Pukhtūnwalī in the light of the Qur’ān and Sunnah

Author:Abu Yusuf ʿUthmān Ibn Farooq al-Yūsufzaī

All praise is due to Allah, may peace and blessing be upon his servant and Messenger Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) and on his household and all of his Companions.

What is Pakhtūnwalī or Pashtunwali??

Pukhtūnwalī (Also pronounced Pashtūnwalī) is an unwritten, democratic, socio-political culture, law and ideology of the Pakhtūn society inherited from their forefathers and carried on to the present generation. It is a dominant force of Pakhtūn culture and identity.

What is a Pakhtūn??

Pakhtūn (also pronounced Pashtūn) is a race of people who are ethnic Afghāns. According to the most correct opinion in order to qualify to be known as a Pakh tūn a person has to be an ethnic Afghān, speak Pukh to (also known as Pashto) , be Muslim and follow Pakhtūnwalī.

Executive Summary

The point of this article is to examine the primary concepts of Pakhtūnwalī in the light of the Qur’ān and Sunnah. There are many things done under the name of Pukhtūnwalī that are not Islāmic at all and should be rejected, we will not be discuss that here. In this article we will only examine the very basics of Pakhtūnwalī and how those rules hold up in the light of Islāmic sciences.

Why examine Pukhtūnwalī under the light of the Qur’ān and Sunnah?

This project was initiated because Pukhtāna (Pukhtūn or Pakhtun or Pashtūn People, who are also known as Afghān or Pathān) are well known around the world for strict adherence to Islāmic rules and regulations. They are very orthodox and conservative in their views and extremely observant of Islāmic rituals in their day to day life. Yet, they live by a code of conduct, called Pukhtūnwalī, that some call external to Islām, pre-Islāmic or even un-Islāmic. Hence we wanted to examine the base concepts of Pukhtūnwalī to see if it indeed is un-Islāmic or not.

Primary concepts in Pukhtūnwalī

The basic or primary divisions of Pukhtūnwalī are noted here in Afghān (Also known as Pukh to or Pashto). These Afghān words are common to ethnic Afghān and Pukhtūn society and language.

The following four form the major components of Pukhtūnwalī.

Melmastia (hospitality) – to show hospitality to all visitors, regardless of whom they are, their ethnic, social, religious, or national background, without hope of remuneration or favor.

Badal (justice/revenge) to seek justice for the one who has been wronged. This applies to injustices committed yesterday or 1000 years ago if the wrongdoer still exists.

Nanawatay (settlement) derived from the verb meaning to go in. This principle dictates that a Pukhtūn must provide safety and refuge to anyone who seeks protection in a Pukh tūn’s home. Hence a Pukh tūn will never turn anyone away who seeks refuge or justice. This is to help and protect the poor and weak, who are being persecuted and ask help of a Pukhtūn. This principle also contains the idea that if there is a feud and the vanquished party goes to the house or Hujra or the victor and concedes, the victor will accept their concession.

Nang (honor) – also known as Ghayrat, meaning a Pukhtūn must uphold and protect his honor, and that of his family, at all costs. This includes the defense of Zan, Zar and Zamīn. Zan: Defense of women (meaning his family), Zar: Wealth or Gold (meaning his monetary funds), and Zamīn: Land. Pukhtana are taught that death is preferable to a life without honor.

Now let us examine each of there in the light of the Qur’ān and Sunnah:

Melmastia (hospitality):

To show hospitality to all visitors, regardless of whom they are, their ethnic, social, religious, or national background, without hope of remuneration or favor.

This, I would say is strongly based in Islāmic thought. The reader will find the following verses from the Noble Qur’ān to emphasis this concept:

“Has the story reached you, of the honored guests [three angels; Jibrīl (Gabriel) along with another two] of Ibrahim
(Abraham) ? When they came in to him and said: `Salam (peace be upon you) ,’ He answered: `Salam (peace be upon you), ‘ and said: `You are a people unknown to me.’ Then he turned to his household, and brought out a roasted calf [as the property of Ibrahim (Abraham) was mainly cows] . And placed it before them, (saying): `Will you not eat?”’ [Reference: Qur’ān 51: 24-27]

“And his (Lūt’s) people came rushing towards him, and since aforetime they used to commit crimes (sodomy), he said: `O my people! Here are my daughters (i.e., the women of the nation) , they are purer for you (if you marry them lawfully). So fear Allah and disgrace me not with regard to my guests! Is there not among you a single right-minded man? ”’ [Reference: Qur’ān 11:78]

This concept is also heavily emphasized in the authentic Ahādīth of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) . As Abu Hurairah (Radhiallāhu Án) reported:

Rasulullah (sallAllahu alyhi wasallam) said: “He who believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him show hospitality to his guest; and he who believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him maintain good relation with relatives; and he who believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him speak good or remain silent.” [Reference: Sahīh al-Bukhārī and Muslim]

This point was further emphasized by Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) in the following Hadīth repoted by Abu Shuraih
Khuwailid bin `Amr al-Kh uza`i (Radhiallāhu Ánhu), who reported:

I heard Rasulullah (sallAllahu alyhi wasallam) saying, “He who believes in Allah and the Last Day, should accommodate his guest according to his right.” He was asked: “What is his right, O Rasulullah (sallAllahu alyhi wasallam) ?” He (sallAllahu alyhi wasallam) replied: “It is (to accommodate him) for a day and a night, and hospitality extends for three days, and what is beyond that is charity.” [Reference: Sahīh al-Bukhārī and Muslim]

So we see from the proof quoted above that the Pukhtūnwalī concept of Melmastia (hospitality) is firmly based in the Shari’ah of Islām. Melmastia is clearly proven and emphasized by the Qur’ān and Sunnah.

Badal (justice/revenge)
To seek justice for the one who has been wronged. This applies to injustices committed yesterday or 1000 years ago if the wrongdoer still exists.

Although this concept is proven from Qur’ān and Sunnah but the way it is carried out by the Pukhtūn people is usually very un-Islāmic. Islām calls for justice yet always favors forgiveness and mercy, while the Pukhtūn usually go above and beyond justice while taking revenge.

Nevertheless the concept of Badal, can be proven from the following verses of the Qur’ān:

“And we prescribe for them therein the life for a life, the eye for the eye, the nose for the nose, the ear for the ear, the tooth for the tooth, and for wounds of retaliation. But whosoever forgives it, it shall be expiation for him. Whosoever judges not by that which God has revealed, such as wrongdoers.” [Reference: Qur’ān 5:45]

“Never should a believer kill a believer unless by mistake, and whoever kills a believer by mistake should free a believing slave and pay compensation to the family of the deceased, unless they remit it freely.” [Reference: Qur’ān 4:92]

Hence we see proof that one is wronged must be compensated by the one who committed the wrong. In regards to this there are rules and regulations in Islāmic law that must be followed. Islām always encourages forgiveness and mercy.

Nanawatay (settlement)

This principle dictates that a Pukhtūn must provide safety and refuge to anyone who seeks protection in a Pukhtūn’s home. Hence a Pukhtūn will never turn anyone away who seeks refuge or justice. This is to help and protect the poor and weak who are being persecuted and ask help of a Pukhtūn. This principle also contains the idea that if there is a feud and the vanquished party goes to the house or Hujra or the victor and concedes, the victor will accept their concession.

This is also well rooted in Islāmic Shari’ah and is clearly proven by the Qur’ān and Sunnah. Here is an example of a Hadīth that promotes such values, narrated ‘Abdullah bin Umar (Radhiallāhu Ánhu):

Rasulullah (sallAllahu alyhi wasallam) said, “A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim, so he should not oppress him, nor should he hand him over to an oppressor. Whoever fulfilled the needs of his brother, Allah will fulfill his needs; whoever brought his (Muslim) brother out of a discomfort, Allah will bring him out of the discomforts of the Day of Resurrection, and whoever screened a Muslim, Allah will screen him on the Day of Resurrection.” [Reference: Sahīh al-Bukhārī]

This is further clearly stated in an other authentic Hadīth from Sahīh al-Bukhārī, narrated Muawiya bin Suwald (Radhiallāhu Ánhu) I heard Al-Bara’ bin ‘Azib (Radhiallāhu Ánhu) saying:

“Rasulullah (sallAllahu alyhi wasallam) orders us to do seven things and prohibited us from doing seven other things.” Then Al-Bara’ mentioned the following: To pay a visit to the sick
(inquiring about his health) , to follow funeral processions, to say to a sneezer, “May Allah be merciful to you” (if he says, “Praise be to Allah!”), to return greetings, to help the oppressed, to accept invitations, to help others to fulfill their oaths. [Reference: Sahīh al-Bukhārī]

We can further see this concept emphasized by Rasulullah
(sallallahu alyhi wasallam) when He (sallallahu alyhi wasallam) explained in the end of a longer Hadīth:

How shall Allah bless a nation that does not protect the weak against the strong?” [Reference: Sunan Ibn Mājah and Sunan al-Bayhaqī]

So deduce from the aforementioned authentic ahādīth that this principle is something established and encouraged in Islām.

Nang (honor)

The various points below that a tribesman must observe to ensure his honor, and that of his family, is upheld. This includes the defense of Zan, Zar and Zamīn: Defense of women/family, treasure, and property/land. Pukhtana are taught that death is preferable to a life without honor.

Ghayrat which is from the root word Ghira in Arabic is a very clearly established concept in Islām. We can find it being mentioned in the following authentic ahādīth from Sahīh al-Bukhārī: Narrated ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ūd (Radhiallāhu Ánhu):

Rasulullah (sallAllahu alyhi wasallam) said, “There is none having a greater sense of Ghira than Allah. And for that He has forbidden the doing of evil actions (illegal sexual intercourse etc.) There is none who likes to be praised more than Allah does.” [Reference: Sahīh al-Bukhārī]

Narrated Abu Huraira (Radhiallāhu Ánhu):
Rasulullah (sallAllahu alyhi wasallam) said: “Allah has a sense of Ghira, and Allah’s sense of Ghira is provoked when a believer does something which Allah has prohibited.” [Reference: Sahīh al-Bukhārī]

Narrated Al-Mughira (Radhiallāhu Ánhu) that Sa’d bin Ubada
(Radhiallāhu Ánhu) said:

“If I found a man with my wife, I would kill him with the sharp side of my sword.” When Rasulullah (sallAllahu alyhi wasallam) heard that he said, “Do you wonder at Sa’d’s sense of ghira? Verily, I have more sense of ghira than Sa’d, and Allah has more sense of ghira than I.” [Reference: Sahīh al-Bukhārī]

Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah (Radhiallāhu Ánhu) :

Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: “I saw myself (in a dream) entering Paradise, and behold! I saw Ar-Rumaisa’, Abu Talha’s wife. I heard footsteps. I asked who is it? Somebody said, ‘It is Bilāl ‘ Then I saw a palace and a lady sitting in its courtyard. I asked, ‘For whom is this palace?’ Somebody replied, ‘It is for ‘Umar.’ I intended to enter it and see it, but I thought of your (‘Umar’s) Ghira (and gave up the attempt).” ‘Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) said, “Let my parents be sacrificed for you, O Allah’s Messenger! How dare I think of my Ghira being offended by you? [Reference: Sahīh al-Bukhārī]

Hence we see the concept of Ghira (called Ghayrat) is well established in Islām. We cannot say that ever action carried our in the name of ghayrat or Pukhtūnwalī is approved in Islām , we are only discussing the concept here. All actions carried out under any of the concepts mentioned above must be examined in the light of Shari’ah.

Conclusion

In the light of the abovementioned evidences (dala’il) from the Holy Qur’ān and Noble Hadīth of Rasulullah (sallallahu alyhi wasallam), we can conclude that the core principles of Pukhtūnwalī are not contrary to Islāmic beliefs. Having said that, we must keep in mind the cautionary qualification that the method in which that these principles are carried out in must be inline with the Qur’ān and Sunnah as well.

And Allah knows best.

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