Living in the past-tense!
By: Suhail Ahmad
The world has progressed a lot and societies have undergone tremendous changes. So much so that the Europe that was once barbaric and orthodox becomes the torch bearer of modern education and concepts like democracy. The world has changed in the recent past and several concepts which were an accepted norm are now seen as derogatory and unethical. This and much more came as early for the Muslims as the prophet of Islam and his teachings. Practices which are now seen as anti-human, anti-social and anti-modernity were already disqualified by Quran about 14 hundred years ago.
Islam though as a religion does not recognise any castes but Islam was the reason the previous caste systems that existed in Arabs, (which were very harsh) were abolished everyone became equal before Allah. There was no preference given to anyone on the basis of familial background or on economic status. Allah States in Quran “O mankind , indeed we created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” (Hujrat, Ayat No 13).
Before the advent of Islam, the Arabs were divided into a number of castes based on their economic strength, or being prodigy of some prophets. But Islam changed this altogether and disallowed discriminate among its followers by preaching brotherhood while the tribes and castes were coined only for identification purposes.
When Islam reached South Asia, here people were followers of different religions castes existed. Even after converting to Islam same mentality prevailed, among many people who didn’t understand the religion of Islam in its entirety and spirit.
In Kashmir even though we claim that we do not have any castes but deep down the line it exists and plays a very important role while determining various affairs of life. We have people divided on the basis of region of their dwelling (Gamuk and Shahruk), though some may try to deny and say that it was for identification alone. Zameendar’s (Landlords) of yesteryears still have the hangover and often look down upon those others who had little or no possession earlier but might have gained enough to equal them presently.
People still are recognised on the basis of their professions where some professions are seen as lesser good than the others. We, as a society living in 21st century, look upon all these obsolete things while determining our marriages, social relations and even friendships fully knowing that such things are totally against the tenants of Islam and modern education. Rather than denying the prevalence of caste system among us we should try to remove all this discrimination which will help us in the long run.