If it is death that determines the limits of life, it is love which offers the promise of overcoming those limits. Between these two great defining factors of human existence there is a necessarily complex relationship, which in one way or another involves just about every aspect of what it means to be truly human. Every society therefore has to evolve its own ways of understanding how that relationship is ideally to be managed. These various ways are typically best expressed in the finest creations of its artists and thinkers, which in turn help form the values and attitudes of the society at large. In the modern world, where no society lives in isolation from another, it is through the study of their different creative legacies that we can hope to understand how societies other than our own have formulated their own understandings of love and death, and that we may perhaps come to distinguish between socially conditioned norms and truly universal values.

Love and Death in Traditional Society

Punjabi Muslim society, which as the largest element in Pakistani society to a considerable extent determines the character of the nation, has a long and complex cultural history. From the time of the Muslim conquests initiated by Mahmud of Ghazna in around 1000, the Punjab was a crucial bridge between the Muslim societies of Western Asia and the very different cultural and religious world of India. The region was variously subjected over time to different imperial powers, variously based in Ghazna and Kabul or in Delhi and Agra, and traditional Punjabi society evolved as a not always stable combination of different elements. Besides the not always easy coexistence of the religious communities of Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus, each with their own religious specialists, there were the divisions created by caste groupings and by the distinctions between indigenous inhabitants and immigrants from Western Asia, as well as by the rivalries between the tribes of pastoralists and agriculturalists for the control of the all-important resources of the land. And within this very large area, there were also of course sub-regional variations, marked by differences of ecology and dialect.

The rest of this article is only available to subscribers.

Access our entire archive of 350+ articles from the world's leading writers on Islam.
Only £3.30/month, cancel anytime.


Already subscribed? Log in here.

Not convinced? Read this: why should I subscribe to Critical Muslim?

Elsewhere on Critical Muslim: