Prior to the uprising of the Faraizi movement, there lies hidden a history and backdrop which indeed had induced the Bengali Muslims and Shariatullah in large to incite such an action against the British oppression. Haji Shariatullah had been onto a pilgrimage to Mecca, staying back for twenty years and being absorbed in comprehending religious doctrines under Shaikh Tahir Sombal, a heavyweight of the Hanafi School. Returning home, he had plunged a movement to make the Bengali Muslims espouse the true canons of Islam. After his return to Bengal under British Indian rule, he had remained a continuous witness to the appalling and degenerating conditions of his brotherhood, calling them forth to give up un-Islamic practices (Bidah) and execute their honest duties as Muslims (Faraiz). Due to various accumulating historical reasons, the Muslims of Bengal had been merrily complying with umpteen local customs, rituals and observances, which were almost unimaginable and displaced from the principles of Islam. Most Bengali Muslims did not even abide by the basic principles of Islam.
Haji Shariatullah then and there had sworn to bring the Bengali Muslims back in the true path of Islam, which later had churned into the gargantuan Faraizi Movement. He had assayed to lay paramount accentuation on the five fundamentals of Islam, insisted on the complete acceptance and strict observation of virginal monotheism and reprobated all digressions from the original doctrines as shirk (polytheism) and bid'at (sinful conception). Umpteen rituals and ceremonies affiliated with birth, marriage and death like Chuttee, Puttee, Chilla, Shabgasht procession, Fatihah, Milad and Urs were heavily prohibited by Shariutullah. Saint-worship, demonstrating unnecessary admiration to the Pir, lifting of the Taziah during Muharram were also adjudged shirk. Haji Shariatullah indeed had laid gross emphasis upon justice, social equality and universal fraternity of Muslims.
Haji Shariatullah deemed British domination in Bengal as exceedingly detrimental to the religious life of the followers of Islam. Travelling in earnest quest of the Hanafi law, he spoke up that the complete non-existence of a lawfully-appointed Muslim caliph or representative administrator in Bengal had stripped the Muslims of the privilege of observing congregational prayers. To the Faraizis, Friday congregation was inexcusable in a predominantly non-Muslim state like Bengal. The Faraizi movement thus began to circulate with astonishing promptness in the districts of Dhaka, Faridpur, Bakerganj, Mymensingh, Tippera (Comilla), Chittagong and Noakhali (back then, during British Indian times, the country was yet to be divided, hence these regions very well fell under the erstwhile undivided Bengal), as well as to the province of Assam. Faraizi movement, however, acquired its grooviest momentum in those provinces where the Muslim peasantry was horribly dejected under the tyrannical domination of Hindu zamindars and the sadistic European indigo planters.
Many Muslims, on the other hand, did not abide by the Faraizi doctrine and tried to defend against their activities with aid from the Hindu zamindars. The landlords of Dhaka, hence, guaranteed the eviction of Haji Shariatullah by the police in 1831, from Ramnagar or Nayabari, where he had assembled his propaganda centre. Through unremitting engagement with the Hindu landlords and European indigo planters, this movement swelled into a socio-economic issue, which became an overriding feature of the Faraizi movement under Shariatullah's son Dudu Miyan and his descendants.
The landlords levied numerous Abwabs (plural form of the Arabic term bab, signifying a door, a section, a chapter, a title. During Mughal India, all temporary and conditional taxes and impositions levied by the government over and above regular taxes were referred to as abwabs. More explicitly, abwab stood for all irregular impositions on Raiyats above the established assessment of land in the Pargana) over and above normal rent and such abwabs were horribly dishonest in the eye of law. Several abwabs were of religious nature. Haji Shariatullah then intervened to object to such a practice and commanded his disciples not to pay these dishonest cesses to the landlords. The landlords had even inflicted a ban on the slaughter of cow, especially on the occasion of Eid-ul-Azha. The Faraizis ordained their peasant followers not to cling and stick by to such a ban. All these heated instances added up to tensed and stressed relationships amongst the Faraizies and the landlords, who were nearly all Hindus. This was another major communal cause, which in the long run, had induced these two religious factions to stand against each other, leading to the Fairizi Movement.
Gradually gathering up incidents under the Islamic-led Faraizi movement could be witnessed in various parts of Bengal, with overwhelming English-Bengali agreement for perhaps the very first time. The outraged landlords built up a propaganda campaign with the British officials, incriminating the Faraizis with mutinous mood. In 1837, these Hindu landlords indicted Haji Shariatullah of attempting to build up a monarchy of his own, similar in lines to Titu Mir. They also brought several lawsuits against the Faraizis, in which they benefitted dynamic cooperation of the European indigo planters. Shariatullah was placed under the detention of the police in more than one instance, for purportedly inciting agrarian turbulences in Faridpur.
After the bereavement of Haji Shariatullah in 1840, his only son Muhsinuddin Ahmad, alias Dudu Miyan was heralded the chief of the Faraizi movement. It was under Dudu Miyan's leadership that the Faraizi movement took on agrarian disposition. He had machinated and masterminded the oppressed peasantry against the oppressive landlords. In trembling vengeance, the Hindu landlords and indigo planters tried to hold back Dudu Miyan by constituting false cases against him. But, he had turned so very iconic with the peasantry that in these several issued cases, courts hardly ever establish a witness against Dudu. The initial victories of Dudu Miyan caught the fancy of the masses and his reputed standing rose high and higher in their respect. These incidents also lent additional impetus to the circulation of the Faraizi movement and drew to its congregation not only numerous Muslims, who so far stood cold, but also Hindus and native Christians who assayed Dudu Miyan's protection against the tyrannical landlords.
Dudu Miyan however, passed away in 1862 and before his death he had appointed a board of guardians to watch over his minor sons, Ghiyasuddin Haydar and Abdul Gafur, alias Naya Miyan, who succeeded his father sequentially. The board, scouting under great troubles, kept the now-declining Faraizi movement from shattering to pieces. It was not until Naya Miyan reached maturity that it recovered some of its lost force and vigour. Nabinchandra Sen, the then sub-divisional officer of Madaripur, deemed it practical to enter into a treaty of mutual help with the Faraizi leaders, who, in their turn, demonstrated a zeal of cooperation towards the government.
On the death of Naya Miyan in 1884, the third and youngest son of Dudu Miyan, Syeduddin Ahmad, was hailed as the leader by the Faraizis. During Syeduddin Ahmad's period, the clash of the Faraizis with the Taiyunis, another reformist group, reached its peak status and religious debates between the two schools had become a common place episode in the then British Indian Bengal. Syeduddin was conferred the title of Khan Bahadur by the government. In 1905, on the question of the partition of Bengal, he lent tremendous support to Nawab Salimullah in favour of partition, but he too expired in 1906. Faraizi Movement was now, almost biting the dust of degenerating soil, with no potential hope for an intelligent tomorrow.
Khan Bahadur Syeduddin was succeeded by his eldest son Rashiduddin Ahmad, also acknowledged as Badshah Miyan. During the early years of his leadership, Badshah Miyan strictly had defended the policy of co-operation towards the colonial government. But the dissolution and succeeding invalidation of the partition of Bengal made him terribly anti-British and he this began taking active part in the Khilafat and Non-Cooperation Movements. Soon after the establishment of Pakistan, Badshah Miyan called for a conference of the Faraizis at Narayanganj and declared Pakistan as Dar-ul-Islam and afforded permission to his followers to hold the congregational prayers of Jum'ah and Eid. In such a gradual manner, the Faraizi movement lost its erstwhile zing and forcefulness, as the country witnessed its Independence, coupled with the Partition into two distinctive nations, comprising Hindus and Muslims.
Doctrines of Faraizi Movement
The Faraizis had strongly clung to the Hanafi School with particular oddities in their religious beliefs as well as practices. These oddities can be loosely classed together into five Faraizi doctrines, comprising: (i) tawbah i.e. to remain repentant for past sins as a step towards the purification of soul; (ii) to rigorously observe the mandatory duties of Faraiz; (iii) tawhid or Unitarianism as was enounced by the Quran; (iv) India being Dar-ul-Harb, Jum'ah and Eid congregations were not deemed mandatory and, (v) disapproving all popular rites and ceremonies, which possessed no acknowledgment to the Quran and Prophetic traditions, as sinful designs. The chief of the Faraizis were referred to as Ustad or teacher and his disciples Shagird or students, instead of employing terms like pir and murid. A person so inducted into the Faraizi congregation were referred to as Tawbar Muslim or Mumin.
Organisation of Faraizi Movement
In organising the Faraizi society and additional movement, Dudu Miyan primarily had two objectives in perspective, comprising: (i) safeguarding the Faraizi peasantry from the tyranny of the zamindars and European indigo planters and, (ii) guaranteeing social justice for the bulks. In order to guarantee the first objective, Dudu Miyan had parented up a volunteer corps of clubmen (lathial) and ordained for their regular training in the art of combating with clubs. For guaranteeing the second objective, he had resurrected the traditional system of local government (Panchayat) under Faraizi headship. The former came to be acknowledged as the Siyasti or political branch and the latter Dini or religious branch, which were consolidated later on into a hierarchical Khilafat system.
The Faraizi Khilafat system was contrived to bring together all the Faraizis under the direct control of the authorised representatives of Dudu Miyan who stood at the zenith of the hierarchy of khalifahs. He had thus appointed three grades of khalifahs, consisting of: (i) the Uparastha Khalifah, (ii) the Superintendent Khalifah and, (iii) the Gaon Khalifah.
Dudu Miyan then had separated the Faraizi settlement into small units comprising 300 to 500 families and decreed a Gaon or ward Khalifah over each unit. Ten or more such units were classed together into a circle or Gird, which was placed under a Superintendent Khalifah. The Superintendent Khalifah was furnished with a peon and a piyadah or guard, who was despatched to and fro keeping contact with the Gaon Khalifaha on one hand and with the Ustad on the other. The Uparastha Khalifahs were consultants and experts to the Ustad and stayed back in Dudu Miyan's company at Bahadurpur, the headquarters of the Faraizi movement.
The Gaon Khalifah represented himself as a community leader, whose duty was to circularise religious teaching, implement religious duties, preserve a prayer-hall, take care of the morals and parcel out justice by consulting with elders. He was also required to preserve a Maktab for preaching the Quran and elementary lessons to the children. The Superintendent Khalifah's chief functions were to oversee the activities of the Gaon Khalifahs, take care of the well-being of the Faraizis of his Gird or jurisdiction, sermonise the fundamentals of religion and in particular, to sit as a Court of Appeal against the decisions of the Gaon Khalifahs, if any. In such cases, the Superintendent Khalifah heard the appeal sitting in a council of the Khalifahs of his Gird. In all affairs, religious as well as political, the decision of Dudu Miyan was final and as the Ustad he also acted as the ultimate Court of Appeal.