Edit/Op-Ed

Social Stratification among Muslim Communities in India

Simeen Kaleem and Kartikey Shukla for BeyondHeadlines

How does the importance of ethnic identity vary within the same community or religion? Islamic ideology fundamentally opposes the notion of caste. Caste refers to “hierarchical endogamous group which based on the division of labour”, while Islam stand for equality in social and religious sphere. The concept of equal society is an egalitarian phenomenon, in reality there is no society based on perfect equality. Every society has a system of rating and ranking among its members based on certain criteria. It may be defined in the form of social, political or economic status. In India, caste system is used to rank individual or groups, as high and low and thus, form the hierarchy among the community. Throughout the history of human civilisation we have practiced some form of social or group classification such as lords and serfs, landlords and landless labourer, high caste and low caste. Social stratification is a system of structured inequality which is based on select criteria and limits the access to services and freedom that are practice by majorities. Hindu Varna system is one of the worst and exploitative social practices of the existing social history of the time. Dr. B.R Ambedkar, known as the father of Indian constitution, opposed this caste system, he argued that the notion of caste exist in every section of Indian society.

Caste is an integral part of Hinduism, but in Islam, there is no evidence found that indicates the presence or characteristics of caste. The history of Islam in India is well over thousand years old today. It has blended beautifully into the background of its adopted land and contributed immensely to the formation of a composite Indian culture and the building of the India as a nation. But today Islam and its practitioners are not a homogeneous entity as widely believed. In fact there is a big deal of diversity in the manner in which Islam is practiced throughout India. Ek hi saf mein khade ho gaye Mahmood-o-Ayaz, Na koi banda raha aur na koi banda-nawaz which literally means “Sultan and slave in single file stood side by side. Then no servant was nor master, nothing did them divide”. The above shayari is devoted Islamic rituals practices, the above line is written for Mahmood of Gazni.

Social stratification denotes various kinds of social inequalities in the specific form or nature. Caste system which is derived from the Brahminical practices among Hindus remains the main cause of social hierarchy in Indian community. The notion of Muslims in India has been accepted as homogeneous groups which is not sociologically correct. There are differences which are in the form of regional differences and cultural and social practices. Since the independence, government and political parties are using community as an identical issue rather than any effort to make them inclusive to compete with new economic paradigm. Intellectual’s forces always compare this community with Hindus in the process to reply Hindu extremist forces which never opposed Muslims development and created its bad image among Hindus.

Social backwardness of Muslims is not only limited to its socio-economic indicators but is deep rooted in social economic relation which decides social power structure among them. In India, there are social differences in every religion because of the historical cultural administration that exist in Indian social environment. Hierarchy is one of the major subject to study in sociological studies, we cannot justify it whether it’s or bad or not for any society without knowing its form of practices. EarlierJajmani System was mode of economic exchange in Hindu society but later it had changed in to exploitative in the nature of social interaction. The Brahmins enjoyed because of their superiority in the occupation and Dalits became vulnerable.

So, was it the influence of the Hindu society that led to social stratification amongst Muslims in India? What is the extent to which caste system is prevalent among Muslim community?  And is it the only aspect of inequality or there are many more? What are the factors responsible for creating inequalities among Muslims? And what impact all this has created amongst Muslim society, in India?

(to be continue…) 

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