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Further Notes on Taqiyya: Afghanistan Author(s): Louis Dupree Source: Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol.

99, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 1979), pp. 680682 Published by: American Oriental Society Stable URL: Accessed: 19/02/2010 02:46
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Journal of the American Oriental Society 99.4 (1979) Further Notes on Taqiyya: Afghanistan
The practice of taqiyya by Shi C in predominantly Sunnl Afghanistan has affected relationships between urban groups and individuals both in and out of government, and between enthnolinguistic groups in the rural areas.

This short note is written in response to Etan Kohlberg's excellent article, "Some Imamf-Shif Views on Taqiyya" (JAOS 95, 1975, 395-402), and Cyrus Gordon's equally fine additional comments, "The Substratum of Taqiyya in Iran" (JAOS 97, 1977, 192). Although Afghanistan, Iran's neighbor to the east, is only about 20 percent ShiQ, several elements of taqiyya have crept into the cultural patterns of the dominant Sunni population. At the top level of the government of the five and one-half year old Republic of Afghanistan,1 attempts are being made to foster the belief that all citizens of Afghanistan are "Afghan." Such a concept may prove attractive to the modernizing, urban elite, but has not gained acceptance among the rural, non-Pushtun peoples, most of whom are non-literate. Literacy in Afghanistan is probably no more than 10 percent.2 Non-Pushtun peoples consider the Pushtun to be the only ethnic "Afghan," a concept thoroughly subscribed to by the rural, tribally-oriented Pushtun. Groups like the Tajik, Uzbek, Hazara, Aimaq, Turkmen, Baluch, Kirghiz, Nuristani, etc., refer to themselves by their own, locally accepted, ethnolinguistic and/or geographic designations. Usually, though not always, ethnolinguistic groups can be linked to a particular Islamic school of belief. For example: most, but not all, Pushtun are Hanaft Sunni; most, but not all, Hazara are Imami Shi'i, some are Ismafllfya; most, but not all, Tajik are Hanafi Sunni, but some are Imami or Ismacliya. The majority of the Ismaclfya live in Badakhshan and the Wakhan Corridor, although some do exist among the Hazara of the Hazarajat.3 Afghan Sunnis have long derided the Ismafilya, because of rumors concerning certain extra-curricular activities. "No IsmactlIya knows who his father is," say the Sunnfs, "because after the lamps are put out in the huts at night, sexual license prevails. No one knows who is sleeping with whom. Maybe a sister. Maybe even a mother." When Sunni Afghans travel in a known or suspected Ismacliya area, particularly in the Hazarajat, they often shout the insulting "Cheragh-kush! Cheragh-kush!" (literally "kill the lamp!" or "lights out!"). The Isma'flrya deny that such sexual promiscuity exists, but the belief that it occurs is strong among Sunnis. The fact that the Hazara are physically more Mongoloid than many of their neighbors encourages these racial insults and discrimination. Probably the most important Imamf Shifc in Afghanistan are the Qizilbash, primarily a scattered group, but powerful

far beyond their numbers, because they are concentrated in the major urban centers. The Qizilbash are the descendants of the military and administrative personnel left behind to govern by Nadir Shah Afshari in the 18th century A.D. (12th century A.H.). When Ahmad Shah Abdali (later Durrant) founded the Durrani dynasty at Kandahar in 1160/1747, he continued to utilize the administrative expertise of the Qizilbash, who swore fealty to him. Ahmad Shah's successor, Timur Shah (1186/1772), also depended on the Qizilbash, but not only as administrators. He created a force of Qizilbash cavalry to serve as his personal bodyguard, an act which affronted the local Hanaft Sunni khans. In 1189/1776, pressure from the Pushtun khans forced Timur Shah to move his capital and his Qizilbash janissaries to Kabul, the present capital of Afghanistan. The Qizilbash began to use taqiyya extensively after the First Anglo-Afghan War (1838-42),4 during which most supported the British invaders. Many returned to India with the departing British troops, and those remaining behind dissimulated in order to protect their property, save their lives, and maintain high positions in the governments of successive Afghan amirs.5 Discrimination against known Qizilbash continued during the reigns of Abdur Rahman Khan (1880-1901), Habibullah I (1901-1919), and Amanullah (1919-1929).6 Only during the short, unhappy reign of Habibullah II or Bacha Saqao (Jan.-Oct. 1929), himself a non-Pushtun Tajik, were the Qizilbash openly permitted to serve in the government without resorting to taqiyya. At the present time, the Qizilbash form an important cadre of government administrators, and many, particularly since World War II, have gravitated toward business careers or to the professions (doctors, teachers, lawyers). Many holding high positions publicly proclaim themselves to be Sunni, but will privately admit to being Shicr. The current republican regime, however, discourages any mention of ethnolinguistic groups by name, calling all citizens "Afghan." Republican literature usually simply refers to "Islam" when religion is discussed, and seldom refers to the various schools. The new 1977 (January) constitution refers to Islam only seven times: Islamic principles are mentioned in the Preamble; Art. 22 names Islam as the religion of Afghanistan, but guarantees nonMuslims the right to worship freely; Art. 64 requires that no law passed by Parliament will be repugnant to Islam; Art.

DUPREE: Further Notes on Taqiyya


77 requires that the president be a Muslim (not so with the vice-presidents); Art. 80, the president's oath of office, in which the president swears to protect Islam (not so the vicepresidents); Art. 108, the Supreme Court justices swear to uphold Islam. Hanafi is mentioned only once as a sop to the more traditional religious leaders. The article (quoted below) is already practically inoperative, because secular laws to cover most contingencies have already been promulgated. Article 99: "The courts, in the cases under their consideration, shall apply the provisions of this Constitution and the laws of the State. Whenever no provision exists in the Constitution and the laws of the State for a case or cases under consideration, the courts, following the basic principles of the Hanaft Sharica of Islam within the limitations set forth in this Constitution, shall render a judgment that in their opinion secures justice in the best possible way." A gradual, evolutionary shift from an emphasis on Hanaft Sunnf Islam to secular law can be seen in the following articles from prior Afghan constitutions, in chronological order.7 Constitution of 1923 (Amended 1925): "Article 2: The religion of Afghanistan is the sacred religion of Islam, and its official religious rite is the sublime Hanafite rite." (Amendment in ital.) Constitution of 1931: "Article 1: The faith of Afghanistan is the sacred faith of Islam, and the official religion and that of the population in general is the Hanafi Shari'a." The Constitution of 1964 breaks through the official phraseology, and Article 1 states: "Islam is the sacred religion of Afghanistan. Religious rites performed by the state (italics mine) shall be according to the Hanaft Shari(a." In addition, Article 102 lays the groundwork for the supremacy of secular over religious law, and Article 99 of the 1977 constitution (quoted above) is almost identical, word for word. In spite of the efforts of the central government to minimize the Sunnf-Sh[fi tensions, a rift, clear-cut and discriminatory, exists in the countryside. Sunnis are Sunnis and ShiCites are Shicites and seldom the twain shall meet.8 The government's attempts to encourage the development of a secular-minded, urban elite by downgrading the importance of ethnolinguistic groups and religious sects has only partly succeeded. Many Shicr bureaucrats and technicians still try to "pass for Pushtun," for to be Pushtun is to be Sunni, or so it is commonly believed. When travelling outside of Afghanistan to other Muslim countries, Afghan Shit often feel they must practice taqiyya to prevent unpleasant occurrences, except, of course, in Iran and other Shfrf areas. Gordon's statement (p. 192) concerning the Iranian Shfiite pilgrims posing as

Sunnis on the Hajj to Mecca also holds true for Afghan Shticte pilgrims. A definition of taqiyya, as it applies to Afghanistan, might be "protective dissimulation," rather than the "precautionary dissimulation" of Kohlberg (p. 395). As indicated, Afghan Shfcites use taqiyya in a number of situations and may continue to do so for more than one generation. Taqiyya is practiced to save life and protect one's property against discriminatory taxation, to obtain and hold government jobs, or simply to prevent unpleasant situations from arising-as long as one's beliefs remain pristine and pure. Possibly, therefore, it may be prudent to define the meaning of taqiyya in two distinct ways: the way local religious leaders interpret it, and the way itfunctions in the day-to-day lives of the peoples involved. Neither definition, however, precludes the validity of the other. A final note: It must be remembered that true taqiyya (however defined) can in no way be equated with apostacy, as is sometimes suggested. Louis DUPREE AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES FIELDSTAFF THE PENNSYLVANIA STATEUNIVERSITY
1 L. Dupree, "A note on Afghanistan (1974)," American Universities Field Staff Reports, South Asia Series 18,8, 1974 (Hanover and N.Y.); Idem., The New Republic of Afghanistan: The First Twenty-One Months, Afghanistan Council of the Asia Soc., 1976 (N.Y.). 2 For a discussion of the characteristics and distribution of Afghan ethnolinguistic groups, see L. Dupree, Afghanistan, Princeton Univ. Press, pp. 55-65; Idem., "Anthropology in Afghanistan," op. cit., 20, 5, 1976 (Hanover and N.Y.). 3L. Dupree, "Saint cults in Afghanistan," ibid., 20, 5, 1976 (Hanover and N.Y.); Robert Canfield, Faction and Conversion in a Plural Society: Religious Alignments in the Hindu Kush, Mus. of Anthrop., U. of Mich., Anthrop. Paper no. 50, 1973 (Ann Arbor). 4 I am writing a book on the folklore and history of the First Anglo-Afghan War. 5 For the period 1838-1880, see L. Dupree, Afghanistan, op. cit., 1973t pp. 365-413, and Vartan Gregorian, The Emergence of Modern Afghanistan, Stanford U. Press, 1969, pp. 52-128. 6 The three-day reign (14-17 January 1929) of Inayatullah (elder brother of Amanullah) should be noted in passing. 7 For a detailed discussion of the constitutions, see: L. Dupree, American Universities Field Staff Reports, South Asia Series, 9, 1965 (N.Y.).

Journal of the American Oriental Society 99.4 (1979)


On limited evidence, Robert Canfield, op. cit., notes that economic exigencies can cause conversion. My own

field work in the same general area (Hazarajat) suggests that the people may have been practicing taqiyya.