Hyderabadi Muslims

Hyderabadi Muslims or Hyderabadis[5][6] are an ethnoreligious community of Urdu-speaking Muslims, part of a larger group of Deccani Muslims, from the area that used to be the princely state of Hyderabad (present-day India), in the regions of Marathwada, Telangana, and Hyderabad-Karnataka.[7]

Hyderabadi Muslims
Urdu: حیدرآبادی مسلمان, romanized: (Hyderābādi Musalmān)
Total population
2,187,005 (1941)[1] Present Worldwide Figures Unknown, but about 1.71 million in Hyderabad district and 4.46 million in Telangana[2][3]
Regions with significant populations
 India Pakistan Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates United States United Kingdom
 Pakistan200,000 (1950)[4]
Urdu in the forms of Hyderabadi Urdu and the Dakhini sub-dialect as well as standard UrduHindiTeluguMarathiKannadaSindhiEnglish • The vernacular languages of other countries in the diaspora

• Majority Sufi Sunni

• Minority Shia and Isma'ilism
Related ethnic groups
• Other Indian Muslim communities • Telugu peopleAndhra MuslimsMarathi MuslimsDakhini MuslimsMuhajir people

While the term "Hyderabadi" commonly refers to residents in and around the city of Hyderabad, regardless of ethnic origin, the term "Hyderabadi Muslims" more specifically refers to the native Urdu speaking ethnic group of the erstwhile princely state.[8] The collective cultures and peoples of Hyderabad Deccan were termed "Mulki," (countryman), a term still used today, while "Hyderabadi" came to refer to the Urdu-speaking ethnic group.[9] The native language of the Hyderabadi Muslims is Hyderabadi Urdu, which is a dialect of the Deccani language.

With their origins in the Bahmani Sultanate and then the Deccan sultanates, Hyderabadi Muslim culture became defined in the latter half of the reign of the Asif Jahi Dynasty in Hyderabad.[10] The culture exists today mainly in Hyderabad, Aurangabad, Latur, Bidar, Kalaburagi, and among the Hyderabadi Muslim diaspora around the world, in particular, Pakistan,[11] the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, USA, Canada and the United Kingdom.[12]


The Deccan plateau acted as a bulwark sheltering South India from the invasions, political turmoil, and genocide that affected North India. This allowed the Muslim-ruled state of Hyderabad to develop a distinctive culture during the Qutb Shahi dynasty, brief Mughal rule and later the Asaf Jahi dynasty of the Nizams.

According to Time, the seventh Nizam was the richest man in the world during the late 1940s, and fifth richest person of all time according to Forbes Magazine after adjustment for inflation and currency purchasing power parity.[13]

The Nizam was the Muslim ruler of the vast princely Hyderabad State. The capital city of Hyderabad was primarily Urdu-speaking Muslim until the Incorporation of Hyderabad into India and the subsequent rise to dominance of the native Telugu-speaking Hindu people of Telangana. The state's economy was agrarian, and Hyderabad was primarily a government and administrative hub, run mostly (but far from exclusively) by Muslims. The aristocracy, jagirdars and deshmukhs (wealthy landowners), and even minor government officials, could afford to hire servants, usually also Muslims, in a social order similar to the class system of Victorian England. The Nizam allied himself with the British early on, with ensuing political stability.

After the fall of the Mughal Empire in 1857, many Muslim writers, poets, scholars, musicians and other eminent personalities migrated from Delhi to Hyderabad in hope of seeking patronage of the Nizam or the nobility. Muslims continued to emigrate to the state seeking employment in the Nizam's court, army, Hyderabad Civil Service or educational institutions. Among those who spent significant time in Hyderabad are writers Dagh Dehlvi, Fani Badayuni, Josh Malihabadi, Ali Haider Tabatabai, religious scholar Shilbi Nomani and classical musicians Tanrus Khan and Bade Ghulam Ali Khan.

After Indian independence from the British Raj, Hyderabad State, under the rule of the seventh Nizam lasted for a year, until September 18, 1948, when the Indian Army launched Operation Polo in response to the pogroms being committed against the rural Telugu Hindu populace by Hyderabadi military forces who wished for Hyderabad State to accede to Pakistan. This was a highly unlikely scenario with the Hindu-majority population the princely state had, so the Razakar faction took it upon themselves to "cleanse" the Nizam's territory of Hindus. The Indian army soon decided to intervene in the humanitarian crisis in Telangana following the ensuing internal crisis due to the influx of Telugu Hindu refugees in surrounding Indian territory. The liberation inadvertently resulted in the massacre of thousands of Muslims in retaliation (which albeit pales in comparison to the Hindu casualties), and mass migration mainly to the west, and Pakistan.[14][15][16]

Hyderabadi Muslim Identity after Integration

The Integration of Hyderabad, into the dominion of India, other than the shock of the controversial massacre and uprising by the downtrodden Hindus who they held in contempt,[15][17] took a turn of an identity crisis for the Hyderabadi Muslim people.[18] Thousands of Hyderabadi Muslims emigrated from the integrated Indian state of Andhra Pradesh to Pakistan, the UK, the U.S. and Canada, resulting in a large diaspora.[19]

The people who migrated to Pakistan were now placed under a new term called Muhajir, along with other Urdu speaking immigrants from present day India. The Muhajir people began to dominate politics and business mainly in the metropolitan city of Karachi but their unique Hyderabadi Muslim Identity was lost, and has now evolved into a result of Karachi's booming cosmopolitan scene.[20] The Hyderabadi Muslims who stayed in the integrated Andhra Pradesh were faced with new language issues, and a wave of immigration of more Telugu people from the coastal areas as well as other Indian states, especially after 1956.[21]

After the Indian reorganization of 1956, with states being divided on linguistic lines, Hyderabadi Muslims, in Telangana, Marathwada, and Hyderabad-Karnataka were faced with the learning and emerging dominance of the indigenous Telugu, Marathi, and Kannada languages respectively, and their native language Dakhini became a home language while Urdu in the forefront of Politics in these regions became comparatively less widespread.[22] The present day Hyderabadi Muslims know very little about their cultural heritage, especially those who aren't from Hyderabad city, or India. Hyderabadi Muslims are now seen as a result of Indian cosmopolitanism, and their history is being lost in Indian textbooks.[23]

The relative isolation of Hyderabad until annexation to India, its distinctive dialect of Urdu and the strong web of interconnecting family relationships that still characterizes Hyderabadi Muslims, sometimes leads to charges of parochialism from other Indian Muslim communities, but it also ensures a Hyderabadi Muslim identity endures among the Indian diaspora.

Demographics and distribution

The largest concentration of Hyderabadi Muslims is in the old city of Hyderabad. After the Partition of India and the Incorporation of Hyderabad by India, the Muslims of the state lost their privileged status, so significant numbers chose to migrate to other countries such as Pakistan, the Arab States of the Persian Gulf, the United States, UK, Canada and Australia.[24][25]

A section of Hyderabadi Muslims are of Hadhrami Arab origin, who came to serve in the Nizam's military. They are known as Chaush and mostly reside in the Barkas neighbourhood of Hyderabad. There are also some Siddis who are of African descent.[26][27]

In Pakistan, most of the Hyderabadi migrants are settled in the southern port city of Karachi. Estimates of the Hyderabadi population in Karachi range between 20,000 and 200,000 today.[28] The main neighbourhoods where the Hyderabadi migrants in Karachi initially settled were Hyderabad Colony, Bahadurabad and Laiqabad.[29] In 2007, a replica of the famous Charminar monument in Hyderabad was built at the main crossing of Bahadurabad.[30] Some notable Pakistani people who migrated from the former Hyderabad State include Muhammad Raziuddin Siddiqui, Syed Mohammad Ahsan, Asif Iqbal Razvi, Waheed Yar Khan, and Anwar Maqsood.


Hyderabadi Muslims today, refer to the Urdu speaking Muslim community, from the 1801 landlocked princely state of Hyderabad, who developed a distinct cultural identity from other Dakhini Muslims.[31] Even though the princely state of Hyderabad had once reached the southernmost points of India, it's the culture from the known landlocked territories of the Nizam, that constitutes Hyderabadi Muslim culture, while the Dakhini Muslims of the Carnatic, and the Circars, developed their own distinct culture, and culinary tradition.[32] The Chaush community, even though they speak Urdu, and live in the erstwhile Hyderabad State, are usually not considered Hyderabadi Muslims, since they came recently to the region. Even though they absorbed many Hyderabadi Muslim cultural features, namely language and cuisine (Chaush cuisine has more Arab influences), they're a more homogeneous group, of Hadhrami Arab ancestry, and reside in close knit Chaush communities such as the Barkas neighborhood of Hyderabad.[33][34] This is compared to most Hyderabadi Muslims, who have ancestries from various ethnic origins, and are less a homogeneous group.[35]


Hyderabadi Muslims, are noted for their hospitable nature also known as Deccani Tehzeeb. While Hyderabadi Muslims take pride in their "Nawabi" language, literature, poetry, architecture, and cuisine. The performing arts are often overlooked, especially regarding Hyderabadi culture. In fact, the culture of the Hyderabadi Muslims is being lost.[36][37] The founding of the city of Hyderabad can be attributed to one of the wives of Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, Queen Bhagyamati, who was a dancer in the courts of the Golkonda kings, with whom the founder of Hyderabad had named the city in her honour, Bhagyanagar, and later Hyderabad. Tales of the legendary dancers Taramati, and Premamati, are also an insight into the rich culture under the Qutb Shahi era. Mah Laqa Bhai, a prominent Hyderabadi Muslim poet of the 18th century, patronized the Kathak dance form in the courts of the Nizam, which is now being lost amongst Hyderabadi Muslims.[38]

Apart from these, a traditional Hyderabadi Muslim wedding is identified by various local traditional elements, such as the traditional garb, Sherwani for the groom and Khada Dupatta along with jewelry for the bride, as well as Hyderabadi cuisine served at the ceremony.

Another cultural practice unique to the region is Tasmia Qwani also known as Bismillah Ceremony, family ceremony in which a Muslim child is initiated to read the Quran. It is also characterized by local elements.[39]

Communal Harmony, known as Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb, is integral to the Culture of Hyderabad.[40][41][42][43]

Other than musical forms of art, Hyderabadi Muslims have taken great honour in the writing, and reading of poetry, and annual Mushairas and Mehfils take place around the world, which has become a symbol of unity for Hyderabadi Muslims, and Urdu poets alike, continuing an ancient tradition.[44]

Language and literature

One of the most identifiable markers of Hyderabadi Muslim culture is the local dialect of Urdu, called Hyderabadi Urdu which in itself is a form of Dakhini. It is distinct by its mixture of vocabulary from Turkish, Persian and Arabic, as well in some vocabulary from Telugu and Marathi that are not found in the standard dialect of Urdu. In terms of pronunciation, the easiest way to recognize a Hyderabadi Urdu is use of "nakko"(no) and "hau"(yes); whereas in standard Urdu its "nahi" for (no) and "haa" for (yes).

Though Hyderabadi Urdu or Dakhini are the native languages of the Hyderabadi Muslim people, most people can speak standard Urdu, and often put Urdu as their mother tongue on censuses, as Dakhini is not a recognized language as such. Along with the languages they learn from birth, they can speak Hindi, which is mutually ineligible with standard Urdu, and taught in most Indian schools. Hyderabadi Muslims can also speak the majority languages spoken in the regions they live, namely Telugu, Marathi, and Kannada. The other important characteristic of the natives is cultural refinement in terms of interpersonal communication, referred to as meethi boli (sweet and civilised speech). Tameez, tehzeeb and akhlaq (etiquette, custom, and tradition) are considered very important and guests are treated well with a lot of mehmaan nawaazi (hospitality).

The Qutb Shahs were regarded as the great patrons of Urdu, Farsi and Telugu language. The region saw a growth of Deccani Urdu literature, the Deccani Masnavi and Diwan composed during those periods are among the earliest available manuscripts in the Urdu language. The literary work of this region is influenced with the regional Marathi, Telugu, and Kannada in parallel with Arabic and Persian including the adoption of poetic meters and a great quantity of renovated words.[45] The Fifth Sultan of the dynasty, Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah was himself an Urdu poet.[46]

The period of Nizams saw a growth of literary growth since after printing was introduced in Hyderabad. In 1824 AD, the first collection of Urdu Ghazals named Gulzar-e-Mahlaqa (Mahlaqa's garden of flowers) written by Mah Laqa Bai, was printed and published from Hyderabad.[47]

After the Revolt of 1857, many Urdu writers, scholars and poets who lost their patronage at Delhi made Hyderabad their home, that grew and brought reforms in the literary and poetry work. Scholars continued to migrate to Hyderabad during the reign of Asaf Jah VI and his successor Asaf Jah VII. These included Shibli Nomani, Dagh Dehlvi, Fani Badayuni, Josh Malihabadi, Ali Haider Tabatabai, Zahir Dehlvi and many others.[48][49]

The reign of Nizam VII saw many reforms in literary work. For the first time in history the Nizams introduced Urdu as a language of court, administration and education. Other notable poets, scholars and writers of the early 20th century are Amjad Hyderabadi,[50] Makhdoom Mohiuddin, Sayyid Shamsullah Qadri, Mohiuddin Qadri Zore[51] and Sulaiman Areeb. Maharaja Sir Kishen Pershad, although not a Muslim himself, was steeped in Hyderabadi Muslim Culture and wrote poetry under the pen name Shad.[52]

In 2017, Urdu was declared the second official language of the state of Telangana. (after Telugu) This move was praised by many, especially Muslims of Hyderabad who spoke Urdu as their mother tongue.[53][54]


Though, the once great dance traditions among the Hyderabadi Muslims are almost lost, two distinct, cultural practices are still popular, namely Marfa, and Dholak ke Geet. Marfa was brought by the Siddi and Chaush peoples, of Africa and Yemen, who were deployed in the army of the Nizams. This music, is accompanied by the beating drums of a great tradition, which were once popular in national celebrations of the dissolved Hyderabad state, is still popular among Hyderabadi Muslims in weddings.[55] Dholak ke geet is also one such tradition. Dholak ke geet are songs, that have been orally passed down from generation to generation since the time of the Nizams, and is sung at weddings, accompanied by a Dholak drum.[56]

Qawwali is also popular among the community,[57] and is performed regularly at dargahs such as Dargah Yousufain and Dargah Pahadi Shareef.[58][59] It used to be patronized by the Nizams as well as the nobility. The great classical musicians such as Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Inayat Khan, Ustad Tanrus Khan, Munshi Raziuddin and Bahauddin Khan used to perform at the Nizam's court. The contemporary qawwals Ateeq Hussain Khan and the Warsi Brothers reside in Hyderabad and perform regularly in the city.


The native cooking style of the community is the Hyderabadi cuisine, which evolved during the Asaf Jahi period. It is heavily influenced by Mughal, Turkish, and Arab along with the influence of the native Telugu and Marathwada cuisines. It comprises a broad repertoire of rice, wheat and meat dishes and the skilled use of various spices, herbs and natural edibles.[60][61][57]

Some famous Hyderabadi cuisine (dishes) that are served at weddings are: Hyderabadi Biryani, Haleem, Khubani ka Mitha, Gil-e-Firdaus, Double Ka Meetha, Luqmi, Kaddu ki Kheer (A type of Kheer), Mirchi ka Salan and Baghare Baigan.

Other popular food items are: Chakna, Tamate ka Kut, Khatti Dal, Dalcha, Shirmal, Rawghani Roti, Nahari, Pasande, Pathar Ka Ghosht, Naan, Dum Ka Murgh, Khagina, Khichdi, Nargisi Kheema, Shaami, Kofte, Tala Hua Ghosht, Poori, Kheer, Sheer Khorma, Til ka Khatta, Til ki Chutney and Qubuli, Shikampur, Tahari, Khichdi. The Arab dishes Mandi and Shawarma are also popular.

The dishes are tied to events, such as Hyderabadi Haleem, made almost exclusively during the month of Ramadan,[62] and Sheer Khorma which is especially made on the day of Eid-ul-Fitr.[63][64] Talawa Gosht is prepared on Fridays.

Irani Chai is enjoyed throughout the city, along with Osmania Biscuits. Irani Cafes found all over Hyderabad serve these along with Lukhmi, Samosa and other snacks.[65][66]

Clothing and jewellery

Khada Dupatta

The Khada Dupatta or Khara Dupatta (uncut veil) is an outfit composed of a kurta (tunic), chooridaar (ruched pair of pants), and 6 yard dupatta (veil) and is traditionally worn by Hyderabad brides. Sometimes the kurta is sleeveless and worn over a koti resembling a choli. The bride also wears a matching ghoonghat (veil) over her head. The accompanying jewellery is:[57][67]

  • Tika (a medallion of uncut diamonds worn on the forehead and suspended by a string of pearls)
  • Jhoomar (a fan shaped ornament worn on the side of the head)
  • Nath (a nose ring with a large ruby bead flanked by two pearls)
  • Chintaak also known as Jadaoo Zevar (a choker studded with uncut diamonds and precious stones)
  • Kan phool (earrings that match the Chintaak and consist of a flower motif covering the ear lobe and a bell shaped ornament that is suspended from the flower. The weight of precious stones and gold in the Karan phool is held up by sahare or supports made of strands of pearls that are fastened into the wearers hair.)
  • Satlada (neck ornament of seven strands of pearls set with emeralds, diamonds and rubies)
  • Ranihaar (neck ornament of pearls with a wide pendant)
  • Jugni (neck ornament of several strands of pearls with a central pendant)
  • Gote (Shellac bangles studded with rhinestones and worn with gold coloured glass bangles called sonabai)
  • Payal (ankle bracelets)
  • Gintiyan (toe rings)


The Sherwani is the traditional men's garb of Hyderabad. It is a coat-like tunic with a tight-fitting collar (hook & eyelet fastening), close-fitting in the upper torso and flaring somewhat in its lower half. It usually has six or seven buttons, often removable ones made from gold sovereigns for special occasions. The material is usually silk or wool. A groom may use gold brocade for his wedding sherwani, but otherwise good taste dictates understated colors, albeit with rich and textured fabrics. The sherwani is usually worn over a silk or cotton kurta (long shirt) and pyjamas (baggy pants with a drawstring at the waist).

The Sherwani is closely associated with Hyderabad, although it has spread since to the rest of India and to Pakistan. Former Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru adapted its design and turned it into his trademark Nehru Jacket, further popularizing the garment.


Attar, or Ittar is a traditional perfume made from botanical sources. It is still available in the bazaars near Charminar and at the Moazam Jahi Market. Many of the older generations still prefer attar over modern perfumes.[68][69][70][71]


The majority of Hyderabadi Muslims are Sufi and Barelvi Sunni and the largest minority is Shia[72] Sunni Muslims mostly follow the Hanafi school of Islamic Jurisprudence, although the Chaush community follows the Shafi'i school of thought. Islam in Hyderabad, with historical patronizing by the rulers, has a strong Sufi influence. Tablighi Jamaat has also been active since the late 1950s, with its headquarters at Jama Masjid Mallepally. Salafi movement, jamiat e ahle-hadith, Dawoodi Bohra, jamaat e islami'hind and Ismai'li are also in some areas. Bismillah ceremony is an Islam initiation ceremony held for children, unique to the region.

Mourning of Muharram is observed by the Shia community.[73] Processions are held every year, since the time of the Qutb Shahi dynasty as well as the Nizams.

Religious knowledge and its propagation flourished under the Nizam with institutions like the world-famous Jamia Nizamia. The largest Mosque of Hyderabad, the Makkah Masjid gathers congregations of more than two hundred thousand on the occasions of Eid prayers and Jumu'at-al Wida. (the last Friday of Ramadan)

Hyderabad has also produced many renowned religious scholars of representing different Islamic sects and trends, including Bahadur Yar Jung, Muhammad Hamidullah, Hashim Amir Ali, Sayyid Shamsullah Qadri, Sayyid Ahmedullah Qadri, Abul Ala Maududi and M. A. Muqtedar Khan.


Hyderabadi Muslims have organized themselves politically along religious lines. The most prominent example of this is the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, currently led by Asaduddin Owaisi. The party dominates the politics in Hyderabad's Old City, and consistently wins seats for the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Indian Parliament) and the Telangana Legislative Assembly. The party claims to represent the interests of Muslims by campaigning for greater protection of minority rights.[74] A rival breakaway faction of the AIMIM is the Majlis Bachao Tehreek that also claims to represent the interests of Muslims in Hyderabad.

Hyderabadi Muslims who have been strong supporters of secular progressive movements, such as Indian freedom fighters Maulvi Allauddin, Turrebaz Khan.[75]

Notable people

See also


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