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However, it can only be partly likened to the Hindu caste system, which is primarily based on criteria of ritual purity and hierarchization particular to Hinduism.
For a time, the opposition between egalitarian Islam and hierarchical Hinduism was the cornerstone of the debate between supporters and opponents of Dumontian theory.
Despite those who attribute this principle of equal status (kafā’ah) between Muslims to the Koran and certain hadiths, and who hold it up as a principle that was integral to the original Islam, it should be remembered that the war of succession to the Prophet in the 7 century was based on family, tribal and therefore political rivalries.
Given that kafa’ah is hereditary, it enables the superiority of Ashrafs in relation to other groups within the Muslim social space to continue, beyond its role in drawing up marriage contracts.
For Gaborieau, there is indeed a caste system and hierarchy among the Muslims he studied, whereas Louis Dumont preferred to describe their social organization in terms of “groups of graduated status” as a means of distinguishing it from the Hindu system.
From a sociological standpoint, the opposition between an egalitarian Islam and a hierarchical Hinduism does not help us to understand contemporary Muslim society, especially since this egalitarian view has only been put forward by some Muslim ideologists since the end of the 19 century, during the socioreligious reforms.
In his study on a Muslim minority in Nepal, Marc Gaborieau suggests doing away with our theoretical standpoint that puts forward ideology as the only founding authority of social order.
He proposes that we should focus on observing the sphere of social relations and therefore the vernacular categories it reflects, while seeking similarities or differences with the Hindu caste system.