What was the Faraizi Movement?

Faraizi Movement was a peasant-cum-religious movement. It earned the name from the Arabic word—’Farz’ (duty). The movement started in the eastern part of Bengal against landlords who were mostly Hindus and indigo planters who were mostly British. To mobilize the Muslim peasant, its leaders used religious symbols. They preached a change in the mode of dress to distinguish the Muslims from the non-Muslims.

Its founder Haji Shariat-ul-lah was against the social innovations prevalent among the Muslims of Bengal, many of them borrowed from Hinduism. The rituals which were on their radar were quasi-worship at various pseudo-Muslim shrines, floating off the bhera (ceremonial boat), ceremonial dances, planting of banana trees (phallic symbols) around the house on the occasion of the first menstruation of a girl. The Faraizis suspended Friday and Id prayers thinking of India under the British as dar- al-Harb (enemy’s territory) where these prayers are not required.

The Faraizi movement under the leadership of Dudu Miyan, son of Haji Shariat-ul-Allah, became revolutionary. He organized the movement from village to the provincial level with a Khalifa (authorized deputy) at each level. He organized a para-military force to fight the goons of landlords and the police. He was arrested many times, but after his death in 1862 his movement survived only as a religious movement.

Faraizi movement was opposed by Taayyani Karamat Ali Jownpuri who was inspired by the religious thought of Shah Wali-Allah. They criticized the Faraizis’ suspension of Friday and Id prayers and argued that there was religious freedom for the Muslims under British rule. India was not Dar-Al-Harb, if it was not Dar-Al-Islam, it was at least ‘Dar-Al-Aman’ (land of peace).