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August 9, 2005
Traditions (Part 2)

by Faisal Akhtar

Editor's note: This was loosely adapted/translated from a previously published work:


(This story is fictional and any character resemblance to any actual person is purely coincidental)

I was sick for the next few days and even the thought of drinking tea made me vomit but it wasn’t over even after I got better. One day, my father yelled “Faisal, get into the living room this instant”
“Yes Dad”“
“What is this I am hearing around the masjid” You went to Mr. Akbar’s house alone to ask for their daughter’s hand, you insulted their family, picked a fight with them and stormed out of their house”“
“No, Dad it didn’t happen like that”
“How did it happen”“
After I was done explaining the whole story to my father, he looked at me as if I were insane
“Dad, it really happened like that”
“That’s impossible”
“I swear”
“Well, what you are telling me is very strange but you are not completely free of blame either. You shouldn’t have gone to ask for their daughter’s hand alone. We are going there again this Sunday to get to the bottom of this”
“No way, I cannot drink anymore tea”
“Look, we need to mend relations with our neighbors and besides, do you want to marry this girl or not?“
This made me think, maybe I was being paranoid and then I remembered Hafsa. I concluded she was worth one more trip.


Next Sunday, we showed up at Hafsa’s house. The maid answered the door. My Dad said
“Will you please inform Mr. Akbar that Mr. Akhtar and his son are here to see him?“
Hafsa’s father came to the door. He looked at me and said
“Oh! You again, I have nothing more to say to you”
“Listen Mr. Akbar” my father spoke “Faisal is still young and naive and I am sure what happened last Sunday was nothing more than a misunderstanding. You and I have been coming to the same masjid for a long time and I would hate to ruin our friendship over a simple misunderstanding. Please let us apologize and put this all behind us”
“Alright come on in. Faisal, if it wasn’t for your father, you wouldn’t be setting foot in my house again.”
When we got in, my father was impressed with the house and with Hafsa. He whispered to me
“Excellent choice son” but before any refreshments came, I told them
“We already had our morning tea, thank you”
“You have come to our house, you must have something”
This time Hafsa brought in some soda and after looking at her, I forgot all about the previous Sunday. Maybe the tea story was not going to happen with the soda. My father and I drank the first glass of soda but sure enough, they poured us a second. I said to my father
“It’s happening again”
“Shut up. I mean what’s wrong with another glass” This is probably what happened last time; you mistook their hospitality for something else”
After we drank the second, they poured us a third glass. My father said
“No thanks”
“But you must drink some more”
“Well if you insist”
My father made me drink the third but sure enough, a fourth glass was sitting in-front of us right after.
“We really can’t”
“But why did you ask for more”
“We didn’t ask for more and besides, I am an old man, I can’t drink any more”
“I see the bad manners run in the family”
“Excuse me?“
“Well then you must drink some more”
“Like I said, we can’t drink anymore”
“THIS IS AN INSULT TO OUR FAMILY” shouted Hafsa’s father. “If you people don’t drink more, I will kill you”
“Are you insane? “ my father started losing it, “We refuse to drink any more, do what ever the hell you will”.

The situation started getting out of hand. They were adamant that we must drink more soda and we kept saying no and alas it happened again. We had to run out of the house to avoid a fist fight.

When we got home, my father started yelling at me “You IDIOT, you want marry into these maniacs”“
“Now do you believe me Dad?“


Next day, I went to college and explained the whole situation to Hassan. He laughed heartily and said
“Man I forgot to tell you. Some desis have a weird custom. If you come to their house, and ask for something to drink even if it is glass of water, they have to oblige you otherwise it considered insulting to you and after you are done, you are supposed to flip the cup and upside down and put it on the table indicating that you are done. If you keep the cup right side up, it indicates that you want more and if you refuse after that, it is considered an insult to the family”
“Why didn’t you tell me this before”“
“I forgot man I’m sorry”
So next day, I decided to go back again. I rang the door bell. This time, the father answered the door.
“What do you want?”
“Just a cup of tea”
“Ok! You have come to my house as a guest; I cannot refuse you since I am not as ill mannered as you are. But don’t insult my family again”
“I won’t sir”
So I came inside and I was offered the usual cup of tea. After I was done, I placed the cup upside down on the table. Hafsa’s father looked well pleased
“See that wasn’t so hard” Listen son, now that you have learned our custom, I have concluded that you will make a good match for my daughter so how about you bring your parents with you next time”“
“Well Sir, I am afraid I have some bad news”
“Our family doesn’t marry into people who require their guests to place their used cups upside down on tables. It considered an insult to our family”
“Huh? That is the stupidest custom I have ever heard of”
“Listen sir, I don’t make fun of your traditions so I would appreciate if you don’t make fun of mine”
“I am sorry, you are right. Traditions are all we have; I mean if we abandon our traditions, we will have nothing”
“Of course! Well, I wish you and your family all the best”
“Goodbye beta”
“Goodbye sir”

of and relating to...
Bint Abdul Khaliq said

As Salaamu Alaikum

lol.JazakAllah for that.Hit the nail on the head.

Was salaam

on August 9, 2005 12:17 PM
Ayan said

A true man,
he did not take an insult to his family and his father for the sake of that girl!
A inspiration to us all, the young man in the story.
and Hassan, what a dumb friend,
didn't he mention the earlier tea incident with himself for Hassan to say, "you should have tipped over your tea cup."

Sub7anallah, the things you dont know about peoples customs.
At least neighbors are reconciled, al7amdulillah

on August 9, 2005 1:29 PM
Faisal Akhtar said

Next week, a detailed over view of desi wedding traditions.

You think the tea custom is strange? You haven't seen anything yet!

on August 9, 2005 1:36 PM
Justoju said

The Akbars have gotta be pathan...

on August 9, 2005 2:21 PM
Faisal Akhtar said

You guessed it. It is a custom from Kabul Afghanistan. They don't take it to that extreme but it is there.

on August 9, 2005 2:23 PM
Justoju said

oh and I am allowed to say that because my future children will be half pathan.

(now if only my future children could also be punjabi, gujju, bengali, memon, black, hispanic, white, native american, east asian, and arab, I'd be able to be an indiscriminating racist and could take stereotypical cracks at everbody.)

on August 9, 2005 2:28 PM
now it makes sense! said


Ayan said " Sub7anallah, the things you dont know about peoples customs.
At least neighbors are reconciled, al7amdulillah"

Sorry, i'm just curious but why have u replaced the 'h' with the no.7?

on August 9, 2005 3:33 PM
Ayan said

doesnt the number 7 in english
look like the head of the letter Ha in arabic, so if you continue 7 on, you make Ha, or H sound, that is really deeper than a regular H, hence the 7s.

on August 9, 2005 5:43 PM
asef said


Kudos to you for ending the story with a bang!
I like Faisal and his final retort to Hafsa's father.

hmmmmm...someone said having kids of multi-ethnic background of their own. I wonder if this could be realized from the womb of the same woman....interesting thought!

By the way, the Pathaans usually are not very keen in giving their daughters to punjabis...I believe it has to do with strong customs of the Pathaans, who are probably the most "cultural muslims" out there in pakistan.

Also, the upside down cup reminded me of a brazillian restaurant where you put a wooden hourglass upside down to inform your waiter not to serve you anymore, as you are done with your dinner.

Again, a nice ending br. Faisal.

on August 9, 2005 5:48 PM
Justoju said

I dont think pathans are the most 'cultural muslims' out there in Pakistan. I come from an urdu-speaking 'muhajir' karachi'ite family that has been educated and 'proper' (whaddya expect from anal-retentive Lucknow) for centuries and I find that every ethnic group in Pakistan is equally 'cultural'. They all have their different norms, customs, tastes, standards, and traditions, but because pathans are generally more tribal and less integrated they are assumed to be 'more' cultural. Its not like they have more or less customs than we have, its just that we are 'city people' and so we find their customs to be totally bizarre. Urdu speakers from Lucknow look down on the customs and traditions of all the other desis on the subcontinent because they feel they are the most 'civilized' and 'literary' and 'educated' and 'sophisticated' of the bunch. Meanwhile, they have their own sets of rules and protocols and customs. Its cultural relativity.

You know, one thing that I found most impressive (and ISLAMIC) in pathan culture was their purdah system. I am not saying that ALL of their attitudes towards women are right (or healthy or islamic), but just that their strict segregation of men and women was something that I find to be very refreshing (since I come from a totally intermingling-chilled kinda family). When we went to my in-laws I was blown away by the fact that the men sat separately from the women and that the MEN SERVED THE MEN. I had never seen paki men serving other men tea/snacks/food before. I found it amazing that their women never had to come in front of any of the male guests and never had to 'serve' any random wierdo non-mahram that happened to be in their house. We all have jahilliyah in some shape or form in all of our cultures, but its really amazing when you find some remnant of original islamic society in a culture.

By the way, my husband's younger sister (who is also pathan) is married to a punjabi. How? Because her family is religious (and knows the difference between culture and religion) and into study of the deen, and so they wanted her to marry the guy who was best for her deen...even if he wasnt pathan. Just goes to show you, there are always exceptions to every stereotype...

on August 9, 2005 7:10 PM
Faisal Akhtar said

Every culture prevalent in Muslim countries has elements of Islam in it. Pathans are famous for their valor, Punjabis for their close knit family system and Sindhis for their hospitality but all of them also have jahiliyyah attached. Practices like watta satta (or Shighar where one family marries their daughter to the son of another family in exchange for a daughter of the other family to marry their son: prevalent in punjab) marriage with the quran (where women are supposedly married to the quran as if they are marrying a man so that they wont start a family and wont divide the family wealth: prevalent in sindh) honor killing and karo kari (prevalent in Patahns and sindhis) just to name a few. Mahajirs are no exception either since we have jahez (gifts parents should "willingly" give to their daughters when they get married. If they are "unwilling", there are other parents who are.)

I love pathans, sindhis, punjabis and all my desi brothers as well as my non-desi brothers but if they prefer their culture over Islam, I don't want anything to do with them. The kinds of injustice that have been perpetrated upon men and especially women in the name of "honor killings", watta satta, marriage to the quran, jahez etc. is quite horrific. Where these practices have nothing to do with Islam, the primary attack by non-Muslim upon Islam is usually about such practices since they have become so prevalent among Muslim.

This is why my tolerance for culture is almost completely gone.

It is about time we admit that these customs have nothing to do with Islam and expose these horrible cultural practices for the jahiliyyah they are.

May Allah guide us.

on August 9, 2005 8:04 PM
asef said


I lit a fuse light here :)

Actually, since we are on a roll, let me put my 99 kobos here about Pakistan and Pakistanis:

1- In all of the Muslim nations out there, Pakistan is probably the most diverse and multi-ethnic country, if there is one. If you just look at the 4 provinces, the NWFP, the Punjab, the Sindh, and the Baluchistan, each province has numerous cultures and languages to go with it. Add to that all the muslims that came from India after creation of pakistan where each one had their own nuances in culture, that added to this mixed grill.

2- But Pakistanis (in general) are people who lack one fundamental thing. That is, strategic thinking. Everyone, it would seem (from the ruler to the ones ruled) are in a race to get all and everything now or never. Nobody seems to care about making a sacrifice today for the sake of a better tomorrow (for next generation), everyone is thinking of themselves. What one can get today is important (vs how and from who is irrelevant).

3- I was in karachi all my time during my 3-4 weeks stay last month, and I can safely say that the best time of the day when I felt sweetenes in karachi was around fajr time, and thats probably because most evils are not being committed at that time.

4- The beard on a man, and the Burqah on a lady were plentyful. Alhamdulillah. I also saw a trend of younger ladies commuting via public transport while wearing Hijaab...like we do here in US. Which was pretty cool!

5- Everyone is now able to purchase things (house, renovation, cars, refrigerators, furniture and so on....) with the help of banks and co. This new trend of "capitalization" in pakistan is testing the imaan of people on a daily basis. If your life style cannot be maintained by your salary, go ahead and take loan and live off that. how you pay that loan off, is to get another loan...and so on.
(By the way, before these home loans, people use to buy house directly from the builders with so much down payments and the rest in installments...and no there was no interest involved because the price of the house was fixed, either if you pay lump sum or pay in installments).

6- and the Masajids are full of people who have Imaan...ALhamdulillah. I think the single reason why pakistan is still what it is, is because there are still good Muslims living in that country who are near and dear to Allah and HE responds to their duas for the Safety and security of their country. In the absence of these folks, only Allah knows what may be the outcome of this nation.

parting thoughts...the mangoes of Pakistan are amazing...and the diversity of mangoes grown in Pakistan is a reflection of the diversity of people in Pakistan...and I dont even like eating mangoes anymore!


on August 9, 2005 9:16 PM
ManBeast said

The Pathan is strong enough to beat up both the Punjabi and the Urdu

The Urdu is smart enough to outwit both the Punjabi and the Pathan

The Punjabi is smart enough to outwit the Pathan and strong enough to beat up the Urdu

Now you know, and knowing is half the battle

on August 10, 2005 3:01 AM
Ayan said

aah but Jews have it all!

on August 10, 2005 8:52 AM
Justoju said

I plan on creating a new breed of super humans who have the sharp wits of the Urdus and the brute strength of the Pathans...and then I will be the Matriarch of this genetically superior race and shall sit upon my mountain and watch it grow and multiply and overpower the surrounding groups and races and countries, and take over the world.

...or I could just end up having really weak stupid kids...in which case there is always social security...

on August 10, 2005 11:09 AM
Justoju said

and one small thing to keep in mind...

Not all cultural practices are bad. Just the ones that conflict with shariah rulings, or that trespass the rights/duties that Allah (SWT) in His infinite wisdom has set for the different roles in society.

on August 10, 2005 4:39 PM
Bint Saeed said

Ahhhh the perpetual and almost never ending discussion of culture and its affects on the practice of our Deen..makes for great dinner conversation;) ( I say all this with a frustrated smile while deeply sighing inside)

oh ps: sis jus-great idea of a nafs journal..jazakAllahu khayr

on August 12, 2005 12:52 AM
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