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Soheb Ur-Rahman Niazi (Year 2016)


Social Stratification at a Muslim Qasbah: The Case of Amroha in Colonial India

Social Stratification at a Muslim Qasbah: The Case of Amroha in Colonial India


The central concern of the research project is to understand various conceptions and categorizations of social stratification and hierarchy existing among Muslims in colonial North India. This project primarily studies Urdu vernacular texts on tarikh and genealogy, produced at the qasbah of Amroha located in the Rohilkhand region of the United Provinces during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 

Through a discussion of the Urdu sources from the qasbah, comprising of works on tareekh (history) of the qasbah town and discussions of ilm al nasab (study of genealogies), my project attempts to understand the conceptions of social hierarchy that existed among Muslims of colonial North India. The underlying methodological approach guiding this research project is the understanding that modes of social stratification prevalent in a society can be gauged through interactional patterns among different social groups, but also through exploring what different communities mean and make of social stratification themselves. There are two methodological approaches that inform this study, that involve an understanding of both notions and the practice of social stratification. Firstly, I examine ashraf sources, mostly in the form of tareekh literature, texts on genealogy, including discourses on piety, akhlaq and adab. Secondly, the emphasis is to further our understanding of the perceptions of the non-ashraf groups, mainly the working classes or occupational groups, who also form the majority of the Muslim population, both in colonial and contemporary India. The second approach requires inputs from sources and methods that emerge from the field of labour history for an evaluation of industrialization and its relation to specific occupational groups at the end of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Further substantiation of the above understanding is attempted through an examination of source material emerging through the proliferation of vernacular literature, newspapers, pamplets, and initiatives of social organization pioneered by various social groups at the local level of the qasbah.


First Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Margrit Pernau

Second Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Torsten Tschacher

Third Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Gayer


Niazi, Soheb. 2020. Sayyids and Social Stratification of Muslims in Colonial India: Genealogy and Narration of the Past in Amroha. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1-21. doi:10.1017/S1356186320000358.

Niazi, Soheb. November, 2017. “Revisiting Sir Syed’s Early Religious Writings” in Café Dissensus, Special Issue (40) on Remembering Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in Bicentenary Year (1817-2017).

Niazi, Soheb. May 2017. “Reclaiming “Manliness”: Reflections on growing up in Delhi” in Café Dissensus, Special Issue (35) on Masculinities in Urban India.

Niazi, Soheb. March, 2017. “The Politics of Imagining (in) Urdu in Contemporary India”, in Café Dissensus, Special Issue (33) on Urdu In Contemporary India: Predicaments and Promises.

Book Reviews:

The Cambridge Companion to Sayyid AhmadKhan edited by Yasmin Saikia and M. Raisur Rahman", Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 55, No.11, 14 March, 2020.

Makers of Islamic Civilization: IBN Khaldun by Syed Farid Alatas in the South Asia Special Issue (XXII) on Islam of the journal The Book Review, Vol, XXXVII, Number 10, October 2013.