Various Thoughts on Iran & Islam

  • The discussion on Muslim birthrates is verging on the obscene. As I’ve mentioned before the problem with multi-ethnic multi-religious liberal democracies is that people start tracking population data. One strong about the autocratic and mercantile Khaleej Gulf Arab states is that they are simply indifferent to their population; you are either a citizen or not. I can see the Rise & Rise of Dubai as a enlightened despotic trading entrepot for Indians, Pakistanis and other Asians.
  • Vidhi made the very important to me in our discussions that as a Sindhi, she has an interest in her homeland. But she also made the critical point (I’m the only Punditeer who’s married to the enemy; the rest of you encounter them online whichever side your on) that she wouldn’t be able to dress as a Hindu
  • The importance of Khorasan to Turan, which I will expand on in future posts. There were two great Persian dialects in the middle ages; Sabk-e Khorasan and Sabk-e Hind. One of the great mysteries is what contributed to the intense “Persianiasation” of Khorasan; when it was originally Parthian/Eastern Iranian and “Aryan”. Middle East topographic map.png

  •  The vagaries of the Iranian borders is such that we conceive “Iran” as being the modern Republic. But it’s very clear that Iran is bifurcated by the two great deserts; Dasht-e-Lut and Dasht-e-Kavir. One can even spot out the “Baluchistan territory”. Geography is probably the most important determiner of ethno-linguistic faultlines. One noticeable aspect of Iranians is that they hug mountains fairly well. Of all the Iranic populations I can’t think of one that’s lowlander. Iran was an ancient power and as her political hegemony retreated, we retreated to the mountains for refuge. The Ossets, the Kurds, the Pashtos, Persians and even the Baluchs are all mountainous folks (in fact Iran can be thought of as cities on life-giving mountains interspersed with deserts).
  • The demographic transition of Turan to “partially” Turkic (Uzbekistan is the most populous country and there the Tajik population could be as high as 50%) is because of the destruction of the qanat system in the Mongol invasions. It’s the same process in how the Maghreb Arabised; it was the rapacious of the Banu Hilal who tipped the region (hundreds of years later in the 900’s) both into Arabisation and Islamicisation.
  • I’ve been pondering over what happened in the early Muslim ages that forever tipped the original core around Medina into Muslim-majorities. Islam as an ideology fused with the Arabic culture and the capitulation of ancient cities like Damascus, Cairo & Baghdad (or Ctesphion; the Sassanian capital) just created a perfect storm.
  • The Sykes-Picot is of course wholly artificial and is a Coloniser invention. However it does speak to a very strong reality in the Middle East; the division between Syria & Iraq (Damascus and Baghdad). Rome & Parthia, Byzantine & Sassania (these wars are what allowed the Arab-Muslims to surge through) and their successor states Ottoman & Safavid both contested this region. However in the immediate aftermath of the Arab-Muslim invasion it created a temporary unity in the great Mahsreq landscape. Combined with a dextrous language, dynamic (indigenous faith), it create a high prestige Arab-Muslim civilisational complex that in turn transformed the entire Islamic world (from Morocco to Malaysia).
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44 Replies to “Various Thoughts on Iran & Islam”

  1. What does “dress as a Hindu” mean? As far as I am aware, all Sindhi women wear shalwar kameez and dupatta. If she is referring to the bindi, it is my impression that Hindu women in Tharparkar wear them.

    I hope your “married to the enemy” remark is in jest, but as long as two people share the same values and politics, their ancestral background should not be too big of a deal. There are even Hindu-Muslim mixed marriages, which seems like it could be more fraught than in your case. Marriages between Pakistanis and Indians also occur and as long as you don’t have diametrically different views on the Kashmir Conflict, it shouldn’t be a big thing.

    There is nothing wrong with tracking population data, but obsessing about which religious group is having more babies is a whole different thing.

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      1. I was trying to think of issues that would make Indian-Pakistani marriages contentious. If one partner thinks India is Occupying Kashmir and the other one thinks Kashmir is an “integral part” of India, things could get fraught. But I guess those people wouldn’t get married in the first place.

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    1. I think classical female dress in Sindh is ghagra-choli or something along those lines. Salwar-kurta/kameez is a Punjabi thing (for both males and females), although it has now spread across the subcontinent for females.

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      1. Wikipedia says that Sindhi men and women both wear shalwar kameez.

        My question was what was meant by “dress as a Hindu”. Even in the ghagra-choli case, it is not as if Hindu women were wearing ghagra-choli and Muslim women were wearing something else.

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        1. Actually I asked vidhi for a clarification; she meant dress as she wants.
          She’s right – Pakistan is not the best place to dress as a woman .. why do we need to constantly debate it.

          I do actually know Pakistan very very well.. if she was wrong I’d tell her

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          1. Dress as a woman and dress as a Hindu are two very different things.

            Women are required to dress modestly. Foreigners usually wear a dupatta or scarf out of respect for local culture. But if you are going to parties among the elite in Defense, you would dress very differently.

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          2. Yes but that’s a shit culture right; no one should be “required” to do anything.
            I don’t understand why Hindutva in India is condemned but in Pakistan backwardness simply goes unchallenged

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          3. I don’t think there is anything wrong with dressing modestly to respect the local sensitivities. Pakistan is a conservative Islamic country and visitors need to be cognizant of that.

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  2. Where are we getting these things?

    “Uzbekistan is the most populous country and there the Tajik population could be as high as 50%”

    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/uz.html

    There is no census that shows Tajik population more than a few percent.

    “There were two great Persian dialects in the middle ages; Sabk-e Khorasan and Sabk-e Hind. ”

    Sabk does not mean dialect; it means a style of poetry which (may have been) imported from India, either in the 16th century by people travelling with Humayun; or by those that followed Nadir Shah and Abdalli. The term sabk-i hindi was coined by the Iranian poet, critic, and politician Muhammad Taqi Bahar (1886-1951) in the first quarter of twentieth century. It referred to a style of a poetry in the Persian language, especially ghazal, written mostly from the sixteenth century onward by Indian and Iranian composers. However, there is no evidence that this style originated in India; it was originated in Afghanistan, Uzbekstan, and other nations, but as a counter or the “other” of the Sabk-e-khorasan style of poetry. Wheeler Thackston believes that “there is nothing particularly Indian about the ‘Indian-style”. The more accurate description is ‘High-Period’ style.” sabk-i hindi is associated overwhelmingly with the ghazal, but the disapproval of the Indian Style is primarily because of the corruption of language, and the lack of interest in Indian motives. It kind of disappeared later in the century, the style, that is.

    “The discussion on Muslim birthrates is verging on the obscene. As I’ve mentioned before the problem with multi-ethnic multi-religious liberal democracies is that people start tracking population data. ”

    outside of a few educated Hindu programmers, and BJP trolls, this has been well studied in the literature. The growth rates of Muslims is representative of the Indian state they live in and the ratio:
    (TFR Muslim/TFR State) = f(SES, age of marriage of Muslim women, Muslim female educational status, Muslim female age at marriage). Bizarrely, SES has a high p value.
    There are published papers that provide p values for correlations, but unfortunately, the p values are all > 0.05, and vary by the period under consideration, making the publications a bit scattered.

    “The demographic transition of Turan to “partially” Turkic (is because of the destruction of the qanat system in the Mongol invasions. ”

    The demographic transition to Turkic in central Asia cannot be precisely dated, but started as early as 6th century AD and slowly continued through the entire second half of the first millennium. By the time of Mongol invasion, Turks had gone all the way to the gates of Istanbul. If anything, the Mongol invasion broke up the grand Turkic circle around (the non-existent at this time)Persian empire into two or more and left space for the rebuild of the saffavids after Timurids. If anything, Timurids adapted to Persian.

    I am beginning to think that some this proposed in BP is fake history.

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    1. Yes but the point is the data is vague because ethnicity in Central Asia is complex.

      Like in the Middle East Arab and Turk meant nomads as opposed to ethnic terms per SE. So in Central Asia; Sart preceded Tajik as the term for settled Persian speakers.

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      1. Zack:

        I promise this will be my last word, you are a good person; my last vicious comment can be ignored, but…..

        You are trying to create a Pan-persian consensus that runs through Pakistan/Afghanisthan/Uzbeksthan where there is no interest in such:

        You can ask Kabir or other Pakistanis here, but Pakistan just wants to be Pakistan, not India, not Persia, not Turkey… eh, may be a little bit Saudi, may be.

        Afghanistan has a lot of issues between Pathan majority and Fars minority

        There is no issue in Uzbekstan; to a leading extent uzbeks do not see them in the Iran-Indian axis anywhere; may be Turkic or shall I irritate them and say a little bit Russian.

        This is a common praxis in India among certain Indians, to imagine a super-Indian axis (or if it bothers you, replace by a super-Tamil axis) representing a certain point in history and overextending their present national geography by a factor of 2 or 3. That point in time is gone and never coming back. The people living in greater India (or greater Turan or greater Tamilland) are all happy with the present state and do not wish to be a part of this fantasy. Their issues are more day-to-day.

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        1. Apology accepted – I may be off-handing in rigorously linking but I don’t make up stuff.

          When NawRoz comes – every Paki I know falls on themselves to wish me NawRoz.

          As a Punjabi Shiite friend (they converted in the late 19th century) Pakistani culture can be best thought of as Indo-Persian.

          Pakistan frankly is the trendsetter among the Stans.. where we go the rest of Turan will follow.

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          1. I do agree with Vijay that Pakistan just wants to be Pakistan and not an extension of Persia. Although it is true that our high culture is Indo-Persian.

            If we are an extension of anything, it is North India. After all, more than half of us are Punjabi.

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          2. Well I would certainly caveat that – a big reason in our creation was the perpetuation of our Mughal heritage, which is Indo-Turanian meets Perso-Arabic.

            Punjab switched to Urdu in the 19th century; there is nothing irreversible about reintroducing Dari/Farsi back into Pakistan..

            We must already have 5-10mm Dari speakers (the Afghan refugees + Pathans who can speak it).

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          3. It is my understanding that Pakistan was created so the Muslims of British India could have a homeland.

            You could introduce Dari if people actually wanted it introduced. I think this is a non-issue right now.

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          4. Pakistan frankly is the trendsetter among the Stans.. where we go the rest of Turan will follow.

            Sri Lankans will go wherever it keeps their easy going life style. One caveat, they are the chosen (by the Buddha) and have ancient texts to prove. Not much different from Israelis (of different ethnicity).

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          5. Sri Lankans have tremendous island pride factor. Beautiful country and resilient people. It’s a pity they wasted three decades on useless black on black civil war when they could have figured out an India style language sharing agreement between the Tamil areas and Sinhalese areas, or Sri Lanka would be even more ahead. When we visited, it was incredible seeing a south Asian racial people being actively Buddhist. As a person raised in and visited various sites of eastern Bharat from childhood like Gaya, Nalanda, Bodh Gaya, Udaigiri, Khandgiri etc, it was surreal visiting Sri Lanka and seeing living Buddhism. In aforementioned Indian Buddhist centers one mainly sees Tibetans and other east/southeast Asian ethnicities or white converts. In Sri Lanka my poor wife got yelled at for wearing a sleeveless shirt to one of those cultural triangle places sites lol. That kind of female dress conservatism would not be encountered from east/southeast Asian Buddhists, I don’t think so. That was a uniquely Desi Buddha Dharmic experience lol

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          6. Pakistan can be a trendsetter among the stans.

            I would like Pakistan to be a trendsetter among the stans…

            buttt Pakistan is NOT the trendsetter among the stans, not yet anyway.

            Need to improve your 0,0,4 tally against kyrgyzstan’s 2,6,12 (let alone uzbeks 21,24,25) first..

            Besides that trend of washing over wiping we ain’t ever followin mate 😉

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        2. Amen to that. Even Bengal, divided between West Bengal (Bangla) and Bangladesh, is quite happy at where they are. Except few members of literati, neither the elite nor the masses of each land forsee a future together. Fences make the better neighbors.

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          1. I do see something like an India-Nepal relationship between India and Bangladesh, maybe not as open, but not as fenced as it is right now. I think at some point Bangladeshi elites will see that there is more opportunity for growth as members of the Indosphere, and will try to convince the masses of this. But I dont know if their arguments will be accepted.

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          2. Fences do make better neighbors. Us Bengali bhadralok folks of Kolkata have good relations with Bangladeshi Muslims but not with local West Bengal Muslims. Lot of the razakar elements of Bangladesh actually find refuge in West Bengal Muslim polity.

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  3. WRT Khorasan and Turan: Imo one of the big tragedies is the loss of Persian in India! That’s centuries of culture gone down the drain. Most South Asians (even Muslims) don’t know about the big role the Persian language played in their culture.

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    1. Maybe it was never marketed properly, like Norman French wasn’t in England. In fact, Normans fared a tad better in England – at least successfully managed to get a few French verbs in English. Turco-Persians failed on that count too. Tant pis!

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      1. As a counter, Persophiles will argue that they wrested away an entire chunk from India, almost entirely cleansed of Hindus, Persianized to the max except for grammar. However, they probably did not anticipate so much competition from Arabs and the English language.

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        1. Persianized to the max? Most Pakistanis won’t be able to tell Turkish apart from Persian.

          India has seven times the expat population of Iranians in Pakistan. Pune alone probably has more Persians than all of Pakistan. Maybe twice as many. A cousin is married to one (Shirazi girl) and many living in my parents’ neighbourhood close to the Aga Khan palace.

          https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iranian_diaspora?wprov=sfla1

          You really should travel around India more often mate.

          (Edit: just recalled that my in-laws next door neighbours in Mumbai are Persians too..)

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          1. +1008 Slapstik

            Agree completely. Many Indian cities have large Iranian communities. Many Indians (including my closest relatives) have Iranian best friends. Many alumni from elite Indian colleges are Iranian. Iranians and Desis are friends in the diaspora.

            Iranians own more assets by market capitalization domiciled in India than Iranians own assets domiciled in Iran. India “IS” the Iranian financial system. Indian is Iran’s second largest trading partner after only China.

            Iran rocks!!!

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  4. Really liked this post Zachary. Except I think all of Persia is Arya!

    I think that Arya Varsha extended from Persia to Turan to Tibet to SAARC to Indonesia to Malaysia to Singapore to Thailand, Loas, Cambodia (Vietnam use to be part of Cambodia). At some point it spread to China and Japan; although this might be seen as an exchange since they were great ancient civilizations in their own right. Some might argue that Baalbek, Greece, Rome and Serbia were part of this tradition too.

    Iran is inseparably linked to Arya Varsha, Hindustan and Bhaarat.

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