DILIP KUMAR CHATTOPADHTAT
The Ferazee and Wahabi Movements of Bengal
THE FIRST HALF of the nineteenth century witnessed the rise and decline of two socio-religious reform movements: the Ferazee which dominated the rural areas in Eastern Bengal and Wahabi in Western Bengal. The Ferazees belonged to a dissident sect which., setting aside tradition and learned opinion, gave its own interpretation of the Koran. This difference was less important from a sociological standpoint than the affinity between the two, especially when it came to the drive against the oppressive zamindars and indigo planters.
The Ferazees5 activities assumed organizational forms in the Madaripur sub-division of Eastern Bengal (now Bangladesh). Ferai^i in Arabic means ^commandments of God' from which the movement derives its name. A Ferazee is thus one who acts strictly according to the commandments of God and the directives of the Prophet.2 Their mission was to bring a revival to the Muslims of Bengal who, by the introduction of un-Islamic laws or regulations, had strayed from the five cardinal injunctions of nema^ (prayer), ro^a (fast ing), ^akat (alms-giving), ha^ (pilgrimage) and ^ihad (holy war).
The first and foremost of their leaders was Shariat-ullah (1781-1840), a man of humble origins in Faridpur district, who founded the sect around 1804. At the age of 18 he went on a pilgrimage to Mecca