This classic work deals with aspects of family, kinship and marriage in Muslim communities in different parts of India. Each contribution included here is based on data collected by the authors through fieldwork in specific communities. Each contributor also seeks to describe and analyse the social institutions in terms of social practices rather than the formal laws of Islam. Some contributors do refer to the formal Islamic principles and try to examine the correspondence between them and the social practices and behaviour they found in the areas of their study. The Islamic rules relating to kinship and marriage are not their primary concern. They refer to them merely as analytic bases. Their primary concern is to provide an empirical profile of the structure and functioning of family, kinship and marriage in the communities about whom they write. The book fills a long-standing gap in our sociological knowledge about Muslims in India and would be valued both for the rich ethnographic accounts of particular Muslim communities and for the fresh light it throws on those aspects of Muslim kinship and marriage which have been a subject of much heated debate.
In 1973 I edited a collection of pap e r s entitled Caste and Social Stratification among the Muslims. The object of that book was to bring together the contributions of social anthropologists and sociologists who had worked on caste and social stratification among Muslims in different parts of the country. The reception accorded to that book showed that it fulfilled an existing need for detailed and systematic accounts of Muslim communities in the country. Encouraged by the success of that book, I decided to follow up with a series of similar volumes dealing with other aspects of social life of the Muslims. This book is the second of this projected series of four volumes on the social life of the. Muslims in India and deals with the institutions of family, kinship and marriage. The remaining two volumes will be devoted to a consideration of ritual and religion and modernization and social change among the Muslims.
My chief justification for undertaking to edit Caste and Social Stratification among the Muslims was that little empirical information was available on the subject and I felt that by bringing together a collection of studies by scholars who had researched into the matter in particular communities it would be possible to fill a gap in our existing sociological knowledge about the Muslims. The same thinking has led me to produce this volume. For, if the information on the structure and functioning of caste among the Muslims is scanty and inadequate, there is absolutely no empirical information at all on family, kinship and marriage among them. I hope that this volume will also fill a gap in our knowledge about the Muslims and will contribute towards a better understanding of their social institutions.
'The theory of Islam', writes Levy, . . regards the empire of Islam as a theocracy, in which Allah as supreme ruler is also the only true law-giver. Muhammed the prophet was the agent through whom believers were made aware of the divine laws which were explicitly or implicitly embodied in the Koran and his (the Prophet's) sunna, the sum total of his ordinary doings and sayings. Upon them in turn the char or shari'a is, by hypothesis, founded' (Levy, 1962:242). Muslims throughout the Islamic world accept the shari'a to be the guiding principle of their religious and social life and seek to abide by it.
There is a widespread impression that Muslims in India adhere strictly to the basic tenets of Islam as embodied in the shari'a. This impression has, indeed, been so widespread that even sociologists and social anthropologists, who are commit-ted to the empirical investigation of social life, have been prone to accept it. Either they have tended to disregard the possibility of a chasm dividing the stated ideals of Islam and social practices altogether or they ignore the deviations from the stated norms, wherever they occur, and accept the normative position as a sufficiently valid basis for describing the religious beliefs as well as the social institutions and behaviour patterns of the community. The recent remarks of a sociologist illustrate this tendency. 'The Shari'at Law derived from the Koran, sunna and she writes, 'still controls most aspects of Muslim marriage, divorce and inheritance in India (Davis, 1976:28 italics added). Subsequently, comparing the status of Hindu and Muslim women in India, she concedes that it would be misleading to use the law as an index of difference between Hindu and Muslim behaviour, but goes on to assert, . . provided this caveat is respected the difference in personal law is a valid illustration of the different position of women in the two communities' (Davis, 1976:30fn).
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