It has been noticed that Hinduism being the oldest of the practicing faith in the world, it is targeted by the latterly emerged diverse faiths for right and wrong reasons with mostly vested interests; caste is one such factor. The interest lies in evangelism to build a number game. Christianity has the highest numbers in its fold (about two billions inclusive of all factions) while Muslims (Islam) are now next in number game to the tune of about 1.2 to 1.5 Billions (inclusive of all).
Hinduism perhaps oldest as it is; with the growth of the various communities globally, slowly faced two distinct problems: One the older it got, the more rotted and rusted it became with the passage of time. Second it faced a distinct competition from the different and diverse ideologies, especially the Abrahamic groups that affected it tremendously and adversely, in fact unexpectedly. Apart from the multiple basic differences of belief and faith, Hinduism starkly differed vastly on points of conversions and tolerance towards other faiths. Thus it never indulged in fracas with other societies on the ground of faith in comparison to the Abrahamic faiths. Both the Christians and Muslims, by contrast, have a gory record on this count with grim history of various crusades, massacres, genocides and ethnic cleansing. Unfortunately as we boast ourselves of the twenty first century of its dramatic soaring scientific and civilisational developments, nothing has changed on this basic human instinct. If anything, it has only become worst. The sordid stories of the various conflicts and surging wars in the present day Islamic world are a grim reminder of our basic conflicting human nature. Twenty first century is tinged with the deadliest history of gory wars.
Hinduism on the other hand had appreciated it long ago through their Srutis and Smritis; thus developed the methods to tackle this negative aspect of human behaviour through the various techniques of Yoga, Meditation (Sadhana) and its allied philosophies. Some of the scientific developments of today were well known to the older Rishis of yore e.g. Vimanas or aeroplanes of today. They had boats to travel on water though they may not have been as elaborate as on today.
Hinduism being the oldest culture, religion or belief; it is blamed for such deficient practices especially when befitting reply was also considered undesirable on civil and religious grounds. Those who are conversant with the various Hindu scriptural teachings will appreciate the gravity of my statement. Mahatma Gandhi evolved his technique of non violent resistance based on the similar ideology. Fortuitously, the well known Muslim leader viz Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan aka Frontier (Sarhadi) Gandhi was a devout Muslim, his close association with Mahatma Gandhi turned him also into a devout believer in non violent ideology of Gandhi and he later on formed his famous Red Shirt (Shurkh Posh) army – is well known for its vow of non-violence. He was a devout Muslim but believed in secular ideology. His son Abdul Wali Khan inPakistantoday also believes in secularism despitePakistanbeing a diehard Islamic Republic. With such a background of Indian leadership like Mahatma Gandhi, any conceptualisation of caste or discrimination on any ground is hard to believe that there has not been any attempt to redress or eradicate the social evil of caste. Gandhi had directly confronted the issue of caste menace in various ways especially by addressing the untouchable class as “Harijans” (Godly people). The ex President of India and a great philosopher, educationist and an enlightened visionary and freedom fighter – Dr S. Radhakrishnan had also tried to trace the development and origin of the caste sub-division starting from its ancient Vedic texts and other scriptures only to highlight its demerits towards the development of the entire societal groups irrespective of the status. A glimpse from his various literary collections is obviously and elegantly comprehensible. More details can be perused in my 11 Chapter series: Caste or Class Systems versusIndiain Global Perspective.
Caste in Dynasty of Ismail (pbuh)
Muslims are no exception despite the claims of secularism and egalitarianism in their society. Islam originated about fourteen centuries ago in what is known today asSaudi Arabia- a desertlandofBedouinsand the illiterate tribal warring communities with no existent civilisation, which majority of the people in that bed are still like that only. InSaudi Arabia, there is an idiom, “From Camel to Cadillac” to summarise the life style of the local people. There are hardly any facilities for infrastructure in the society for developing the modern education, scientific background, health services, electric supply, potable water supply, and etc.
Unfortunately there is a direct clash of the ideology with the development of these mechanisms. Female education is forbidden and the physical examination of a female patient even for non gynecological problems by a male doctor is not permitted. With this sectarian background, let us examine some of the issues that pertain to certain caste based issues in the Islamic societies. I have deliberately used ‘Islamic societies’ here because that group is now most inharmonious society even in this short spell of fourteen centuries.
We all know about the two major groups – Sunnis (80%) and Shias (20%) for practical purposes. We are also aware of the hatred of Sunnis for the Shias in the entire Islamic world. It is reflected in the gross violence unleashed against the Shias especially inPakistan,Iraq,Bahrain, and other parts of Islamic countries.
There are lesser well known subgroups also in them. As one looks through on this topic, it is amazing to find the number of castes and subcastes in the Muslim society. On perusal of the literature for it, one finds a bewildering number of multitudes of divisions. Some have openly conceded while others have either apologetically rejected or accepted half heartedly. I quote some excerpts from the various authors in the literature.
Quote: “In some parts ofSouth Asia, the Muslims are divided as Ashrafs and Ajlafs. Ashrafs claim a superior status derived from their foreign ancestry. The non-Ashrafs are assumed to be converts from Hinduism, and are therefore drawn from the indigenous population. They, in turn, are divided into a number of occupational castes.
Sections of the ulema (scholars of Islamic jurisprudence) provide religious legitimacy to caste with the help of the concept of kafa’a. A classical example of scholarly declaration of the Muslim caste system is the Fatawa-i Jahandari, written by the fourteenth century Turkish scholar, Ziauddin Barani, a member of the court of Muhammad bin Tughlaq, of the Tughlaq dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate. Barani was known for his intensely casteist views, and regarded the Ashraf Muslims as racially superior to the Ajlaf Muslims. He divided the Muslims into grades and sub-grades. In his scheme, all high positions and privileges were to be a monopoly of the high born Turks, not the Indian Muslims. Even in his interpretation of the Koranic verse “Indeed, the pious amongst you are most honored by Allah”, he considered piety to be associated with noble birth. Barani was specific in his recommendation that the “sons of Mohamed” [i.e. Ashrafs] “be given a higher social status than the low-born [i.e. Ajlaf]. His most significant contribution in the fatwa was his analysis of the castes with respect to Islam. His assertion was that castes would be mandated through state laws or “Zawabi” and would carry precedence over Sharia law whenever they were in conflict. In the Fatwa-i-Jahandari (advice XXI), he wrote about the “qualities of the high-born” as being “virtuous” and the “low-born” being the “custodian of vices”. Every act which is “contaminated with meanness and based on ignominity, comes elegantly [from the Ajlaf]”. Barani had a clear disdain for the Ajlaf and strongly recommended that they be denied education, lest they usurp the Ashraf masters. He sought appropriate religious sanction to that effect. Barani also developed an elaborate system of promotion and demotion of Imperial officers (“Wazirs”) that was primarily on the basis of their caste.
In addition to the Ashraf/Ajlaf divide, there is also the Arzal caste among Muslims, who were regarded by anti-Caste activists like as the equivalent of untouchables. The term “Arzal” stands for “degraded” and the Arzal castes are further subdivided into Bhanar, Halalkhor, Hijra, Kasbi, Lalbegi, Maugta, Mehtar etc. The Arzal group was recorded in the 1901 census in India and are also called Muslims “with whom no other Muhammadan would associate, and who are forbidden to enter the mosque or to use the public burial ground”. They are relegated to “menial” professions such as scavenging and carrying night soil.
Some South Asian Muslims have been known to stratify their society according to Quoms. These Muslims practise a ritual-based system of social stratification. The Quoms who deal with human emissions are ranked the lowest. Studies of Bengali Muslims in India indicate that the concepts of purity and impurity exist among them and are applicable in inter-group relationships, as the notions of hygiene and cleanliness in a person are related to the person’s social position and not to his/her economic status. Muslim Rajput is another caste distinction among Indian Muslims.
Some of the backward or lower-caste Muslim caste includes Ansari, Kunjra, Dhobi and Halalkhor. The upper caste Muslim caste includes Syed, Sheikh, Pathan, Mirza, Kalal and Mallik. Genetic data has also supported this stratification.
The report commissioned by the government of India and released in 2006, documents the continued stratification in Muslim society.”
Religious, historical and socio-cultural factors have helped define the bounds of endogamous groups for Muslims in South Asia(where altogether 260 million untouchable people are said to live. Indiais not alone in it – Author). There is a preference for endogamous marriages based on the clan-oriented nature of the society, which values and actively seeks similarities in social group identity based on several factors, including religious, sectarian, ethnic, and tribal/clan affiliation. Religious affiliation is itself multi-layered and includes religious considerations other than being Muslim, such as sectarian identity (e.g. Shia or Sunni, etc.) and religious orientation within the sect (Isnashari, Ismaili, Ahmedi, etc.). Both ethnic affiliation (e.g. Sindhi, Baloch, Punjabi, etc.) and membership of specific biraderis or Jat/quoms or Jatis are additional integral components of social identity (slightly modified). Unquote.
From the above statement, it becomes amply clear that in Muslim societies there are deeper factors responsible for the caste divisions other than their proximity or conversions of Hindus as exemplified by the Turkish scholar, Ziauddin Barani on the Indian Muslims. Ziauddin Barani is well known for his mean casteist ideas in Muslims. Then there are more divisions in oonchi Jat (jati) referred to as ‘Jajmans’ and neechi Jat referred as ‘Kamins’.
It is known that on contact with a low-caste Muslim, a higher Jat Muslim had to purify himself by taking a small bath in absence of other purificatory rites. In Bihar and UP states ofIndia, well known for its casteist culture inIndia, cases have been reported in which the higher caste Muslims have opposed the burials of lower caste Muslims in the same graveyard. I hope to draw the attention of the journalist friends fromBihar to take note of this menace in the contemporary Muslim society. This menace of caste extends its tentacles way beyond the Hindu community.
It begs a question, if Muslims could be polluted in a short span of fourteen centuries only; one has to consider a vibrant Hindu culture living since millennia, “How vulnerable could it be to such impurities more so when its land was also vitiated by the presence of alien people with divergent views and faiths carried in the sceptre and barrels to impose upon”?
Thus the argument of egalitarianism and equality in Islam is not tenable. Hence conversion has no meaning and blaming Hinduism is also opportunistic only. In the preceding Wikipedia link, it further states:
“An illustrious figure in Indian politics and the chief architect of the Indian Constitution. He was extremely critical of the Muslim Caste System and their practices, quoting that “Within these groups there are castes with social precedence of exactly the same nature as one finds among the Hindus but worse in numerous ways”. He was critical of how the Ashrafs regarded the Ajlaf and Arzal as “worthless” and the fact that Muslims tried to sugarcoat the sectarian divisions by using euphemisms like “brotherhood” to describe them. He was also critical of the precept of literalism of scripture among Indian Muslims that led them to keep the Muslim Caste system rigid and discriminatory. He decried against the approval of Shariah to Muslim casteism. It was based on superiority of foreign elements in society which would ultimately lead to downfall of local Dalits. This tragedy would be much more harsher than Hindus who are ethnically related to and supportive. This Arabian supremacy in Indian Muslims accounted for its equal disapproval by high and low caste Hindus during 1300 years of Islamic presence in India. He condemned the Indian Muslim Community of being unable to reform like Muslims in other countries like Turkey did during the early decades of the twentieth century.
Pakistani-American sociologist Ayesha Jalal writes, in her book, “Democracy and Authoritarianism in South Asia“, that “Despite its egalitarian principles, Islam in South Asia historically has been unable to avoid the impact of class and caste inequalities. As for Hinduism, the hierarchical principles of the Brahmanical social order have always been contested from within Hindu society, suggesting that equality has been and continues to be both valued and practiced in Hinduism.”
It is also noticed that some people born and brought up inIndiahave absorbed some ideas in the local Hindu society superficially and mushroomed their stories to suit their agendas. Even if a problem exists, its interpretation can be extremely modulated by the way it is put. As the old English saying goes, “It doesn’t matter what you say but the way you say it”.
Aharon Daniel, a Jew, was born in Mumbai, Indiaand resides in Israel. As an Indian born who studied there in school, he had some knowledge about India. Quoting him, “Religiously anyone who does not belong to the four Varnas is an outcast and untouchable. It means, all foreigners and non-Hindus are all supposed to be untouchables.” This is the opening line of his article. His statement casts the die for others who want to find their paradigm in as they hope to apply. Such statements could not be accepted as casual or innocuous especially when the person is well acquainted with the Hindu society and their culture to some extent. Further Mumbai is the single most metropolitan city in India which has maintained its cosmopolitan character despite its odd hiccoughs from time to time.
Even Daniel expresses his views on the Indian Muslims in these words: Among the Muslims of India there has developed a two-tier hierarchy. “The upper class, called Sharif Jat, includes Muslims who belonged to the higher levels in caste hierarchy and also Muslims who arrived to India from foreign countries. The lower class, called Ajlaf Jat, includes Muslim converts from lower castes. As in the world, the upper classes do not have close social relations with lower classes, the same way the Sharif Jat do not normally have close social relations with Ajlaf Jat.”
More at: here
Masood Alam Falahi wrote in his research paper presented in Columbia University, New York for “Caste and Contemporary India” conference on 17th Oct. 2009 Published on the Pasmanda Muslim Forum here
Prior to independence ofIndia, it was common that low caste Muslims were not allowed to cook good foods and even not allowed to choose good names for their children.
Presently there are three major categories among Indian Muslims, (1) Asharaf (2) Ajlaf (3) Arzal. Among these categories there are many sub-castes and in every category there are low castes and upper castes like Hindu caste system.
* Some 25 years ago there was a sufi “Shah Masood” (pupil of famous sufi Shaikh Abdul Qadir Raipuria) in a village Behat of districtSaharanpur. He never allowed low caste Muslims to make Pakka (with cement and brick) house in his village.
* In “Atki”, “Hind Paddi” villages of districtRanchiin Jharkhand, the Arzal Muslims used to eat in a separate line in marriage ceremony. The same condition is in Barabanki of U.P state. One of my casteist teachers narrated the same story of hisvillageofAzamgarhdistrict, UP.
* Dr. Azmat Siddiqi from Centre for Women Studies of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, told in her speech that in her village “phoolpur” of Allahabad, U.P, ashraf don’t eat food from sweeper / halalkhor community. She was against casteism and once she ate with them. Her cousins boycotted her as she ate with Halalkhor community.
* Professor Imtiaz Ahmad told me the following incident in a meeting, even he writes it in one of his articles:
“We had a Lalbegi woman come to clean the toilets in our house. She was on the best of terms with my mother and would sit for hours together gossiping with my mother. Whenever my mother would offer her pan, she would wrap her hand with her dupatta to receive it. My mother used to drop the pan in her hand, making sure that her hand did not touch the Lalbegi woman’s hand. On occasions of marriage the family would come and sit in a corner and wait until all guests had eaten and left. It would then be given food in vessels they brought with them. They did not eat the food there, but instead took it with them to be eaten at home. On sacrificial eid the family was not given any portion of the meat. It was given the intestines which were kept aside for them. It is possible that some of these forms of discrimination have changed, but there is no evidence to show that they have disappeared.
Some evidence exists to show that there is discrimination against these Muslim castes in the religious spheres. I found during fieldwork in eastern Uttar Pradesh that members of these castes did not go to the mosque for prayers and if they went they had to stand in the back rows. It has been mentioned by many observers that such groups often have their own mosques. N. Jamal Ansari notes that ‘in certain areas of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar there are separate mosques and burial grounds’ for these castes (Paper presented at the seminar on Dalit Muslims organized by Deshkal Society,New Delhi, 2004). Establishment of own mosque would call for a level of prosperity for the groups as a whole. Whether they have attained such levels of prosperity is something on which very little information exists.”
* Once I visited Nakhas Mohallah (street) of Lucknowon 30th of September 2009. This is a Muslim area. I saw a small mosque with a small madrasa, written on the mosque “Masjid-e-Rayeen” (Mosque of vegetable sellers). In front of this mosque there is an Imam barah of Imam Baqir, belongs to Shait sect of Muslim. This small masques shows that there is discrimination against the vegetable seller caste, so they made the separate mosque.
* Dr. Ghauth Ansari writes same cases of caste based discrimination in U.P. He also adds that even ‘low’ caste Muslims are not allowed to pray in the mosque some time. They pray outside the mosque.
* The former editor of “Qawmi Morcha” Daily (National Front, Urdu News Paper) (Banaras) Mr. Tajuddin Ash’ar Ram Nagri wrote a letter to me after reading my book. He wrote that before independence ofIndia, Muslim sweepers were not allowed to enter into the mosque inBanaras, U.P.
* In “Desna” village of Nalanda, low castes are not allowed to sit in the first row of the mosque. Even low caste like Ansari and kalal castes do not allow Pamariya caste to sit in the first row while offering Namaz in the “Pandara”village ofLohar Dagga district.
* In “Ouchwa” thevillage ofGorakhpur, Upper castes wash the mosque in case somebody from low caste Muslim enters into the mosque.
* The famous news paper “Tehelka”New Delhi reports in its issue dated 18 Nov.2006 AD:
“In Bihar, the Bakkho sub-caste- formally a nomadic tribe- is held by other Muslims to be untouchables despite Islam categorically forbidding any such division… when someone in an upper caste family dies; we go to his house to condole, like we would go to any other Muslim home. But when someone from our caste dies, the upper castes people never come for the same.”
* In Rampur BariyavillageofChamparanDistrict ofBihar, a low caste groom was insulted and beaten up by upper caste Muslims because he was sitting on horse. In the same village upper caste Muslims broke the mosque built by low caste Muslims. They also burnt their houses.
* In my village there is only one graveyard and every caste has specific place for burial purpose. I don’t know the exact reason. But there are various reports that upper castes Muslims don’t allow low caste Muslims to bury dead bodies in the common graveyard for community. This is the reason low caste Muslims have separate graveyards.
* In “Mohabbat Pur” villageof VaishaliDistrict in Bihar, Jugal Khalifa died. His dead body was not allowed by Shaikh caste to be buried in the common graveyard as he was a Nat (dancer and impersonator – Author), a low caste Muslim. Police took action and arrested many of upper caste members then only his dead body got buried.
* This is not enough, even in some places the low caste Muslims are not considered as Muslims by upper caste people. I have seen in my district Sitamarhi, Bihar, Shaikh castes consider them only as Muslim and others as non Muslims. They use the term “we Muslims” for themselves and for others ‘low castes’ and used to call them with bad names like Julaha, Dhuniya, Kujda, Kasai, Nai etc.
* In some places Upper caste Muslims are taking “badhuwa Mazdoori” (work without pay) by low caste Muslims. Sometimes they have abused their women. They are destroying their houses etc.
The preceding expressions by a budding Muslim scholar himself should make one realise that the menace of caste exists grotesquely in Muslim society; though the blame is labeled against the Hindus, offering their apologias for various Abrahamic religions.
Dr. Radhasyam Brahmachari also observes about this: “The people who blame Hinduism, admire both Christianity and Islam and say that these religions, particularly Islam, is far more humane and socialistic as they do not have any discriminatory and oppressive institution like casteism, and where the rich and the poor pray alike, standing side by side, in a mosque. But the renowned historian Tara Chand, in his History of Freedom Movement in Indiawrites, “All census reports (of India) before 1931 used to give a long list of Muslim castes and there is no doubt whatsoever that in the 18th century, the Muslim inhabitants in India followed the pattern that of the Hindu society. … This was un-Islamic but an awakening against it was impossible at that time” (Vol-1, p-100). As a consequence, the Muslim society of India is also divided into innumerable caste, and even today, there exist more than 20 Muslim castes in a village alone in Uttar Pradesh alone.”
Radhasyam further adds, “Tara Chand also writes that the Sayeds were at the zenith of the Muslim caste hierarchy. Aurangzeb had strong sympathy for the Sayeds and he believed that they should be respected and honoured by every Muslim and they must not be hurt either physically or mentally. In a nut shell, the position of these Sayeds was as it were for the Brahmins in the Hindu society. Almost all these Sayeds were foreigners from West Asian Muslim countries. When a higher caste Hindu converted to Islam, they were called Sahikhs and used to claim a higher position in the Muslim society. But the lower caste Hindus who, after conversion called Razils, were treated as lower caste Muslims. These Razils were considered no better than kafirs by the Sayeds or by other higher caste Muslims and entering into a matrimonial relationship with these Razils was unthinkable.
In addition to that, Muslims object to Quadiani and Ahmediya Muslims being called Muslims at all and refuse to allow the burial of a Quadiani in their graveyards. Conflicts between Shia and Sunni, Hanafi and non-Hanafi are a regular feature in Muslim society. In many countries, including India and Pakistan, Shia villages are sacked, looted and razed to the ground by the Sunnis. It is also important to note that Shia-Sunni disputes in India and elsewhere are more frequent and more prolific than Hindu-Muslims riots. In Muslim society, as pointed out above, Syeds, Moghals, Pathans, Shaikhs and the Muslims of foreign origin are considered superior to converted Indian Muslims. These Higher caste Muslims do not enter into any social and matrimonial relations with low caste Muslims like Kalus, Jolas, Nikaris etc.” More at: http://www.faithfreedom.org/one/caste-system-in-muslim-society-of-india-part-i/
Professor Yoginder Singh Sikand, Head, Centre for Studies on Indian Muslims, Hamdard University, New Delhi critically analyses in his long essay “Caste in Indian Muslim Society” states without mincing words: “He (Barani) goes on to elaborate a theory of the innate inferiority of the ajlaf, the superiority of the ashraf and the divine right of the Sultan to rule, based on a distorted interpretation of Islam. Thus, he writes that the ‘merits’ and ‘demerits’ of all people have been ‘apportioned at the beginning of time and allotted to their souls’. Hence, people’s acts are not of their own volition, but, rather, an expression and result of ‘Divine commandments’. God Himself, Barani claims, has decided that the ajlaf be confined to ‘inferior’ occupations, for He is said to have made them ‘low born, bazaar people, base, mean, worthless, plebeian, shameless and of dirty birth’. God has given them ‘base’ qualities, such as ‘immodesty, wrongfulness, injustice, cruelty, non-recognition of rights, shamelessness, impudence, blood-shedding, rascality, jugglery and Godlessness’ that are suitable only for such professions. Furthermore, these base qualities are inherited from father to son, and so the ajlaf must not attempt to take up professions reserved by God for the ashraf even if they are qualified to do so, for this would be a grave violation of the Divine Will. Likewise, Barani claims, God has bestowed the ashraf with noble virtues by birth itself, and these are transmitted hereditarily. Hence, they alone have the right and responsibility of taking up ‘noble’ occupations, such as ruling, teaching and preaching the faith.”
Professor Sikand goes on, “Nu’mani quotes extensively from Barani’s Fatawa-i -Jahandari to show how discriminatory attitudes towards low-caste converts were widely shared by medieval Muslim elites. He also comments on the absence of any effective opposition to such views. In fact, he goes so far as to claim that, ‘From Barani’s time till 1947 the notion of Muslim society being divided into ashraf and ajlaf, high and low, was continuously present’. He refers to some twentieth century Indian ‘ulama of his own Deobandi school as opposing caste-based inequality among the Indian Muslims but laments that ‘this sickness has not as yet been fully eliminated’. He admits that although the caste system is less severe among the Muslims than it is among the Hindus, in that untouchability is absent among the former, with caste playing a determining role only in marriage among Muslims. Yet, he pleads for Muslims to combat notions of caste based superiority and inferiority, for only then, he argues, can efforts to spread Islam among ‘low’ caste Hindus be effective. For this purpose, he says, a radical revisioning of the concept of kafa’a is urgently required.”
He continues, “Nu’mani sees this restrictive provision as making life for converts to Islam even more difficult and, therefore, making conversion to Islam a difficult choice for non-Muslims. By making this distinction between ‘old’ and ‘new’ Muslims, he says, ‘rather than welcoming our new guests we are insulting them’. Accordingly, he fervently appeals to his fellow ‘ulama
to relax or abandon this rule, which in any case he sees as having no sanction in Islam. He reminds them that because they insisted on this un-Islamic provision, a large group of Hindus of the Tyagi caste in northern India who were ready to convert to Islam finally decided not to because the Muslim Tyagis refused to intermarry with them on the grounds that ‘old’ Muslims could not establish marital relations with converts. Likewise, Nu’mani writes, it was because of the discriminatory and anti-Qur’anic rules that the ‘ulama have devised on kafa’a that Dr. Ambedkar, the leader of the ‘low’ caste Dalits, declined to convert to Islam, choosing Buddhism instead.” Full details can be perused at:
Published in “Asianists’ ASIA” Edited by T.Wignesan in Paris, France. See: http://stateless.freehosting.net/Caste%20in%20Indian%20Muslim%20Society.htm
Caste And Caste-Based Discrimination Among Indian Muslims – Part 1
By Masood Alam Falahi
Translator’s Note: Very little has been written on the existence of caste and caste-based discrimination among the Indian Muslims. ‘Upper’ caste Muslims, who, although a very small minority among the Indian Muslims, generally deny the existence of caste and caste-based discrimination in the larger Muslim community by arguing that these have no sanction in Islam. However, although these do not have legitimacy in the Quran, their reality cannot be denied. Nor too can the legitimacy that these have sought to be given by numerous supposedly leading Indian Islamic scholars be ignored.
In 2007, Masood Alam Falahi, a graduate of a madrasa and then a 27 year-old M.Phil. student at Delhi University, wrote a voluminous, almost 600-page, Urdu book titled Hindustan Mai Zat-Pat Aur Musalman (sic. ‘Casteism Among Muslims in India’). Weaving together insights from fieldwork and key writings by influential Indian Muslim scholars, including Muslim clerics on the subject of caste, the book is a pioneering study of caste-based discrimination among the Indian Muslims and of the continued domination of ‘high’ caste Muslims that parallels, in remarkable ways, the Hindu case.
Realising the importance of this pioneering book, I have begun translating key portions of it, which I plan to send out as articles once every few days. Once the translation is complete I hope to publish it as a book.
This instalment is a translation of the first thirty pages of the book titled ‘Why I Have Written This Book’. — Yoginder Sikand for NewAgeIslam.com
02 November, 2010
[Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand for NewAgeIslam.com]
He further details in his part 2 as follows:
One tragic consequence of efforts to seek to wrongly legitimise the philosophy of caste division in Islam has been that when vast numbers of people who were oppressed by the Indian caste system embraced Islam, attracted by its teachings of equality and human unity, they had to face the same sort of filth and oppression here, too. After converting to Islam, they found that they still remained Bhangis, Chamars, Kunjaras, Qasais and Julahas, and were incorporated as the most ‘despicable’ classes of Muslim society. On conversion, their names changed but not the way in which they were treated by others. The Muslims were now solidly divided into ‘noble’ (sharif) and ‘despicable’ (razil). So sternly was this division maintained that it was given legitimacy even in Islamic schools. Fatwas about marriage and divorce came to be based on the caste of people and the related rules of kufu’ that were concocted. Brother Masood has provided us plenty of evidence that very well illustrates all of this. Many people may be angry with what he has written. They might castigate his writings as untimely and inappropriate. Some of them might even claim that caste-based division and discrimination are now vanishing among Muslims and that, therefore, there is thus no need to scratch old wounds.
This is a translation of Dr. Faridi’s Introduction to Masood Alam Falahi’s Urdu book Hindustan Mai Zat-Pat Aur Musalman (‘Casteism Among Muslims in India’) [Ideal Foundation, Mumbai, 2009, pp. 32-35. For the sake of brevity, I have deleted some lines that I did not find directly relevant. I have sought to present the spirit of the text and, hence, have not made a literal translation throughout.-Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com (Part – 2)
Details at: http://www.countercurrents.org/falahi021110.htm
These papers give interesting details of the caste in Muslim, outlining their effects on Muslims and also the need to abolish them. The writings are laudable for their sincerity of purpose in its entirety.
Thus it is abundantly clear that Caste and its menace is not in a Hindu Society alone but equally, if not worst, prevalent in Muslim societies also. In the next issue, I shall try to address this problem in the “Isaac” dynasty of Abrahamic faiths.
By OP Sudrania