`Let matrilineal system continue'

Staff Reporter

Academic says it provides security for women and children

KOZHIKODE: The matrilineal system has displayed dynamism and adaptability as a social security mechanism within the community for several years, especially for vulnerable sections of women and children. Let the mechanism continue to exist as long as it will. No legal intervention is needed for dissolving it, A.N.P. Ummerkutty, former Vice-Chancellor of Calicut University, said here on Saturday.

He was inaugurating a seminar on "Matriliny among Malabar Muslims continuity and change," with special reference to Muslims in Malabar, sponsored by the Indian Council of Social Science Research, held here on February 10 and 11.

The seminar was conducted in connection with the golden jubilee of the Citizens Intellectual, Educational, Social and Cultural Organisation (CIESCO).

Dr. Ummerkutty argued that there was no need to abolish the system. Though the joint matrilineal family might not strictly conform to the ideal of an Islamic family, it could not be dubbed un-Islamic. It provided social security to female members and children.

Also, it was wrong to say that because of it, Malabar Muslims were any less in being believers of the faith. Evidence pointed to the opposite direction.

Besides, in a society dominated by men, matrilineal joint family served as a defence against undue exploitation of wives by husbands. There was also a good deal of sharing of responsibilities in financial matters.

Sociologists and Islamic scholars were puzzled how the system came to be practised with ease by Muslims, when there was nothing that supported it in the Islamic law. The argument was that the infant Muslim community in Malabar adopted it as a convenient arrangement that they were familiar with, and owing to the increasing number of marriages between West Asian traders who visited the area for business and Malabar women belonging to trading families.

Marriage relations strengthened business links. Also "mappila" is a Dravidian word, meaning a newly wed husband coming to his wife's house.

P.K.B. Nair, president, Indian Sociological Society, delivered the keynote address.

T.P.S. Nair, Professor of History, University College, Thiruvananthapuram, delivered a special lecture on "Disintegration of matriliny and its impact on Kerala society."

Six papers were presented on the first day. "Koyas of Calicut: a distinctive matrilineal social group" (P.M. Shiyaali Koya, Professor of Sociology, retd, Zamorins Guruvayurappan College); "Matriliny and joint living of the Kurichiya tribals in Wayanad of Kerala" (P.K. Devan, Professor of Sociology, NSS College, Pandalam); and "Nawyaths of Bhatkal, North Kanara (A. Wahab Doddamane) were among them.

Sessions on Sunday included papers by Caroline Wilson (University of Sussex, U.K.) on "Health aspects of a matrilineal community," and Barbara Riedel, research scholar, Germany.

E. Ismail, Professor of History (retd.), Sir Syed College, Taliparamba presented a paper on "Keyis of North Malabar;" N.P. Hafeez Mohammed, Professor of Sociology, Farook College, on "Muslim matriliny in Malabar" and A.L. Mumtaz Begum, Government Victoria College, Palakkad, on "Educational aspects of matriliny in Malabar."