Before and After Mar Dushmani
Before and After Mar Dushmani
“Friend by Day, Enemy by Night” shares an in depth look into the lives of the Kohistanis who live in Thull, Pakistan. The author of the text, Lincoln Keiser, goes into great depth in explaining the life of these people before and after mar dushmani. Mar dushmani can be directly translated as “death enmity.” This social relationship between the Kohistanis causes for many problems. As a general principle death enmity allows men to retaliate whenever another man wrongs them, though the act of revenge itself should not exceed the original wrong. The example stated in the book is, “a blow should answer a blow and a death answer a death.” For such offenses as attacks on men through their wives, sisters, and daughters retaliation usually occurs in deadly violence. Killing the offender is considered the most appropriate response. Although violence usually takes place during retaliation, it is not the only way to handle it.
The rules don’t always require taking revenge. Enemies can peacefully settle mar dushmani in one of two ways. First, if the murderer feels desperate because he thinks he will be killed he can sue for peace, but even doing this causes certain risks. Asking for mercy requires the murderer to enter his enemy’s guestroom holding his dagger with a piece of white cloth tied to its blade. “If he enters before his enemy kills him, he then must crawl under one of the string beds in the room.” He calls out from there, “Kill me! I am at your mercy,” says Keiser. The man suing for peace is not asking to be killed, but instead formally requesting that he accept compensation instead of seeking revenge. If the wronged party refuses to accept the plea he must find a close relative to remove the enemy from his house. The other option the wronged party has it to choose to settle the case peacefully by accepting compensation. Men usually pay compensation for murder in money, a sum of about four to six thousand dollars. Sometimes land and more rarely women in marriage are given. If this is accepted peace usually follows, but their still remains a certain risk. If certain relatives of the wronged do not receive any compensation they may still want to carry out mar dushmani and retaliate. This would include friends or distant relative who feels upset but was not compensated. These individuals cannot retaliate openly though. Taking vengeance after the peace offering was accepted violates community morality.
Before pre-Islamic organization and dushmani in Thull woman did not seclude themselves. The relationships between men and women were for the most part free and open. Looking at someone else’s wife or sister did not constitute in killing another man before dushmani arrived. Of course it did occur occasionally, but not nearly as much as it does now in Thull. Wife stealing was a major source of internal political conflict before dushmani appeared, but men could usually peacefully settle such cases by paying fines and compensation. Women today in Kohistani communities are vailed and hidden from the outside community. Purdah, the seclusion of women, is practiced and women cannot own animals, guns, hold a position in political life, and are expected to wear black. The forces of sociocultural change set in motion by contact with Pathan culture and conversion is Islam had increasing impact on the patterns of organized vengeance in Kohistan.
The nawabs’, who conquered Thull in 1888, can be blamed for most of the policies in Thull today. Their policies effected particular changes in Thull to promote contention within the community. Keiser states, “they encouraged blood vengeance by levying light fines for murder, at the same time advocating that injured parties retaliate rather than accept compensation.” This was a code of the Pathans that promoted badal (“revenge”), a key value they had in Pakhtunwali. Keiser explains religious leaders from Thull traveled to Mardan and Peshawar to study in centers of Islamic learning with noted Pathan scholars and teachers. These religious leaders returned with a new religious ideology and a new outlook on women. They introduced these new concepts of honor and different notions about women. This is ultimately what is credited to triggering the newfound dushmani. They argued against music and dancing, mostly at weddings, and preached that secluding women was necessary to maintain men’s self integrity. This change took any freedom and power women had.
Along with the increase in wealth in Thull came the increase in the number of firearms owned by members of the community. It is stated that even the poorest members of society could buy and own a firearm. The wealth increased in Thull when herding diminished. The change to their economic system included cultivating potatoes as a cash crop, coupled with an increased number of fields significantly increased hard cash in the community. The supply of money expanded even further following large-scale timber exploitation.
Blood feuding and dushmani has only developed in the past few decades in Thull. It is stated that this has occurred because of economic change and political modernization, which both have been previously stated. As an American citizen I find it very difficult to understanding how such a society can actually work. This book is informative of a society and culture that most Americans probably have never heard of. I cannot even begin to imagine living in such a place. Worrying about your life everyday would have to be very frustrating especially not even knowing who your enemies are. I can understand why everybody carries a firearm because if you don’t your life is put at a much higher risk. Overall, this book gives great insight into another culture, but makes me appreciate the country I live in much more.