ZIKRI SECT IN BALOCHISTAN
(Myth and Reality)
Submitted by: Imran
Table of contents
Ø General Introduction
Ø The Term “Zikri”
Ø Founder of the Zikri Sect
Ø Fundamental Beliefs of the Zikri Sect
Ø Attack of Naseer Khan on Mekran
Ø Impact of Naseer Khan’s Attack on Zikris
Ø The fate of Zikris after the Establishment of Pakistan
Zikris have a 600 years old history.
Zikris generally live in Balochistan and particularly in Mekran. They also live
in Sindh and there are also large groups of Zikris in Karachi. The Zikris can
also be found in Oman and U.A.E. they are all Baloch, speaking mainly Baloch
but there are also some Brahui from District Khuzdar, Lasbela and Quetta. There
are no reports of any non-Baloch Zikris (by Baloch I mean Baloch and Brahui
speaker who call themselves as Muslims. However, according to all Muslim Zikri
Anjuman the strength of Zikri community is 10, 00000.
The culture and traditions of Zikris
are similar to their non-Zikri fellow Baloch. Their relations with their fellow
Baloch have been generally friendly and peaceful with the exception of the
period of Nasir Khan the great who attacked an destroyed the Zikri Baloch state
of in the 18th century.
Moreover, the Zikris community
belongs to a poor class. Their existence in the government services in almost
equal to none and they are also not businessmen. Most Zikris are fishermen
along the coast of the Arabian Sea but some are involved in farming, basket
weaving and other handicrafts.
Literally speaking, Zikri is an
Islamic sect founded in 15th century by Imam Mahdi who is claimed to
Sayyid Muhammad Jaunpuri. Zikri perform all five pillars of Islam. They pray
five times daily Zikr (locally called Zigr by the Baloch) in their prayer
houses called Zigrana or Zikrkhana (in the way of Ismailis congregation places
called Jamatkhana). Besides, Zikris perform the standard Islamic Hajj but they
also make pilgrimage (Ziyarat) to Koh-e-Murad (mountain of desire) on the 27th
of Ramadan. In addition, the Zikris also pay Zakat but at the rate of one
They believe in Muhammad (PBUH) as
the last Prophet and Quran as the last book. They believe that though the prophet
hood terminated with prophet Muhammad (PBUM), Imams continued coming until the
last imam who was the Mahdi. They believe that the Mahdi, whose arrival was
predicated in the Hadith of the holy Prophet, has come and gone. Who was their
Mahdi is not clear but all of their records show that he was born in AH 977, 67
years after the death of Sayyid Mohammad Jaunpuri. Their records show that this
Mahdi had stayed 6 years in Lar (a city in the Fars province of Iran and ten
years in Kech (now called Turbat) in Mekran. Until the first half of the 18th
century the whole of Mekran was Zikri and the boundaries of Zikri Baloch state
extended up to Lasbela and Khuzdar in the east, Kharan in the north, and Minab
and Kirman in the west. In the south was Baloch coast which was also Zikri. The
first attack on the Zikris came during the time of Khan Nasir Khan of Kalat who
wanted to extend his rule on all Baloch areas and the Zikri ruler, Malik Dinar,
destroyed towns and villages and put on fire and sword the whole region for
about 40 years (from 1757 to 1795). As a result, the Zikri state was destroyed
and majority of the Zikri Baloch converted to the Sunni Islam. Presently their
number has been reduced to a few hundred thousand and the ratio of conversion
to the Sunni Islam is very high.
Who was their Mahdi, is a complicated
question with no easy answers. There are no records to show that he was but
according to some writers the Zikris have Murshids who claim direct descendant
from Shah Niamatullah Wali of Kirman. On the basis of this it is argued that
the Zikri faith was most probably an offshoot o that Sufi order and the zikri
Baloch rulers of Mekran gave it an independent color soon after they got power
in Mekran and established their Zikri Baloch kingdom independent from all
foreign influence. However, a broader elaboration of the Zikri Sect and the
Zikri rule in Mekran is given below.
The Term “Zikri”
The word Zikri derives its origin
from “Zikr” (Remembrance of God). According to the Census report, 1911. This
Sect is known more or less indifferently both among themselves and others as
Zikri or “Dai” Zikri because they hold that the age for Namaz or prayer has
given way to the age for Zikr. The founder of Zikri greatly emphasized on Zikr
and thus the Set used to be called as Zikri (the follower of Hazrat Iman Mahdi
who time and again remembers God). According to Balochistan District Gazetteer
(Mekran), “Zikris derive their name from Zikr, a formula which they repeat in
the course of their devotion, much has been written about them by the opponents
or partial observers which is misleading and time has yet not found to make
Zikris are also known as Dahi or Dai,
because they are the followers of Dahi, who was the messenger of the Dah (“alarm”
in Balochi). On the other hand, Quran itself is known to them as Dai (“Alarm”
Dr. M.A Baloch in one of his articles
aptly mentions that before the Naseer Khan’s occupation of Mekran, 100 % of the
population of Mekran were Zikris (locally called as Zigris) and they called
themselves “Momin” When Naseer Khan forced the people of Mekran to leave their
ancestral religious traditions and offer prayer (Namaz), the terms Zikri and Namazi
became prominent and the Zikri emerged as a peculiar Sect.
Founder of the Zikri Sect
Who is the founder of the sect is a
very controversial question with no easy answers. According to Inayatullah
Baloch, this Sect was founded by Sayyid Muhammad Jaunpuri towards the close of
15th century. Sayyid Muhammad claimed to be a Mahdi. How the Sect
came into Balochistan whether directly from India or via Persia-is not known.
And whoever originator of the new sect had been in the beginning; in
Balochistan Mulla Murad is the first recorded prophet.
Abdul Haq Baloch’s account is quite
different. To him, the founder of the sect was Mulla Muhammad Attocki whom the
Zikris consider as Nur Pak. He appeared in A.H.977. Abdul Haq further writes
that a travelogue (Safarnama-i-Mahdi) contains the details of Mulla Muhammad.
The Zikris follow the teachings of Nur Pak, an Indian Sufi.
Abdul Ghani Baloch, a Zikri writer,
believes the Zikri and Mahdavi movements to be similar and he tried to find
similarities between the two movements and thus opined that Sayyid Muhammad
Jaunpuri was the founder of the Zikri sect.
The appearance of Mahdi is and
established fact. Even many Hadiths of Holy prophet (PBUH) predicted the
revelation of a Mahdi. Abdul Ghani says that it is incumbent upon every Muslim
to have faith in Hazrat Imam Hahdi. Muhammad (PBUH) says that a Khalifa would
come after him for the guidance of the Ummah whose title would be Mahdi whom
the Zikris identify as Hazrat Imam Mahdi.
The Mahdavi and Non-Mahdavi
literature bear ample testimony to the fact that Sayyid Muhammad Jaunpuri was
founder of the Sect who had stayed six years in Lar( a city in the Fars
province of Iran) and ten years in Kech ( now called Trubat) in Mekran.
Moreover, professor Dr. Sabir Badal
Khan in his article “Zikris in Balochistan” (published in 20th
November, 2009) write that it is not true that the Zikris believe in Sayyid
Muhammad Jaunpuri being their Mahdi. As a matter of fact, none of their
religious books and oral tradition makes any mention of this Sayyid Muhammad of
Jaunpuri among the Zikris has ever heard of him. Who was their Mahdi is not
clear but all of their records show that he was born in A.H.977, i.e. 67 years
after the death of Sayyid Muhammad Jaunpuri.
Fundamental Beliefs of the Zikri Sect
Kalma-e-Shahadat is the most
important factor which makes the Zikri Sect controversial and provide platform
to the non-Zikri religious leaders to claim the Zikris as Non-Muslims.
However, the Zikri believe in the
same Kalma as the Muslims. It goes without saying that the Zikris give immense
importance to Imam Mahdi. It is a serious allegation on the Zikris that they
don’t believe in the finality of the Prophet (PBUH) and instead claim Mahdi to
be the final Prophet. Abdul Ghani Baloch clearly mentions in his book that
Hazrat Imam Mahdi is an Imam, not a Prophet and the entire Zikri community
believes in the finality of Muhammad (PBUH), however, Inayatullah Baloch has a
different point of view. To him the cardinal article of Zikri faith is that
“there is no God but one God and Hahdi is His Prophet”. More or less, Mulvi
Abdul Haq advocates the same viewpoint. He even went a step further to claim
that the whole Zikri literature support this.
Abdul Ghani Baloch refutes the
viewpoint of Abdul Haq Baloch. Abdul Ghani asserts that the books which Mulvi
Haq had reffered either don’t exist or offer distorted facts. To Abdul Ghani
Baloch there is no doubt in the fact the Zikris believe in Kalma-e-Tyyuba; “there
is no Bod but one God and Muhammad (PBUH) is His Prophet”.
Another baseless and illogical
allegation is that the Zikris are reluctant to offer Muslim Prayers. To Abdul
Ghani the problem does not lie in the Zikris’ repudiation of Namaz but the sad
part of the story is that the orthodox Mullahs misunderstand the term Zikr
which in fact is the word for the Namaz in the Zikri Sect. besides, in the
Zikri sect the Mahdi had greatly stressed on the Zikr ( remembrance of God).
Zikris hold that the age for Namaz
has given way to the age for Zikr as is mentioned in the Holy Quran; “Make Zikr
of me that I make Zikr of you” and again “verily We have sent down the Zikr and
verily We will guard it”.
According to Abdul Haq the Zikris are
reluctant to offer five times prayers. He even argued that the Zikris also
don’t go to Friday and Eid prayers. In short to Mulvi Abdul Haq and other
non-Zikri writers, under the Zikri faith, prayer (Namaz) has been dispensed
with and that instead of Zikri writers, under the Zikri faith, prayer (Namaz)
has been dispensed with and that instead of Namaz people should resort to Zikr,
which the Zikri writer consider a total misconception on the part of Non-Zikri
In addition, the Zikris’ places of
worship are called “Zigrana”. Contrary to “masjid” (Mosque)
Fasting is one of the five pillars of
Islam. The Zikri sect also has faith in the fasting. It has been an allegation
on Zikris that they believe that the fast of Ramadan need not to be kept, which
according to Abdul Ghani Baloch is avoid non-academic language. He further says
that the majority of Zikris keep fasting in the holy month of Ramadan. In
addition to that the Zikri particularly keep fast on 13th, 14th
and 15th of each month, called “Ayyam-i-Behz’ and also in the last
ten days of Zil Hajj. No wonder, to Mulvi Abdul Hq in the Zikri sect the
fasting in the holy month of Ramadan has been dispesed with.
There is the concept of Zakat in
Zikri sect, according to the doctrines of Zikri faith the usher should be given
at the rate of one tenth instead of Zakat at the rate of once fortieth. The
Zikri writers are agreed upon the fact in the holy Quran; it has been clearly
mentioned to give Uher at the rate of one tenth. They also believe in the fact
that, Imam Mahdi has made it compulsory on his followers to pay usher at the
rate of one tenth.
According to Non-Zikri writers, the
Zikris don’t perform Hajj (the pilgrimage to Makkah);
Rather, once a year during Ramadan (9th
of Zil Hajj) they perform Ziyarat, a pilgrimage to Koh-e-Murad a few miles from
Trubat city in Kech Makran. As for of the Zikri pilgrimage to Koh-e-Murad is
concerned, it is correct. But the argument that the Zikris don’t believe in
Hajj is a serious misconception. Because the Zikri religious leadership time
and again declared that they are not reluctant to pay Hajj. The Zikri are
motivated to perform Ziyarat (it is to be noted that to Zikris Koh-e-Murad is a
Ziyarat Sharif and in any case this should not be confused with the mainstream
Hajj(pilgrimage to Makkah) because according to their faith Hazrat Imam Mahdi
had stayed there and passed ten years in remembrance of God in this holy hill.
Why this hill is called Koh-e-Murad is a very interesting question. Two
opinions could be highlighted in this regard.
1. This is called Koh-e-Murad after the
name of Mullah Muread Gichki a religious leader of Zikri. This opinion is not
2. The other point of view is that
Koh-e-Murad is holy place where fair ambitions and the desires or wishes of the
Zikris would be heard and fulfilled. So the followers of this sect pass their
time in the Zikr (remembrance of God) and beg pardon for their sins.
Chaugan is a kind of
practice (just like the samma) prevalent in the Zikri sect. chaugan is
performed in Zikri localities generally and at Koh-e-Murad particularly. The participants
of Chaugan stand in a circle and say few words or poetries (in Arabic, Balochi
and Persian language) in the praise of Allah the Almighty, the Prophet (PBUH)
and Imam Mahdi. This particular ceremony mostly takes place at night and
continues till morning. Chaugan is not a compulsory practice; however, it is
considered to be good deed.
Historical Background of the Zikri Rule in Mekran
In the 6th
century Mekran with extended boundaries was a semi-autonomous kingdom with its
ruler called as Shah-i-Mekran. The people of Mekran at that time were mass
Zoroastrians. However with the advent of Islam in Mekran (it is a
well-established fact that before Muhammad Bin Qasim’s conquest of Sind, there
was Muslim population in Mekran and thus Mekran is the true Bab-ul-Islam).
Zoroastrianism gradually vanished. However, the Khalifa had weak and lose
control over Mekran. There were no educational institutions in Mekran and as
such no proper religious education could be impaired to the people. Politically
the region was very much disintegrated and various groups were struggling for
power. Nevertheless, amidst this situation the message by Hazrat Imam Mahdi was
accepted and the once Zoroastrians and later Sunni Muslims had now become the
followers of Zikri sect.
Before the Buledi and
Gichki family the Hoat family had ruled Mekran who were known with the title of
Malik. The Malik family had ruled Mekran for a very long time. Malik Mrza was
the last ruler who was defeated by Abu Saeed Buledi in the beginning of 17th
century. Mostly the historians believe that the Zikri sect flourished during they
could also be witnessed during the rule of Malik family. Normally, the Buledi
period is considered to be the period of the rise of Zikri sect. Abu Saeed
Buledi was the first Zikri ruler of Mekran. Abu Saeed belonged to the royal
family of Muscat. It is believed that when he heard of Mahdi he became curious
to meet him and for this purpose he left Muscat and finally came to Mekran and
became the first Zikri ruler of Mekran. Saeed Buledi also made efforts to spread
this sect to the Brahuis and the Balochs of Balochistan.
The Gichkis also adopted
the Zikri sect during Buledis rule and thus the sect became very much popular.
In 1740, the Gichki became so powerful that they challenged the Buledi rule and
finally succeeded to hold the reins of Mekran kingdom.
century in Mekran history is dismal enough; the once peaceful and autonomous
kingdom witnessed recurrent attacks by the Khans of Kalat. The most decisive
attacks (1757-95) came from the Naseer Khan Noori. Different reasons could be
presented for these attacks and the occupation of Mekran.
of the writers believe that Naseer Khan had political ambitions (or
expansionist policy) to attack and kill his fellow Balochs.
writers consider Nasir Khan as a hero and champion of Islam who took intiative
to eliminate this un-Islamic sect and forcefully converted them to Sunni
Islam.it is interstiong to note that if the Khan was really bent upon to bring
the Zikris into the fold of Islam, then why the Zikris of Bela, Maskey,
Greshag, Jaho and Kolwa were not attacked as these areas were quite close to
Kalat. Thus, it is argued that the causes of Khan’s attack were merely
reason is said to be the reports to Naseer Khan of ill-treatment and discrimination
of Zikris with the Non-Zikris which provoked Naseer Khan to persecute the
Zikris of Mekran.
another cause of the persecution of the Zikris by Naseer Khan is told to be the
dream by the Khan according to which he was supposed to convert the Zikris of
Mekran and Sikhs of India and the Buddhists of China, why the Zikris of Mekran
who after all were Muslims with a slight differed in their method of Worship
short, Naseer Khan Noori attacked the Zikri kingdom of Mekran for purely political
reasons as he wanted to expand the territories of Khanate of Kalat to this
important region of Balochistan and even according to some historians Ahmad
Shah Abdali directed him to occupy Mekran.
Impact of Naseeer Khan’s attack on the Zikris
Ø The Naseer Khan’s attack resulted in
disintegration and fall of once powerful Zikri Baloch kingdom of Mekran and
politically Mekran came under the Khanate of Balochistan.
Ø He started a general massacre of
Zikris and forced them to convert to Sunni Islam. He devastated the Zikri
localities and the worship places. Pilgrimage (Ziyarat) to Koh-e-Murad was
Ø All the Zikri literature either in
Persian, Balochi or Arabic was destroyed. Even, some Zikri religious leaders
believed that as the Original Sources were eliminated, some distorted and
unauthentic words were created to prove Zikris to be Non-Believers which in
fact they were not.
Ø The majority of the Zikris were
killed; the remaining Zikris put themselves out of sight and went to the
However, with the arrival of English
in Balochistan, the Zikris got some freedoms and could freely observe their
religious practices and the pilgrimage (Ziyarat) to Koh_e-Murad was no more
The Fate of Zikris after the Establishment of Pakistan
The Baloch society is a secular
society and they generally do not resort to extremism in religious matters. The
relationship between Zikris and their fellow Balochs have been always guided by
the principles of peaceful co-existence, friendship and brotherhood. There are
some orthodox Mullahs (who due to their ignorance and lack of Knowledge) claim
Zikris to be Non-s there were disturbances between the Zikris and Non-Zikris.
Amidst this situation, Muslims and condemn the sect during their Friday speech.
Moreover, there are some other elements that are said to be funded to work
against this sect. therefore, to some extent Zikris still feel threatened.
However, during the month of Ramadan when from all over the country and from
Iran the Zikris go to Koh-e-Murad for pilgrimage (Ziyarat), some cases of
religious extremism could be witnessed when the Zikris are attacked.
Furthermore, usually content of this section 144 is imposed in Turbat during
this period of Zikris’ Pilgrimage (Ziyarat). To avoid these disturbances, the Zikri
religious leaders have submitted a draft to the DCO Kech, in which they
declared that Koh-e-Murad at any case was not their Hajj but they considered it
Zikris have traditionally been
victimized in Pakistan, Iran and in Baloch areas of Afghanistan and the recent
emphasis on Sunni and scripturalist Islam encouraged the JUI to make inroads
into Baloch regions. NGOs, including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
and local activists, are creating a greater awareness of the Zikri predicament
and aim to forestall a majoritarian backlash against this scattered and impoverished
In 1974, the 1973 constitution
amended and the Quadianis were declared as Non-Muslims. At that time the DC of
Mekran submitted a report to government of Pakistan which clearly proved Zikris
to be an Islamic sect, so, the Zikris were not declared as Non-Muslims. In 1970s
there were disturbances between the Zikris and Non-Zikris. Amidst this
situation, Zia-ul-Haq visited Turbat in 1978 and he was given a briefing about
this sect, and he finally decided to resolve the issue. But he could not
present a timely solution to the issue and to date neither this Sect has been
declared Non-Muslim (as there are no sufficient grounds for it) nor they have
been provided protection from the bigoted religious elements that are a
Damocles sword for this Sect today.
After a critical evaluation of the
Zikri Sect and the elaboration of the fundamental doctrines of him the Zikri
Sect, it could be concluded that Zikri sect constitutes a particular Sect of
Islam with just a difference in the method of worship. They perform the
Standard five pillars of Islam; Namaz is known to them as Zikr, they pay Zakat
at the rate of one-tenth they also perform Hajj but also visit Koh-e-Murad
annually which they called their Ziyarat. Zikris have been peacefull living
with their fellow Balochs with the exception of some case of religious
extremism which usually take place in the last days of Ramadan. Moreover the
Zikris had ruled Mekran for very long time. The attack by Naseer Khan Noori
witnessed the fall of Zikri rule in Mekran. Later some works were carried out
to consider the Zikris as Non-Muslims, as a matter of fact, the Zikri Question
still needs to be explored to make it certain that Zikris are not Non-believers
and they should be tolerated in our society and the government of Pakistan must
ensure protection to this impoverished Sect.
Abdul Haq. Zikri Masla. Turbat:
Abdul Ghani. Zikri Firke ki Tarik.
Karachi: All Pakistan Muslim Zikri Anjuman, 1996.
Inayatullah. The Problem of Greater
Balochistan: A Study of Baloch Nationalism.