Like every other nation, the people of Afghanistan are very proud of their rich culture. Whether it is their hospitality, long history, or bravery, the people are very proud of it.
While the Afghan people enjoy a common culture, there are customs and traditions that may vary among Afghans due to their geographical location and especially ethnicity. Afghanistan is home to many ethnic groups such as Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks.
Hospitality may be the first thing that comes to mind when talking about the Afghan culture. Afghans are very popular for their hospitality in the world. An Afghan will always invite you in if you knock on their door. Afghans will share food and space with you, even if you are complete strangers. You are a guest simply because you showed up at their door. In addition to providing space and food, they will provide you protection if you seek refuge with them. This will happen if it is at the cost of their lives and breaks the law, as the code of hospitality precedes other laws. Not only is it disrespectful but it is also shameful for an Afghan to deny a guest shelter and protection. This tradition is not limited to a person, family, or village, but could be exercised even at the country level.
Resistance to Submit to Force
While Afghans hospitality is well known, many may not be familiar with the culture of resistance to force. No one likes to be forced to do something. Afghans, however, may show the opposite reaction to force. One of the traditions of the people of Afghanistan is to not submit to force, but they could be convinced easily if there is not a feeling of pressure. A famous Pashto adage says that ‘Pashtuns with love will accompany you to hell but with force not even to heaven‘. This trait is not limited to Pashtuns but also covers Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, and other ethnic groups in Afghanistan. They are typically judged by other community members for agreeing to something under pressure. In a collectivist culture like Afghanistan, it is easier to resist force than be humiliated by people around you.
Religion and Culture
Of course, culture intertwines with religion. Afghanistan is an Islamic country and most people follow Islam. However, upon closer look, one can find that some cultural practices may not go along with the Islamic law in which case they may practice their traditions. Some of these traditions have existed in this land for thousands of years and may precede the emergence of Islam.
For example, according to Islamic law, dowry is defined as a bridal gift that a husband gives or promises to his wife to honor her. Although the bride’s parents are not allowed to ask the groom for money in Islam, it is a common practice among Afghans, especially in Eastern and Southeastern Afghanistan. According to the traditions in those regions, a bride’s trust and her family’s honor could be questioned if the parents don’t ask for a large sum of money from their to-be groom. This tradition can be well defined by the saying that ‘Pashtuns accept only half of the Quran’. This saying is usually used for Pashtuns, but it can be observed among other ethnic groups in Afghanistan.
So, despite being a multi-ethnic society, containing diverse ethnic, linguistic, and tribal groups, Afghanistan comes together in its shared values. Stoicism, independence, loyalty, and hospitality only scratch the surface of the Afghan culture – there is always more to uncover!
By Faraidoon Saadat