Who are they?
A small Islamic community of around two hundred and fifty thousand people, the Turk people group, also known as Turk Zamat, traces their migration from Turkey in the remote past and derives their community name from that same place. They practice agriculture, trade and a variety of professions.
Residing mainly in the Junagadh district of Gujarat they claim to be the first Muslim inhabitants of that region. They are also found in certain districts of Uttar Pradesh and are known there as Mughal or Mughal. A few inhabit the central state of Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal.
The Turk living in Gujarat speak and write in the Indo-Aryan, regional language, Gujarati. Those living in other states speak Urdu as their first language and use the Persian-Arabic script. Most are also conversant with Hindi, while some educated Turks speak English.
What are their lives like?
The traditional occupation of the Turk is agriculture and most of them own land on which they cultivate a variety of crops. They are moving increasingly to trade and business, which are more lucrative options. Many of the younger generation, have also taken up service in the private and government sectors at various levels. There are a few professionals – teachers, doctors, lawyers and engineers among them.
The Turks do not eat pork, which is prohibited in Islam. They prepare special dishes like biryani (aromatic pilaf), kebabs and spicy curries for celebrations and alcohol is consumed occasionally. Paan (betel leaf) is chewed by both men and women and tobacco in various forms is taken. The Turk community accepts both cooked and uncooked food from other Muslim communities but do not intermarry. They maintain good socially and commercial relations with them.
The Turks endorse education, modern medicine and family planning. For common ailments, they use indigenous medicines prescribed by Hakims (physicians). They make good use of modern technology, communication, the Public Distribution System (PDS) for essential commodities, and government-sponsored self-employment and development schemes.
The Turk people are an endogamous community, i.e. they marry only within their community. They have a number of surnames of equal status, namely, Mughal, Mirza, Shelat Mori, Gori, Chouhan, Rathore, Agwan, Hala, Tajwani, Kajal, Khokar, and Rajowa. They are free to intermarry within these groups. The marriage rituals performed are magni (betrothal), pithi (application of turmeric paste on bride and groom by family and friends) and nikah (nuptials) which are solemnized according to Islamic rites performed by a Mulkaji or Maulana (priest) with the help of an ukil (pleader) and sakshi (witnesses).
Consanguineous marriages, i.e. those between blood relations are prevalent and often also preferred. Adult marriages have replaced child marriage and monogamy is preferred though having more than one wife is allowed according to the Shariat (Islamic religious law). Marriages are arranged by family elders. Divorce is allowed and mehar (a compensatory amount mutually decided on at the wedding ceremony) is given to the divorced wife. Widow, widower and divorcee remarriages are permitted. The practice of dowry is common today.
Among the Turk, parental property is inherited by both sons and daughters, with the sons receiving a larger share. The succession is patrilineal with the eldest son succeeding to the late father’s authority.
The Turk have a traditional council called Jamat to exercise social control as well as to look after the overall well-being and strengthening of the community.
What are their beliefs?
The Turks are strict Muslims and belong to the dominant Sunni sect of Islam. Like other Muslims they believe in Allah as the Almighty Creator with unlimited sovereignty over his creation and in the existence of heaven and hell. Prophet Mohammed (the praised one) is revered as God’s messenger to whom the holy book, the Koran was revealed. They believe that the Koran supersedes all previous revelations from God in the Jewish Torah and the Old and the New Testaments.
The Turks revere Muslim saints and visit their mausoleum-shrines to pay homage and to pray that the pirs will intercede with Allah for their various needs on their behalf. Their sacred specialist is the Maulana or Maulvi (priest) who performs all birth, marriage and death rites, and, at times, exorcises evil spirits.
Azan (prayer) is uttered in the ear of a newborn child immediately after birth, followed by aqiqa (tonsure) on the twenty-first day and sunnat (circumcision) of the male child between six months to ten years of age. The Turks bury their dead and observe funeral rites known as ziarat and chehlam on the third and fortieth days respectively. During the fortieth day, alms are distributed to the poor.
The Haj or holy pilgrimage to Mecca is a cherished desire of all Turk which they hope to accomplish at least once in their lifetime. They also celebrate festivals like Id-ul-Fitr (Feast of Alms), Id-ul-Zuha (a feast in which a goat is ritually slaughtered in commemoration of Abraham’s sacrifice), and Id Milad which is the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday.