| · Place: Nashik District, Indian State of Maharashtra
| · Population: 4 million
| · Christians: Less than 20,000 people, 0.5% (all denominations combined).
| · Muslims: 600,000 people, 6,7% (mostly city dwellers)
Nashik, (also Nasik), is a medium size, fast-growing city. The river Godavari flows through the city and the temples and steps on its banks make Nashik one of the holiest places for Hindus all over the World. Once every 12 years the city hosts millions of Hindus participating in the pilgrimage festival called Kumbh Mela (the Urn Festival). In Hindu mythology, Nasik got its name when the sister of the demon Ravana proposed to marry the god Rama. Hearing this, Rama ordered her nose (‘nasika’ in Sanskrit) to be cut off. Thus Nashik got its name. This is the context in which Muslims in Nashik live – surrounded by ancient Hindu tradition and culture.
Power to Heal the Sick
It was not until the establishment of regional Muslim kingdoms in the 14th and 15th centuries and the arrival of Muslim missionaries that the Muslims began to form a distinct community. The two leading Muslim missionaries in Nashik were Khunmir Hussaini (1520) and Syed Hussaini (1568). It is believed that both came with zealous preaching and the power to heal the sick, thus many Hindus readily converted to Islam. Devotion to these Muslim saints continues to this day.
The vast majority of Muslims in Nashik (as in all of India) are Sunnis who have been influenced over the generations by Hindu religion and culture. Some of the Muslims peoples residing in Nashik district are the Sayyed, the Pathan, the Malik, Muslims from Rajasthan, the Lakarharas (or wood-sellers who are a mixed population of Shaikhs), and a Shia sect called the Dawoodi Bohra. The majority of Muslims in the city are from the Sayyed group.
The Plight of the Muslims
A simple visit to Nashik city will easily demonstrate the plight of the Muslims living there. Many live in congested areas where the city infrastructure is of poor quality. When we wrote this article (summer 2006), there were no known ministries daily reaching out to Nashik’s Muslims with the Gospel. However, this does not mean God is not at work among them.
Many genuine believers in Nashik have been praying for the Muslim community. Some are fearful of Muslims as well, caught up in the historical Indian prejudices between the varying religious communities. Another area for prayer is Malegaon, a city in Nashik district a few hours drive north east of Nashik city which is over 70% Muslim, far exceeding the Muslim population of Nashik city. Malegoan has a reputation for its communal tensions between the religious communities and the more volatile Muslim population.
Prayer points for Nashik, Maharashtra, India:
* May God send labourers into the streets, alleys, homes and families of Nashik to proclaim Christ to the Muslim community (Mt 22:9-10).
* May God prepare the men and women of peace (Luke 10:6) among the Muslims of Nashik who can receive the message.
* May God help the Christians of in the area to move beyond prejudices to really loving and caring for the Muslim community.
* May God pour out His Spirit giving the Muslims a hunger and thirst to know God and His Word (Luke 24:27-32).