I had always thought that Memons had converted to Islam around 250 to 300 years ago. My own elders told me that a Lohana Hindu named Nathu Ram or Nathu Lal in Bhavnagar had embraced Islam around that time, and the approximately thousand Memon families originating from Bhavnagar (Gohilwad) area of Gujarat are his descendants. There are of course Memons from other areas of India as well, like Bantva and Dhoraji. The total Memon population of the world is not known, it could be ten million, considering that they can be found in every country in the world.

So I was surprised to see a tweet by the Indian Gujarat Society that about 600 years ago, a holy man named Saifuddin had converted  700 Lohana Hindus to Islam and they became known as Memons (from "Momin", meaning Muslim). "Lohana" is a Hindu caste meaning "soldiers" or "warriors".

I have issues here. We've known that a few Lohana families were forced to flee Sindh to Gujarat and had got lost in the Thar desert. It was a holy man (not Saifuddin, as far as I remember) who gave them water and food, and they were so impressed by his piety that they asked him to convert them to Islam. When they reached Gujarat, the local raja told them to surrender their arms and weapons and take up some other profession. So they adopted trading and to this day they believe that they have succeeded in business due to the prayers and blessings of the saint who converted them.

Some Memons believe that the saint was none other than the famous Abdul Qadir Gilani, others think that it was one of his sons or descendants. Whoever it was, Memons came to Pakistan in 1947 with all their possessions, which they used to set up industries and businesses in the new state of Pakistan, and in just fourteen years the strongman of Pakistan (Ayub Khan) said admiringly, "Memons own half of Pakistan". It should be remembered that at that time Pakistan also included Bangladesh, where Memons owned most of the factories which were seized by the government.

There is a popular misconception among northern Pakistanis that Mr. Jinnah was a Memon. He may have had Lohana ancestors, but he was born in an Aga Khani family but later joined the Shiite Ishna Ashari community. Similarly, the cricketers Hanif Mohammed, his brothers and Jawed Miandad are also not Memons. Then there are the Chippas and Khatris who also claim (falsely) to be Memons. It's just like saying that because most Sikhs speak Punjabi, therefore all Punjabi speakers are Sikhs.

Another misconception is that Memons can be either Sunnis or Shias. Though there are a few Sindhi-speakers calling themselves Memons who subscribe to Shiaism, they are a tiny minority. By definition, Memons belong to the Hanafi branch of Sunni Islam.