Muslims in Lucknow – India



Lucknow is the capital of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Lucknow is to the northwest of India, and it sits on the northwestern shore of the Gomti River. The city stands at an elevation of approximately 123 meters above sea level. It is bounded on the east by Barabanki, on the west by Unnao, on the south by Raebareli and in the north by Sitapur and Hardoi.

Area and Population:

The population of Lucknow district in 2019 was 3,590,000. It covers an area of 2,528 km2, and it comes second in area after the city of Kanpur.

Most residents are of Indian origin. Moreover, a group of Asians came and settled in this city since its establishment. Few Europeans and Arabs are also in the city where they founded their own businesses.

The official language in Lucknow is Hindi as in the various other cities in the country. Most of the people also talk the Urdu Language. The city is considered the center of Hindu and Urdu Literature too. It is moreover a main touristic destination, and the Indian authorities give much attention to the city’s security and services to attract tourists and visitors.


Lucknow has a humid subtropical climate with cool, dry winters from mid-November to February and dry, hot summers. Monsoon rain occurs from July to September what boosts the agricultural sector and provides water for irrigation and general usages.


Situated in the middle of the Indus-Gangetic Plain, Lucknow city is in a seismic zone. The Gomti River, Lucknow’s chief geographical feature, meanders through the city and divides it. The city’s geographical topology provides the main factors for the natural resources in the city. Orchards of various fruit trees and plantations form green plains that support the city’s economy especially in the field of exporting vegetables and fruits as part of foreign trade.


Several ancient historic records indicate that Lucknow was under the rule of the Mughal Empire. Then it was ruled by Indian tribes which controlled its territories to seize its natural resources. The rule of these tribes lasted until 1753 AD when several disputes erupted with the British over allotting these natural resources. In 1800 AD, the British government decided to occupy the city according to the British East India Company Treaty. Thus, the British East India Company abolished local rule and took complete control of the city and the residents of the city were forced to work according to the treaty. As such Britain gained control over all the components of the society in the city. However, in 1857 AD, rebellious movements against the British occupation made their first appearance in the city. The British troops confronted these movements with opening fire on the demonstrators.

In 1877 AD, the British governor reached a settlement with the chief commissioner of the city. The situation was stable until 1902 AD, when movements called again and forcefully for the withdrawal of the British rule. Lucknow was one of the major centers of the rebellion and actively participated in India’s independence movement, emerging as a strategically important North Indian city. Its residents united with the residents of the other Indian cities until in 1947 AD the independence of India from the British rule was officially announced.

Form of Government:

Lucknow division which consists of six districts is headed by the Divisional Commissioner of Lucknow. The Commissioner is the head of local government institutions (including municipal corporations) in the division, is in charge of infrastructure development in his division, and is also responsible for maintaining law and order in the division. Lucknow district administration is headed by the District Magistrate of Lucknow. The District Magistrate (DM) of Lucknow reports to the divisional commissioner. The DM is in charge of property records and revenue collection for the central government and oversees the elections held in the city.


Lucknow depends mainly on its local productions. It ranked sixth in a list of the ten fastest growing job-creating cities in India. It is among the Indian cities that possess a large number of factories, companies, and industrial institutions providing many job-opportunities to the residents of the area.
The major industries in Lucknow include aeronautics, automotive, machine tools, distillery chemicals, furniture and embroidery. The city has potential in the handicrafts sector and accounts for 60 percent of total exports from the state. Major export items are marble products, handicrafts, art pieces, gems, jewelry, and textiles.
Lucknow is among the top cities of India by GDP. Lucknow is also a center for research and development as home to the R&D centers of the National Milk Grid of the National Dairy Development Board, the Central Institute of Medical and Aromatic Plants, and the National Handloom Development among others.

Main Landmarks:

Lucknow is located in a historic area known previously as Awadhi. It is a multicultural hub, and it is characterized a center for Hindi and Urdu literature. It is connected to the other Indian cities via a train station and an international airport – Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport.

It is also rich in the various architectural styles and several famous buildings which were constructed under the Mogul rule most of which are located in the ancient part of the city. Among the main landmarks of the city are:

  • Rumi Darwaza: Also sometimes known as the Turkish Gate, Rumi Darwaza used to mark the entrance to Old Lucknow. The gateway was built in 1784 AD, and it is an example of the fascinating Awadhi architecture.
  • Husainabad Clock Tower:  It is located adjacent to the Rumi Darwaza, and it was built in 1881 AD. With a height of 67 meters, it is adjudged as the tallest among all the clock towers in India. Its English constructors made it a replica to the Big Ben clock tower of London, and it reflects Victorian and Gothic style structural designs.
  • Prince of Wales Zoological Gardens:  It is popularly known as Lucknow Zoological Garden, and it is one of the largest zoos in India with an area of over 71 acres. It was established in 1921 AD to commemorate the visit of the Prince of Wales to Lucknow.
  • Bara Imambara: Built back in 1784 AD, this complex is also known as Asfi Imambara. Bara means big while imambara is the Hindi counterpart for the Arabic word Husseiniyah meaning a congregation hall for Shia Muslim commemoration ceremonies. The building also includes the large Asfi mosque, the Bhul-bhulaiya (the labyrinth), and the Bowli, a step well with running water.
  • Hazratganj:  It is the Downtown area, and it is situated in the heart of Lucknow. It is a central shopping center that contains shopping complexes, restaurants, hotels, theaters, and offices. The place was founded back in 1810 AD, and it is modeled after the European structure.

History of Islam:

Lucknow, that naturally beautiful city, nurtures unique tolerance between its various citizens of different religions and sects. That is a key feature of Lucknow which is, in fact, one of India’s only major cities that has not experienced any major problems among its residents, that it clearly teaches India lessons in politeness and cultural refinement. The city’s cosmopolitanism has its roots in the ruling Nawabs, or princes, of the Awadh Kingdom who ruled between 1722 and 1858 AD. Awadh, comprising what is today the central region of Uttar Pradesh, was established in 1722 AD under Nawab Saadat Ali Khan, having been a province of the waning Mughal Empire since the mid-16th Century. The fertile region, with its thriving agricultural economy, became one of the most prosperous areas of northern India. In 1775 AD, the Nawabs established their capital at Lucknow.
The newly minted political capital quickly became the cultural capital of North India under the patronage of the wealthy Shia Muslim Nawabs, descended as they were from a Persian dynasty. As such the Nawabs of Awadh represented a continuation of the Shia history. In fact, Rampur in the north of India, which was followed by Lucknow, was until recently the center of the local Shia government. Lucknow became a beacon for scholars, artists, poets, architects, embroiders, craftsmen and other practitioners of the arts from a wide variety of cultural and religious backgrounds. The city further witnessed the establishment of many schools and libraries which comprised original Shiite books.

It is worth mentioning that under the Nawab rule, grand reverend Shiite authority Marja’ Sayed Dildar Ali Naqvi (Died in 1820 AD / 1235 AH) – popularly known as Ghufranmaab which means “the one who lives in heaven” due to his scholarly attributes – spread the Shia sect all over India especially in the north of the country, while refuting decisively Sufism influenced by Indian culture and rituals. Upon his guidance, Lucknow became the city of Shiite scientific and spiritual depth in India.

Lucknow today is sprinkled with proof of its residents’ creative efforts, with the many towering monuments, mosques and other buildings from that period showing a harmonic blend of Indian, Persian, Arabic and Turkish influences. The Nawabs cultivated a refined Urdu language, distinct from the Hindi many of their subjects spoke, as an expression of their culture, drawing from a variety of linguistic and poetic sources and transforming Lucknow into a literary center. Even today, the Urdu spoken in Lucknow instills a great politeness into daily speech and is known for its softness and sweetness.

The people of Lucknow are still committed to the spiritual compatibility between the two faiths, just as the two rivers of the city Ganga and Jamuni – an imagery often used to describe the harmonious Hindu-Muslim culture or tahzeeb that is legendary in the historical city. Scenes of this commitment are evident everywhere. The city’s Hindu Purana Hanuman Temple bears an Islamic crescent over its dome, a sign of gratitude to the Nawabs who had constructed the temple. Local Muslims often support the temple’s community of Hindu worshippers, especially during festivals, by setting up stalls to hand out flowers and water. Hindus do the same for Muslims during the Holy Months of Ramadan and Muhurram of the Islamic calendar.

In fact, both communities often replace the religious greetings of salaam alaikum (for Muslims) and namaste (for Hindus) with the common word “aadaab”, which means respect.

Another important by-product of the Nawabs’ rule was the economic integration of the two communities, especially in the chikan, or embroidered textiles, industry. Originally developed to furnish the Nawabs and elite class with fine clothing, this labor-intensive work increasingly became the heart of Lucknow’s economy and promoted both economic reliance and sustained civic engagement and trust between Hindus and Muslims.

However, the many political upheavals at the national level since Indian independence have consistently challenged this integrated culture.

Following Partition in 1947 AD, the Urdu language, so carefully cultivated within the Nawabi court, was declared Pakistan’s official language, and much of the Urdu culture in Lucknow became associated with Pakistan and Muslims. This simplistic political division between two mutually intelligible languages – Urdu for a Muslim Pakistan and Hindi for a Hindu India – betrayed the great cultural complexity that had emerged over generations. Yet, for many under this spell, Urdu and Urdu culture, and those associated with it, quickly became an enemy of the Indian state.

Still, when communal tensions have boiled up, Lucknow’s strong culture has managed to avoid any major rioting and divisions among the followers of the different religions in India and between Shia and Sunni Muslims. Here the attacks against Dalits, or “Untouchables”, by fellow Hindus must be mentioned.

And even if Lucknow’s culture is able to survive these political challenges, it’s in danger of simply succumbing to the passage of time, as the modern world increasingly invades the city’s ancient lanes. With the demise of the era of the Nawabs, the Lucknow of today, bearing as it does the modern problems related to poverty, crime and corruption would be unrecognizable to them. The hope remains in doubling efforts to overcome these political challenges and putting an end to cultural decline through establishing new institutes for the Urdu language and its intellectual and literary heritage.

Muslims Today:

The mosque minarets and the golden domes in Lucknow address the visitor as if welcoming him in the land of peace and love.

The ancient commercial neighborhoods in the northwest part of Lucknow including the silver shops, the stalls of embroideries, brass artefacts, and publications, and shops in addition to its many industries including cotton and sugar factories are but evidences of the deep historic relationship between Muslims and Hindus.

Lucknow is considered an absolutely pure state for Shia – the followers of Ahlulbeit (PBUT), unlike the other states of India where there are followers of different religions and sects. There are some 3 million Shia Muslims in Lucknow. Lucknow forms the spiritual and scholar depth of the Shiites in India; in fact, some have dubbed it the Qom of India or the Najaf of India as it contains scores of Hawzas and thousands of mosques and Hussainiyahs scattered all over giving it its religious aspect. Furthermore, as the residents are very much dedicated to Ahlulbeit (PBUT), replica shrines were built for the Holy shrines in Iraq such as Najaf, Karbala, Khathemiyain, Samura, and Kufa. As such, we find in Lucknow a vivid image for the holy shrines seen and visited by the pilgrims in Iraq.

It is worth mentioning that the city of Lucknow played a great role in spreading the sect of Ahlulbeit (PBUT) in several countries, especially in East Asian countries and some African countries where Indian communities of hundreds of thousands of Shia are present. Moreover, the Hawzas and religious centers in Lucknow prepare pupils of the religious Hawzas and dispatch them in educational missions to call for Islam among the Shia of India and others, what led to the guidance of thousands of people in those countries.

On a parallel level, the administration of the Holy Shrine of Abbass (PBUH) in Iraq had paid special interest for the city of Lucknow for its specialty of comprising replicas for the cities of Holy Najaf and Sacred Qum. This interest was practically manifested through several events and occasions such as sponsoring Ameer Al Mumineen (PBUH) Ceremony which became a gate through which the Holy Shrines in Iraq overlook the Indian Sub-continent.

Ashura in Lucknow:

The Tenth Day of Muharram is considered as one of the greatest days in Lucknow. In a show of Azadari – as mourning is referred to in Lucknow – the entire city becomes fully in black. Mourning sessions are spread everywhere; the overwhelming majority of the city population partake in the massive mourning rallies and lamentation chants. Even more, hundreds of thousands of mourners from other Indian cities flood the city where they practice the Ashura mourning rituals including crying, hitting their chests and walking barefoot. They also remake constructions that retell the catastrophic events that took place in Karbala back on the day of Ashura in year 61 AH. Moreover, food and water are distributed on the believers for the love of the Master of Martyrs Imam Hussein (PBUH). All of these aspects express the extent of loyalty the people of Lucknow and India in general have to Ahlulbeit (PBUT).

Mosques and Hussainiyahs (Imambaras):

Lucknow is the home of several mosques and Hussainiyahs (imambaras) and religious institutions and societies. Besides its religious and social roles, the city became a prominent touristic destination which travelers always insist on visiting.

Bara Imambara:

This complex contains Bara Imambara – or the Great Imam Husseiniyah – the largest Husseiniyah in the world. It was built by Asaf-ud-Daula, Nawab of Awadh in 1784 AD, and it is also known as Asfi Imambara. With its several edifices, the Bara Imambara is one of the most prominent historic, architectural, and touristic landmarks in India. On the wake of the British rule, the occupants controlled the entire complex and built a water channel adjacent to the western wall of the mosque with the scheme of demolishing it. However, the construction of the mosque was strong enough and resisted any such schemes, and the British efforts proved fruitless.

The complex comprises also the famous Asfi Great Mosque the construction of which was completed in 1794 AD. This mosque is known for combining the Islamic and Indian architectural styles, with its marvelously decorated domes towered by soaring minarets.

Yet, despite being a masterpiece in art, it does not receive the suitable care, as its external structure needs to be continually maintained in addition to frequent reparations. This complex has two vast entrances that lead to the main hall.

Except for the galleries in the interior, there is no woodwork or iron in the entire structure. At 50 by 16 meters and over 15 meters tall, it has no beams supporting the ceiling and is one of the largest such arched constructions in the world. There are eight surrounding chambers built to different roof heights, permitting the space above these to be reconstructed as a three-dimensional labyrinth with passages interconnecting with each other through 489 identical doorways. This part of the building, and often the whole complex, may be referred to as the Bhulbhulaiya. Known as a popular attraction, it is possibly the only existing maze in India and came about unintentionally to support the weight of the building which is constructed on marshy land. The main imambara contains the tomb of Asaf-ud-Daula and his crown.

The most remarkable purpose for this religious congregation place is Azadari – commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (PBUH) in the Lunar months of Muharram and Safar. In this season, the cities of Shia become fully in black. Other religious occasions are also held in the imambara such as the Birthday of the Holy Prophet and the birthdays and martyrdoms of the Imams of Ahlulbeit (PBUT).

As an example, the court of the Husseiniyah witnessed a vast ceremony on the 12th of the Lunar month of Rajab in the year 1434 AH – commemorating the birthday of Imam Ali bin Abi Taleb (PBUH). Sponsored by the Holy Shrine of Abbass (PBUH), Imam Ali’s First Annual Cultural Festival came under the slogan: “The Prince of Believers (Ameer al Mu’mineen)…. The Trustee of the Divine Mission and the Prince of the Nation”.

The huge turnout attending the inauguration ceremony included religious, intellectual, cultural, and social figures, dignitaries as well as pupils from the Hawzas in India, deputies of religious authorities in the Islamic world, and a massive attendees of believers.

Being one of the architectural and touristic wonders, this grandiose complex has become the destination of tourists and visitors from all around the world.

Chota Imambara:

It is also known as Imambara Husseinabad Mubarak. Built by Mohammad Ali Shah, the Nawab of Awadh in 1838 AD, it was his burial place after his death. It is richly decorated with chandeliers and a good number of crystal lamp-stands that it is referred to as the Palace of Lights. It is a most liked touristic destination.

Islamic Institutions and Societies:

Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama (DUNU) (House of Knowledge & Assembly of Scholars University):

It is one of the oldest Islamic institution at Lucknow, which draws a large number of Muslim students from all over the world. Additionally, it is one of very few institutes in the region to teach the Islamic Sciences completely in Arabic. As for the formation of the Nadwa, a group of great Islamic scholars from India convened and discussed Islamic educational affairs, the future of Arabic schools, and the social and moral affairs of Muslims. They decided to establish a scientific religious institution to address these affairs. Accordingly, Nadwatul-Ulema held its first convention session under the chairmanship of Maulana Lutfullah of Aligarh and discussed and finalized each and every guideline. They issued their goals which included bringing harmony and co-operation among various groups within the Muslim Millat, bringing about the moral, religious and educational reform and progress, and updating the Islamic curricula with modern sciences, vocational training etc.

  • Muhemmat Shia:

It is a religious society headed by Zahir Ahmad Khan Iftikhari – one of the Islamic Shiite figures in India with prolific activities. Among the main missions of the society are establishing a library and printing and distributing Islamic books in the Urdu Language.

  • The Holy Quran Institution:

This religious institution is supervised by a group of tradesmen and men of intellect. Among its main missions are printing and publishing the Holy Quran and its interpretations. It comprises a valuable library open for researchers and students.

Hawzas and Religious Institutions in Lucknow:

Lucknow plays a prominent role in spreading the true Islam among its Muslim Indian citizens and highlighting the teachings of Ahlulbeit (PBUT). In fact, religious institutions and centers sent Callers for Islam and religious men to teach the Indians loyal to Ahlulbeit (PBUT). The religious atmosphere is quite dominant in the city for the abundance of religious pupils giving any visitor the expressing that he is walking in the streets of Holy Najaf or Sacred Qum.

Main Islamic Schools and Universities:
  • Sultanil Madaris:

This Islamic and scientific school was founded by Sayyed Mohammad Baqer Radawi Kashmiri (1844 – 1895 AD) in 1892 AD under the supervision of Nawab Mehdi Hasan Khan. A great number of scholars and religious pupils graduate from this key school, and the major personalities who received education in it are not limited.

  • Wa’z School:

It is a religious school and a special Islamic Hawza. It was established by Allamah Sayyed Najmul Hassan. Besides the classes and administrative offices, it comprises a valuable library that includes some 20 thousand Islamic books in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and English. The library further contains invaluable manuscripts. The library has its own printing press to publish its researches. The school further comprises dorms for students. A great number of scholars and pupils graduated from this school and were dispatched to call for Islam in India, Pakistan, Africa, and East Asia.

  • Nazimiyah School:

It was founded by Sayyed Mohammad Baqer Radawi Kashmiri who charged its administration to Sayyed Najul Hasan. It is still flourishing to our day, as a great number of pupils and callers for Islam graduate from it annually.

  • Sultaniya School:

It was established by Sayyed Mohammad Baqer Radawi Kashmiri. This famous school includes a rich library of more than 5000 books in Arabic, Persian, and Urdu in addition to some manuscripts.

  • Abu Taleb Scientific School:

It is a religious school that adopts a united scientific curriculum. Among its main activities is giving religious courses twice a week and marking Islamic occasions.

  • Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama (House of Knowledge):

Darululoom is the educational body of Nadwat-ul-Ulama. It was established by scholars from the four Islamic schools in the onset of the twentieth century (around 1320 AH / 1903 AD) upon the foundation of Nadwat-ul-Ulama. It is headed by scholars from the four Sunni sects. Batches of students have graduated from this university which draws Muslim students from African and Asian countries. This university comprises an invaluable library of about 60 thousand books.

  • University of Ahmad bin Irfan Shaheed:

It is an Islamic university affiliated to Nadwat-ul-Ulama. It aims at training and graduating senior scholars who are competent to assume the mission of Islam in the various diverse fields.

  • Mu’minat University (Muslim Believing Women University):

It is located adjacent to Ahmad bin Irfan University, and it is linked to it. It aims to build a new generation of Muslim women with high university degrees in Islamic Studies.

Libraries in Lucknow:

One of the interesting aspects of Lucknow is its connection with the culture of art and literature. So the presence of libraries in the city is the most inevitable thing to experience. Some of these libraries have existed for over a century and are still serving as great sources and treasures of very rare books and manuscripts.

  • Nasiriyah Library:

It is a great library that includes the library of the Grand Shiite Authority Mir Hamid Hussein of Lucknow (died in 1306 AH/ 1888 AD) the author of the encyclopedia named “Aqabat al Anwar fi Imamet al A’mmat al Athar”. Mir Hamid was one of the senior Shia Ithna Ashari religious leaders in Lucknow, and he was a prolific author who left more than 200 books.

The library further comprises the heritage of his father the grand Shiite authority Mohammad Qilli Mussawi (Died in 1260 AH/ 1844 AD).

Later on, the son of Mir Hamed, Nasir Hussein developed the library through expanding it and enriching it with rare books. Thus it came to be known as Nasiriyar Library, and it came to be one of the largest libraries in India. It comprises rare books and manuscripts in jurisprudence and its rules, interpretation of the Holy Quran, traditions, theology, wisdom, and others. Today its collections covers over 30 thousands printed books and manuscripts.

  • Mumtazul Ulama Library:

It was established by the reverend Allamah Sayyed Mohammad Naqqi, famous as “Mumstazul Ulama” who kept in his library invaluable and rare books and manuscripts that mounted to over 18 thousand books in Arabic, Persian, and Urdu. These formed the core of “Mumtazul Ulama” Library.

  • Faranki Mahal Library:

It was established by Qiyamuddine Abdul Qadder of Lucknow, and its administration was charged to some scholars. Sessions of religious sciences are held in the library which comprises about 9000 works, half of which are manuscripts and most of its books are on Islamic sciences and are in Arabic, Persian, and Urdu.

Thanks to the high potentials of the Shiite Ithna Ashari Indians which they drew from the depth and originality of the righteous religion, they gained a great power, will, and determination and were the source of admiration to others who came to know their religion and their good intentions towards the whole humanity. Hearts were drawn to them, and minds were convinced by their doctrine. As such, India witnessed a strong and widespread Shiism movement, and Indians massively embraced this Islamic sect, and eventually Shia mosques, Hussainiyahs (imambaras) and Hawzas came to be found all across the broad extensive country.

At last, the utmost aspiration in that country remains that this section of believing Indians enhance their religious status and spread their doctrine with thoughtful technical and modern means through focusing on translating their doctrine in their conduct and economic movement, as the economy has a considerable impact on the lives of the individuals and on orienting their life procession. As such, they would become a source of intellectual and cultural light that would attract more and more new believers.