Traditions of Israelite Descent among Certain Muslim Groups in South Asia

By Aafreedi, Navras Jaat | Shofar, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Traditions of Israelite Descent among Certain Muslim Groups in South Asia


Aafreedi, Navras Jaat, Shofar


The South Asian Muslim groups of Pathans, Kashmiris, Qidwais, and Bani Israil, in spite of being antagonistic towards Jews, Israel, and Zionism, claim Israelite descent, which is seen by some scholars as an attempt on their part to distance themselves from their pre-Islamic polytheistic past by fabricating fake genealogies ascending to the founders of Semitic monotheism, the supposed patriarchs, accepted by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. Their antagonism towards Jews stems from the negative interpretations of Quranic references to Jews and also from the Arab-Israel conflict. The religious Jews who take their claims seriously are those who perceive themselves as Jews as part of a larger group of Israelites, which also includes people who according to them have descended from the Lost Tribes of Israel. Unlike the B'nei Menashe from northeast India, these Muslim groups have no desire to migrate to Israel. However, many religious Jewish organizations are keen on penetrating into their world and persuading them to do so. The involvement of religious Jewish organizations wirh these Muslim claimants of Israelite descent in South Asia can have some interesting ramifications for Jewish-Muslim relations and the world at large.

My intention is not to establish the historicity of the claims of Israelite origins that certain South Asian Muslim groups make, but rather to explore why they claim what they do and what it is that makes some of the religious Jews take them seriously.

It would be interesting to note that the groups of Pathans, Kashmiris, Qidwais, and Bani Israil (Arabic, Farsi, Pashto, and Urdu for the Hebrew B'nei Yisrael, "children of Israel") are all Muslim and strongly anti- Zionist and antiIsrael and also greatly prejudiced against Jews, yet they choose to claim origins from the land of Israel, which is the sanctum sanctorum of Judaism, the core of Zionism and the geographical location of the modern Jewish state of Israel. The claims of Israelite origins made by these groups are not a recent development, rather traditions that have existed among these peoples for hundreds of years. Of the four groups, the Pathans1 and the Kashmiris2 share the belief that they have descended from the supposed Lost Tribes of Israel. The standard view of historians is that the Lost Tribes of Israel are nothing but a myth. The last evidence of lost Israelites belongs to seventh-century Assyria and consists of references to Assyrian soldiers with Hebrew names. The Pathan tradition of descent from a contemporary of Muhammad, Kais or Kish, believed to be thirty-seventh in descent from the Biblical character Saul or Talut,3 finds mention in several medieval Persian texts, daring from the thirteenth to the eighteenth century.4 One of the most important of these medieval Persian (Farsi) texts is the Mughal courtier Neamatullah's Makhzan-i-Afghani (1612 CE), according to which:

Khaled sent a letter to the Afghans who had been settled in the mountainous countries about Ghor ever since the time of the expulsion of the Israelites by Bokhtnasser, and informed them of the appearance of the last of the Prophets. On this letter reaching them, several of their chiefs departed for Medina; the mightiest of whom, and of the Afghan people, was Kais, whose pedigree ascends in a series of thirty-seven degrees to Talut, of forty-five to Ibrahim. . . ,5

The tradition is based on the premise chat the Biblical stories are actually historical events and that the characters in these stories really existed. These groups in South Asia are resident in areas where there are no Jews; therefore their claim of Israelite descent cannot be attributed to any Jewish influence, nor can it be considered a byproduct of Christianity, as in the case of the Bene Menashe from northeast India, for none of these groups is Christian. Insistence on an Israelite origin, according to Olaf Caroe,6 stems from a desire on the part of Pathans to distance themselves from their pre-Islamic polytheistic past by fabricating fake genealogies ascending to the founders of Semitic monotheism, the supposed patriarchs, accepted by Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Traditions of Israelite Descent among Certain Muslim Groups in South Asia
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.