The Shaikh of West Bengal

The Shaikh of West Bengal, India


About this People Group

Quick facts

  • Population: 20 Million
  • Language: Bengali, Urdu
  • Religion: Islam (100%)

The population of Shaikh in India is 84 151 000 of which 20 219 000 Bengali speaking Shaikh are living in West Bengal. They were the first people to embrace Islam on the advice of Prophet Mohammed and were given the title of Shaikh. Shaikh is an Arabic word meaning an elder or chief and implies someone who executes justice. It was originally given only to those of Arabic descent but has been adopted by Muslim converts from lower caste Hindus. The Shaikh are devout Muslims and belong mostly to the dominant Sunni sect of Islam; some are Shia followers.

The Shaikh community is moderately literate. Parents educate both boys and girls, though girls tend to be taken out earlier for social reasons. Despite this, a large number study further.

In Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, the majority depend on agriculture. Business, trade, government service, weaving, woodwork and masonry are other sources of livelihood. Fishing is another source of income in West Bengal. Many Shaikh are skilled in carving wood, silver and ivory and in intricate embroidery such as zari or zardozi (gold and silver thread embroidery on silk or other cloth) work, weaving and handicrafts.

How to Pray

  • People groups in India are all intertwined with one another and hard to reach. Ask the Lord to lift these people out so that they can be reached with the Gospel.
  • Pray for businessmen to come and assist in the micro-financing business.
  • Pray for teachers to come and start English Language Schools.
  • Pray for teams to come and make disciples amongst the Shaikhs of West Bengal.
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