Critical Podium Dewanand Religion
CASTE SYSTEM IN MUSLIM SOCIETY OF INDIA, PART-I
& PART II By Dr Radhasyam Brahmachari
Sacrificer Dr Radhasyam Brahmachari
Sacrifice code wfor0427
Sacrifice date 25 march 2009
CASTE SYSTEM IN MUSLIM SOCIETY OF INDIA, PART-I
By Dr Radhasyam Brahmachari
It is needless to say that the Muslim clerics, Christian priests and the
Communists blame the Hindus for their caste system and according to them
this casteism of the Hindus is inhuman, loathsome and discriminative and
it provides a legal sanction for the higher caste people to oppress and
exploit the lower caste ones. While these people discuss this issue, they
never say Hindu Dharma, but Brahmanya Dharma or Brahmanism to show that
the Brahmins were the creators of this despicable institution of casteism
to be used as tool to oppress the people belonging to lower castes, particularly
the Sudras, who belong to the lowest stratum of the caste hierarchy.
But historically this casteism of the Hindus, not created by Brahmins
but originated as a division of labour. A civilized society needs various
kinds of goods and services; it needs cloths to wear, needs pots and utensils
for storing food and water so many other things. So, in the process of
development, some people engaged themselves in reading, writing and teaching
for generations, acquired a special skill in their trade and ultimately
formed a caste. The group of people who engaged themselves in trade and
commerce for generations formed a caste of traders. In a similar manner
the group engaged in spinning threads and weaving cloth formed a class
of weavers; people engaged in making iron implements for agriculture formed
a caste of smiths and so on. So, it implies that the caste system must
exist in every civilized society where division of labour exists. But
difference is that, their caste system is undeclared, whereas, caste system
of the Hindus is a declared institution.
In the early stage of civilization, the Hindu society was divided into
four major castes or Varnas and these were the teacher and priest caste
(Brahmana), the warrior caste (Kshatriya), farmer and trader caste (Vasya)
and the caste of manual labourers (Sudra). As the society progressed,
various type other castes and sub-castes originated. New separate castes
also appeared due to inter-caste marriages and in this manner a long list
of castes came into being. And this development shows that Hindu casteism
is a product of civilization and the resulting division of labour. And
hence it was a natural process, and hence a caste system, in some form
or other, must exist in every civilized human society.
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 India writes,
"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
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.
So the Muslim reader, who said that there is no caste system in Muslim
society of India, has told a dark lie. On the contrary, caste system among
the Muslims is far more rigorous and rigid than that of the Hindu society.
If a Hindu girl marries a lower caste Hindu boy, her parents, may at best,
refuse to maintain any relation with her. But a Muslim girl, if marries
a lower caste Muslim boy, she runs the risk of falling a victim of honour
Tara Chand also writes that the Sayeds were at the zenith of the Muslim
caste hierarchy. Auragjeb 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
The Christian priests too do not miss a single opportunity to blame Hinduism
for its caste system. But, as a matter of fact, the Christian society
also has its own caste system, both in India and in the Western countries.
The lower caste Hindus after their conversion to Christianity are called
depressed classes or Dalit Christians. These Dalit Christians in South
India have to suffer all their previous disabilities they had before conversion.
A recent incident in a South Indian Church, where Adi-Dravid Christians
forcibly occupied seats allotted to caste Christians, led to effective
segregation as Christians and untouchable Adi-Dravid Christians. In another
incident, a Christian priest at Erode, on his Bishop's instruction, segregated
Adi-Dravid Christians from caste Christians in Church. The caste Catholics
of Trichinopoly refused to allow celebration of a depressed Christian's
marriage in Church. Generally, European and Anglo-Indian Christian are
separated from Indian Christians in a church - even their burial places
In England, people use the word class in stead of caste. There are many
such castes, namely the Lord class, Baron class, the Manor class, the
trader class, the working class and so on. In some sense, the British
caste system is more rigorous than the caste system of the Hindus. A few
examples may help the reader to understand the extant caste system in
England. Swami Purohit when on a visit to England said,
"I have been in this country for last four years and the majority
of hotels and boarding houses all over the country refused me accommodations.
Moreover, thousands of English homes were barred to me because I was a
black man" (Truth-II.732). Negro tourists in London are refused admission
to hotels. Similarly tram conductors in London are rude to Indians and
say - "a black does not deserve any better" (Truth-IV.294).
"An English woman in Nairobi flogged her native servant to death
for a petty theft. She was then sentenced to only one year's imprisonment
for her crime. Not only that, the government recommended her mercy petition
for clemency" (Truth-II.389).
In South Africa coloured people are precluded from traveling in Mail
trains and other notified trains. Marriage between white woman and Negroes
were prohibited. Whites and blacks form entirely different castes. A coloured
man is punishable as a criminal if he sits in a railway carriage reserved
for the whites.
The renowned Islamic scholar Yoginder Singh Sikand has presented a detailed
account of origin of Muslim caste system in India in his essay Caste in
Indian Muslim Society. At the very outset, Mr Sikand Writes,
"Although the Qur'an insists on the radical equality of all Muslims,
caste (zat, jati, biraderi) remains a defining feature of Indian Muslim
society, with significant regional variations. While the severity of caste
among the Indian Muslims is hardly as acute as among the Hindus, with
the practice of untouchability being virtually absent, caste and associated
notions of caste-based superiority and inferiority still do play an important
role in Indian Muslim society." He further writes, "This disjunction
between Qur'anic egalitarianism and Indian Muslim social practice has
been theorized by Muslim scholars in different ways. While some have sought
to reconcile the two by interpreting the scripturalist sources of Islam
to support social hierarchy, others have pointed out that the continued
existence of caste-like features in Indian Muslim society is a flagrant
violation of the Qur'anic worldview."
To explain the origin of caste system in Indian Muslim society, Mr Sikand
wrtites, "The vast majority of the Indian Muslims are descendants
of converts from what is today called 'Hinduism'. Individual conversions
to Islam in medieval times were rare. Rather, typically, entire local
caste groups or significant sections thereof underwent a gradual process
of Islamisation, in the course of which elements of the Islamic faith
were gradually incorporated into local cosmologies and ritual practice
while gradually displacing or replacing local or 'Hindu' elements.
even after conversion to Islam, marriage continued to take place within
the original caste group..
And many of the converts retained several
aspects of their local, pre-Islamic beliefs and practices." www.faithfreedom.org
(To be continued)
CASTE SYSTEM IN MUSLIM SOCIETY OF INDIA, PART-II
by Dr Radhasyam Brahmachari
Origin of Muslim Caste System
Initially, the Muslim caste system in India originated as Ashraf and
Ajlaf divide: the Ashraf were the noble castes, who came from foreign
lands; the converted Indians were classed as the inferior Razil, Kamin
or Ajlaf. This Ashraf-Ajlaf divide was a kind of apartheid as Yogindar
This owed not just to racial differences, with local converts generally
being dark-skinned and the Ashraf lighter complexioned, but also to the
fact that the Ashraf belonged to the dominant political elites, while
the bulk of the Ajlaf remained associated with ancestral professions as
artisans and peasants which were looked down upon as inferior and demeaning.
A classical, oft-quoted example in this regard is provided by the Fatawa-i-
Jahandari, written by 14th-century Turkish scholar, Ziauddin Barani, a
leading courtier of Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq of Delhi. This text is
the only known surviving Indo-Persian treatise exclusively devoted to
Islamic political theory from the period of the Delhi Sultanate. Barani
was a fervent champion of Ashraf supremacy and despised the Ajlaf, whom
he designated as 'low-born'. Barani insisted that the Sultan should consider
it his religious duty to deny the Ajlaf access to knowledge, branding
them as 'mean', and 'despicable'.
Thus he designated the Ajlaf as dogs, pigs and bears and advised the Sultan:
Teachers of every kind are to be sternly ordered not to thrust precious
stones down the throats of dogs or to put collars of gold round the necks
of pigs and bears, that is, to the mean, the ignoble and the worthless,
to shopkeepers and to the low-born they are to teach nothing more than
the rules about prayer, fasting, religious charity and the haj pilgrimage,
along with some chapters of the Qur'an and some doctrines of the faith,
without which their religion cannot be correct and valid prayers are not
possible. But they are to be taught nothing else, lest it bring honour
to their mean souls.
According to Barani, if the Ajlaf were allowed access to education, they
might challenge the Ashraf hegemony. Therefore, he sternly warned the
Sultan and said:
They are not to be taught reading and writing, for plenty of disorders
arise owing to the skill of the low born in knowledge. If it is discovered
at the time of investigation that the teachers have imparted knowledge
or taught letters or writing to the low born, inevitably the punishment
for their disobedience will be meted out to them.
To promote base, mean, low-born and worthless men to be the helpers and
supporters of the government has not been permitted by any religion, creed,
publicly accepted tradition or state-law.
Allah Himself, Barani claimed, had decided that the Ajlaf be confined
to 'inferior' occupations, as they were 'low born, bazaar people, base,
mean, worthless, plebian, shameless and of dirty birth'. He also maintained
that Allah had given them 'base' qualities, such as 'immodesty, wrongfulness,
injustice, cruelty, non-recognition of rights, shamelessness, impudence,
blood-shedding, rascality, jugglery and Godlessness'. So the Ajlaf had
to be restricted from taking up professions reserved by Allah for the
Ashraf, even if they were qualified. Therefore, the Ashraf alone had the
right and responsibility of taking up 'noble' occupations, such as ruling,
teaching and preaching the faith.
Barani warned the king that if the Sultan conferred any post in his court
or government service to the Ajlaf, the
'court and the high position of the king would be disgraced, the people
of Allah would be distressed and scattered, the objectives of the government
would not be attained, and, finally, the king would be punished on the
day of Judgment'.
To establish his claim, Barani referred to a hadith, in which Muhammad
is said to have declared that for some tribes, 'The vein is deceptive'.
Barani explained the tradition that 'the good vein and the bad vein draw
towards virtue and vice', and that 'in the well-born and the noble only,
the virtue and loyalty appear, while from the man of low birth and bad
birth only wickedness and destruction originate'.
Verse 49:13 of the Koran says,
"O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female,
and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo!
The noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo!
Allah is knower, Aware."
Many pro-Ashraf scholars believed that the verse conclusively proves
that Allah Himself created some people as noble and some others as lowborn.
According to H. N. Ansari, a contemporary Indian Muslim scholar and an
activist of a 'low' caste Muslim organization, remarked that, this represented
a profoundly 'un-Islamic' explanation of the Qur'an. However, Prophet
Muhammad himself held a similar view between Koreish and the non-Koreish
Arabs. Furthermore, he believed that the Koreish were the noblest among
the Arab tribes and only the Koreish had the right to be a Caliph.
The Notion of Kafa'a
The word kafa'a stands for legitimacy of a marriage. It is widely, but
fallaciously or deceptively, propagated that the Qur'an and genuine Prophetic
traditions consider Muslims as equals, and hence, allow any Muslim to
marry a suitable Muslim spouse from any background. In choosing an ideal
partner for marriage, they propagate the notion that the Qur'an recommends
piety (taqwa) and faith (iman) as the only mark, rather than birth or
wealth. They cite examples of the Prophet that he had allowed freed slave
men to marry the Arab women. In this regard, they cite the example of
Zaid, a black slave freed by Muhammad, to whom the Prophet gave his cousin
Zainab in marriage. But they ignore the fact that this marriage was sham,
a ploy, set up by aged Muhammad in his desire to add the young and beautiful
Zainab into his own harem
(read the story: Sex With Daughters-in-Law: Divinely Ordained in Islam).
One must also take into account that the famous Salman the Persian, a
distinguished convert of Muhammad, had to withdraw his desire to marry
a daughter of Caliph Omar, because he was a non-Arab. It should be added
here that Salman had saved Muhammad and his community, and, Islam, for
that matter, in the Battle of the Ditch by giving Muhammad the idea of
digging a trench surrounding his community as defence. Muhammad himself
had thanked Salman for the saving the day for Islam and praised him and
his people for their excellence in knowledge.
The social hierarchical system, as recognized by the Quran and Prophet
Muhammad (read more here: Racism in Islam: Allah's White Faces), in which
the Koreish were placed at the height of nobility, followed by other Arab
tribes, followed by non-Arabs, later on evolved further transforming Islamic
societies into a sharply hierarchical social order. Notions of social
hierarchy based on birth, clan or race also gradually became incorporated
into the corpus of writings of Islamic jurisprudence or fiqh. Taking a
spouse from outside one's kafa'a was sternly frowned upon, if not explicitly
forbidden by the fuqaha (jurists). For a non-Arab, marrying an Arab, particularly
a woman, became a social crime during the entire age of Islam, continuing
to this day in Arab societies.
In the Indian subcontinent, the vast majority of Indian Muslims follow
the Hanafi law. The opinions of the classical Hanafi scholars regarding
kafa'a continued reflect the caste system and social hierarchy. Most Indian
Hanafis seem to have regarded caste (biraderi), understood as hereditary
occupational group (i.e., division of labour) as an essential factor in
deciding kafa'a. It was continued to be determined on consideration of
following salient points: (1) legal status as free or enslaved (azadi),
(2) economic status (maldari), (3) occupation (pesha), (4) intelligence
('aql), (5) family origin or ethnicity (nasb), (6) piety (taqwa), and
(7) absence of bodily defects.
In this way, the caste system was legitimized amongst Muslims of India
through the notion of kafa'a: taking a spouse from outside one's kafa'a
was sternly frowned upon, if not explicitly forbidden by the fuqaha. In
support of this notion of kafa'a, the ulama used to refer to a hadith
according to which caliph 'Umar refused to let a girl from a rich family
to marry a man from a lower class.
But later on, many scholars raised their voice against the above-mentioned
caste system amongst Muslims declaring it un-Islamic, out of their ignorance
of course. Contemporary Indian Muslim scholar, Maulana 'Abdul Hamid Nu'mani,
was one of them. Nu'mani belonged to the Ansari caste of hereditary weavers,
traditionally considered 'low born' by ashraf Muslims. He asserted that,
according to the Qur'an, kafa'a should be considered only on piety. Hence,
the only criterion for deciding a marriage partner should, ideally, be
his or her personal character and dedication to the faith. In other words,
he suggested that, there should be no religious bar for a Muslim man,
even from a low caste, or a low caste Hindu convert to Islam, to marry
a Muslim girl from a high caste or vice versa.
However, caste and caste-based social hierarchy, through the notion of
kafa'a, were accepted and propagated as a social norm and binding for
Muslims by important sections of the ulama. It is widely practised amongst
Muslims today, despite some Muslim scholars' denouncement of it (as do
Hindus in their society). So, the Muslims of India, who usually denounce
Hinduism for its caste system and try to project that Islam is free from
this evil, are either ignorant or trying to hide caste system deeply integrated
in Muslim society.
In conclusion, let me emphasize that the Muslim society of India are
not at all free from many of the socials ills of Hindu society, they frequently
point to. They are often as stark and integrated in the Muslim society,
but remain unrecognized, unspoken. The Hindus have recognized all its
past and continuing social ills and are making strenuous efforts to rid
their society from them. The Hindus of India would cleanse their society
of these ills and move forward to become a proud and contributory part
of the emerging global civilization: the sings are all there for one to
Unfortunately, the same cannot be expected of the stagnant Muslim world,
of India's Muslims in particular. The Arab Islamic imperialism they embraced
did little to free themselves from what they call the ills of Hinduism.
Instead, the debilitating, violent nature of their new ideology is crippling
them in every respect: their contributions to all indices of social and
national development and progress are declining.. Poverty, lack of education,
propensity of violence, human rights violation within the Islamic community
and beyond are becoming the hallmark of their community within the wider
Freeing themselves from the yoke of the Arab imperialism, from the debilitating
cult of Islam, remains a precondition for the subcontinental Muslim society
(and of the wider Muslim world) to march toward progress and prosperity.
Freedom and liberty to choose as one wishes to live one's life, to pursue
one's dream, is a precondition to excel in the race of modern civilization.
The Islamic creed imparts religious scruples at every step of one's life
to pursue what is needed to excel in today's society. For India's Muslims,
returning to their civilizational root, which, undoubtedly, allows much
greater freedom and liberty, is an option to them. They just have to look
around to realize where their non-Muslim neighbors are heading to and
where their own society.
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