Casteism in Kashmiri marriages

Stratification based on surnames is the most crucial, but interestingly the most neglected social problem in Kashmir. Fortunately, it doesn’t come into play much between friends, neighbors & colleagues but it really appears monstrous, when it comes to marriage.

Stratification based on surnames is the most crucial, but interestingly the most neglected social problem in Kashmir. Fortunately, it doesn't come into play much between friends, neighbors & colleagues but it really appears monstrous, when it comes to marriage.

The usual sense of egalitarianism & equality of these good friends, neighbors & colleagues, takes a back-seat and all of a sudden, they metamorphose into the front-line warriors to safeguard the 'purity' of those two biopolymer strands or polynucleotides of their family's DNA from a possible mutation which may change the nucleotide sequence of their genome.

I don't intend to assault the prerogative which every family has, when it comes to the major decisions like that of children's marriage.  Every family has a right to decide which family they are comfortable, to build such an important relationship with.

I do not even have a problem when a someone says 'NO' to others for the marriage proposal since he thinks his family customs, ways of maintaining relationship and over-all life-style is a bit different from him, hence may not gel well. He is well within his rights to say so or think so.

However, the issue arises when he says he & his characteristics are superior & not just different from that of others. And it's the travesty of Islam that he uses Islam for the justification of his perceived superiority. Let's analyze the root of this confusion.

Incontrovertibly, Syeds brought Islam to Kashmir. Peers have, for centuries, taught Islam to rest of the Kashmiris. So it's quite axiomatic that they knew Islam better than others. It also falls in line with the Quranic injunction 'Indeed the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous.

(Quran 49:13). And a hadith from Prophet(saw)'s last sermon that all mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.

What better example of piety and good action than bringing Islam and then teaching it, which earned them respect? However, this was the past. Today, it is not the truth. Earlier, If they didn't give out a daughter to someone on the pretext that he didn't know much Islam, that could be justified, but Islam is not confined to these families alone, anymore.

My prefix is Peerzada, but I am not a Hafiz. And there are so many other people in Kashmir from all the families who memorize Quran by heart. So, they are, anytime, more pious than me and most likely are superior to me in the sight of Allah. Now, the nobility of my grand-father or his father, does not make me a better person, if I have not bequeathed it.

The following verse from Qura'n will make things blatantly conspicuous:

'And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another.  And if a heavily laden soul calls [another] to [carry some of] its load, nothing of it will be carried, even if he should be a close relative.  You can only warn those who fear their Lord unseen and have established prayer.  

And whoever purifies himself only purifies himself for [the benefit of] his soul.  And to God is the [final] destination' (Surah Fatir 35:18). The verse clearly says that whoever purifies himself only purifies himself for the benefit of his soul. This signifies his son or daughter will have no benefit from him.

In fact it's the other way around. A father or a mother can benefit if they make their children pious, as the credit would go to them for such an upbringing.

Since I am trying to include arguments from both the sides, I would like to cite one more argument from such families. They say that they are noble in a way that it's very rare to see them picking up fights with neighbors etc , raising voice and that they are 'shareef' in the sense that they don't use expletives at least in public or in their family, which is a sign of nobility.

Although I appreciate the fact that they maintain this level of decency, but painting everyone else with the same brush is a stereotype which doesn't hold water. I know of many people who are neither Syeds nor Peers,  who do maintain such a discipline and teach the same to their children. Since we proved above with a verse from Qura'n that piety is acquired, we shall refer back to genetics which teaches that acquired characteristics are not transmitted.

I know they may say that they can be taught by example though, but I retort and say then everyone else could do the same. I don't want to say these families are not noble but I want to prove that other families are noble too. We should discard the racist Fatawa-i-Jahandari, written by the fourteenth century Turkish scholar, Ziauddin Barani, a member of the court of Muhammad bin Tuglaq, of the Tuglaq dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate.

This Fatwa interpreted 'piety' in the Quranic verse to be associated with noble birth and divided Muslims into Ashrafs & Ajlafs.

Let's make a new beginning to cease with this socially constructed sense of superiority & inferiority as it annihilates the spirit of Islamic equality. The ball is in the court of so called superiors as it's they who have an objection to such marriages not the others.

I request them to emphasize on the character, Islamic knowledge and the practice part of Islam in their 'would-be sons & daughters-in law', rather the spelling of their last names. How can they claim propensity to God by dividing the Ummah on surnames?

(Mehboob Makhdoomi is an MBA from Pennsylvania University (IUP) United States with a research degree from Cardiff University, United Kingdom. Email )
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