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Excursus Caste

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Chapter Summary

Describing India, al-Biruni (973-1050), who after living in India joined the Ghazna court in 1017 referred to Hindu-Muslim differences. The writings of Abu al-Fadl at Akbar's court mention caste, interestingly enough under the heading of 'Animal life'. In the societal fragmentation of the eighteenth century, Muslim society further diversified the ashraf into Sayyids, Shaikhs, Afghans and Pakhtuns, the common link being their foreign ancestry. The caste system was of major interest to Europeans in the course of classical Orientalism. Creation of social hierarchy among Muslims is particularly popular in India's south, though in a lesser form than among Hindus. Caste among Muslims is more of a form of social stratification that results from an adoption of Arabo-Islamic forms that were based on descent.

Keywords: al-Biruni; ashraf; caste system; Hindu; Islam; Muslim society; Sayyids



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