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The Religious sects
It becomes known from the old ruins found in Kohistan and Chilas that art and magic began in this territory during the middle of Stone Age. The local folk attributions to the moon, the sun, fire and snake and the evidence of their worship, the taboos about rains, the local concept of "Rui" (bitch) and "Ra:Chi" (the protector), the local belief of moon eclipse, significance of ibex and "Markhor", certain tenets and taboos related to a few trees, the folk view of the universe, erection of particular type of epitaphs at their tombs (the epitaphs resembling to the heads of horses and birds), and numerous other customs in ancient times and before Islam. Long ago, such temples existed in Besham where people worshipped fire. During the last twenty five years or so, people have given up the customs such as burning fire for seven days on a fresh gave locally called "Juma RaChon" (Watching for Friday) It is evident from the statement of a Chinese tourist,
Fah-hien (490-515 A.D) and also from certain inscriptions that Buddhism has been very popular in this land. There was a huge temple in Darel where people from China and Tibet came to worship. Buddhism was already on the decline after Fahiyan's time, when Hwang Swang (631-642 A.D) was passing through these places.
In Shatial and Dassu, inscriptions of Maharaja Ashok are also found which reflect that Ashok had been going through here. Similarly, the ruins found in Khandia are the proofs of Hinduism and the Hindu rule in this region. Buddhism was
Eliminated during the invasions of the Huns. Hinduism replaced Buddhism. During this era, the Shin tribes in the north began to indulge in feudalism as is seen in the history of Gurez and Gilgit.
Islam was introduced in Kohistan from three and a half centuries before. People coming to this region from different directions worked for Islam among the local people. The Mians, Pukhtoons and Syed were included among the early converts to Islam. In Kolai, Palas and Jalkot, the two brothers named To:lo and Dodo:ko converted to Islam in the beginning. The Shins in Kohistan converted much later than the Shins of Gurez, Gilgit and Astor. (In Ladakh, certain tribes of the Shin are still the followers of Buddhism).
Superstition was quite common in this region until some twenty-five years ago. Currently, the entire population is the followers of Deobandi sect and is largely associated with the Raiwind Center. Religious education is imparted at homes as well as in the mosques. About 62.83% of the local people are daily recites of holy Quran. According to a survey in 1981, this average is highest in all the districts of Pakistan (Please refer to Half Yearly "Ham Log", July-December Issue, p. 55). There are several renowned local theologians who are the scholars of Hadith, logic (mantaq), philosophy, Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqa), Arabic grammar (sarf) and linguistic construction and the knowledge of herbal medicines "hikmat".