Muslim culture of Hyderabad

Hyderabadi Muslims
Regions with significant populations

 India Pakistan Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates United States United Kingdom

Hyderabadi Urdu, Hindi, Telugu, Sindhi
Sunni IslamShia IslamMahdavi
Related ethnic groups
Indian MuslimTelugu peopleAndhra MuslimsMarathi MuslimsBhatkal MuslimsArab Muslim

Hyderabadi Muslims are a community of Urdu-speaking Muslims from the area that used to be the princely state of Hyderabad, India. With its origins in the Muslim Bahmani Sultanate and then Deccan sultanates, the culture became defined in the latter half of the reign of the Nizam dynasty in Hyderabad. The culture exists today in Hyderabad and among the Hyderabadi Muslim diaspora around the world, in particular, Pakistan,[1] Saudi Arabia, the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, USA, Canada and the United Kingdom.[2]


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

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 Telugu-speaking people of Andhra. 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. The Muslim upper and middle classes were free to concentrate on a care-free and leisurely lifestyle involving clothes, jewelry, food, music, literary arts, and other indulgences, little of which trickled down to the servant class, known as naukar (a word originally used for the Mughal Emperor Babur's closest feudal retainers).

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 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.[3][4]

Because of its status as the richest of the princely states in India and being ruled by a Muslim leader, Hyderabad State attracted Muslims from all around India and even other countries in search of work. Many Muslim poets, musicians, scholars, soldiers and administrators from far and wide sought employment in the Nizam's court, the Hyderabad Civil Service, army or educational institutions. Among those who spent a significant amount of time in Hyderabad were the famous poet Josh Malihabadi, Fani Badayuni, religious scholar Shibli Nomani and court photographer Lala Deen Dayal among others

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.[5][6]

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.[7] The main neighbourhoods where the Hyderabadi migrants in Karachi initially settled were Hyderabad Colony, Bahadurabad (named after the Hyderabadi Muslim leader Bahadur Yar Jang) & Laiqabad known as (Murghi Khana).[8] In 2007, a replica of the famous Charminar monument in Hyderabad was built at the main crossing of Bahadurabad.[9]


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 scene in Hyderabad's Old City, and consistently wins seats for the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Indian Parliament) and the Andhra Pradesh State Assembly. The party claims to represent the interests of Muslims by campaigning for greater protection of minority rights. A rival breakaway faction of the AIMIM is the Majlis Bachao Tehreek that also claims to represent the interests of Muslims in Hyderabad.

However, some Hyderabadi Muslims have been strong supporters of secular progressive movements, such as the famous Urdu poets Makhdoom Mohiuddin and Sulaiman Areeb, and Hassan Nasir who participated in the Telangana Rebellion against the rule of the Nizam. Hyderabadi Muslims were also at the forefront of the formation of the Comrades Association in 1939, one of the first communist organizations in Hyderabad which struggled against the Nizam. Other secular members of the Hyderabad Muslim community include Shoaibullah Khan, the editor of the Urdu daily Imroz that was critical of the Razakars and urged Hyderabad's integration with India (he was stabbed to death). The story of a poor Muslim peasant named Bandagi who was killed while struggling against the landlord was immortalised in the popular drama Ma Bhoomi about the Telangana Rebellion. In 1946, editor of Urdu daily Saltanat Sayyid Ahmedullah Qadri was the first journalist of Hyderabad state who wrote articles on ONE NATION Theory.

Language and literature

One of the most identifiable markers of Hyderabadi Muslim culture is the local dialect of Urdu. 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). The most distinctive aspect about the city of Hyderabad is the fact that the local Hindu population also speaks Hyderabadi Urdu as their native language unlike their counterparts in the rest of the state regions of Andhra Pradesh (Andhra and Rayalseema) who speak Telugu but pronounces the Urdu letter "qaf" as "khaf".

The other important characteristic of the natives is cultural refinement in terms of interpersonal communication, referred to as 'meethi boli' (or, sweet and civilised speech). 'Tameez', 'tahzeeb' and 'akhlaq' (etiquette, custom, and tradition) are considered very important and guests are treated well with lot of 'mahmaan nawaazi' (hospitality).

Among the famous Hyderabadi Urdu poets are Amjad Hyderabadi, Dagh Dehalvi, Molana Mufti Mir Ashraf Ali, Safi Aurangabadi Makhdoom Mohiuddin, Sulaiman Areeb and khawja Shouq. Others poets who made Hyderabad their home for a significant amount of time include Josh Malihabadi and Fani Badayuni. Although not a Muslim himself, Maharaja Sir Kishen Pershad was steeped in Hyderabadi Muslim culture and wrote Urdu poetry under the pen name of "Shad" (Urdu: شاد‎).


Main article: Hyderabadi cuisine

Some famous Hyderabadi cuisine (dishes) that are served at weddings are: Hyderabadi Biryani, Haleem, Khubani ka Mitha, Gil-e-Firdaus, Double Ka Meetha, Luqmi, Dum ka qimah, Marag, Kaddu ki 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, Katche Gosht Ki Biryani, Khichdi, Nargisi Kheema, Shaami, Kofte, Tala Hua Ghosht, Poori, Kheer, Sheer Khorma, Til ka Khatta, Til ki Chutney and Qubuli,shikampur,Tahari,shawarma.

Chai and Paan are served after a meal.

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:

  • 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. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru adapted its design and turned it into his trademark Nehru Jacket, further popularizing the garment.


The majority of Hyderabadi Muslims are Sunni. Sunni Muslims mostly follow the Hanafi school of Islamic Jurisprudence, although the Chaush community follows the Shafi'i school of thought and mainly reside in areas close to Barkas, the former Military Barracks of the Nizam, an area where the residents are mainly of Hadhrami Arab descent from Yemen. Islam in Hyderabad, with historical patronizing by the rulers, has a strong Sufi influence, the Tablighi Jamaat has also been active since at least the 1950s, with its headquarter at jama masjid mallepally. Salafis and Mahdavis also exist in small pockets. Bismillah ceremony a Islam initiation ceremony, held for children between the age 3 – 5.

Religious knowledge and its propagation flourished under the Nizam with institutions like the world famous Jamia Nizamia (Jami'ah Nizamiyyah) of Hyderabad. The largest Mosque of Hyderabad, the Makkah Masjid gathers congregations of two hundred thousand and more on special occasions of Eid prayers and especially of 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 Jamaat-e-Islami founder Abul Ala Maududi, Tablighi jamaat key player maulana abid khan sahab, Sunni Barelvi scholar Turab-ul-Haq Qadri, and Shia scholar Allamah Rasheed Turabi. Currently professor and philosopher Dr. M. A. Muqtedar Khan, who lives and teaches in the U.S. is one of the most famous intellectuals from Hyderabad who frequently lectures in Europe, and the Middle East.

Famous Hyderabadi Muslims

Writers and poets

  • Sayyid Shamsullah Qadri
  • Mohiuddin Qadri Zore, Urdu poet literary critic and historian, established Idare Adabiyaat-e-Urdu in Hyderabad.
  • Ali Haider Tabatabai, Urdu expert, Head of Translations Department (Darul Tarjuma) at Osmania University
  • Amjad Hyderabadi, Urdu poet of Ruba'i
  • Makhdoom Mohiuddin, Urdu poet and Marxist politician
  • Sulaiman Areeb, Urdu poet
  • Fani Badayuni, Urdu poet
  • Fatima Surayya Bajia, novelist and playwright (Karachi,Pakistan)
  • Anwar Maqsood, script writer, anchor-person,show-host (Karachi,Pakistan)
  • Razaul Jabbar, author of many books, Settled in Canada.
  • Omar Khalidi, author of Hyderabad: After the Fall and others, migrated to USA.
  • Masood Ali Khan, authored Islamic and cultural encyclopedia.
  • Haroon Siddiqui, Indo-Canadian Journalist.
  • Samina Ali (A PEN/Hemingway Award winner for her novel Madras on Rainy Days).
  • Awaz Sayeed, Urdu writer of short stories and biographer.
  • M. A. Muqtedar Khan, political Science Professor and Philosopher.
  • Mirza Farhatullah Baig, Urdu writer.
  • Yousuf Hussain Khan, was a historian, scholar, educationist, critic and author.
  • Salam Masdoosi, scholar and writer
  • Ahmed Abdullah Masdoosi, poet
  • Khaja Abdul Gafoor IAS, Urdu writer, administrator.
  • Sayyid Ahmedullah Qadri, Urdu writer, critic, author and politician, President of Lutfuddaulah Oriental Research Institute, Hyderabad.
  • Dr.Fareeda Zain (Urdu writer short stories) 8 Books Life achievement award from AP Urdu Acdemt 2011


Religious scholars



  • Dr. Asim Ansari - William T. Dillard Professor of Marketing at Columbia University Business School, Columbia University, New York, USA.
  • Quadir Hussain Khan - First Indian Principal of elite Nizam College fro Hyderabad Nobility.
  • Mrs Khursheed Hameed Pasha, First women to become the District Educational Officer for the state.



Military Services



  • Zahid Ali Khan - Chief Editor of The Siasat Daily (Urdu newspaper)
  • Khan Lateef Mohammed Khan - Editor-in-Chief Roznama Munsif & Chairman Munsif Group
  • Ata Mohammed Khan - Former senior editor Munsif Daily
  • Syed Viqaruddin - Chief Editor of Rahnuma-e-Deccan Urdu daily (Urdu newspaper)
  • Syed Sajjad-Ul-Hasnain - Channel Head Munsif TV Urdu
  • Syed Akbar - senior editor Deccan Chronicle
  • Syed Amin Jafri
  • Omer Farooque
  • Syed Ahmed Jeelani - Sr News Anchor/CE, Etv Urdu
  • Mirza Ghani Baig - Copy Editor Reporter Etv Urdu
  • Sayyid Ahmedullah Qadri - Editor of Saltanat, Insaaf, Paisa Akhbar and Tarikh (Urdu newspaper)



Football and hockey

  • Syed Abdul Rahim (Football)
  • Syed Nayeemuddin (Football)
  • Shabbir Ali (Football)
  • Syed Mohammad Hadi, Football and Hockey
  • Yousuf Khan, Football- Olympics 1960 Rome
  • Mohammed Habeeb Khan Football- Former Captain FC Mohammeden, East Bengal & Mohan Bagan in Calcutta League

Tennis and other sports

Altaf Ali ( Table Tennis) Saeeda Sultana ( Table Tennis)


  • Hasan Ali Khan
  • Saeeda Sultan- Table Tennis
  • Altaf Ali- Table tennis
  • Omer Abdullah Bin Mahfooz

See also



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