Equal but not same!

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In response to Neelofar Nabi’s write-up

By: Syed Tajamul Imran/Zeeshan Khan

On 21 May 2020, an article by Neelofar Nabi was published by this newspaper. The article has underscored usually condoned social-problem existing in our valley i.e. casteism. The writer has accentuated many aspects of this problem, which calls for appreciation. However, the author overemphasized on Syeds and attempted to project them as creators of this social evil.

It is true, Syeds are reluctant to wedlock their girls in non-Syed families, but this approach is prevalent in other castes as well. Even non-Syeds look for caste-based compatibility for marriage. It is completely wrong to say everything is ‘fine’ with the people from other castes. Here it is unsuitable to quote an example however, the author should check the facts to know does caste-system exist in other families or not. Next, the author makes mention of ‘Pir Masjid and Grees Masjid’ to prove her point.

Pir Masjid, Ganaie Masjid, Malik Masjid, and even Kumar Masjid exist in our hometowns as well, but they have nothing to do with caste system. We inquired and surprisingly found that the Imam of Pir Masjid is from a ‘Dar family’, whereas the Imam of Malik Masjid is a Pir. We are told that mosques have been named according to Mohalla, where they are located, and not for people of specific castes. We believe that the writer has set her viewpoint without probing into the matter and has blown it out of proportion.

Nevertheless, we do not say that casteism is not prevalent in Kashmir. It is. And given the fact, Pirs/Syeds were formerly leading and preaching the rest of the population, their level of egotism is comparatively higher, though exceptions are there. Generally, they do not prefer people from other castes for marriages. But, people from other families, too, are not immaculate.

To be precise, the issue of casteism has permeated our society and every social caste is responsible for it in one way or the other. For unknown reasons non-Syeds have reduced those Syeds, who have proof to claim themselves decedents of ‘Prophet (SAW) to mere ‘Mullahs’. And in turn, Syeds call us ‘Greece’ regardless of our profession and this has turned into never-ending controversy.

Myth has been created that Mullahs deprived people from every good and they blindly tag us as dishonest and untrustworthy. These myths have been so popularized that it has divided the masses to such an extent that some Syeds feel inferior in the presence of non-Syeds and later also feel inconvenience.

We came to know about Islam through Syed Ali Hamdani (one can say a Pir/Syed) and we ought to follow his message. His biography presents an intriguing example of anti-casteism. To get spiritual guidance, Syed Ali Hamdani went to ‘Sheikh Mehmood Muzdaqani’. It is important to note that Ali Hamdani was ‘Syed’ and Mehmood Muzdaqani was non-Syed. As Syed Ali Hamdani appeared in front of Sheikh Mehmood Muzdagani, Sheikh said – Ali, if you have come here as a decedent of beloved Prophet (SAW), I’m ready to give up my status in your honor. I would not shy away from serving you throughout my life. But, if you desire to be guided, then follow my instructions. History says Syed Ali Hamdani was assigned a task of sanitizing lavatories in Sheikh’s monastery for years before the actual counseling started.

This is how the concept of mutual respect between different castes should operate. This attitude of Syed Ali Hamdani and Sheikh Mehmood (r.a) eliminates casteism and teaches us reverence for each other.

There is no statement of Prophet (SAW) about intra-caste marriage. The marriage between Fatima (a.s) and Ali (a.s) is nonetheless considered as implicit message of Prophet (SAW) in this respect. Many scholars quote this ‘marriage’ to prove Prophet’s likeness for the marriages within the caste. But, this does not proscribe inter-caste marriage either.

In fact, every community has its own culture, tradition, and peculiar outlook and there is nothing wrong in protecting these by choosing families of similar communities for relationship.

Due to ideological, traditional, and cultural clashes, many marriages ended in divorce. Therefore, it is better to look for equivalence before tying the knot to avoid problems in future. However, it needs to be noted, that ignoring other castes due to one’s so-called superiority is wrong and is tantamount to hubris that Islam abhors.

Caliph Umar (R.A), the third ruler of Rashidun Caliphate once called his sons and said; who among you would marry the daughter of a milkmaid. The people around wondered. It sounded surprising to them that Caliph of Islam wants to take milkmaid’s daughter as a daughter-in-law.

Then, the Caliph narrated the incident that one night he was on his usual inspection to see the condition of his people. While passing by a small house, the Caliph heard the whispering of mother and daughter within. The mother was telling her daughter to add water to the milk. The daughter responded, “Have you forgotten the Caliph’s order? He wants the milk should not be adulterated”. Mother said; “How he would come to know”. In response, daughter replied; “But, Allah (swt) is ‘Baseer’. He is all ‘seeing’. He perceives every detail, every state of existence, and every circumstance. He is watching our every act. How can we escape the notice of Allah?”

Caliph Umar said nothing holds importance before the righteousness, love, and fear of Allah. This girl deserves reward and I want her to be a part of our family. Then Caliph’s third son Asim and milkmaid’s daughter tied the nuptial knot. This is the essence of Islam. Muhammad (SAW)’s farewell sermon is source of guidance for us pertaining to this, in which he forthrightly rejected the concept of inequality. Prophet (SAW) made it clear superiority of one over another is only by piety and good acts, no race or color.

Tailpiece: We all have contributed to casteism in one way or the other. Blaming a particular caste is erroneous and to put the kibosh on this evil, joint efforts are required. Preferring intra-caste marriage is not unfair if one intends to preserve his/her family traditions or to evade anticipated family conflicts. Even so, if anyone undervalues others because of ‘Caste’, he/she needs introspection to fathom his/her religious understanding.

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