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Following passages are qouted from "Empire & Islam, Punjab and the Making of Pakistan" by David Gilmartin, University of California Press, 1988, pg 90-95:


The role of Mian family Baghbanpura embodied in sharpened outline almost all the conflicting elements of Arain identity: if the Arains as a group were caught, as hereditary market gardeners, between the countryside and the city, the Mians were surely the most outstanding gardeners of them all, the hereditary custodians of Shah Jahan’s Shalimar Bagh in the suburbs of Lahore. Originally raised to prominence and given two revenue-free villages by Mughals, the Mians retained their villages and custodianship of gardens under British, who appointed the head of the family Zaildar of Baghbanpura. The Mians thus became one of the most influential families of Arain ra’is in the city.

In the late nineteenth century, the family was also one of the first Lahori Muslim families to establish itself in the legal profession. After an exceptional career at Government College, Mian Shah Din was the first Punjabi Muslim to go to England for legal studies. On turning to Punjab, Mian Shah Din established himself in the 1890s as one of the leaders of the Lahore bar, and in 1908 was appointed the first Muslim judge on the Chief Court of Punjab.59 Only slightly behind Mian Shah Din was his cousin, Mian (later Sir) Muhammad Shafi, who also studied law in England and played an even more prominent role in Muslim affairs at Lahore than Shah Din. Like other educated Lahories, both Mian Shah Din and Mian Sir Muhammad Shafi asserted a distinctly Muslim public identity, even as they associated themselves with the power and culture of the colonial state. Indeed, as the first Muslim leaders of Lahore professional society who could challenge Hindu dominance at the bar, they both stressed publicly the importance of Muslim education and Muslim political solidarity – and played active roles in the organization of many of Lahore’s early Muslim anjumans.  Both were active not only in Sir Syed’s Aligarh movement, but also in the Anjuman Himayat-i Islam.60 They also took a leading part in forming the first Punjab branch of the Muslim League in 1907.

As the leading Arain ra’is of the city, however, the Baghbanpura Mians were also concerned with Arain identity.61 As in the case of the Kashmiris, the organization of an Arain anjuman in the early twentieth century reflected the combination of religious and “tribal” elements in biradari identity that were important generally for such urban leaders. An early petition of the anjuman’s leaders shows these elements. In almost all Punjab districts the British had gazette Arains as an agricultural tribe, ans an army classification of Arains as kamins, or village menials, prompted this appeal. In a petition to the commander-in-chief, Mian Shah Din, Mian Sir Muhammad Shafi, and more than fifty other Arain leaders asserted that Arains were in fact “one of the dominent [sic] agricultural tribes of the Punjab,” whose status was  “in no way inferior to that of the other principal agricultural tribes such as Jats, Rajputs, etc.62 To bloster this claim they included a list of Arain zaildars and sufedposhes (sub-zaildars) in the province (the zaildars alone numbering over forty) and a list of Arains in military service. But the petitioners went beyond this; they claimed to be “more advanced in Western education than the other agricultural tribes of the Punjab” and “to outnumber the other agricultural tribes of the Punjab as regards service in the Civil Departments of the state.”63  Their claim to status was thus not limited solely by the rural standards of “tribal” organization and dominance on the land but rested on a cultural claim to share directly in the state’s power.

Underlying this distinctive cultural identity was the strong connection between Arain biradari identity and Islam. As the petitioners expressed it, a strong Islimic component lay at the heart of Arain identity. It rested both on a claim to special Islamic descent and on a popular commitment among Arains to the purest standards of Islamic behavior – standards that justified a place for Arain leaders at the cultural center of Punjab. Indeed, Arain origins, they said, could be traced to the armies of Muhammad bin Qasim: “Although it is nearly 1200 years since Arains left Arabia,” they declared, “they still posses several characteristics which they have common with Arabs and which distinguish them from other Mohammadan tribes of the Punjab.” A most important example was their adherence to simple Muslim customs in the rites of marriage and death.64 Like Kashmiris, Arain leaders stressed adherence to shar’iat in defining a central position for Arains among Punjab’s Muslims.

The articulation of such an Arain biradari identity thus served important purposes for urban Arain leaders such as Baghbanpura Mians, linking recognition as leaders of a dominant “agricultural tribe” with an assertion of cultural status justifying a position at the center of political power.


59. Ikram, Modern Muslim India, 206-7; Mian Bashir Ahmad, Justice Shah Din: His Life and Writings (Lahore: author, 1962), 51-52.

60. Mian Bashir Ahmad, Justice Shah Din, 31-46.

61. See, for example, Jahan Ara Shahnawaz, Father and Daughter (Lahore: Nigarishat, 1971), 23.

62. Petition to Viscount Kitchener of Khartoum, Commander-in-Chief in India, n.d., 1-2 (Abdul Aziz collection).

63. Ibid., 3-4.

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