Bihari Muslims
Muslim couple at a polling booth in Gaya, Bihar during the 2015 elections
Total population
c.20 million
Regions with significant populations
 India (Bihar only)17,500,000[1][2]
Urdu, various Bihari languages[5]
(Sunni majority, Shia minority)
Related ethnic groups
Other Biharis

Bihari Muslims are adherents of Islam who identify linguistically, culturally, and genealogically as Biharis. They are geographically native to the region comprising the Bihar state of India, although there are significantly large communities of Bihari Muslims living elsewhere in the Indian subcontinent due to the Partition of British India in 1947, which prompted the community to migrate en masse from Bihar to East Pakistan.[6]

Bihari Muslims make up a significant minority in Pakistan under the diverse community of Muhajirs (lit.'migrants'), and largely began arriving in the country following the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, which led to the secession of East Pakistan from the Pakistani union as the independent state of Bangladesh. Since 1971, Bihari Muslims residing in Bangladesh are widely referred to as Stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh who are awaiting repatriation to Pakistan,[7][8] and have faced heightened persecution in the country due to their collaboration with West Pakistani forces in perpetrating the 1971 Bangladesh genocide against Bengalis and Hindus.[9][10][11][12]

The majority of Bihari Muslims adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam and the adoption of the religion by Biharis traces back to the 14th century, when Afghan traders and Sufi missionaries began to arrive in the region a century prior to the Mughal Empire's conquest of the subcontinent.[13] There are also a significant minority of Biharis who adhere to the Shia branch of Islam, largely residing in Patna and Gopalpur in Siwan district, tracing their religious descent to Shia Muslim settlers of distant Persian ancestry from Lucknow in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, who arrived in the region during the 19th century.[14]


Sher Shah Suri Tomb in Sasaram. He was the founder of the Sur Empire and was born in Bihar to Pathan parents.

The large-scale arrival of Muslims in Bihar began in the 14th century, when Afghan traders and Sufi saints-warriors settled in the South Bihar plains and furthered the process of agricultural colonisation while also spreading Islam among the local populace. Muslims were not the only new immigrants to Bihar during this period. Inscriptions in Bihar Sharif tell of a Sufi warrior by the name of Malik Ibrahim Bayu who came to Bihar and defeated the non-Hindu Kol tribe who had been oppressing the local Muslims. He conquered many Kol chiefdoms.[15]

Some of the kings and chieftains of medieval Bihar were Muslim. The chieftaincy of Kharagpur Raj in modern-day Munger district was originally controlled by Hindu Rajputs. In 1615 after a failed rebellion by Raja Sangram Singh, his son, Toral Mal converted and he changed his name to Roz Afzun.[16]

The Faujdars of Purnea (also known as the Nawabs of Purnea) created an autonomous territory for themselves under the leadership of Saif Khan and ruled in parts of Eastern Bihar in the early 1700s. They were engaged in a protracted conflict with the neighbouring Kingdom of Nepal.[17]

Many Bihari Muslims migrated to Pakistan and Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) after independence in 1947.[18]


Bihari Muslim society has traditionally been divided by caste and clan affiliations. Muslims refer to these distinctions as Biradri and the intermarriage remains rare.[19] The neologism Ashraf socio-political groups are historic ruling upper class castes [20] and include groups like Pathans, Sayyid, Sheikh, Mallick and Mirza. The Pathans of Bihar are mostly the descendants of Pashtun settlers with some being descended from local high-caste Bhumihar and Rajput converts who intermarried with the said ethnoreligious group. The Mirzas claim descent from the Mughals and are found mainly in the area around Darbhanga and Muzaffarpur. Among the largest socio-political grouping under the neologism of so-called Ajlaf groups are the Ansaris who form 20% of the Muslim population in Bihar. Their traditional occupation is weaving.[19]

Distribution by district

The following table shows the Muslim population of Bihar by district:[21]

Number District Population (2001) Muslim population Percentage
1 Kishanganj 1,796,348 1,123,456 68%
2 Katihar 2,392,638 1,024,678 43%
3 Araria 2,158,608 887,972 42%
4 Purnia 2,543,942 935,239 38%
5 Darbhanga 3,295,789 748,971 23%
6 Sitamarhi 2,682,720 568,992 21%
7 West Champaran 3,043,466 646,597 21%
8 East Champaran 3,939,773 755,005 19%
9 Bhagalpur 2,423,172 423,246 18%
10 Madhubani 3,575,281 941,579 26%
11 Siwan 2,714,349 494,176 18%
12 Gopalganj 2,152,638 367,219 17%
13 Supaul 1,732,578 302,120 17%
14 Sheohar 515,961 80,076 16%
15 Muzaffarpur 4,746,714 752,358 15%
16 Saharsa 1,508,182 217,922 14%
17 Begusarai 2,349,366 313,713 13%
18 Banka 1,608,773 190,051 12%
19 Gaya 3,473,428 403,439 13%
20 Jamui 1,398,796 170,334 12%
21 Nawada 1,809,696 204,457 11%
22 Madhepura 1,526,646 173,605 11%
23 Aurangabad 2,013,055 221,436 11%
24 Kaimur 1,289,074 123,048 10%
25 Khagaria 1,280,354 131,441 10%
26 Rohtas 2,450,748 246,760 10%
27 Samastipur 3,394,793 355,897 10%
28 Saran 3,248,701 337,767 10%
29 Vaishali 2,718,421 259,158 10%
30 Jehanabad 1,514,315 124,149 8%
31 Munger 1,337,797 98,791 7.4%
32 Patna 4,718,592 366,164 8%
33 Bhojpur 2,243,144 163,193 7%
34 Nalanda 2,370,528 176,871 7%
35 Sheikhpura 525,502 37,755 7%
37 Buxar 1,402,396 86,382 6%
38 Lakhisarai 802,225 35,378 4%

Sum total of this table is 14,780,500 Muslims out of 83.0 million total population in 2001 census, hence Muslims were 16.5% of total population in Bihar. In 2011 census, total population grew to 103.9985 million, of which 16.9% or 17,557,809 were Muslims.[22] During 2001–2011, Muslims grew by 33.433%, while non-Muslims grew by 23.537%. District-wise break up by religions for 2011 is not available.

Kishanganj is the only district in Bihar with a Muslim majority.

Muslim communities

In common with the rest of India, the Muslims in Bihar are largely descendants of native converts from various castes.[23] The rise of the Indian Muslim population can be traced back to the early 12th century, with many conversions to Islam taking place during the rule of the Sur Empire, which had established its capital in Sasaram.[24]

Notable Bihari Muslims

Khan Bahadur Khuda Bakhsh


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  2. ^ "Census of India Website : Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India". Retrieved 4 January 2020.
  3. ^ Arshad, Sameer (5 November 2012). "Will Nitish's visit boost Biharis in Pakistan?". Times Of India. Abdul Kadir Khanzada, who represents Orangi Town in Pakistan's parliament, said he would like to welcome Nitish to his constituency, where a majority of over a million people have their roots in Bihar.
  4. ^ "The neglected 'Bihari' community in Bangladesh". Deutsche Welle. 14 January 2019. According to local NGOs working for Bihari welfare, around 400,000 members of the community live in camps in Bangladesh.
  5. ^ "Case of Bhojpuri and Hindi in Mauritius". 27 July 2007. Archived from the original on 27 September 2016. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
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  7. ^ "In Pictures: Plight of Biharis in Bangladesh". Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  8. ^ Zakaria, Anam. "Remembering the war of 1971 in East Pakistan". Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  9. ^ Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Report Submitted to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives and Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate by the Department of State in Accordance with Sections 116(d) and 502B(b) of the Foreign Assistance 1961, as Amended S. prt. United States: U.S. Department of State. 1998. p. 1869. Approximately 240,000 Bihari Muslims live in various camps around the country; they have remained in the country since 1971 awaiting settlement in Pakistan. Biharis are non-Bengali Muslims who emigrated to what was formerly East Pakistan during the 1947 partition of British India. Most supported Pakistan during Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence. They later declined to accept Bangladesh citizenship and asked to be repatriated to Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan historically has been reluctant to accept the Biharis. During a visit to Dhaka in January, the Pakistani Prime Minister announced that Pakistan would be willing to assist in their repatriation, but no repatriation occurred during that year.
  10. ^ Times, Kasturi Rangan Special to The New York (22 December 1971). "Bengalis Hunt Down Biharis, Who Aided Foe". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
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  20. ^ Karna, Mahendra Narain (1981). Studies in Bihar's Economy and Society. Concept Publishing Company.
  21. ^ "Error Value". Archived from the original on 8 April 2016. Retrieved 11 May 2018.
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