Beyond the Alpha-Beta-Gammas, Part 2: Chivalry and Pashtunwali

This was originally going to be subtitled as [A brief survey of Honor Codes, or “Why is OURS the one with patsies?”]
Part One has been gathering dust at Beyond the Alpha-Beta-Gammas, Pt.1: The Aristotelian Mean.

To understand Honor Codes, we need to look at a sampling of them. So first out the gate is the Infogalactic summation of Pashtunwali, the honor code of the Pashtun tribes of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It offsets, informs, and sometimes competes with Islamic Shariah in parallel ways to the relationship Dalrock, Lewis et al describe between Chivalry (or is it “Courtly Love” they’re talking about?) and Christianity. But I neither know nor immediately care enough about the variants of Shariah to bore you with a parsing of it here. So without further ado: Pastunwali!


Main principles

Although not exclusive, the following eleven principles form the major components of Pashtunwali. They are headed with the words of the Pashto language that signify individual or collective Pashtun tribal functions.

  1. Melmastia (hospitality) – Showing hospitality and profound respect to all visitors, regardless of race, religion, national affiliation or economic status and doing so without any hope of remuneration or favour. Pashtuns will go to great lengths to show their hospitality.[4][18][19]
  2. Nanawatai (forgiveness or asylum) – Derived from the verb meaning to go in, this refers to the protection given to a person against his enemies. People are protected at all costs; even those running from the law must be given refuge until the situation can be clarified.[4] Nanawatai can also be used when the vanquished party in a dispute is prepared to go in to the house of the victors and ask for their forgiveness: this is a peculiar form of “chivalrous” surrender, in which an enemy seeks “sanctuary” at the house of their foe. A notable example is that of Navy Petty Officer First Class Marcus Luttrell, the sole survivor of a US Navy SEAL team ambushed by Taliban fighters. Wounded, he evaded the enemy and was aided by members of the Sabray tribe who took him to their village. The tribal chief protected him, fending off attacking tribes until word was sent to nearby US forces.
  3. Nyaw aw Badal (justice and revenge) – To seek justice or take revenge against the wrongdoer. No time limit restricts the period in which revenge can be taken. Justice in Pashtun lore needs elaborating: even a mere taunt (or “Peghor/پېغور”) counts as an insult which usually can only be redressed by shedding the taunter’s blood. If he is out of reach, his closest male relation must suffer the penalty instead. Badal may lead to blood feuds that can last generations and involve whole tribes with the loss of hundreds of lives. Normally blood feuds in this male-dominated society are settled in a number of ways.[4]
  4. Turah (bravery) – A Pashtun must defend his land, property, and family from incursions. He should always stand bravely against tyranny and be able to defend the honour of his name. Death can follow if anyone offends this principle.[4]
  5. Sabat (loyalty) – Pashtuns owe loyalty to their family, friends and tribe members. Pashtuns can never become disloyal as this would be a matter of shame for their families and themselves.
  6. Khegaṛa / Shegaṛa (righteousness) – A Pashtun must always strive for good in thought, word, and deed. Pashtuns must behave respectfully to people, to animals, and to the environment around them. Pollution of the environment or its destruction is against the Pashtunwali.[4]
  7. Groh (faith) – Contains a wider notion of trust or faith in God (known as “Allah” in Arabic and “Khudai” in Pashto).[4] The notion of trusting in one Creator generally comports to the Islamic idea of belief in only one God (tawheed).
  8. Pat, Wyaar aw Meṛaana (respect, pride and courage) – Pashtuns must demonstrate courage [ مېړانه ]. Their pride [ وياړ ] , has great importance in Pashtun society and must be preserved. They must respect themselves and others in order to be able to do so, especially those they do not know. Respect begins at home, among family members and relatives. If one does not have these qualities they are not considered worthy of being a Pashtun.[4]
  9. Naamus (protection of women) – A Pashtun must defend the honor of women at all costs and must protect them from vocal and physical harm.[4]
  10. Nang (honor) – A Pashtun must defend the weak around him.
  11. Hewaad (country) – A Pashtun is obliged to protect the land of the Pashtuns. Defense of the nation means the defense of Pashtun culture or “haśob” [هڅوب], countrymen or “hewaadwaal” [هيوادوال], and of the self or “źaan” [ځان]. This principle is also interconnected to another principle denoting the attachment a Pashtun feels with his land or źmaka [ځمکه].[20]

As you can see already, there’s a lot of parallels between this code and the knightly “Chivalry” or “Courtly-Love” ethics of Western European societies. Here, however, the protection of women is emphasized, but it is not singled out nor is any one Lady-Love made the orbit of all virtues. Take a look at the list again and compare it to what we’ve been told Chivalry is supposed to be.

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