Hussaini Brahmins- Half Hindu and Half Muslim

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By Syed Ali Mujtaba, Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi, TIO: The community of Hussaini Brahmins is little known in India. They are Hindus but also have faith in Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad.  They pay obeisance to the Hindu idols and photographs but also keep the ‘Alam’ – the flag with the emblem of Imam Hussain in the Pooja corner of their houses.

Who are Hussaini Brahmins?

Hussaini Brahmin is a Mohyal Brahmin community in the Punjab region. The Mohyal community comprises seven sub-clans named Bali, Bhimwal, Chhibber, Dutt, Lau, Mohan, and Vaid.  Mohyal Brahmin of the Dutt clan had fought on behalf of Imam Hussain in the Battle of Karbala (680 C.E.)

According to legend, Rahab Sidh Dutt was the leader of a small band of career soldiers living near Baghdad around the time of the battle of Karbala. The legend mentions the place where he stayed as Dair-al-Hindiya, meaning “The Indian Quarter”, which matches with Al-Hindiya a place that exists even today.

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As consistent with the Hindu tradition, the Moyhal community adopted non-Indic traditions which led to the emergence of a small sub-sect of Hussani Brahmain paying reverence to Islam, most notably to the third Imam Hussain. As a result, many Hussani Brahmain observes Muharram every year even to this date.

According to historical records, about 1,400 Brahmins were living in Baghdad capital of Iraq when the Battle of Karbala took place in 680 AD. Few families are still found in parts of Iraq, but most are now settled in Pune, Delhi, Chandigarh, Amritsar, and Jammu in India, Sindh, and Lahore in Pakistan, and Kabul in South Afghanistan.

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Until the Partition of India, many Hussaini Brahmins used to live in Lahore.  In Ajmer, there is a small group of people who calls themselves Hussaini Brahmins even today. In Bihar, a Sect of Bhumihar Brahmins in the Muzzafarpur district also claims ancestry from Hussaini Brahmins.

Hussaini Brahmins are neither ‘orthodox Hindus’ nor orthodox Muslims. They practice a mixed blend of orthodox Vedic and Islamic traditions. A saying in Hindi/Urdu refers to the Hussaini Brahmans as: “Wah Datt Sultan, Hindu ka dharm, Musalman ka Iman, Adha Hindu Adha Musalman” (Well Datt Sultan, declaring Hindu Dharma and following Muslim practice, Half Hindu and Half Muslim.

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Some prominent personalities of the Hussaini Brahmin community are; actor Sunil Dutt, Urdu writers Kashmiri Lal Zakir, Sabir Dutt, and Nand Kishore Vikram.

The Hussaini Brahmins community follows all the traditions observed by the Shia sect of Muslims during the month of Muharram. They offer salutations in the ‘Azakhana’, the place where Muharram ‘azadari’ is held. Many are well versed in the technique of reading ‘Nauha’, ‘Marsiya’, and ‘Salaam’ (elegies lamenting the death of martyrs in the Battle of Karbala).

Most of the Hussaini Brahmins are born in a Saraswat Hindu family. They carry forward the tradition of the belief in Imam Hussain that they have learned from their forefathers.  They attend ‘Majlis’ and recite elegies during the days of mourning in Muharram.

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Sunita Jhingran, a renowned classical music singer best known for her thumri, khayal, Dadra, and ghazal, is a Hussaini Brahmin who says; “God made humans first but we divided ourselves into religions. The blood in the bodies of both the Hindus and the Muslims is red. We must understand that humanity is the greatest of all religions and this is my way of promoting love and respect for all.” “For me, religion is a personal affair between God and me and no one has the right to tell me who I am.“ She laid stress on the need to understand the true meaning of communal harmony to live in India.  In this video, she explains the Hussaini Brahmin community that has tenets of both Hinduism and Islam.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIHzJ24v10s

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Curated and Compiled by Humra Kidwai

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Syed Ali Mujtaba

Syed Ali Mujtaba

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a Sr.Journalist, Author based in Chennai, India. Writes frequently for the USA based News Portal, TheIndiaObserver. He is author of the book Soundings on South Asia, New Dawn Press (2005). He can be reached at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com or TIO, at Mediaiss@Gmail.com

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