financially sound suddenly. A bad aspect of this behavior of the Biradari was that the losses of whenever occurred became unbearable by the members of the Biradari. There were many reasons of these losses such as sudden change in the rate of the goods and other competitors tried to fail the united activities of this Biradari. Soon after First World War the whole commercial activities dropped suddenly and commerce market was effected badly.
It resulted to damage the trade of the Biradari and losses were so high that the majority of the Biradari declared bankrupt and they stopped to participate in trade of the country, however, many Okhai Memon continued to take part in commercial activities individually. The practice succeeded and in the last period of British Government, many of them acquired stable condition. The families of Okhai Memon are spreaded all over Indo-Pakistan and most of them are keeping their trade profession. One thing is praise worthy that they never sub-divided into local Memon Biradari like Halai Memon and others.
The Condition of Cutchi Memon Biradari
During the worst period of Gujarat, Cutch remained peaceful and Cutchi Memon remained peaceful due to appreciation of the ruling Raja of the state. Moreover Cutch is far off from Gujarat where Maratha were ruling with cruelty so Maratha could not harm Cutchi Memon. In this good condition Cutchi Memon controlled all commercial activities of the state. Cutchi is a place where famine prevails off and on. This effected poor Cutchi Memon like other peoples of Cutch, but soon they used to acquire their good condition after famine Raja of Cutch used to give small amount of money annually as taxes to Raja of Gujarat and govern Cutch independently. There were well-known seaports in Cutchi such as Bastar, Rakhput and Mandvi, Cutchi Memon used to export and import goods from foreign countries through ships and boats on large scale. It was good opportunity of Cutchi Memon because they were not controlled by East India Company and the Britishers, who were dealing with commercial activities of this part of India, were new in this Commercial activities, So Cutchi Memon joined hands with hands of Britishers and kept their supremacy in commerce. It resulted to make Cutchi Memon as great merchants and they participated in trade on large scale.
During First World War they earned unlimited wealth and Cutch became a great centre of trade. It was declared as free port and there was neither any hindrance on export and import nor any tax was paid to Government. As a result foreign goods were available on large scale and people from all over India used to visit Cutch to purchase goods on very low price. Some Cutchi Memon used to work as Money Exchanger and they were known as "Wattao" (Exchanger of Money) the descendent of these moneychangers are still known as "Wattawari".
The Condition of Sindhi Memon Biradari
In Mughal period, Sindhi Memon Biradari populated Thatta mostly, as it was the great center of all commercial activities of Southern Sindh. This Biradari participated not only in trade but also in agriculture. Rahim dad Khan wrote in his book "Jannat-ul-Sindh" that Memon merchants, were involved in the trade of dried fish and Ghee .At that time Thatta was the centre of the trade of dried fish and Memon merchants used to import this goods to upper Sindh, Arabs and Zanzibar, The Ghee of Sindh was well known all over India.
In 1147 A.D. Sardar of Kalhora Nation captured Sindh, which was part of the Kingdom of Shehensha Mohammad Shah. The king bestowed the permission to govern the province of Sindh. In 1182 A.D. Sarfraz Khan Kalhora was the king of the province but he failed to control the internal law and order situation of his kingdom and foreigner also invaded his Kingdom. It resulted to complete destruction of Thatta and the trade of Thatta was totally destroyed. The condition of Sindhi Memon Biradari was badly effected and they left to participate in commercial activities. They earn their livelihood by agriculture. This change in profession made Sindhi Memon Biradari financial poor as compare to other Memon Biradari.
In the meantime, many Sindhi Memon settled in Malir area of Karachi city, which is now known as Memon Goth. They used to cultivate their small peace of land by themselves and each member of the family participated in all their cultivation activities. By their hard work, they are now owner of large area of cultivated land and are rich and can be compared with big landlords of Sindh. In addition to this, many Sindhi Memons are highly qualified and are working on high or low-level positions of the Government of Pakistan.
Settlement of Memon Biradari in Karachi
Before creation of Pakistan, certain middle class Cutchi Memon migrated to Karachi and some of them became wealthy merchants of Karachi. Later on a lot of poor Cutchi Memons migrated to Karachi. In those days, Karachi was a small city consisting of old city areas and Napier Quarters (now a day these areas are called Sarafa Bazar, Kundan Bazar, Khajur Bazar, Juna Market, Judia Bazar, Kaghzi Bazar, Kharadar, Methadar and Machchi Miani Road).
These were a residential hotel or Sarai for travelers at present place of the building of Madarsa-tul-Islam and playground. The old resident of Karachi city were living at Muchchi Miani Road. Port trust Building was constructed in this area and the old residents of Karachi were shifted to Khadda Basti.
Cutchi Memons were acquainted with British soldiers and military and Civil officers and they habits were well aware of habits so they started their trade from soldier camps and they established a Bazar at the place which is now known as Soldier Bazar. They were also settled at the buildings situated at this place. Cutchi Memon constructed huge English styled buildings on this area and these buildings may be been even today.
In 1868-69 A.D. great famine occurred at Cutchi, Kathiawar, Gujarat and Marwar, as a result a large population of these places migrated to Karachi permanently. Most of these migrated peoples were poor and middle class Memons Naturally; the population of Karachi was increased highly and new Muhallas were established on financial basis. The Middle class Memons settled at a place, which is now known as Ratan Talao (a pond or 'Talao" was present in this area). The first Jama Masjid was constructed in this Mohalla. This old mosque is now known as Memon Masjid Saddar. The management of this mosque is still under a committee of certain honourable Cutchi Memons although Cutchi Memons are shifted from this area.
In the beginning of establishment Ratan Talao Mohalla, it was populated by Cutchi Memons and their houses were constructed on small plots. In 1889 A.D. the lands of Karachi areas were surveyed by Government. On the recommendation of this survey, organised plots of lands on low price were allotted to the residents of this Mohalla at a place which is now called Aram Bagh Quarters and the residents of Ratan Talao were shifted to this area. Cutchi Memons are still living in this area and it is named as Memon Mohalla Gari Khata.
The poor Cutchi Memons were settled at unpopulated or less polulated area of Karachi. These areas are kmown as Bhimpura; Chakiwara and Ghans gangi and these are thickly populated by Cutchi Memons. In 1898 A.D. plague spreaded epidimically firstly and later it was spreaded in 1898 A.D. and a1899 on large scale. It resulted to killing of large number of Cutchi Memons. To save from this disease, many Cutchi Memons shifted to nearby village's temporarity and later came back to their homes in Karachi City.
In 1899-1900 A.D. serious famine was again spreaded in Cutch, Kathiawar, Gujarat and Marwar. As it was occurred in Vikrama 1956, so it was called as Chapnia. As a result of this famine numerous peoples migrated to Karachi. Migrated Cutchi Memon population was now settled at area near Khadda Basti. They established a separate association, which was called "Okhai Memon Anjuman". In respect to the name of this association the new mohalla was known as Memon Society.
In the meatime, many members of Sindhi Memon Community settled in Karachi permanently. Some of these peoples were doing business of fresh fruits, Vegetables and Ghee. With the increase in the population of Karachi, Sindhi Hindu merchant shifted from all over Sindh and captured the trade of Karachi. It resulted to over throw Sindhi Memons merchants, however, Cutchi Memons remained in high scale commercial activities, as they were involved in this trade since First World War. After First War Cutchi Memon bore great loses, due to decreased or lost of while foreign trade of Karachi. Now many Cutchi Memons started to take part in Government Service except a few peoples who remained involved in trade.
In 1935 A.D., Sindh was separated from Bombay Province through an Act of British Government. Now Karachi was declared as Capital of the Province. By the time, the population of Karachi was increased at very high rate and highly qualified Sindhi Memon were settled in Karachi permantly and they were employed on honourable posts in Government and Sindhi Memon Community was established. Soon after independence of India in 1947, Memons of all communities from all over Bharat migrated to Pakistan and they were settled at various cities of Pakistan. Most of these migrated Memons settled in Karachi. In this way, the largest population of Memons is living in Karachi. It is estimated that population of Memons in Karachi is nearly five lakhs. Most of them are involved in business of various commodities and they control commercial activities of Karachi. Some Memons posses unlimited wealth and perform commercial activities on largest possible scale. Most of the great industries are established by Memons. In addition, certain Memons are highly qualified. They are well known in the fields of health, education and other technical activities.
In Karachi, a lot of small-scale associations of Memons are established. Memons are associated with each other through their associations and residing in Karachi peacefully.
Thickly populated areas of Memons
It has already pointed out that the biggest population of Memons is settled in Karachi, which is the biggest city of Pakistan. Bombay is second in position with respect to population of Memons.
There are nearly twenty thousands Memons residing in Bombay which is also one of the biggest city and centre of trade and commerce of Bharat. Like Karachi, small-scale associations of Memons are established in Bombay and Memons are living peacefully in association with these associations.
A large population of Memons is residing at Memon Goth; the oldest centre of Memon in Karachi and it was established 2,500 years ago. At least 2000 Memons are putting up at Memon Goth. The old peoples of Memon community encourage us to serve all needy persons and they also encourage us to offer sacrifices, as and when, needed. As s result, Memons have shown interest in construction of Mosques, schools, and dispensaries, orphan hostels and education centers and is on fore front to serve humanity. Before and after creation of Pakistan, Memons played vital role in Pakistan as economically sound and well-known country.