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There is No Caste System in Islam

Caste System

By V.M. KHALEELUR RAHMAN

The Times of India on May 16 carried an article, “Being Muslim in India means Syeds spit on Julahas in an ‘egalitarian community’ ” by Mohammed Wajihuddin.
Islam from day one has been proclaiming Tawheed – oneness of God and oneness of humanity and alhamdulillah – all praise be to God – there has been no compromise on this fundamental principle considered by all as the lifeline of the Islamic faith.
“There is no difference between an Arab and a non-Arab” is the famous golden saying of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him). But unfortunately the concept of kufu, which works like a caste system, has crept into the Muslim society somehow or the other.
A section of the Ulema is responsible for it. They believe and preach in total disregard to the Islamic values that we must follow some rules and principles in matrimonial affairs to maintain and strengthen the family system and save it from chaos and disintegration. Thus they have framed some rules based on ancestry, financial background, occupation, etc. This is against the very letter and spirit of the Holy Qur'an and Ahadith and a blot to the fair name of Islam. They have not quoted the Holy Qur'an or Ahadith for these rules of kufu.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) has said that if a man of good faith and character seeks alliance; give your daughter in marriage to him. Even in many states in India inter-caste marriages are encouraged by giving awards to the couples of such marriages. It is here we see the Islamic light.
The proponents of the kufu concept say that equality is a sine qua non between the couple for a good and cordial marital relationship as otherwise their life will be miserable and lead to marital breakdown due to incompatibility. This does not seem to be the case at all.
According to some Ulema there should be the following criteria of kufu:
1) Ancestral equality: There is a difference between a Quraish and a non-Quraish Arab and also an Arab and a non-Arab. Islam says that there is no difference between them.
2) Equality of religion and piety: The second criterion accepted in respect of kufu is religiosity and hence both man and woman should be religious. A pious woman should not be married to an irreligious person. Of course on this point one should be careful.
3) Financial equality: The third criterion is financial equality. Both man and woman should be equal financially. A rich woman should not be married to a poor man. We have seen so many rich women living happily with their poor husbands and vice versa sharing their wealth.
4) Occupational equality: The fourth criterion is occupational equality. If a woman or her relatives are in some high occupational status in society, the occupation of the man wanting to marry her should be equally high. For example, if a person is a merchant while some other is a labourer or sweeper, the two cannot be equal. No profession is low. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) has kissed the hands of labourers. If two adults being in such conditions want to marry, nobody can prevent them.
Some Ulema are of the opinion that if a woman marries a man of ghair kuf (a man lower in status than hers or her relatives’), her wali (guardian) has the right to object to the marriage and get it annulled. But if the guardian has no objection, the nikah will be valid. But if after nikah the status of the husband goes down, the wife would be impressed upon to bear with him with the hope that his position will improve. After marriage, nobody can get the marriage annulled unilaterally without her consent and without any valid reasons.
They also say that the Syed families are suitable matches for one another as they share descent from the Quraishi tribe and that they can also marry high caste people like the Shaikhs and the likes. But other families not sharing their lineage are not match to them; no matter however strong they may be in their profession, family background and status. This is in fact an anti-Islamic concept and therefore has no value in the eyes of Islam.
Most of the views expressed above with regard to kufu make a painful reading and are in total contravention of the Islamic laws. History is testimony to the fact that Islam has influenced people of different cultural and social backgrounds in different countries. Such people have entered into marital relations and have proved shining examples of the Islamic fraternity. There is no caste system in Islam.
The Holy Qur'an and Ahadith say that the differences we see among the people of the world are just for the sake of identification and the best among us are only those who are pious and God-fearing. We cannot underestimate or consider any section of people lower or inferior. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) not only preached equality among the people, Arabs and non-Arabs, but also actually practised and implemented it in his innumerable actions and deeds. Everyone still remembers and gets inspired how Bilal, a black slave, was liberated and elevated to the high position of Muazzin in Makkah and how revolutionarily the Prophet arranged the marriage of his cousin, Bibi Zainab – a Quraish lady – with Zaid bin Haritha – his liberated slave and his “adopted” son.
Islam also made history when Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) and his companions migrated to Madinah. How the Muslims in Madinah came forward to sacrifice everything for the migrated Muslims is something unprecedented and unheard of in the annals of the world history. The Muslims, spread the world over, are to a great extent a beautiful community of multi-cultural heritage. The religion of Islam which has embraced the whole world under its catholic and universal codes of brotherhood cannot and does not give importance to any sectarian or caste consideration.
The meaning given to a ghair kuf by some as “someone below one’s status in terms of caste, family or occupation” is misleading and Brahmanic in nature! Only those who have an Aryan attitude can think so and keep their daughters unmarried for years together expecting a suitable match from the Heavens!
It is well-known that many Arabs come and marry Indian girls in cities like Mumbai, Hyderabad, Poona, etc. Was there any objection to it on the ground of ghair kuf? Even the most objectionable marriages of the Arabs with Indian girls were not objected to by the Ulema just because they thought there is no difference between an Arab and a non-Arab Muslim.
There are many instances of the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) to prove that the concept of kufu as propagated by a section is nothing to do with Islam and in fact it is an innovation detrimental to the human society and pristine pure Islamic values of equality and brotherhood.
When Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) asked the respected tribe Banu Biyaza to give any one of their women in marriage to Abu Hind, a slave and barber, they wanted to know if they should marry their daughters to their slaves. At this time the verse was revealed, “O man! Behold, we have created you all out of a male and a female and have made you into nations and tribes so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all knowing, all aware (Al-Quran, Al-Hujjaraat 49:13) This verse has rejected the concept of castes and biradaris. Our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) praised Abu Hind as a man of strong faith and character. There is no question of any religious importance being given to ancestral, financial or occupational status. The only criterion is religiosity and piety on which most religious scholars agree.
The castes, biradaris, etc. found among the Muslims are their own making and Islam is not responsible for it. Islam stands for oneness of God and mankind.


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