The Hazara of Pakistan
The Hazara are probably of Mongol descent; descendants of soldiers left in Afghanistan by Genghis Khan in order to occupy the region. Their Mongol physical characteristics and their language have long distinguished them from the other ethnic groups of the area. Their language, called Hazaragi, is an Indo-Iranian tongue with many words borrowed from Mongol. Many Hazara also speak Dari Persian as a second language.
Their homeland, Afghanistan, has been shaken by rebellions and civil war. After an unsuccessful rebellion in the 1800's, some Hazara fled and settled in Pakistan. In recent years, they have been joined by other Hazara refugees fleeing the civil war in Afghanistan.
What Are Their Lives Like? Traditionally, the Hazara were nomads herding sheep, goats, and horses. Now, some earn a living through mixed grain farming. The major crops are wheat and barley, and a variety of fruits are also grown. Many of the men work as cobblers, porters, water carriers, or trash collectors. This willingness to perform menial tasks has had an adverse effect on them; it earned them a reputation as hardworking people, while also resulting in their being looked down upon and discriminated against.
Hazara men wear knee length, cotton shirts hanging over matching baggy trousers, embroidered skullcaps, and turbans. Women wear similar clothing, except that they use brightly colored shawls to cover their heads.
Hazara marriage ceremonies follow the traditional Islamic pattern. Most marry within their own communities and nearly always within the Hazara ethnic group. Marriages between first cousins are preferred, particularly from the father's side of the family. When a girl reaches about fifteen years of age, she is usually married to the man of her parents' choice.
Only boys have the opportunity for formal education, which usually lasts only one or two years. The teachings are centered on Islam, and memorization of poetry is a major part of their education. As a result, illiteracy is very high among the Hazara.
Despite their reputation as fierce, warlike people, the Hazara are widely renowned for their hospitality, warmth, and generosity. Also, Hazara women have a greater degree of social freedom than women in most other Muslim groups.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Religious authorities called Sayyids play an integral role in the Islam of the Hazara. Sayyids have claimed descent from the founder of Islam, Mohammed. Although they were originally Arabs, the Sayyids of Pakistan have intermarried with the Hazara and have become much like them in physical appearance and culture. They use their sacred qualities to serve the religious needs of the common people. The Sayyids' prayers and good favor are believed to bring blessing.
What Are Their Needs?
The Hazara of Pakistan also have great spiritual needs. In Pakistan, Christians often live in fear of persecution or even martyrdom for professing their faith. Neither the Bible nor the Jesus film has been translated into Hazaragi. However, there are some radio broadcasts in their language.Prayer Points
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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