Shaikh (Konkoni)

Posted: April 9, 2011 in Great Commission, Missions, Unreached People groups

Shaikh  (Konkani)

 UUPG # 46204 

Konkani is a coastal language along the sea of Maharashtra and Karnataka.


There are over 200 million Shaikh Muslims in the world and more than 1/3 of them live in India.  Most others live in Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Shaikh Muslims form the major portion of the Sunni Muslim population in the Deccan plateau of Central India, spreading beyond our Central Cluster (Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh states).   From what research has shown, Konkani-speaking Shaikh Muslims live primarily along the coastal areas between Mumbai and Goa in Western India.  (Konkani speaking Shaikh population:  1,910,753)

The term “Shaikh”, once applied only to tribes of pure Arab descent, is now used for specific Islamic peoples in central and southern India who converted from low Hindu castes three or more generations ago and for those who converted from high Hindu castes in North India through the work of Islamic Sufi missionaries.

Sometimes Indian Shaikh communities are very distinct from the other Muslims around them but more often they tend to intermix. Thus, distinguishing between the different Shaikh subgroups has been complicated to understand.  Regional language differences have helped categorize them for church planting strategies.

The Shaikh do not have traditional occupations and though many of them are fishermen, artisans such as leather tanners, cloth printers and green grocers.  In rural areas they are generally employed as agricultural laborers.  In urban areas their educational level is relatively high and they are often employed in petty trade and in government and private services.

Virtually all Shaikh are Sunni Muslims though their practices may be far from orthodox.   As a whole, Islam in India including the Konkani speaking Shaikh Muslim beliefs include strong elements of mysticism and Sufism.  Veneration of local Muslim saints is very common and the extravagant decorations over their graves attract even Hindus where worship, playing devotional music and singing at the saints’ graves is common.  A sense of devotion to Allah is deeply felt.  To a large extent, Sufi teachings have led to a universalism – a sense that all religious paths ultimately lead to Allah.

 The Konkani speaking Shaikh celebrate major Sunni Muslim festivals and holy days.  Basic religious education is given to children and in recent years, the ever growing middle class is able to ensure their children continue to higher education.   With recent economic development, many have been greatly influenced by secularism and materialism common among Indian urban centers.

There is no Bible or Christian literature in their version of the Konkani language, though a traditional Konkani language Bible is available.  Some also speak Urdu or Hindi and Bibles and Jesus Films are available in those languages.


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