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A Journal of Pakistan Studies 

Volume 2, Number 1, 2010 

ISSN 1948-6529; EISSN 1946-5343 

http ://pakistaniaat. org 

Sponsored by the American Institute of Pakistan Studies 

Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies 

ISSN 1948-6529; EISSN 1946-5343 

Pakistaniaat is a refereed, multi disciplinary, open-access academic journal, published 
semiannually in June and December, that offers a forum for a serious academic and cre- 
ative engagement with various aspects of Pakistani history, culture, literature, and politics. 

Masood A. Raja 

Section Editors 

Masood A. Raja, David Waterman, Deborah 
Hall, Jana Russ, Mahwash Shoaib, and 
Yousaf Alamgirian 

Layout Editor 
Jason W. Ellis 

Editorial Coordinator 
Swaralipi Nandi 

Chief Coordinator, Pakistan Bureau 
Waqar Haider Hashmi 


Zahid Shahab Ahmed, Robin L. Bellinson, 
Jenny Caneen, Benjamin Kyle Gundy, 
Abroo Khan, Kolter Kiess, Abid Masood, 
Adam R. McKee, David Murad, Sohomjit 
Ray, Dennis W. Reed, and Mashhood 
Ahmed Sheikh 


Jason Gosnell, Andrew 

Elizabeth Hays Tussey 

J. Smith, and 

Advisory Review Committee 
Zahid Shahab Ahmed, Zia Ahmed, Robin 
L. Bellinson, Charles Boewe, Cara Cilano, 
Anila Daulatzai, Leslie Fadiga-Stewart, 
Saadia Zahra Gardezi, Waqar Haider 
Hashmi, Muhammed Hassanali, David 
Murad, Mustafa Qadri, Naeem Ashraf Raja, 
and Zahid Shariff 

Editorial Board 

Tahera Aftab, Fawzia Afzal-Khan, Waseem 
Anwar, Kamran Asdar Ali, Katherine 
Ewing, Robin Goodman, Pervez Hoodbhoy, 
Babacar M'Baye, Mojtaba Mahdavi, Hafeez 
Malik, Muhammad Umar Memon, Tariq 
Rahman, Amit Rai, Amritjit Singh, and 
Anita Weiss. 

Access Pakistaniaat online at You may contact the journal by mail 
at: Pakistaniaat, Department of English, Kent State Univeristy, Kent, OH 44242, United 
States, or email the editor at: 

The views presented in Pakistaniaat are those of the respective authors and should not be 
construed as the official views of anyone associated with the journal. All works published 
in Pakistaniaat are covered by a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No De- 
rivative Works 3.0 United States License. 

Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies 

Volume 2, Number 1, March 2010 


Rizwan Akhtar is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Essex. His po- 
ems have appeared in Poetry Salzburg Review, Poetry NZ,Poesia,Wasanri(forthco 
ming), decanto(forthcoming), tinfoildresses and a few have been anthologised by 
Poetry Forward Press, UK. 

Shaikh Muhammad AH (BSEET, MBM) has a Bachelors in Electronics Engi- 
neering from University of Southern Colorado, USA and a Masters in Business 
Management from the Asian Institute of Management, Manila, Philippines. After 
having worked in the private sector locally & abroad for almost fourteen years, he 
is now working as the senior most Project Director (HRD) for the Higher Educa- 
tion Commission (HEC) for the last 6. 10 years and is currently managing foreign 
scholarship programs for faculty development of Public sector universities in 
Pakistan and is also experimenting with the concept of Change Management. 

Sara Bano is a Teacher Trainee, Graduate Program, Department of English, Fac- 
ulty of Education, Iwate University, Japan. 

Saadia Zahra Gardezi is an independent researcher and freelance graphic de- 
signer with a Masters in International Political Economy from Warwick Univer- 
sity, UK. 

Muhammed Hassanali is an independent scholar who lives and works in Cleve- 
land, Ohio. 

Rajesh Kochhar is CSIR Emeritus Scientist, Indian Institute of Science Educa- 
tion and Research, Chandigarh India. 

Muhhammad Umar Memon is professor emeritus of Urdu, Persian, and Islamic 
Studies at University Of Wisconsin, Madison and editor of the Annual of Urdu 

Muhammad A. Nisar is a Fulbright Scholar at UC Berkeley. He is pursuing a 
joint degree in Public Policy and International Area Studies. His research focuses 
on educational policy and religion in Pakistan. He is from Pakistan and also holds 
a Masters degree in Economics from Punjab University. 

Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

Masood Ashraf Raja is an Assistant Professor of Postcolonial Literature and 
Theory at Kent State University, United States and the author of Constructing 
Pakistan (Forthcoming from Oxford UP). His critical essays have been published 
in j ournals including South Asian Review, Digest of Middle East Studies, Carib- 
bean Studies, Muslim Public Affairs Journal, and Mosaic. He is currently working 
on his second book, entitled Secular Fundamentalism: Poetics of Incitement and 
the Muslim Sacred. 

Sohomjit Ray is a Ph.D. student in English Literature at Kent State University. 
Mike Unher is an Associate Professor, Department of English, Faculty of Educa- 
tion at Iwate University, Japan. 

Kamila Shamsie is an established Pakistani author, who lives in London and 
Karachi. She has a BA in Creative Writing from Hamilton College in Clinton New 
York, where she has also taught Creative Writing, and a MFA from the University 
of Massachusetts, Amherst. She also writes for The Guardian, The New States- 
man, Index on Censorship and Prospect magazine, and broadcasts on radio. This 
excerpt is from her most recent published novel. 

David Waterman is Maitre de conferences in English at the Universite de La 
Rochelle, France, as well as a member of the research team CLEVIAS (Cultures 
and Literatures of the English Speaking World) at the Universite Michel de Mon- 
taigne, Bordeaux III, France. 

Louis Werner, a free-lance writer and filmmaker living in New York, is a contrib- 
uting editor at Americas, the cultural bimonthly of the Organization of American 
States. He can be reached at 

Asad Zaman (BS MIT 74, Ph. D. Stanford 78) is a professor of Economics at 
International Islamic University, Islamabad. 

Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

Table of Contents 


Reconciling Religion: Bulleh Shah, Ralph Waldo Emerson and the American 

Transcendentalist Tradition 

Mike Unher, SaraBano 1 

Sufi Influence on Pakistani Politics and Culture 

Muhammed Hassanali 23 

Education, Religion and the Creation of Subject: Different Educational Systems 

of Pakistan 

Muhammad AM sar 46 

English Education in India: Hindu Anamnesis versus Muslim Torpor 
RajeshKochhar 62 


Nicholas Schmidle's To Live or to Perish Forever 

David Waterman 87 

Daniyal Mueenuddin's In Other Rooms, Other Wonders 

SohomjitRay 90 

Notes and Commentaries 

Mushaira: Pakistan's Festival of Poetry 

Louis Werner 95 

Celebration on the Birth of a Second Child Through 'ATAN' 

Shaikh Muhammad Ali 101 

Our Traditional Educational Systems 

AsadZaman 104 

Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 
Poetry and Prose 

An Excerpt from Burnt Shadows: A Novel 

Kamila Shamsie 107 

Escape on Ferozpur Road 

Saadia Zahra Gardezi 115 

A half-rhymed tale of a Punjabi Girl 

Rizwan Akhtar 118 


The King Buzzard— Bano Qudsia's Raja Gidh 

MasoodAshrafRaja 122 

Zaheer Kashmiri: My Life, My Art 

Muhhammad Umar Memon 140 

Notable Pakistan-Related Texts 

List of Recent Pakistan-Related Texts 

David Waterman 152 

Lahore With Love by Fawzia Afzal-Khan, Syracuse UP 154 

Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

Reconciling Religion: Bulleh Shah, Ralph Waldo 
Emerson and the American Transcendentalist Tradition 

By Mike Unher and Sara Bano 


Much has been written regarding the influence of Persian and other Islamic poets on 
the literature and thought of Ralph Waldo Emerson. It has been revealed in much of 
his work that a strong line ran from Sufi poets such as Rumi and Hafiz through Em- 
erson's own corpus of essays, prose and poetry. In fact, it is now apparent that Em- 
erson was the first so-called Western author to have incorporated — indeed, to have 
been immensely influenced by — those and other 'seers and sayers' of the East. His 
translations of Hafiz and others, as well as his juxtaposition of Persian verse with 
his own, are clear indications that Emerson drew his muses from a deep and distant 
wellspring in his exploration of the inextricable mutual bond and co-dependence 
between mankind and nature. His poems Brahma and Saadi, in particular, serve as 
strong examples of the role that the semiotics of 'out-lying' cultures, so distant in 
time and place from his own New England, played in his poetics and his view of 
life as a universalist. 

He wrote in the introduction to his essay Nature, 

The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through 
their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the uni- 

Now, in hindsight of over a century and a half of reflecting on Emerson's work, 
it will be interesting to consider the poetry and beliefs of a Sufi poet who, though 
unaffiliated with Emerson's work per se, presents an indirect illumination of the 
universal tolerance and values of American Transcendentalism. 

Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 
Sufism: Definitions and Beginnings 

To undertake such an exploration, it is helpful to define terms, especially for the 
non-specialist. Sufism, or Tasawwuf&s it is known in the Muslim world, is often 
characterized as Islamic mysticism (Lings 15). 

The first people to call themselves Sufi were a group of disciples of the 
Prophet Mohammed, Praise Be Unto Him (henceforth abbreviated in this paper as 
PBUH), who would often sit at his feet to listen to the tenets of Islam and receive 
enlightenment in the faith. 

Seyyedeh Dr. Nahid Angha writes an interesting definition of Sufism and of 
its early beginnings: 

The history of the origin of Sufism records that during the lifetime of the 
Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), fifteen centuries ago, there was a group of 
pious individuals from different nations who, guided by the Laws of Islam, 
sought for the direct experience of the Divine. Companions of the Prophet, 
they were people of principles practicing certain disciplines and medita- 
tions for the sake of purification, the realization of Divine love, and the un- 
derstanding of reality. They were the Lovers of God who sought union with 
Him through losing the limited self in His Divinity (fana), and remaining 
alive in that Reality (bagha). 

These individuals met on the platform, or sujfe, of the mosque where Proph- 
et Mohammed (PBUH) used to pray in Medina, Arabia. They would meet 
there almost every day to discuss the ways to inner knowledge, the truths of 
revelation, and the meanings of the verses of the Koran. Thus the platform 
of that mosque in Medina became the first gathering place of one of the 
most influential groups in the history of mankind's spiritual civilization. 
They were called able sujfe, the People of the Platform. 

Among the most famous of these sujfe (adherents of the Sufi path who followed the 
Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)) were: Salman Farsi, Ammar Yasser, Balla'al, and 
Abdullah Masoud; some historians have added Oveyse Gharani to this list as well. 
Avoiding proselytizing among the multitude, their gatherings were held in private, 
open only to true seekers of reality. Instead of preaching in public, these pious indi- 
viduals were more searchers for truth than performers of rhetoric. 

After the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) passed away, each Sufi returned to 
his homeland to instruct students eager to follow the path toward inner knowledge. 
There they became the great missionaries of Islam. History shows that within a 

Unher and Bano 

century or two their style of self-understanding and discipline was introduced by 
their students to nations as diverse and widely separated as Persia, India, Indone- 
sia, Syria, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and other regions of North Africa. Their teachings 
were based on individual understanding and direct experience, not just on particular 
texts or rote learning. In this manner their fundamental teachings have been pre- 
served in their style up to the present. 

Non-Muslims often mistake Sufism for a sect of Islam. Sufism is more ac- 
curately described as an aspect or dimension of Islam. Sufi orders (tariqas) can be 
found in Sunni, Shia, and other Islamic groups. Ibn Khaldun, the 14th century Arab 
historian, described Sufism as 

dedication to worship, total dedication to Allah most High, disregard for 
the finery and ornament of the world, abstinence from the pleasure, wealth, 
and prestige sought by most men, and retiring from others to worship alone. 

On the other hand, in something of a departure from more prevalent definitions, 
Paul Yachnes quotes Islam scholar Victor Danner, in Yachnes' own introduction 
to his translation of Ibn'Ata'illah's Book of Wisdom (1978): "When dealing with 
Sufism, it is best to leave to one side such terms as 'mystic' and 'mysticism,' if only 
because in the modern Western world such words nowadays often lead to confu- 
sion." According to Yachnes, Danner instead prefers to identify Sufism "operatively 
and institutionally," as he does in his book The Islamic Tradition: An Introduction: 

Sufism is the spiritual Path (tariqah) of Islam and has been identified with 
it for well over a thousand years. ... It has been called Tslamic mysticism' 
by Western scholars because of its resemblance to Christian and other forms 
of mysticism elsewhere. Unlike Christian mysticism, however, Sufism is a 
continuous historical and even institutionalized phenomenon in the Muslim 
world that has had millions of adherents down to the present day. Indeed, if 
we look over the Muslim world, there is hardly a region that does not have 
Sufi orders still functioning there. (Danner 84) 

A strong cultural element has evolved with the interpretation of Sufism; as men- 
tioned earlier, Sufism has been prevalent throughout the Muslim world up to the 
present time. While the shades of meaning and understanding and apparent shape 
of Sufism might be different across cultures, the basic ideology is the same from 
East to West, from Sufi poets as diverse as Rumi and Bulleh Shah. 

Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

Paul Yachnes (20) mentions different perspectives of Sufisrn in light of dif- 
ferent definitions in his paper "Sufism Name and Origin." R.A. Nicholson, in his 
brief introduction to Sufism, The Mystics of Islam (1914), remarks: "Sufism, the 
religious philosophy of Islam, is described in the oldest extant definition as 'the ap- 
prehension of divine realities'" (1). Despite referring to it as "Islamic mysticism," 
he still maintains the popular idea that Sufism was largely the product of diverse 
philosophical and spiritual influences, including Christian, Neo-Platonic, and oth- 
ers. Nicholson further states that Sufism is "a subject so vast and many-sided that 
several large volumes would be required to do it anything like justice" (1). Nichol- 
son's definition focuses on the diversity, universality and acceptance of all religions 
and creeds, which is one of the most significant and unique aspects of Sufism. 

As Hidayat Inayat-Khan writes in his article "What is Sufi?": 

Sufism is neither a religion nor a cult or a sect, nor is it only from east or 
from west. Sufism, which means wisdom, has always been and shall always 
be an open door to Truth; the wise feel sympathy towards all beliefs, while 
at the same time avoiding speculation upon abstract concepts. Sufism be- 
lieves in the Divine origin of every form of worship in which the unity of 
religious ideals is respected. 

Meanwhile, in his book Kim, Rudyard Kipling was content to refer to a Sufi as "a 
free-thinker" (167). 

Almost all scholars today accept the concepts of divine origin and tolerance 
in Sufism. But Hidayat Inayat-Khan has given the meaning of Sufism simply as 
wisdom, which, like Kipling's free-thinker, seems to be an incomplete term com- 
pared with the basic doctrine that follows. In his article "Sufi Path," the definition 
of Sufism (Tasavofi is given thus, as a much more rigorous characterization: 

Tasavofis the journey of the soul in search of the Truth, as well as its ar- 
rival. This is the renunciation of everything but God. It is paying complete 
attention and having a heart-felt connection to Him. It is infinite resignation 
to the point that one sees nothing but God with the vision of the heart, to the 
point that all other beings are seen as mere shadows of the Divine, until the 
state is reached in which "There is no being but God," and "There is noth- 
ing but Him." 

Unher and Bano 
Bulleh Shah and Ashfaq Ahmed 

The compositions of Bulleh Shah, considered by many to be the greatest mystic 
poet of the Punjab, have been regarded as the pinnacle of Sufi literature. His ad- 
mirers (many of whom have referred to him affectionately as Baba Bulleh Shah) 
compare his writings and philosophy to the work of Rumi and Shams-i-Tabriz. At 
present, he is held in great esteem equally in Northern India and Pakistan. 
Conveying this sense of "timeless appreciation" of Bulleh Shah's work, Pakistan's 
The Daily Mail News, published in Islamabad, recently printed the following an- 
nouncement regarding an upcoming urs (devotional fair dedicated to Sufi saints): 


KASUR — The annual Urs of Baba Bulleh Shah, the Punjabi mystic poet, 
will begin on October 1, 2009 and will conclude on October 3, 2009 in 
Kasur. Bulleh Shah's poetry reflected his rejection of orthodox hold of 
mullahs over Islam, the nexus between the clergy and the rulers and all the 
trappings of formal religion that created a gulf between man and his Cre- 
ator. A common theme of his poetry is the pursuit of self-knowledge that is 
essential for the mystical union with the Beloved. 

There are varying opinions regarding the dates of Bulleh Shah's life, but most re- 
searchers believe that he lived from 1650 to 1758. He was born Abdullah Shah, in 
the Punjab region of present-day Pakistan, in the village of Uch Gilaniyan in Baha- 
walpur. He was of the Sayyiad caste, and was thus related to Prophet Mohammed 
(PBUH). His family was constantly shifting from place to place during his child- 
hood. Bulleh Shah's father, Shah Mohammed Dervish, was well-versed in Arabic, 
Persian and the Koran. His family moved to the district of Malakwal, and before 
long the head of the village of Pandoke sought a preacher for the village mosque. 
On the recommendations of the people of Malakwal, he approached Bulleh Shah's 
father and retained him not only to perform the duties of the preacher, but also to 
become the teacher for the village children. 

For young Bulleh it was a simple case of a natural curiosity and receptive- 
ness as well as environment. These factors provided him with his early education 
and awareness of the power of religion and the written word, as well as a deep re- 
spect for learning. 

Later, he was sent to Qasur for higher education, which in those days was a 
well-known center of learning. There he encountered eminent, well-known teach- 
ers such as Hazarat Ghulam Murtaza and Maulana Mohiyuddin. Bulleh Shah be- 

Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

came a pupil of Hazarat Ghulam Murtaza, and with his innate intelligence and 
moral proclivity, he gained much from his contact with this teacher. 

According to Puri and Shangari in their article "The Life of Bulleh Shah," 
there is strong historical evidence to show that Bulleh had become an eminent 
scholar of Arabic and Persian: 

From his own compositions we can find many references to Islamic thought 
and mystic literature. Later, when he attained mystic realization, his erudi- 
tion and learning acquired a new significance. But Bulleh Shah had to pass 
through a hard struggle before he could attain the inner knowledge. This at- 
tainment was possible only through his contact with his Murshid or Master, 
Inayat Shah. The study of scriptures and other holy books had only aroused 
his interest and curiosity about spiritual realization. His longing for union 
with the Lord reached its consummation only after he met a perfect Master 
in the person of Shah Inayat Qadiri. 

Thus, it was his contact with Shah Inayat Qadiri that enabled Bulleh to realize his 
deeply-felt wish to transcend earthly passion, including that which he felt for his 
master, and attain the divine love he sought of the Lord. 

Because of his pure life and high spiritual attainments, he is equally popu- 
lar among all communities. Scholars and dervishes have called him 'The 
Sheikh of Both the Worlds,' 'The man of God,' 'The Knower of Spiritual 
Grace' and by other equally edifying titles. (Puri and Shangari, The Life of 
Bulleh Shah) 

Sufism had been established in the Muslim world centuries before Bulleh Shah, and 
this tradition is still a part of the modern day Muslim world. So while his ideas were 
not alien and his message did not stop there, Bulleh Shah's rather unconventional 
and bold poetry was not something easily acceptable for the so-called norms of fun- 
damental society. For example, during his time with his master Shah Inayat Qadiri, 
he used the feminine metaphor to voice his thoughts, and he dressed like a woman 
and whirled like a common dancing girl of the street though he was from a highly 
esteemed and respected background (Puri and Shangari, The Life of Bulleh Shah). 
It can be said that Bulleh turned rather eccentric in his behavior (and some 
around him even called him crazy) as he tried to define the love he felt for both his 
master and his deity. The following lines are taken from Bulleh's homage to the 
love and passion he felt toward both his master and God: 

Unher and Bano 

Your love has made me dance all over; 

Falling in love with you was supping a cup of poison. 

Come, my healer; it 's my final hour. 

Your love has made me dance all over. 


Leaving my parents, I am tied to you. 
Oh, Shah Inayat, my beloved guru. 


Bulleh's message through much of his poetry matches his broad perspective 
of universality that is much deeper than the mere appraisal of natural beauty — it 
has deep roots that reach down to the human soul and human heart. This concept 
is larger than life: divinity to universality and then to spirituality; all are intercon- 
nected and cannot be separated. This interrelation is characterized by the phrase 
"Ana ul Haq" ("I am divine"). Uttering such a phrase was considered at the time 
such a blasphemous expression that when it was uttered by the seer Mansoor Halaj 
(c. 858-922), he was forced to drink poison for his spiritual crime. 

Bulleh Shah was a unique voice at that time in the Muslim world (and cer- 
tainly in the present place and time as well), as he asked the people to destroy the 
mosque and the temple since it is in the human heart that God dwells. The concept 
of "self is his focal point as he addressees mankind, asking in one of his more fa- 
mous poems (known as a kafi), Come to Our Abode: 

Time and time again you go to temples and mosques, 
but have you ever entered your own heart? 

This concept of forsaking the established constructs of prayer, and in particular the 
physical trappings of worship, such as mosque, church, and religious books, later 
drew universal attention, and brought new awareness to people like Malcolm X and 
others who felt disenfranchised by the majority religion and culture by which they 
were ruled. Such an awareness or enlightenment often can be found to turn many 
from criminal outcasts to leaders and visionaries. To regard all as equals, to achieve 
a humanistic equality, is paramount to the path of the human being on earth, which 
was and remains the heart of Sufism: 

Remove duality and do away with all disputes, 
The Hindus and Muslims are not other than He. 

Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

Deem everyone virtuous, there are no thieves. 
For within everybody He himself resides. 
How the trickster has put on his mask! 

(Puri and Shangari, Bidleh Shah: The Love -Intoxicated Iconoclast) 

Many years before, the Sufi seers of Persia, such as Hafez, Rumi, and Saadi, 
whom Emerson so admired many years later, conveyed the same message, and 
Bulleh Shah carried forth with the same vigor centuries after. Even today, Pakistani 
literature — not only in the national language of Urdu but in all regional languag- 
es — has a very strong Sufi tradition, as is found in the work of contemporary Sufi 
writers of Urdu, such as Qudrat-Ullah-Shahab, Mumtaz Mufti, Wasif Ali Wasif, 
Bano Qudseia, and, of course, Ashfaq Ahmed. 

Ashfaq Ahmed (1925-2004) was a more contemporary voice of Sufism in 
our time. He was a well-known and highly respected playwright, broadcaster, uni- 
versity educator (in Pakistan and abroad), and intellectual author of more than 25 
books, and was deeply inspired by Sufism in the latter part of his life. He had begun 
a TV talk show called Baitthak, meaning a place where people from all walks of 
life gather together and talk about their experiences and exchange wisdom. Later 
it was named Zaviya (perspective, dimension), where he professed his Sufi ideas 
to the Pakistani nation every week for more than a year. This talk show later came 
into book form also under the title of Zaviya, appearing in several volumes. He was 
not a born Sufi, and it came to him as a gradual transformation due to his lifelong 
experiences and his close contact with the authors Qudrat Ullah Shahab and Mum- 
taz Mufti, both prominent Sufi-inspired writers in the Urdu language. Perhaps the 
greatest influence was later in his life, when he would spend time sitting with Sufis, 
often in their impoverished homes, in an effort to unravel the mysteries of Sufism. 
At times Ashfaq would participate with the families in such mundane household 
chores as shelling beans and sewing cloth, and through these simple acts done 
within the context of simple lives, he was able to better understand the concept of 
balancing one's struggle for wealth and knowledge with an existence of devoted 
simplification and austerity in the so-called modern life. Out of these experiences 
came the question he was to ask for the remainder of his life: "All this struggle in 
life is for what?" 

It was a question he could not answer at international universities, but rather 
found at the dyera (an open place to sit and talk) of Sufism. He was not immersed 
in the trance of divine love like Bulleh Shah, whose passion tore his soul apart 
and who reached such ecstatic heights that people believed he was insane. Rather, 
Ashfaq was a man of the world, a normal man with day-to-day worries and human 
shortcomings, looking for the meaning of life like many others. 

Unher and Bano 

While Ashfaq Ahmed was a prose writer and intellectual with the subtle 
sense and worldlier mood of the 21 st century, and Bulleh Shah was a more pas- 
sionate, fiery poet of the 17 th century, both nevertheless focused their work on hu- 
mankind. Their quest and longings were explorations of "self in order to unfold 
the secrets of spirituality and divinity while living with and accepting universal 
diversities. Theirs has been a tradition that has survived and flourished as it passed 
from generation to generation and has undergone metamorphoses as it passed from 
culture to culture. 

It is a major tenet of Sufism that the adherents are all-accepting and all- 
tolerant of every faith and race in that every human being is to be treated with equal 
love and respect — Hindu, Jew, Christian — in a universalist view toward one hu- 
mankind, one God. This universalist quality can be found echoed later in R.W. Em- 
erson's own "conversion" from the strictures of his earlier Calvinist faith, through 
Unitarianism, and finally in his arriving at a devotion that transcended the limits of 
the parochialism of his present-day Christianity to embrace all people of all faiths, 
of all humankind, removing dualities. 

Reconciliation: Adopting, Adapting, Empowering 

The Reverend Jone Johnson Lewis, in her piece What is Transcendentalism?, writes 
of the concept this way: 

One way to look at the Transcendentalists is to see them as a generation of 
well-educated people who lived in the decades before the American Civil 
War and the national division that it both reflected and helped to create. 

It must be kept in mind that this period was a time of molding a national identity 
out of European roots. The academia and scholarship, the sensibilities and cul- 
tural trappings of the Old World were quickly becoming encumbrances, especially 
for the so-called academic elite of the northeastern U.S. Lewis goes on to write, 
"These people, mostly New Englanders...were attempting to create a uniquely 
American body of literature. It was already decades since the Americans had won 
independence from England. Now, these people believed, it was time for literary 
independence." With the questions being asked then in European countries of old 
assumptions of religion and beliefs, we can see them "as a generation of people 
struggling to define spirituality and religion in a way that took into account the 
new understandings their age made available," especially in light of the rise of 
evangelical Christianity and Unitarianism. Emerson, in particular, was drawn to 
religious thought and the scriptures of non-Western cultures — Hinduism, Islam and 

Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

Buddhism, for example — using such sources to examine his own ideas of God and 
truth. Emerson found much in them to direct his understanding of truth as some- 
thing more widespread, close to a universal truth. In Emerson's famous oration 
delivered to the Phi Beta Kappa Society in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the end 
of the summer of 1837 (and published as "The American Scholar"), he ends his 
speech with a manifesto of Transcendentalism: 

We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; we will 
speak our own minds... A nation of men will for the first time exist, because 
each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires all 

While its tangible essence is that of a movement grounded in literature, one can say 
that its truer landscape is comprised of a way of seeing mankind as an inextricable 
part of the natural world. The ideals of transcendentalism have been manifested in 
the writings of its adherents and proponents, and continue to this day to be seen in 
what is termed "nature writing" and the environmental movement. 

Yet our ability to express our profound link with nature is limited by the 
language we require in order to articulate this connection in any spiritual sense; as 
Emerson sought to express such a bond with nature, he relied on its symbolism to 
make the human-nature connection. Let us then look briefly at how Emerson's own 
sense of semiotics were reflected in his view of nature: 

this origin of all words that convey a spiritual import, — so conspicuous a 
fact in the history of language, — is our least debt to nature. It is not words 
only that are emblematic; it is things which are emblematic. Every natural 
fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact. Every appearance in nature cor- 
responds to some state of the mind, and that state of the mind can only be 
described by presenting that natural appearance as its picture. An enraged 
man is a lion, a cunning man is a fox, a firm man is a rock, a learned man is 
a torch. A lamb is innocence; a snake is subtle spite; flowers express to us 
the delicate affections. Light and darkness are our familiar expression for 
knowledge and ignorance; and heat for love. Visible distance behind and 
before us, is respectively our image of memory and hope. (Nature 9) 

In fact, we can see in the above a remarkable illustration of Emerson's progression 
of thought from natural fact through a recognition of the mind's own incomplete- 
ness — the inability to characterize a symbolic essence through language. With his 
essential axiom, stated in Nature, that "every natural fact is a symbol of some spiri- 


Unher and Bano 

tual fact," let us consider the tripartite of this dynamic structure of his thought: 1) 
the inchoate essence of the natural fact — the stimulus, exists; 2) the mind, seeing 
this fact as a symbolic manifestation, gives it a meaning; 3) the mind recognizes the 
symbolism as something spiritual (transcendent of the object's merely physical and 
unobserved presence in nature), and as such, the symbolism falls short of its tangi- 
bility. As the mind seeks out a sense of the spiritual in the symbol, with language it 
tries to seize and then convey its essence. But of course it cannot — we cannot — as 
language itself falls short of such an endeavor. Perhaps then it is the inadequacy of 
our language rather than any shortcomings in the mind's perception and apparatus 
of thought. This is something that Emerson was acutely aware of, and a problem 
that absorbed much of his writing, especially in his work Nature. 

Returning to Bulleh Shah's poem Come to Our Abode, the reader may no- 
tice several references to the author's regard for the conventional religion of his 
day. On the one hand, at the time Bulleh penned these works, Islam had become a 
fundamental part of everyday life in the Punjab. The influence of religious doctrine 
was an important element of the political and social structure of life in the Punjab 
region of Pakistan. Indeed, to speak out against the so-called system was tanta- 
mount to blasphemy, or at the very least, it was seen as a rejection of one's own 
society. Yet it was Bulleh's perspective as a Sufi that guided him away from the 
formalist religio-political establishment and toward a more open-minded, humanis- 
tic, yet deeply spiritual view of God in one's own life. Thus, his point of view was 
very personal rather than societal. 

As can be seen in Come to Our Abode, Bulleh makes reference time and 
again to the rejection of the trappings of religion — the sacred texts, the mosque, the 
religious hierarchy that governed the lives of Muslims — and calls on all people to 
instead embrace what God can mean to their own lives as they see Him for them- 

Come to Our Abode 
(Sade Veray Aaya Karoo) 

If God could be found by the clean and well washed 

then frogs and fish could find God 
If God could be found by roaming in the forests 

then cows and fowls and animals could find God 
Oh dear Bulleh, God is only found by those who are of good heart. 
While reading thousands of books, 

you haven 't even read your self, 
Time and time again you go to temples and mosques, 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

but have you ever entered your own heart? 
Oh Mankind, you fight with Satan in vain 

but you have never fought with your own demons and desires 
Says Saint Bidleh Shah, you try to reach the sky 

but you could not capture the One who dwells in your own heart. 
Come to our abode, 

oh Beloved, in the morning and in the evening 
Come to our abode, 

Friend, in the morning and in the evening 
Come to our abode, 

Guide, in the morning and in the evening. 
By God, 

his Godwoiddnot be angry with him 

the one who has the skill to reconcile with his beloved 
He does not need to go to Makkah, who can experience pilgrimage just at 

the sight of his beloved 
Seek in the forest, seek on the island 
Destroy the mosque, Destroy the temple 
Destroy anything that you can destroy 
But never break the human heart 
As God dwells in hearts, therein 
While seeking in forests and among islands, 
Seek in all the world 
Do not torment me, Beloved 
Oh Beloved come to our abode in the morning and in the evening. 

(Translated from the Punjabi by S. Bono) 

Bulleh Shah never intended that his poems would be published, nor did anyone 
ever record the story of his life until many years after his death. His poetry comes 
to us through the generations mostly via the qavvals or singers of his poetry. Be- 
cause of his unorthodox beliefs of the day, Bulleh's own sister had to pay the price 
for her brother's religious non-conformity and eccentricity — she was treated as an 
outcast of society and remained unmarried. At Bulleh's death, the mullahs denied 
him burial in his community's graveyard. Yet today, many regard his tomb as a 
holy place, where people come to revere him as a Sufi saint. 

We can observe Bulleh's rejection of the established, and for him suffocat- 
ing, religious didacticism of his day and see his desire to embrace the individual 
heart as tantamount to the veritable house of God. All else is equal and worthy 
within the walls of the abode, the dwelling place — the heart. We may then look 


Unher and Bano 

at these verses selected from Emerson's poem Brahma, wherein we may glimpse 
imagery and sentiment that bear resemblance to Bulleh's own: 

Far or forgot to me is near; 
Shadow and sunlight are the same; 
The vanished gods to me appear; 
And one to me are shame and fame. 

They reckon ill who leave me out; 
When me they fly, I am the wings; 
I am the doubter and the doubt, 
And I the hymn the Brahmin sings. 

The strong gods pine for my abode, 
And pine in vain the sacred Seven; 
But thou, meek lover of the good! 
Find me, and turn thy back on heaven. 

Thomas Carlyle, a Scottish-born author and essayist of the 19 th century, put 
great stock in the importance of the leader as an essential element of any structure 
of civilization and system of belief. He wrote in his essay "Heroes and Hero Wor- 
ship," published in 1840, that "No sadder proof can be given by a man of his own 
littleness than disbelief in great men," citing as examples Shakespeare, Dr. John- 
son, and Mohammed (PBUH). 

While Carlyle was raised as a strict Calvinist, his subsequent religious ide- 
als were nevertheless modified by the influence of his studies in German Romanti- 
cism and by the scientific and social changes then taking place. Perhaps he saw the 
dogma of religion as an unsatisfactory guide for the common man in a changing 

RO. Matthiessen writes in his American Renaissance, "Carlyle had declared 
and Emerson agreed with him: 'Literature is but a branch of Religion and always 
participates in its characteristic: however, in our time, it is the only branch that still 
shows any greenness; and, as some think, must one day become the main stem'" 
(25). Matthiessen mentions that they were both following Herder's Spirit of He- 
brew Poetry (1833), abolishing the distinction between the sacred and the secular 
(25) — in Emerson's words, "Always the seer is a sayer" (Emerson, Selected Es- 
says). In other words, the prophet is the poet. At the time, and in the place — New 
England — where religion, and most particularly Christianity, was a fundamental, 
pervasive and considerable power in society, it is poignant that this, too, was the 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

time and place in which Emerson went to look for his own God, to seek a belief 
that would meet his own changed needs. It consumed much of his time and literary 

Bulleh's master Inayat Shah is said to have told him: 

What problem is there in finding God? It only needs to be uprooted from 
here and planted there (Puri and Shangari, The Life of Bulleh Shah). 

The metaphors of transcendence and reference to nature are not lost here. Nor is 
the path from Bulleh's problem to his solution very distant from that followed by 
Emerson, Thoreau, and other Transcendentalists of the American 19 th century. The 
dogma of religion that suffused both Bulleh's time and Emerson's — be it Islam, 
Calvinism, or Unitarianism — was to be cast off by those so encumbered; the set- 
ting of nature then provides the domain for belief, Bulleh in his "mango grove and 
orchard of dates" (Puri and Shangari, The Life of Bulleh Shah, 6); Emerson in his 
New England woods; Thoreau, of course, in his Walden Pond and his bean garden. 
Emerson writes in his essay Nature, "To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as 
much from his chamber as from society" (3). These words show a clear break with 
the past idea of the cloistered academic or even religious fervent, isolated in his 
study or cell. Emerson urged those who would seek spirituality and learning to 
step outside, thereby stepping into the realm of nature. Walt Whitman exhorted the 
classroom-bound to 'rise up and glide out' in his poem "When I Heard the Learn'd 
Astronomer," which is found in his collection Leaves of Grass. The poet is sitting 
in a lecture hall surrounded by sundry charts, tables, and numbers, as the lecturer 
seeks to convey the essence of the stars. After which Whitman writes, 

How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick; 
Till rising and gliding out, I wander 'd off by myself, 
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, 
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars. 

Indeed, it is precisely what Henry David Thoreau had done when he quit village life 
and society in Concord to spend his 14 months in a cabin alone by Walden Pond, 
thinking, writing, studying the birds, flowers and trees, and of course, growing his 

In his essay on Persian Poetry, which appeared at the end of E. Fitzgerald's 
translation of The Rubdiydt of Omar Khayyam and Saldmdn and Ab sal, Emerson 
mentions "the seven masters of the Persian Parnassus — Firdousi, Enweri, Nisami, 
Dschelaleddin, Saadi, Hafiz, and Dschami" (Selected Essays 105). He refers to or 


Unher and Bano 

quotes from works of these revered names in this essay, as well as in his own poetry 
published elsewhere. One wonders if the fatalism of Omar Khayyam's riibaiyat 
might have appealed to Emerson's own understanding of Calvinism, in the sense of 
his own retained Puritan ethic. 

According to Richardson in his "Emerson — The Mind on Fire," his first 
encounter with non-Western (i.e. non-Christian) religious ideas was a book entitled 
Akhlak-I-Jalaly (translated as Philosophy of the Mohammedan People), published 
in 1839. It was Emerson's first encounter with Sufism, which its translator W.F. 
Thompson called the "practical pantheism of Asia." Thompson stated further that 
the book should actually be translated as Transcendental Ethics, "holding all visible 
and conceivable objects to be portions of the divine nature" (406). 

Emerson also owned the publication The Desatir: or Sacred Writings of 
the Ancient Persian Prophets. These and other writings enabled Emerson to con- 
solidate his understanding of the various "parts" of Sufi poetry and thought into a 
holistic structure (Richardson 407). 

It was an all-encompassing "system" that gave Emerson the wide view of 
mankind he was seeking. Iranian scholar Farhang Jahanpour recently wrote of 
Emerson's intellectual journey in his essay Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Sufis: 
From Puritanism to Transcendentalism: "The study of his religious thought charts 
the journey from a narrow and dogmatic religious outlook towards a mystical, uni- 
versal outlook" (2). 

As was his point, Dr. Jahanpour might very well have written the above 
with Bulleh and other Sufi poets in mind, as well as Emerson. 

And of course, Henry David Thoreau, often seen as the godfather of pres- 
ent-day nature writing as well as of the environmental movement, traveled a similar 
line, from doubts of the religious sentiment of the day to consideration of human- 
kind's place in nature and, thus, with God. Thoreau saw nature as God's dwelling 
place and humanity as an equal part of the grand universal abode: "This is a deli- 
cious evening, when the whole body is one sense, and imbibes delight through ev- 
ery pore. I go and come with a strange liberty in Nature, a part of herself ' (Walden, 
"Solitude" 60). 

Thoreau's high regard for the spirit of nature is seen in his deep understand- 
ing of all its contiguous parts. Nathaniel Hawthorne was particularly taken with 
Thoreau's insight. The following is an excerpt from Hawthorne's journal: 

September 1, 1842. Mr. Thoreau dined with us yesterday.... He is a keen and 
delicate observer of nature—a genuine observer— which, I suspect, is almost 
as rare a character as even an original poet; and Nature, in return for his 
love, seems to adopt him as her especial child, and shows him secrets which 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

few others are allowed to witness. He is familiar with beast, fish, fowl, and 
reptile, and has strange stories to tell of adventures, and friendly passages 
with these lower brethren of mortality. Herb and flower, likewise, wherever 
they grow, whether in garden or wildwood, are his familiar friends. 

The following is taken from Thoreau's seminal work Walden, which reflects his 
time in his cabin at Walden Pond, when he devoted himself to living "deliberately, 
to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to 
teach" (42). Here, he describes what it means to tend his beans, which one senses 
is for him a near-religious devotion to nature herself: 

We might try our lives by a thousand simple tests; as, for instance, that the 
same sun which ripens my beans illumines at once a system of earths like 
ours. If I had remembered this it would have prevented some mistakes. This 
was not the light in which I hoed them. The stars are the apexes of what 
wonderful triangles! What distant and different beings in the various man- 
sions of the universe are contemplating the same one at the same moment! 
Nature and human life are as various as our several constitutions. (6) 

Thoreau mentions beans 35 times in Walden, as if the subject itself were a spiritual 
link with nature and an understanding of how humankind can coexist as her equal 

In fact, reference to this same so-consecrated legume is made with regard to 
Bulleh's life. While society in general has not looked upon farming as an intellec- 
tual pursuit, tilling and cultivating the land for one's sustenance is held in high re- 
gard by both Thoreau and Bulleh's master, Inayat Shah. Puri and Shangari write of 
the nonconformity of a religious disciple and master in engaging in such a vocation 
and the severe effect it has on society: "For a distinguished scholar [Bulleh Shah], 
who belonged to the line of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), to accept an ordinary 
vegetable grower as his master was a very extraordinary event in the social condi- 
tions of Bulleh Shah's times. It was like an explosion which shook the prevailing 
social structure" (The Life of Bulleh Shah 6). 

The Settings of Nature: Servants and Domains 

There is little evidence that Bulleh or other Sufis had any special recognition of 
nature as we see it per se, as something apart from the trappings of civilization, but 
of course it was certainly a spiritual entity for the Transcendentalists. That tradi- 
tion of regarding nature in a sacred sense is carried today by such contemporary 


Unher and Bano 

authors as Gary Snyder {Turtle Island, among other works), Mary Oliver {Thirst: 
Poems), Terry Tempest Williams {Finding Beauty in a Broken World, Illuminated 
Desert and The Open Space of Democracy), Rebecca Solnit {One Nation Under El- 
vis: An Environmentalism For Us All), Ed Abbey {Desert Solitaire), Jack Kerouac 
{On the Road and Dharma Bums), and Linda Hogan {Dwelling: A Spiritual His- 
tory of the Living World). It has become an integral part of academia; for example, 
Rebecca Chamberlain teaches a course at Evergreen State College (Washington) 
called TRANSCENDENTAL VISIONS: Re-Imagining The American Dream. She 
offers two quotes on the course website that are pertinent here: 

In Wilderness is the preservation of the world. — Henry David Thoreau, 

We are taught by great actions that the universe is the property of every 
individual in it. — Ralph Waldo Emerson 

The spirit of transcendentalism might even be called a kind of cultural personality 
trait in the American collective conscience, having manifested itself throughout 
the 20 th century in politics and social revolution (non-violent civil disobedience, 
transformational activism concerning human rights and minority enfranchisement, 
the hippie movement, environmentalism and anti-pollution lobbying, and the con- 
sumer rights movement spearheaded by Ralph Nader). 

In Chapter 2 of Emerson's essay Nature, called "Commodity," he writes: 

Under the general name of Commodity, I rank all those advantages which 
our senses owe to nature. This, of course, is a benefit which is temporary 
and mediate, not ultimate, like its service to the soul. 

The taking from nature to extract, to form, to mold, to create, to manufacture, he 
says, is "the only use of nature which all men apprehend." 

Of course, Emerson and his peers did not see "giving back to nature" as 
we do today — recycling and conserving in such a rhythm as to endeavor to at best 
match our material appropriations, in some kind of physical balance with what we 
take from nature's abundance. Rather, they saw their "returns" to nature as recog- 
nition of the deeply spiritual sense of their natural environment, to see nature's at- 
tributes as gifts to humankind. And so he presents us with his concept that what we 
extract will (must) be returned to nature in the form of veneration, to be revived as 
our own spirit and enterprise needs us to do, in holding nature's gifts in reverence. 
For to return what we have wrought from the earth back unto it, for Emerson and 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

his descendents of the more ecological environmentalists, is an act of the highest 
moral virtue of humankind: 

What angels invented these splendid ornaments, these rich conveniences, 
this ocean of air above, this ocean of water beneath, this firmament of earth 
between? this zodiac of lights, this tent of dropping clouds, this striped coat 
of climates, this fourfold year? Beasts, fire, water, stones, and corn serve 
him. The field is at once his floor, his work-yard, his play-ground, his gar- 
den, and his bed. 

Recently, work of photographers John Willis and Tom Young was included 
in a small chapbook authored by the eminent geographer and author Yi-Fu Tuan 
titled "Place, Art, and Self." The photographers presented images they had made 
of a paper recycling plant located along "the seemingly pristine hills of western 
Massachusetts" (81) in an artistic statement juxtaposing the images of discarded 
newsprint and advertisements with the paper's own first source of the absent trees. 

In ways both disturbing and intriguing, the rural landscape of forested hills 
has been transformed into a landscape of bales of discarded paper. This pa- 
per carries images and text from popular culture, and is formed into a new 
topography with lingering evidence of its past existence. (81) 

This is what we see in the photographs, all in black and white: Stacks of huge square 
bales of paper bundled with wire arranged like stone walls enclosing an alley, piles 
of shredded paper nestling old printed images of a group of people, a gazing eye, 
anatomical drawings from an early 20th century medical textbook, a torn fragment 
of a Raphael reprint, some Hebrew text beside a photograph of nurses tending to 
patients in a hospital, a man with hands clasped in prayer, two mirror images of a 
toddler at the beach, arranged on a sheaf of folded, soft white wrapping paper. 

All are awaiting their conversion into blank pages. 

On reading the photographers' views and impressions and considering the 
end results, one is acutely aware of the sense of time passage in parallel with trans- 
formations made from source to discard, from utility to abandonment. It is a dis- 
quieting series of photographs and ideas, yet the underlying functionality of their 
setting — a recycling plant — also conveys a sense of hope that the discarded paper 
will be revived into something once again, that it will carry a different meaning, 
that those trees still exist. Bulleh Shah writes of the inexorable link between life, 
death, and the earth itself: 

Unher and Bano 

The soil is in ferment, O friend 

Behold the diversity. 

The soil is the horse, so is the rider 

The soil chases the soil, and we hear the clanging of soil 

The soil kills the soil, with weapons of the soil. 

That soil with more on it, is arrogance 

The soil is the garden so is its beauty 

The soil admires the soil in all its wondrous forms 

After the circle of life is done it returns to the soil 

Answer the riddle O Biilleh, and take this burden off my head. 

(Puri and Shangari, Balleh Shah: The Love-Intoxicated Iconoclast) 

Of the oceans of air and water, of fields of soil, of 'beasts, fire, water, stones, and 
corn,' Emerson quotes George Herbert in bringing to mind both the utility of nature 
and the inference of our own stewardship: 

"More servants wait on man 
than he 11 take notice of. " — 

{Nature, 24) 

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Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

Sufi Influence on Pakistani Politics and Culture 

By Muhammed Hassanali 

Religious Underpinnings 

The etymologies of the term Sufi are various. The obvious root is suf (wool), 
referring to the wool robes that the early mystics wore. The term has also been 
connected with safa (purity) or safwa (the chosen ones), emphasizing purifying of 
the heart and the role of divine grace in choosing the saintly. Another link is with 
suffa (bench), referring to a group of poor Muslims (contemporaries of the Prophet 
Mohammad) known as the People of the Bench, signifying a community of shared 

In practice, the term "Sufi" was reserved for ideal usage, and Sufis referred 
to themselves in other terms such as abid (slave, devotee), zahid (ascetic), dervish 
or faqir (impoverished), arif (knower of spiritual truth), salik (spiritual traveler), 
or ashiq (lover). They also made differentiations between spiritual masters, called 
sheikhs, pirs, or murshids (guides), and their disciples, known as miirids (seekers). 
A Sufi saint was known as wali or friend of God. 

While acknowledging that the term "Sufi" was not current at the time of 
the Prophet, Sufi theorists maintained that this specialization in spirituality arose in 
parallel with other disciplines such as Islamic law and Koranic exegesis. Sufism 
was inspired by the Koran. A believer meditating on the meaning of the Koran 
would be filled with Allah's overwhelming transcendence, realize his total depen- 
dence on Allah, and as a result would completely surrender to Allah's will. While 
objects in nature submit to Allah's will unconsciously, the Sufi does so consciously. 
He is like the birds and the flowers in his yielding to the Creator; like them, he re- 
flects the Divine Intellect to his own degree. However, he reflects it actively, they 
passively. The Sufi thus strives to understand Divine Reality "from the inside." 
Sufism also entails ethical and spiritual goals that function to open the possibilities 
of the soul. 

Sufi theorists claim that the earliest Sufis include the Prophet Mohammad 
and his chief companions. The bayah (oath of allegiance) to the Prophet became 
the model for the master-disciple relationship in Sufism. The Prophet's meditation 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

in a cave on Mount Hira (outside Mecca) was seen as the basis for Sufi practices of 
seclusion and retreat. Sufis regard the Prophet's experiences as the basis for their 
spiritual experience and entertain imitating his example as a way of attaining or 
strengthening their own divine qualities. Hence veneration of the Prophet Moham- 
mad, both for his own qualities and in his role as intercessor for all humanity, found 
a place in Sufi piety as it diffused through Muslim society. 

Aside from the obligatory and supererogatory prayers, the most important 
Sufi practices are zikr (remembrance) and sama (listening or audition). Through 
zikr, the Sufi recollected Allah by reciting the names of Allah. This recitation could 
be silent or spoken aloud and drew from the list of ninety-nine names ascribed 
to Allah. As with the supererogatory prayers, zikr aimed at internalizing the Ko- 
ran and its contents, in order to obtain closeness to Allah. As meditations, these 
practices aimed to empty the heart of anything but Allah and to begin establishing 
qualities of the divine in the Sufi. Zikr is derived from the Koranic injunction that 
instructs believers to remember Allah. Among Sufis this duty evolved into an in- 
dividual or a group exercise involving the repetition of a phrase (usually Koranic). 
The more sophisticated methods of zikr involve breath control, body movements, 
and other techniques to gain control over the five senses as well as the psyche and 

While zikr recitation may originally have been restricted to adepts, as a kind 
of group chanting this practice could also be accessible to people on a broad popu- 
lar scale. Simple chanting of phrases like "there is no deity but Allah" (la ilaha ilia 
allah) not only expressed the fundamental negation and affirmation of Islamic the- 
ology, but also made it possible for a wider public to adopt the practices of Sufism. 
One of the advantages oizikr was that it could be practiced by anyone, regardless 
of age, sex, or ritual purity, at any time. 

Sama involved listening to music, usually with a group. The music was 
often accompanied by Koranic chants or singing of mystical poetry and the recital 
intended to spark a mystical experience within the auditors. Those most affected by 
the sama rise up to dance in unison with the music. Depending on the Sufi group, 
the dance can be a marvel of aesthetic movement or the frenetic writhings of the 
seemingly possessed. 

Other widely encountered forms of Sufi practice also include music and 
poetry, which take on different regional forms in accordance with local traditions. 
Although conservative Islamic legal tradition has been wary of musical instruments 
as innovations not present during the time of the Prophet, the rich and sophisticated 
musical traditions have furnished irresistible and highly developed forms for com- 
municating Sufi teachings, particularly when combined with poetry. Sufis in fact 
speak mostly of "listening" (sama), emphasizing the spiritual role of the listener far 



more than that of the musical performer, and the focus is upon the words of poems 
that may or may not be accompanied by musical instruments. Sufi poets produced 
literature in several genres ranging from the quatrain (rubai) to the lyric (ghazal) 
and the ode (qasida), along with the epic couplet {masnavi). 

The complex and esoteric nature of Sufism placed it far beyond the reach of 
most Muslims. It was ritual exercises (specifically zikr and soma) that helped fill 
the gap and minister to the immediate needs of the faithful. Thus Sufism came to 
represent, for many, not abstruse theory but concrete practice that was accessible 
to all. The emphasis on zikr and sama helped blur the distinction between mysti- 
cal experience that is attained after serious spiritual training and experience that is 
self-induced. Unsophisticated sessions of zikr and sama often consisted of self- 
hypnosis, hysteria, drug-induced states, and other violent emotions that pass for 
mystical experience. 

Early Development 

Two interrelated movements in the early Islamic period gave rise to (or at least 
tolerance of) mysticism. First was the movement of piety which required prayer, 
purity of intention, and renunciation of self-interest and worldly pleasure. Second 
was the movement of meditation on the meaning of the Koran (especially the eso- 
teric meaning). The Sufi movement during the first centuries of Islam was charac- 
terized by informal association of like-minded individuals. 

At the same time, Sufism developed into a legitimate esoteric science of 
religion (Urn) whose principal aim was to seek a direct experience from Allah, and 
a profounder (esoteric) understanding of the Koran and Allah. This was attained 
through/ana where the Sufi "dies in one's self and is "absorbed" into Allah. Baqa 
is the Sufi's existence after fana, when he or she lives in Allah. Alongside the mys- 
tical experience is the ethical responsibility to return to community life, fulfill the 
obligations of Muslim life and to display the impact of divine experience. When 
the mystical experience overwhelms the individual self to the point that human ex- 
istence has no meaning, that Sufi is termed "intoxicated", the "sober" mystic's life, 
on the other hand, takes on heightened ethical values. Most Sufis drew nearer to 
Allah and gained esoteric knowledge through an arduous process of study, medita- 
tion, ascetic retreat, and spiritual exercises. The Sufi's progress along this spiritual 
path was measured in states {ahwaJ) that were experienced and corresponded to 
stations (maqamat). 

The growth of Sufism was partly a reaction against the worldly orientation 
taken by the Muslim community in the wake of the conquest of Middle Eastern 
lands in the seventh and eighth centuries, as well as against political violence and 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

official corruption. Sufis benefited from the mystical traditions of Christianity, Hin- 
duism, and Buddhism, and they subsequently played a significant role in the indi- 
genization of Islam among the peoples living in lands governed by Muslim rulers. 
They carried Islam via trade routes into sub-Saharan Africa, India, Central Asia, 
southeastern Europe and the Caucasus, and Southeast Asia. 

By the end of the eighth century, Sufis began to formulate a vocabulary of 
interior spiritual experience, based in large part on the Koran and the emerging Is- 
lamic religious sciences. Notable features of Sufi practices included intensive and 
protracted prayer (not only the five obligatory ritual prayers daily, but also the five 
supererogatory or "extra credit" prayers) and meditation on the meanings of the 
Koran. The stark asceticism of the very early Sufis, with its rejection of the corrupt 
world, was tempered by the quest to find God through love. Other Sufis contributed 
to the development of an extensive analysis of spiritual states, as a natural result of 
prolonged meditative retreats. 

In the early centuries of Islam, the khanaqahs served as the meeting place 
of the Sufis, where they performed their various spiritual exercises (especially the 
invocation) and where those who were ready were able to receive initiation into 
the Divine Mysteries. Here, those who had not been satisfied with formal learning 
alone, but searched after the light of certainty and sought direct vision of the truth, 
left the discussion of the schools to discover ecstasies of contemplation (generally 
under the direction of a spiritual master). In this manner, the Sufi centers served as 
a center of learning, but a learning which was not to be found in books, and discov- 
ery of which it was not sufficient to train the mental faculties alone. They served as 
centers where the qualified could realize the highest form of knowledge (gnosis), 
the attainment of which required purification of the soul as well as of the mind. 

Introduction of Sufism in Pakistan 

The initial entry of Muslim armies into Pakistan came in the first century after the 
death of the Prophet Mohammad. The Umayyad caliph in Damascus sent an ex- 
pedition to Baluchistan and Sind in 711 led by Muhammad bin Qasim (for whom 
Karachi's second port is named). The expedition went as far north as Multan but 
was not able to retain that region and was not successful in expanding Islamic rule 
to other parts of the region. It was trade and missionary activity that had a more 
lasting influence on indigenous culture. Coastal trade and the presence of a Muslim 
community in Sind facilitated significant cultural exchanges and missionary activ- 
ity which brought Sufism in its wake. 

Details of the early Sufis are sketchy at best, while evidence of their ac- 
tivities and long-term influence remain areas of study. Some of the early pioneers 



include Mohammed Alfi who arrived as early as bin Qasim's expedition in 711. 
It is believed that Alfi conducted his missionary work in Kashmir. Sheikh Ismail 
Bukhari came before Mahmud Ghaznavi's invasions. Sheikh Abdur Rahman did 
his missionary work in Ajmer and authored the first work on Islam in Hindi. "The 
Ismaili missionary Abdullah landed near Cambay in 1067 AD and worked in Gu- 
jrat when the country was governed by Sidhraj Jai Singh. He and his Jain teacher 
Huma Charya are said to have been converted to Islam when there was no recorded 
Muslim invasion" (Hollister). These and other Sufis introduced Islam by synthe- 
sizing it to some extent with local beliefs. Hence the Ismaili and Imam Shahis 
ginans (hymns), for example, make numerous references to Hinduism and local 
culture. They use the prevailing literary traditions for sacred literature to convey 
the Islamic message. Hence some of the ginans bear a striking similarity to Hindu 
bajans (hymns). 

Sufi Social Organization 

Mystical theory and expression characterized Sufism as much as its social dimen- 
sion did. From the beginning, companionship {suhbah) was considered essential 
for progress in one's spiritual life. Fluid interaction among Sufis soon evolved into 
a more structured relationship of master and disciples adding a new level of social 
complexity. Not only would disciples visit their masters, but many also took up 
residence with their masters. Initially, the master and his disciples remained a co- 
hesive unit until the master's death, and then the group disbanded. Later, many Sufi 
groups became self-perpetuating social organizations. No longer was the group's 
survival dependent on a living master; authority was passed from master to disci- 
ple, thus providing a stable structural basis for continued growth and development. 

As Sufi communities gradually coalesced, Sufi masters were increasingly 
associated with residential hospices (khanaqah or tekke). These hospices were 
typically places dedicated to prayer, study of the Koran, meditation, and communal 
meals. As with later Sufi hospices, travelers and the needy were welcome and Sufi 
masters would impart instruction and advice to their students and visitors. Even 
during this early period, Sufi centers depended on patronage. Some depended en- 
tirely on the ruling establishment, but others drew support from a broader base 
encompassing not only the nobility, but also the artisans. 

During the 10 th and 1 1 th centuries, Sufi adepts began to organize into groups 
of masters and their disciples that developed into mystical orders known as tariqas 
(paths), each with its own distinct doctrines, practices, and spiritual genealogy (sil- 
sila) which all members had to study and memorize. Sufis met in mosques, homes, 
and madrasas, but their chief centers were hospices and retreat centers {khanaqahs 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

or tekkes). These usually contained tombs of former sheikhs and members of the 
order, and often became popular shrines that would attract devotees seeking bless- 
ings (baraka) from the saint. 

The practice of Sufi masters lending their name to specific spiritual methods 
(tariqas) commenced in the twelfth century. It was common to characterize each 
method (or way) as a "chain" (silsila), with the masters and disciplines constituting 
links. These chains were traced backwards to end (actually begin) with the Prophet 
Mohammad. Nearly all of these chains reach the Prophet through his cousin and 
son-in-law Ali ibn Abu Talib. 

The silsila is more precisely a genealogy tracing the names of one master 
to his master and so on back to the Prophet Mohammad. The centrality of silsila 
in Sufism has an analogous tradition in the hadith (sayings of the Prophet Moham- 
mad) literature. The literary structure of a hadith has two parts: the chain of trans- 
mitters (isnad) and the body of the text (matn). According to Muslim tradition, the 
authenticity of the hadith is guaranteed by the reliability of the isnad. Just as the 
words of the Prophet have been preserved through the isnad, so too have the teach- 
ings of a particular Sufi tariqa remained alive through silsila. Just as for Muslims 
the isnads solidly ground the hadiths in the period of original revelation; the silsilas 
for Sufis provides them with religious legitimacy. Even though Sufi tariqas may 
vary considerably in their teachings and attitudes toward mystical experience, they 
each can claim, through their spiritual genealogies, to be solidly based on the foun- 
dations of Sufism. 

The institutional spread of Sufism offered the community the prospect of a 
spiritual community organized around a charismatic teacher whose authority was 
derived from a lineage going back to the Prophet himself. While dedicated mem- 
bership in Sufi orders remained confined to an elite, mass participation in the rever- 
ence for saints at their tombs has been (and continues to be) a typical feature of Sufi 

While it is convenient to refer to these organizations as "orders" (with an 
implicit analogy to monastic orders), the analogy is inexact. Sufi orders are less 
centrally organized and have a more fluid hierarchical structure, which is formu- 
lated in terms of different types of initiations. Complicating this situation is the 
phenomenon of multiple initiation through which individual Sufis could receive 
instruction in the methods of various orders while maintaining a primary allegiance 
to one. Sufi orders are not inherently driven by competing and exclusive ideolo- 
gies, although competition in the sociopolitical arena is certainly not unknown. 
The majority of Sufi orders have a Sunni orientation, although Shia orders do exist 
as well. While it has been suggested that the Sufi orders played an important role in 



spreading Islam on a popular level, there is little historical evidence to suggest that 
premodern Sufi leaders took any interest in seeking the conversion of non-Muslims. 

The major social impact of Sufi orders in terms of religion was to popularize 
the spiritual practices of the Sufis on a mass scale. The interior orientation of the in- 
formal movement of early Sufism became available to a much wider public through 
participation in shrine rituals, the circulation of hagiographies, and the dispensing 
of various degrees of instruction in ziki\ Elaborate initiation rituals developed, 
in which the master's presentation of articles such as a dervish cloak, hat, or staff 
would signify the disciple's entrance into the order. A frequent feature of initiation 
was the requirement that the disciple copy by hand the genealogical "tree" of the 
order, which would link the disciple to the entire chain of masters going all the way 
back to the Prophet. 

The institutionalization of tariqas and emphasis on silsila enhanced sub- 
stantially the religious and political position of the sheikh. Whereas in the past, the 
sheikh functioned primarily as an expert and confidant, he now became a reposi- 
tory of spiritual power as well. A sheikh 's lineage did not provide simply a list of 
teachers; it implied that the spiritual power of each of these great Sufis had been 
transmitted to this last member of the line. Sheikhs of great Sufi orders, there- 
fore, took on superhuman qualities. They became known as awliya (sing, wall) 
which means intimates or friends of Allah. Their spiritual perfection raised them 
far above the level of their disciples and the masses of Muslims. The term wali is 
often translated as saint, which is misleading as there is no religious hierarchy in 
Islam empowered to canonize individuals as saints. Rather the status of wali is at- 
tained through public acclamation. Sufis believe that the awliya have the ability to 
confer baraka (blessing) to disciples or devotees, and that the baraka has the po- 
tential to transform an individual's spirituality as well as provide concrete material 
blessings. Baraka is often transmitted through touch (similar to the laying of hands 
or application of relics). 

The awliya became objects of veneration both during their lifetime and af- 
ter their deaths. It was believed that some of these awliya possessed the power of 
miracles (karamat). The extraordinary powers of the awliya were not diminished 
after their death; rather their intercession often appeared more efficacious. Their 
tombs (usually erected near their homes) became vibrant pilgrimage centers - es- 
pecially commemorating the wali 's death anniversary. 

Full members committed themselves to the sheikh, who initiated them into 
the tariqa. Initiation rites varied, and most included a pledge of allegiance (bayah). 
The sheikh bestowed the initiate a patched frock (khirqah) as a sign of entry into 
the Sufi tariqa. Members were encouraged to subject themselves completely to the 
sheikh 's will ("to be like dead bodies in the hands of body -washers"). Depending 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

on the tariqa, members remained celibate while others married; some lived in pov- 
erty while others lived comfortably. 

There was great diversity within various Sufi practices. Particular orders 
were known for distinctive practices such as the loud zikr recitation (as practiced by 
Rifaiyya) in contrast to the silent zikr favored by the Naqshbandiyya. Some (such 
as the Chishtiyya) integrated music and even dance in their practices while other 
resolutely shunned these activities. Some (such as the early Chishti orders) kept 
politics at arm's length, refused offers of land grants and refused to entertain rulers 
who visited them, while others had a history of close association with the ruling 
elite (such as the Suhrawardiyya and the Naqshbandiyya). 

In Pakistan, the ownership and maintenance of Sufi tombs fell to the family 
members. The devotion of many pilgrims created a class of hereditary custodians 
who were in charge of the finances and operations of the tomb-shrines. These 
were sometimes combined with hospices where teachings of that tariqa took place. 
Increasingly, the wall 's tomb came to be an independent institution, in some cases 
functioning as the center of massive pilgrimage during festivals. Two common 
festivals were mawlid (the wall's birthday), and urs (literally "wedding") which 
symbolized the death anniversary as the "wedding" of the wall 's soul with Allah. 
On a social level, these tombs were commonly connected to lodges or hospices 
that maintained open kitchens where all visitors were welcome, thus enhancing the 
public development of Sufism. 

Criticism to Sufism 

Religious criticism of Sufi practices and doctrines started to occur in the late ninth 
century. Sufism emerged from this crisis by insisting on strict adherence to the 
norms and disciplines of Islamic religious scholarship, while at the same time it 
cultivated an esoteric language and style appropriate to the discussion of subtle 
interior experiences. Early Sufi writers emphasized Sufism as the "knowledge of 
realities," inseparable from yet far beyond the knowledge of Islamic law and scrip- 

Conservative idama would intermittently attack Sufis for such practices, 
considering saint veneration in particular to be a form of idolatry {shirk) or at best a 
corrupt innovation {bldad). They also condemned the Sufi zikr, as well as the soma. 
Sufis for their part criticized jurists for being too concerned with their reputations 
and the letter of the law (rather than adhering to the spirit of the law). Nevertheless, 
a degree of consensus was reached between the ulama and mystics. 


Sufi Social Organization in Medieval Muslim India 

Though little is known in detail of early Sufi activity in Pakistan, the spread of 
Islam is usually credited to the work of Sufi mystics who first established their 
khanaqahs in western Punjab. While there was Sufi presence before the establish- 
ment of the Delhi Sultanate, missionary activity intensified in the years following 
the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate. Most of this activity occurred in western 
Punjab and was carried out primarily by the Chishti and Suhrawardy Sufi orders. 
By the fourteenth century these orders were well established with an extensive net- 
work of khanaqahs. These served as local out-posts of Islam which linked the dif- 
fuse, tribally organized population of the Punjab to the larger Muslim community. 
Subsequently it was these local centers which provided the focus for Islamic orga- 
nization in most of western Punjab, and it was to these centers that the population 
looked for religious leadership. The establishment and evolution of the khanaqahs 
not only generally corresponds to the establishment of Islamic political rule in me- 
dieval India, but also to the spread of Islam in medieval India. 

Success of a khanaqah depended largely on the resident Sufi's ability to 
understand and empathize with the social and cultural climate of the surround- 
ing areas. The principal support for the upkeep of khanaqahs in the early stages 
came from three sources: fiitnh (unsolicited charily), jagirs (land grants), and waqfs 
(religious trusts). Subsequently, the khanaqahs became an important institution 
of Muslim and non-Muslim community life in medieval India. Their importance 
arose from the spiritual, social welfare, educational, and cultural functions they per- 
formed for the local population. The congenial, unstructured social environment 
and the unassuming ways of the mystics contrasted with the stratified social struc- 
ture of Medieval Indian society. During the early period, khanaqah social organiza- 
tion was characterized by Islamic ideals of equality and fraternity notwithstanding 
the discriminatory practices of the Muslim ruling classes. 

Spirituality was sometimes gauged by the manifestation of supernatural 
gifts (called karamat). Those who attained the highest mystical states were called 
saints, or more precisely, the "Friends of God" (awliya Allah). The karamat of 
these persons were truly extraordinary, ranging from visions and apparitions of 
God or the prophets to clairvoyance and the power to intercede with God. Such 
thaumaturgic powers were considered a divine dispensation, a sign of divine favor, 
which emanated from God. 

With the passage of time the khanaqahs, as a socio-religious organization, 
evolved and changed. The spirituality of the mystic and knowledge of mysticism 
shifted from a learned process to a hereditary one. The spiritual power of the Sufi 
master came to be transmitted through his descendents who became the center of 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

devotion of the followers. Deceased masters were usually buried in the khanaqah, 
and veneration of Sufi graves began to take hold as a custom. This was an important 
change and eventually led to the development of the piri-muridi (master-disciple) 
paradigm in which the pir (master) was the director and the murid (disciple) a faith- 
ful follower was obliged to surrender completely to the pir. The/>/> 's charisma was 
institutionalized as the head of the cult association, and the criteria of succession 
shifted from a merit based one to one based on heredity. This in turn gave rise to a 
whole new class of people who by virtue of descent from a Sufi saint could claim 
spiritual status. They are also known as sajjada-ni shins (literally "he who sits on 
the prayer carpet"). 

The hereditary religious authority of the sajjada-nashin was largely based 
on the transmission of baraka, or religious charisma, from the original saint to his 
descendants and to his tomb. Because of this baraka, which linked the sajjada- 
nashin to the original saint, he was recognized as a religious intermediary who 
could intercede on behalf of the devotee and channel God's favor to the devotee. 
The effect of such hereditary leadership gave stability to the Sufi shrines. The ex- 
ercise of this religious authority was associated with certain religious practices at 
the shrine. The links of the sajjada-nashin to the original saint and the links of the 
original saint to God were dramatized every year in a ceremony marking the death 
anniversary of the saint (urs). The urs ceremonies themselves provided symbolic 
justification for the position of the sajjada-nashin, who normally had to perform 
prescribed ceremonial duties which underscored his special links to the original 
saint as the inheritor of baraka, and thus denned his effectiveness as religious in- 
termediary. The pir 's role as religious intermediary was formalized by the pir pro- 
viding baraka and the murid making payments or offerings. This did not bind the 
murid to follow any rigid spiritual discipline; rather, it bound the murid to accept 
the religious leadership of the pir. 

The prime spiritual responsibility of a pir to his followers was to act as a 
mediator between them and God. The original saint brought his followers closer 
to God by means of his spiritual blessing. He was the channel through which com- 
munication with God flowed. At his death his tomb became a source of blessing, 
but the blessing can only be obtained through his living representative (the sajjada- 
nishin) - hence the need for the pirs. Access to God for murids was through a 
chain of authority: from the sajjada-ni shin, to the original saint, to the founder of 
the Sufi Order to which the saint belonged, to the Prophet, who had direct access 
to God. This spiritual chain of authority was reinforced by heredity. Others can 
come into contact with this blessing and benefit from it, but they cannot transmit it, 
because blessing cannot flow through their impure or underdeveloped souls. Since 
the members of a tribe cannot themselves transmit blessing to others, they needed 



to maintain contact with the source through which blessing flowed to them. The 
source of blessing was the saint with whom they were spiritually connected through 

Political & Economic Influence in Medieval Muslim India 

The shrine's spiritual relationship was reinforced by an economic one: the sajjada- 
nishin annually made a circuit of the tribes and villages traditionally tied to the 
shrine to collect nazar (contributions). The circuit further reinforced the associa- 
tion of a shrine with a particular territory over which it had direct influence. 

Religious and political structures, however, had never been merely separate- 
but-parallel ones. Saints, since they controlled access to God, had an enormous 
influence over their followers and could use their influence for political purposes. 
This attracted the attention of the ruling class which, for spiritual as well as for 
political reasons, sought cooperation from the khanaqahs in maintaining political 
stability in the country. The Muslim rulers, realizing the political importance of the 
saints, tried to bring the pirs under their control by granting them large properties 
and contributing to the building of shrines. Government support of the shrines was 
one way of ensuring the legitimacy of the ruler among the population. 

Besides the critical and elemental roles they played in the spread of Islam 
and the growth of Islamic culture, the khanaqahs also influenced the evolution of 
the social structure of Muslim society. The substantial jagirs granted by the state 
not only obtained the khanaqahs cooperation in maintaining political and social 
stability, but also used their influence and power over their disciples to provide mil- 
itary recruits for the state at short notice. These land grants (Madad-e-Mash), were 
given first by the sultans of Delhi and then by the Mughal emperors and later by the 
British. In fact, under Mughal rule the Sufis and their descendents were known as 
Laskar-e-Dna (literally "army of prayers") and were considered as important as the 
regular army during periods of political upheavals and warfare in the country. 

Ownership and proprietorship of large estates as well as their political al- 
liance with the state made the spiritual leaders of popular Islam an important eco- 
nomic and political force in the society. Given the extended kinship and biradari 
(brotherhood) system that characterizes Muslim social organization, their kin be- 
came beneficiaries of economic and political status. This extended the pirs ' influ- 
ence in the economic and political spheres, which coincided with the interests of 
the other Muslim landed classes (zamindars), and evolved into a pir-zamindar al- 
liance. Through intermarriage and social alliances with other Muslim zamindars 
(landholders) the pir-zamindar elite came to constitute the core of Muslim society, 
occupying a dominant position in the country's social structure. This structural 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

position made the pirs a formidable force wielding enormous political, economic, 
and spiritual influence over large numbers of their disciples who resided primarily 
in villages. 

The relations of the sajjada-nashins with the Muslim state followed much 
the same pattern as the relations of these local chiefs with the state. As the links 
between the shrines and the Mughal state were snapped with the collapse of central 
Muslim political authority, many of the old sajjada-nashins who had wielded local 
political authority under the Mughals were transformed into local chieftains, who 
were increasingly isolated from the larger Islamic community. 

The Advent of Colonial Rule 

After the British annexed Punjab, they soon discovered that in developing their 
own rural administration they could not ignore the political influence in the rural 
areas that many of these/?/>s had acquired. Many pirs were accordingly honored by 
the British and given positions of local administrative authority. In the nineteenth 
century the British attempted to consolidate a system of rural administration which 
relied, particularly in west Punjab, on the local political influence of landed, often 
tribally based, intermediaries. In this regard the British were not departing from 
the established traditions of political control in western Punjab. At the same time 
the British sought to bolster the position of these rural leaders by isolating the rural 
areas from the growing economic and political influences emanating from the cities 
which might have tended to undermine the position of these leaders. This policy 
found its fullest expression in the Alienation of Land Act of 1900 which recognized 
thepirs as "landed gentry" and in general terms barred the non-agricultural popula- 
tion from acquiring land in the rural areas. In the twentieth century, as the British 
attempted to give political cohesion to a class of landed rural intermediaries who 
could be counted on to support their government, they recognized the leading pirs 
as an important part of this class. 

During the colonial era, when much of the Muslim world fell under Euro- 
pean domination, Sufi institutions played various roles. The overthrow of local 
elites by foreign invaders removed traditional sources of patronage for Sufism. He- 
reditary custodians of Sufi shrines became integrated into the landholding classes 
and became further entrenched as political leaders. Sufi responses to colonialism 
ranged from accommodation to confrontation. The cooperation of these Sufi lead- 
ers became essential in later independence movements directed against colonial 
control. With the overthrow of traditional elites by European conquest, Sufi in- 
stitutions in some regions remained the only surviving Islamic social structures, 
and became the de facto custodians of cultural and religious knowledge. As they 



were the only centers of resistance against European aggression, they furnished the 
principle leadership for anti-colonial struggles and later participated in shaping the 
vision of their nation-states. The colonial and postcolonial eras made it necessary 
for Sufism to come to terms with new roles dictated by the technological and ideo- 
logical transformations of modernity. 

Postcolonial Developments 

In the postcolonial period, Sufi institutions in Muslim countries had an ambiguous 
political position, which was determined by the Sufi institutions' relation to the 
nation-state. Governments in many Muslim countries inherited centralized bureau- 
cratic organizations of their colonial predecessors, some of which went back to pre- 
colonial bureaucracies. Some countries made efforts to bring Sufi institutions under 
governmental control. In some of these cases, officials appeared at Sufi festivals to 
direct popular reverence for saints into legitimizing their regimes, and governments 
also attempted to control the large amount of donations attracted to the shrines. 
State sponsorship of Sufi festivals also aimed to enroll support against fundamen- 
talist groups critical of the government, and to redirect reverence for saints towards 
nationalist goals. Nonetheless, many of the largest and liveliest Sufi organizations 
flourish without official recognition. 

The Muslim poet-philosopher Sir Muhammad Iqbal first proposed the idea 
of a Muslim state in the subcontinent during his address to the Muslim League at 
Allahabad in 1930. His proposal referred to the four provinces of Punjab, Sind, 
Baluchistan, and the North-West Frontier Province - essentially what would be- 
come post-1971 Pakistan. Iqbal's idea gave concrete form to the "Two Nations 
Theory" of two distinct nations in the subcontinent based on religion (Islam and 
Hinduism) and with different historical backgrounds, social customs, cultures, and 
social mores. Pakistan's independence in 1947 marked a watershed event in the 
religious and political lives of Indian Muslims. Today, it is difficult to imagine the 
emergence of Pakistan without a case made on the basis of religion, and without 
religious support for Pakistan. 

Islam was thus the basis for creation and unification of a separate state, but 
Islam was not expected to serve as the model of government. Mohammad Ali Jin- 
nah made his commitment to secularism in Pakistan clear in his inaugural address 
when he said, "You will find that in the course of time Hindus would cease to be 
Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because 
that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as Citizens 
of the State." This vision of a Muslim majority state in which religious minorities 
would share equally in its development was questioned shortly after independence. 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

The debate continues today amid questions of the rights of Ahmadiyyas, issuance 
of identity cards denoting religious affiliation, government intervention in the per- 
sonal practice of Islam, and other issues. 

For most of Muslim history, politics and religion have been intertwined 
both conceptually and practically in Muslim lands. The Medina Constitution and 
subsequent governance during the time of the Prophet served as precedents of gov- 
ernance and taxation. During the time of Muslim empires, from the Ummayyads 
(661-750) and the Abbasids (750-1258) to the Mughals (1526-1858) and the Ot- 
tomans (1300-1923), religion and statehood were treated as one. Classical Muslim 
thought propounded the notion that the purpose of the state is to provide an envi- 
ronment where Muslims can properly practice their religion. If a leader failed in 
this, the people have a right to depose him. 

The concept of Pakistan as envisioned by the rural population (specifically 
the pirs) was in traditional terms as the establishment of a religious state, ruled by 
the traditional leaders of society but firmly based on the Sharia. The crucial role 
of the pirs in the Muslim League's election victory in 1945 was also an important 
pointer to the nature of the Pakistan state which was to emerge. The victory for 
Pakistan represented only a call for a new religious definition of the old order, not 
for a new alignment of political power such as the reformist ulama had called for. 
The further definition of this system, however, remained to be developed in the new 
Muslim state. 

Leaders of Pakistan found that the organizational structure of the shrines, 
traditionally maintained by hereditary pirs, was a force that hampered their efforts 
to control the political and social organization of the country. Leaders of other 
Muslim countries (such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia) also decided that the concep- 
tual and organizational structures of Sufism and the shrines were incompatible with 
their political and religious goals. In postcolonial Turkey and Saudi Arabia, the 
solution was to suppress the shrines. In Pakistan, Ayub Khan's government estab- 
lished a different policy toward the shrines, which his successors continued with 
minor modifications. Their policies towards the shrines were carried out through 
the Department of Auqaf (formed shortly after independence). The essential goal 
was to enhance the shrines and the Sufi origins of these shrines for the glorification 
of Islam and Pakistan. At the same time the intent was to strip the hereditary pirs 
of their traditional functions. 

Pakistan, despite its nominal Islamic affiliation, was also a modern national 
state. It originated in an Islam that had been denned in nationalist political terms 
but excluded the personal and moral dimensions of Muslim religiosity. The lead- 
ers of the movement to establish an independent Pakistan were entirely secularized 
in their education and lifestyles. They viewed religion as confined to the personal 



sphere and envisioned their state as essentially secular. Hence they had no commit- 
ment to establishing a traditional Islamic state based on Classical Muslim thought. 
Their rhetoric was Muslim in form, but the content was nationalistic. 

Pakistan's Transition into a Nation State 

As Sufi tradition developed, there was a partial split between Sufism as rigorous 
spiritual discipline transmitted from spiritual teacher to qualified disciple on the 
one hand, and piri-muridi relationship which pejoratively meant blind devotion of 
the muridto a pir, whom the follower expected to act as a spiritual mediator. Such 
pirs were exemplified by the traditional sajjada-nishins. As part of an assault on 
the traditional meaning of pir, which gave him almost magical power, the Auqaf 
Department stressed the aspect of Sufism that Iqbal had drawn on and himself em- 
bodied: the original Sufi as poet and social reformer. 

If these saints were pantheists, believing that God is immanent in all things, 
then there is no need, according to their own doctrine, for any mediator between 
God and man. It can be inferred that the role and responsibility of the individual in 
such a system is analogous to the role that citizen is expected to play in a Muslim 
democracy as an informed, voting citizen participating directly in the government: 
the government is "immanent" in its citizens. Literature distributed by the Auqaf 
Department also discussed conversion, but its significance was shifted away from 
emphasis on the conversion of some tribes by a particular saint toward the idea of 
the saints as a collective body who worked together to convert Pakistan as a nation 
to Islam. 

Land reform acts were efforts to remove the landlord from his position as 
economic mediator and thus to remove him as a political mediator as well. The 
idea was that by divesting the landlords of economic power, they would also lose 
control of their votes. The hope was also that dividing up the land would be politi- 
cally popular. To that end, the West Pakistan Waqf Properties Ordinance of 1959 
gave the government the power to take direct control of and to manage shrines, 
mosques, and other properties dedicated to religious purposes. The act was super- 
seded by the West Pakistan Waqf Properties Ordinance of 1961 and later by the 
Auqaf (Federal Control) Act of 1976, each of which further extended the authority 
of the Auqaf Department. 

The power of the pir as a political mediator was difficult to eliminate as 
long as he retained the role of religious mediator. Only by changing the religious 
significance of the pir and the world view of his followers could any real political 
reorganization be effective. Thus the removal of waqf land from the control of the 
sajjada-nishins was equivalent to the breaking up of the lands of major landlords, 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

but one more step was required: the religious hold of the sajjada-nishin also needed 
to be broken. 

In addition to developing the shrine areas as centers of social welfare, the 
Auqaf Department also made improvements on the shrines themselves, thus dem- 
onstrating that the government can satisfactorily fulfill the caretaking functions of 
the sajjada-nishins. The emphasis on educating missionaries suggested that the 
early Sufi saints were being compared to the ulama being trained to serve as imams 
in local villages. The emphasis seemed to be on minimizing the distinction between 
the saints and the ulama, and between Sufism and Sharia. 

Instead of the traditional Sufi concern with the course of spiritual develop- 
ment of the individual, which included esoteric understanding for the spiritually 
advanced, the stress shifted to conformity of the Sharia, which in turn expected to 
lead to spiritual growth within the community. Thus, the Sufi was to be seen pri- 
marily as an alim, whose main function was to educate and guide his followers in 
the proper application and understanding of Islamic law. 

Ayub sought to impose a nationally oriented bureaucratic administration 
that would overcome existing regional ties and disruptive political parties. This 
strong central government would be reinforced by the bond of Islam and by rap- 
id economic growth. Part of his strategy was to educate the rural population in 
the democratic process, so that they could intelligently elect their representatives. 
Some of Ayub's strategies were common to other modernizing countries, such as 
those concerning education and the provision of services through a national gov- 
ernment. Unique to Pakistan was his effort to change the significance of the shrines 
and of the saints attached to them. He also used the shrines directly as a vehicle for 

Ayub adopted Javid Iqbal's suggestion, which was to develop a new ideol- 
ogy with respect to the saints and shrines. On the one hand, the Auqaf Department 
had to demonstrate that it could maintain the shrines as well as, if not better than, 
the sajjada-nishins. But this task alone was not adequate, because to most people 
the sajjada-nishins were not mere caretakers of the shrines. They were also seen as 
possessors and dispensers of blessing and hence wielded spiritual power. From the 
perspective of their followers, failure to follow the wishes of the sajjada-nishin in 
any sphere of activity was thought to have serious consequences. The government 
therefore had to demonstrate simultaneously that the sajjada-nishin was superflu- 
ous in both his religious and his caretaking functions. 

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's strategy was to eliminate the middlemen who were the 
backbone of Ayub's economic and political organization. He nationalized many 
industries and appealed directly to the ordinary citizen. As the head of the People's 
party and successor to Ayub's fallen regime, he was acutely aware of the power of 



mass protest. He tried to be a charismatic leader, whom everyone would look up to 
as the supreme benefactor. He too used the shrines to carry out his policy. Instead 
of using the shrine festivals to teach villagers modern agricultural techniques, for 
instance, he emphasized governmental participation in the rituals themselves, thus 
linking religiosity with nationalistic goals. 

Road to Islamization 

Pakistan's "Islamic Identity" consistently generated tensions within its political 
system as the need for state religious expression and pluralistic governance placed 
competing demands on political ideology and hence the political process. At the 
socio-cultural level, Islam remained an important factor in everyday life. However, 
there was considerable variation in the ways ordinary Pakistanis articulated, inter- 
preted, and practiced their faith, and worked out its implications in their individual 
and collective lives. Even today, Pakistan continues to wrestle with what kind of 
Islamic state it should be. While most agree that Pakistan's constitution and gov- 
ernment should reflect Islamic ideology, the issue was how to relate Islam to the 
needs of a modern state. 

The first serious steps to Islamization were taken by General Zia-ul-Haq's 
government which emphasized the idea that the original saints were themselves 
ulama, trained religious scholars who followed the Sharia. His government, took 
an essentially reformist position, and stressed the synthesis of Sufi and alim in its 
definition of the saint, while at the same time denying the legitimacy of the heredi- 
tary/?//'. Zia emphasized the saints as models of the pious Muslim, as devout men 
who observed all the laws of Islam (specifically strict adherence to the Sharia). 

Zia pursued an Islamization program within a complex ideological frame- 
work. His stance was in contrast to the popular culture (i.e. most people were 
"personally" very religious but not "publicly" religious). The introduction ofzakat 
and ushr collection as well as the enforcement of Sharia law exasperated the fault 
lines of doctrinal and jurist differences among the various interpretations of Islam. 
The question as to which interpretation of the Sharia should form the basis of public 
policy became the major source of conflict. These controversies caused sectarian 
riots and assassination of several prominent ulama since the late 1980s. 

An unexpected outcome was that by relying on policy grounded in Islam, 
the state fomented factionalism: by legislating what is Islamic and what is not, 
Islam itself could no longer provide unity because it was then being defined to ex- 
clude previously included groups. This resulted in unrest and sectarian violence. 
Sufi practices were branded as being "un-Islamic" and those who indulged in such 
practices were straying from the "true" Islamic path by participating in shirk (idola- 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

try) or bidaa (corrupt innovation of religious practices). More profoundly, in a 
move that reached into every home, the state had attempted to dictate a specific 
ideal image of women in Islamic society, an ideal that was largely antithetical to 
that existing in popular sentiment and in everyday life. 

In August 1988 Zia and some of his senior military commanders died in a 
plane crash. This development led to the installation of a civilian government. Un- 
fortunately, the civilian government's powers were restricted by the military in the 
political process. Post-Zia civilian regimes were largely unsuccessful in reconcil- 
ing the demands of the ulama for imposing Islamic law with the reformist demands 
for a pluralistic multiethnic society and attempts at further Islamization continued. 

The proliferation of madrasas and support for jihad in Afghanistan and 
Kashmir in the 1990s lead to the formation of several Islamist groups (some of 
them armed). The Taliban's genesis can be associated with the rise of madrasas 
in Pakistan during the 1980s and 1990s. Taliban controlled Afghanistan (from the 
mid-1990s to early 2000) also facilitated the growth of several Islamist groups in 
Pakistan that shared the Taliban's vision of Islam. This vision advocated the eradi- 
cation of "non-Islamic" cultural norms and symbols to revert to Divine favor, and 
hence called for the eradication of practically all forms of Sufi practices - espe- 
cially saint veneration. 

In October 1999 General Parvez Musharraf declared a state of emergency 
and effectively took control of the government. He portrayed his regime as reform- 
ist and emphasized a moderate form of Islam, which he articulated as "enlightened 
moderation." Initially he took measures to curb Islamic militants. However in 
2000 he withdrew his proposal to reform the procedural aspects of the Blasphemy 
Law (which seeks the death penalty for any one accused of making derogatory 
remarks about the Prophet Mohammad). Moreover the government continued to 
support the Taliban in Afghanistan until September 11, 2001. 

The 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States and Pakistan's subsequent al- 
liance with the United States on the "War on Terror" compelled Pakistan to curtail 
the support it had provided to Islamist groups. Increased foreign pressure caused 
Musharraf to take wide-ranging measures against various Islamist groups in Paki- 
stan. In January 2002 he pledged to cease Pakistani support for Islamic insurgents 
in Kashmir and Afghanistan and declared Pakistan a "frontline state against terror- 

Musharraf's alteration of the 1973 Constitution and introduction of the Le- 
gal Framework Order in 2002 essentially transformed Pakistan's political system 
from a parliamentary one to a presidential one. Amendments to the constitution 
entrenched the military's role by creating a military-controlled National Security 
Council. Musharraf's authoritarian rule eroded Pakistan's civil institutions, gover- 



nance based on rule of law and on parliamentary supremacy, which in turn alienated 
the secular voices from Pakistan's political process. This benefitted the Islamist 
organizations. Post 9/11 developments in Afghanistan and Musharraf's attempt to 
curb Islamist extremism in Pakistan created resentment and a sense of alienation 
among some Islamist groups that previously received state patronage. 

Despite Musharraf's secular orientation, madrasas continued to flourish. 
The government issued a Madrasa Registration Ordinance in June 2002 to control 
foreign funding, improve curricula (including teaching of "secular" subjects), and 
prohibit training in the use of arms. However, most religious groups rejected these 
tentative governmental reforms. Social and economic factors and Musharraf's fail- 
ure to enact widespread reform contributed to the popularity of the madrasa system 
of education. Islamization continued at the provincial level as well. One such in- 
stance was the imposition of Sharia law in the North West Frontier Province. This 
later led to unrest and riots which caused a large portion of the population in the 
Swat Valley to seek refuge in other parts of the country. Despite Musharraf's policy 
of "enlightened moderation," Islamic laws enacted by Zia's government remained 
largely intact. 

Elections held in October 2007 angered opposition parties as they con- 
sidered it unconstitutional. Domestic unrest and widespread international protest 
caused Musharraf to declare a state of emergency (and de facto martial law). The 
proclamation of emergency rule gave Musharraf almost dictatorial powers, which 
led to further unrest and protests. 

Benazir Bhutto's assassination in November 2007 and Musharraf's pro- 
tracted withdrawal from Pakistani political life left a power vacuum which led to 
further violence and chaos. It is still too early to tell how permanent the Islamist 
reforms in Pakistan will be. However, the Islamist perspective has made more and 
deeper inroads in Pakistan's political sphere since its independence in 1947. In its 
wake it has muted other interpretations of Islam and disinherited some of Islam's 
rich legacy. 

Backlash to Sufism 

Modernist secular thinkers had been critical of Sufism, and described it as one of 
the sources of fatalism, passivity, and civilizational decline; its ideas and practices 
were criticized for making Muslim states vulnerable to foreign domination. Some 
Sufi groups internalized the modernist critique and were themselves critical of 
some traditional Sufi practices such as listening to music and visiting the tombs of 
saints. Other Sufi theorists rejected life in the hospice and insisted on living in the 
world. Yet other Sufi advocates responded to the reformist critiques with polemics 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

and apologetics of their own. They defended Sufi practices as authentic and even 
necessary according to Islamic principles. Sufi theorists asserted that science ulti- 
mately seeks what Sufism alone can offer, and in the process adopted the language 
of psychology and modern technology in their defense. 

The rise of Wahhabism and kindred Salafi movement brought contemporary 
fundamentalism in its wake. The fundamentalists have attacked Sufism with a viru- 
lence sometimes even more intense than that which was reserved for anti-Western 
diatribes. The idama perceived "popular" Islam based on the piri-muridi paradigm 
as misleading, superstitious, and vulgar, and they believed it needed to be replaced 
by a "purer" or true Islam based on the Koran and Sharia, and for which they were 
the principal spokesmen. They frequently denounced pilgrimage to Sufi tombs as 
idolatry, and rejected the notion that saints are able to intercede with Allah on be- 
half of believers. However popular Islam was the dominant religious tradition and 
as such it permeated Pakistani cultural life. The evolution of the state in Pakistan 
was profoundly affected by the predominance of popular Islam. While criticizing 
Sufism, it is remarkable that some fundamentalist movements adapted certain orga- 
nizational techniques and leadership styles from Sufism. The main difference was 
that these movements substituted political ideology for Sufi spirituality, to become 
mass parties in the modern political arena. 

Contemporary Sufism 

Sufi Islam in Pakistan is represented at two levels. The first is a populist Sufism of 
the rural masses, associated with religious rituals and practices that include belief 
in the intercessory powers of saints, pilgrimage and veneration at their shrines, and 
a binding spiritual relationship between thepir and miirid. Muslims in some rural 
areas of Pakistan identify themselves with some pir, living or dead, and seek his 
intercession for the solution of their problems (worldly or spiritual), and for salva- 
tion. There is belief in the powers of both the person (i.e.pirs) and legends about 
their miracles (karamah). Many of these pirs are either themselves landlords or are 
associated with the traditional landowning interests. Although most of the major 
shrines were taken over by the government in 1959 and 1961 as a part of Ayub's 
modernization program, the actual management of these shrines, the organization 
of their religious activities, and the dispensation of spiritual favors continue under 
the guidance of the original sajjadah nishins. It is not unheard of for some of these 
pir families to use their spiritual influence to gain election to the national and pro- 
vincial legislatures. 

The other strain is that of scholastic or intellectual Sufism, a more recent 
phenomenon predominantly in urban areas and becoming increasingly popular 



among the more educated population. Influenced by the writings of earlier (medi- 
eval) Sufis, and by the spiritual experiences of the masters of the Suhrawardi and 
Naqshbandi orders, these modern Sufis are rearticulating Islamic metaphysics as an 
answer to Western materialism. For them, Sufism is the heart of Islam, and Islamic 
revival begins with the spiritual reawakening of individual Muslims. 

Despite the vicissitudes of foreign invasion, the collapse of traditional social 
structures, the imposition of European education and culture, the rise of the secular 
nation-state, and an ideological shift towards fundamentalism in the Muslim world, 
Sufism in many different local forms persists and survives across the entire popula- 
tion spectrum from the illiterate to the elite. In Pakistan Sufism has now become a 
position to be defended or criticized in terms of ideological constructions of Islam. 
Whether defended in traditional languages as part of classical Muslim culture or at- 
tacked as non-Muslim heresy, Sufism still forms part of the symbolic capital of not 
only Pakistan but also of the majority of Muslim countries. As a form of religious 
practice, Sufism is seen both as an eclectic form of New Age spirituality and as the 
mystical essence of Islam. 


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Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

Education, Religion And The Creation Of Subject: 
Different Educational Systems Of Pakistan 

By Muhammad A. Nisar 

"The forms and the specific situations of the government of men by one another in 
a given society are multiple; they are superimposed, they cross, impose their own 
limits, sometimes cancel one another out, sometimes reinforce one another. " 


"The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life. " 


"We must. our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the 
millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and color, but Eng- 
lish in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect. " 

Macaulay, Architect of education system of British India 

"Through its textbooks, school teachers, universities, newspapers, novels and mag- 
azines, the colonial order was able to penetrate and colonize local discourse. " 

Timothy Mitchell, Colonizing Egypt 1 

The educational system has a unique place in modern nation state. Foucault calls 
it "the instrument whereby every individual, in a society. . ., can gain access to any 
kind of discourse. 2 " Most of the possibilities to progress and prosper are available 
only through educational systems in the world today. Refusing entry into the edu- 
cational system is synonymous with refusing entry into the main stream culture 
and work ethic of a country. All this has placed extraordinary power in the hands 
of those who design what an educational system looks like and how it defines right 
and wrong. 

Educational institutions are instrumental in shaping how we view the world. 
Each educational system teaches an entire generation the difference between what 
is right and what is wrong. That is why Foucault calls educational systems as con- 
stituting "doctrinal groups". 3 Naturally, who defines this right and wrong and what 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

these definitions imply for a society are of utmost importance in modern nation 

Most of modern nation states have a single educational system for all citi- 
zens. It ensures that the definitions of right and wrong, the ethnocentric ideals, 4 
and the worldview of all citizens are identical. A single educational system, thus, 
creates a unity of thought and outlook within a society. Pakistan with its different 
educational systems is an exception to this rule. While there are certain notable 
exceptions like the United States where multiple education systems are in vogue, 
other determinants of popular culture like media and politics ensure creation of a 
single "national culture". 

There are three different educational systems in Pakistan; State education 
system, 5 elite private schools and Madrassahs (religious schools). State education 
system is the largest and most of the student population is enrolled in these schools. 
Elite private schools and Madrassahs have comparatively smaller student popula- 
tions. However, these two systems have great sociological significance because 
students from the Elite schools have a disproportionately high representation in 
bureaucracy, businesses, and state offices (Rahman T, 2005). Similarly, the students 
from Madrassahs have constituted a significant portion of the sectarian violence in 
Pakistan (Rahman, 2003). 

This paper argues following main points about educational systems of Paki- 
stan. Firstly, the three educational systems represent products of totally different 
historical evolutionary processes and have divergent ideologies about education. 
Secondly, these systems because of differences in curriculum, pedagogical style, 
and discipline techniques create distinct concepts of "citizenship" among their stu- 
dents. Owing to this difference, students which pass through these systems do not 
share the same worldview and form different types of "subjects". Thirdly, I argue 
that most of the problems of radical Islam which Pakistan has been experiencing in 
recent past are because of these different educational systems. 

It is not intended to discount the importance of other socio-political factors 
like neglect of frontier regions by the government and the US-Pakistan politics in 
Afghanistan during the Cold War. However, I argue that the difference in outlook 
towards life in various strata of Pakistan induced by education systems of Pakistan 
create a fertile ground where other socio-political factors can sow the seeds of dis- 
content and unrest. 


Historical Evolution of Educational Systems: 

Religions Madrassahs: 

Religious Madrassahs (places of study) emerged as centers of organized learning 
in early Islamic history during ninth and tenth centuries Arabia. These Madrassahs 
were a new innovation because there was no tradition of organized learning in Arab 
before the emergence of these institutions. They were designed to satisfy the need 
for organized teaching of newly emerging fields of knowledge like Hadith, 6 Tafsir, 7 
Kalaam 8 and logic. Owing to their attraction of the best minds of their time, very 
soon they surpassed all forms of private learning. The rigid classification of knowl- 
edge based on religious law and dogma inevitably made jurists and traditionalists 
final authorities in religious and worldly matters. 

Within a few decades, Madrassahs became the only legitimized source of 
Islamic knowledge. There are a variety of reasons for this rapid increase in impor- 
tance of these institutions. One of the major reasons was the relationship with the 
state. Madrassahs were mostly state funded and the Kings looked to the Imams 
in major Madrassahs to legitimize their actions. 9 In return, Imams were given a 
relatively free reign in religious matters not concerning the state (Fazlur Rahman 
1982). This State-Madras sah relationship also had the added benefit of ostracizing 
any radical religious sentiments against the Kings. 

These Madrassahs in the first few centuries of Islamic rule provided the 
state with most of its bureaucracy and state functionaries. In addition, they served 
as learning centers for most of the prominent Islamic scholars during the medieval 
ages. For centuries, these Madrassahs had virtual power over the definition of right 
and wrong in the Islamic world. For example, fields of study like philosophy and 
astronomy were not taught at the Madrassahs and were labeled "un-Islamic". These 
fields had to be studied privately and socially they had a status much inferior to 
fields such as logic, tafsir, and medicine. 

When India was colonized during the nineteenth century by the British, 
rules of the game changed. The British brought their own educational system. En- 
try into all major state and bureaucratic jobs was dependant on passing through this 
new educational system. In addition, the British withdrew all state funding to the 
Madrassahs. So, the Madrassahs not only suffered a financial crisis but also a social 
crisis (Zaman 1999). Passing through a Madrassah was no longer a guarantee to 
any job because graduates from Madrassahs, though fluent in traditional languages 
like Persian and Arabic, were unfamiliar with language of the Colonialists (Eng- 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

All this created a fundamental change in the educational goals of the Ma- 
drassahs. They resisted change and refuse to adopt modern curriculum or teaching 
of English. The learning objectives changed from training bureaucrats and state of- 
ficers to defending the faith against foreign invaders (Talbani 1996). Owing to this 
static stance, Madrassahs continued to teach their curriculum which was unchanged 
since the middle ages. As a result, graduation from these Madrassahs stopped hav- 
ing any value in society and the job market. Students of these Madrassahs could 
only become teachers in other Madrassahs or Imams in local mosques. 

All this insulated the Madrassahs and their students from all that modernity 
and the industrial age stood for. Everything which was associated with the West 
came to be recognized as evil and hence, worthy to be despised and rejected. 

Public Schools and State Education System: 10 

State-run education system was introduced by the British in India. A lot has been 
written on the educational philosophy behind the educational system of British In- 
dia. Nothing explains it better than the following quotes from the architect of this 
education system, 

... the effect of training . . . is to give an entirely new turn to the native 
mind. The young men educated in this way cease to strive after indepen- 
dence according to the original Native model, and aim at, improving the 
institutions of the country according to the English model, with the ultimate 
result of establishing constitutional self-government. They cease to regard 
us as enemies and usurpers, and they look upon us as friends and patrons, 
and powerful beneficent persons, under whose protection the regeneration 
of their country will gradually be worked out. . . . n 

This system was, therefore, designed to establish the hegemony of the British over 
the colonized people. 12 After its independence in 1947, Pakistan maintained the 
basic educational philosophy of the British. It was especially true for the discipline 
and control methods of the British colonial education system, before independence 
the British used the state education system to establish hegemony over the locals, 
after independence it was the religious and political interest groups who managed 
to exploit the state education system to establish hegemony of certain ideas in so- 

A new educational policy was developed with each political transition in 
Pakistan. Each new educational policy publically aimed to prepare 'good citizens' 
but instead, reproduced the government's ideology and its conception of citizen- 



ship and citizenship education (Althusser 1972). For example, during the socialist 
regime of Mr. Z.A. Bhutto, the school curriculum was revised to preach "socialist" 
values and "all privately-managed schools and colleges" were nationalized in line 
with socialist ideals (Ministry of Education, 1972, pp. 6, 35). The new educational 
policy of 1979 under Gen. Zia ul Haq who replaced Mr. Z. A. Bhutto, revised the 
curricula so that "Islamic ideology permeates the thinking of the younger genera- 
tion," and society is refashioned according to Islamic tenets (Ministry of Education, 
1979, p.2). 

The state schools, therefore, continue to indoctrinate the students with the 
political ideology of the state. The discipline and control methods ensure that the 
graduating students do not resist the dominant political culture of their society. 

Elite Private Schools and British Education System: 13 

Elite private schools are also a product of British rule. Initially, two kinds of elitist 
schools in India were formed: those for the hereditary aristocracy, called the chiefs' 
colleges; and those for the newly emerging professional classes, called European 
or English schools, including armed forces schools which taught all subjects in 
English. Both kinds of institutions served political and social purposes because the 
chiefs' colleges were meant to Anglicise young rulers, to encourage loyalty to the 
crown, and preclude events like those of 1857 (Mangan in Rahman 2005). 

The parallel system of elitist schooling did not change because of the estab- 
lishment of Pakistan. Indeed, as the military and the higher bureaucracy both came 
from this elite background, these schools multiplied in Pakistan as the professional 
middle-class started expanding in 1960s. Thus it is no surprise that the government, 
dominated by members of these two elitist groups, came up with policies that sup- 
ported these Elite schools. 

These schools suffered a temporary setback during the 1970s when the so- 
cialist regime of Mr. Z.A. Bhutto nationalized all private schools. However, im- 
mediately after his government fell, these schools were de-nationalized. 1980s saw 
a huge increase in the popularity of these schools. Huge profit margins attracted a 
large number of investors. 

Many new schools were built to make profit and cater to the demands of 
elite sections of society for "better" education. These schools have remained almost 
an exclusively urban phenomenon which also indicates the elitist character and fo- 
cus of these schools. 

Over the years, these schools have come to represent best possible oppor- 
tunities to personal growth in Pakistan. Most of the students of these schools either 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

enter foreign universities after graduation or receive admission into one of the elite 
domestic higher education institutions. 

Discipline and creation of the "compliant" subject: 

Foucault in his book Discipline and Punish has pointed to the importance of control 
over the physical body of the subjects for creation of discipline by the state starting 
in the nineteenth century. 14 He also points to the fact that schools like the military 
and prison were institutions where this disciplining of the body was carried out 
(Foucault 1977). This concern for physical discipline is visible in the education 
system of Pakistan. 

The teaching methodology in almost all of the public schools and most of 
the private schools which follow the government curriculum is surprisingly identi- 
cal. All these schools idealize discipline; strong emphasis is put on routine, follow- 
ing orders, and completing the assigned tasks in time. Physical punishment is not 
uncommon especially in boys schools. 

Learning mostly involves cramming and copying what has been taught. Un- 
til the High School level, students are encouraged not to question what is written in 
the text books and what is taught to them. Students are supposed to memorize the 
books, mostly without realizing what they are memorizing. Most of the assigned 
homework involves copying from the text books instead of analytical assignments. 
The curriculum of these schools is set by the government. Teaching of Islamic 
studies is compulsory at all grades of school. However, it is the social studies cur- 
riculum which is the most ideologically indoctrinated. Both the social studies and 
Islamic studies books have articles on themes like Pan-Islamism, Islamic identity 
of Pakistan, Muslim world, revolutionary movements in Islam, history of Western 
colonization and the idealization of the concept of Jihad (Ahmad 2004). 

Interestingly, as with the Madrassahs, no part of curriculum presents per- 
spective of followers of other religions or of citizens of the rest of the world. The 
only topic which deals with Non-Muslims is the status of minorities in an Islamic 
state and that is also in a very superficial and non-analytical way. The curriculum 
does not differentiate between a "good citizen" and a "pious Muslim". 

There are hardly any analytical discussions outside of the assigned curricu- 
lum in classes and raising questions is not appreciated especially in social sciences. 
Similarly, examinations are almost exclusively written so that instead of analytical 
skills or academic grasp of educational concepts, memory, and cramming skills of 
students are tested. Students who are able to identically copy what was taught to 
them generally receive the highest marks. 



A combination of strict physical and mental discipline permeates these 
schools. We see here the clear continuation of the controlling techniques which 
Mitchell captured in his insightful study of colonial educational system, 

'A student is not permitted to change his place in any of the classrooms 
without permission; this order is to be followed in all classes.' There is a 
meticulous concern for the discipline of rank and place. It is not the particu- 
lar place that matters - desks can be assigned by drawing lots - but the act 
of positioning and remaining in place. Punishment is a more overt expres- 
sion of this concern with order... (Students) are now deprived of leave or 
confined to their rooms rather than beaten with the leather whip. In this way 
punishment is made an aspect of discipline, of that continuous technique of 
control whose method is to position, to divide, and to set limits. 15 

Students who pass out of these schools have a world view which idealizes fol- 
lowing authority without questioning. 16 Thus students are physically and mentally 
trained to become conformists, a practice which is the legacy of British colonial 
experience. However, what is new is the idealization of an Islamic society and 
Islamic state which is inculcated into the minds of these students. Most of these 
students come to view Pakistan as an Islamic Khilafa where all the laws should be 
in conformity with Islam. Any social or legal change which is deemed socially un- 
Islamic is thus deemed to be a grave mistake by this group of students. 

*Taqlid 17 and creation of the "follower" subject: 

The main objective of Madrassahs continues to be the production of religious schol- 
ars trained to defend religion and protect traditional values (Talbani 96). Therefore, 
curriculum is heavily focused towards Islamic theological subjects like Quran, Ha- 
dith, Fiqh, 18 etc. Although many Madrassahs have started teaching English as a 
subject, sciences or English language are hardly ever the focus of study in these 
institutions. Islamic subjects have essentially remained unchanged in curriculum 
since the middle ages. 

All Madrassahs, including the ones belonging to the Shia sect, teach the 
Dars-i-Nizami though they do not use the same texts. Dars-i-Nizami was designed 
during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and has remained mostly unchanged. 
All Madrassahs also teach their particular point of view (Madhab or Maslak) which 
clarifies and rationalizes the beliefs of their sect (Sunni or Shia) and sub-sect (Tal- 
bani 1996). Moreover, they train their students to refute 19 "heretical" beliefs and 
Western ideas. The world view of these students remains limited to only their own 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

sect. For them all the "truth" is present in the belief system of their own sect, all the 
"others" are blinded by the "false" beliefs. 

Pedagogy is based on rote memorization, which is considered the way to 
achieve maximum benefit from learning and obedience to authority. Raising ques- 
tions is hardly ever encouraged. It is especially true of Islamic subjects. The doc- 
trine of Taqlid is taught with faithful diligence. This doctrine implies that Islamic 
law and practices of the early centuries of Islam are ideal, unchangeable and final; 
thus they should be followed as they are without raising new questions. Imitation 
of teachers is regarded as a virtue because they are supposed to be the role models 
of Islamic way of life. 

No part of the curriculum presents perspectives of the followers of other re- 
ligions or of citizens of the rest of the world. The only topic which deals with rights 
of the Non-Muslims is the status of minorities in an Islamic state. Even this topic 
is taught with its medieval interpretation which implies that all Non-Muslims in an 
Islamic state must pay an additional tax called Jazya to enjoy protection of law. 

Strict discipline is inculcated among students and any deviation from the 
rules is punished by physical punishment. Sometimes physical punishment involves 
severe thrashing at the hands of the teachers. Raising a voice which questions any 
taught subject is unimaginable in such an environment. Discipline and punishment 
in these schools is much harsher than the state education system. 

The stagnant curriculum, physical punishments, and a teaching philosophy 
which refutes all other religious and cultural points of view ensure the creation of a 
subject who blindly follows the brand of religion taught to him. His mind is totally 
closed to the possibility that there is any truth outside his particular sect. He ideal- 
izes the Islamic system preached by his own sect and is taught the virtue of sacrific- 
ing his life for the establishment of this system. 

Pedagogy and creation of the "liberal" subject: 

The elite private schools have a totally different educational philosophy than the 
state education system and the Madrassahs. They do not follow the curriculum, 
teaching methodology, or examination method of the state. Instead, all of these 
schools are affiliated with the Cambridge Education System of England and follow 
its approved curriculum. 

The curriculum of these schools teaches entirely different values than the 
ones taught at Madrassahs or the state run education system. Religion does not play 
a significant part in the curriculum of these schools. Here curriculum focuses on in- 
culcating into students virtues of a secular, capitalist nation state. That is why most 
students tend to have a secular liberal outlook towards life. 



The teaching methodology is also different as compared to state schools and 
Madrassahs. Physical punishment is uncommon and asking questions is encour- 
aged. The examinations in these schools follow University of Cambridge guide- 
lines. The focus is not on memorizing the facts. Instead examination questions re- 
quire analysis and intelligent interpretation of curriculum. All this translates into an 
analytical and open frame of mind. 

More important than curriculum, however, is the social life within these 
schools. All of these schools are co-ed. In addition, all the teaching and conversa- 
tion among students takes place exclusively in English. These students, therefore, 
develop a lifestyle and point of view which has nothing in common with the social 
norms and values of their society. That is why, generally, the students who gradu- 
ate from these schools tend to have a social circle limited to graduates of similar 

The conflict of educational ideologies: 

Education, according to Foucault, in its distribution, in what it permits and in what 
it prevents, follows the well-trodden battle lines of social conflict. In his opinion, 
"every educational system is a means of maintaining or of modifying the appropria- 
tion of discourse, with the knowledge and the powers it carries with it" (Foucault 
1971). Thus, the different educational systems of Pakistan act as indoctrinating 
grounds for different social groups and serve as the breeding grounds for future 
social conflict. 

Each educational system has its own conception of an "ideal" subject. The 
strict discipline and literalism of the Madrassahs ensures total submission by the 
students. The Madrassahs, therefore, serve as the ideal recruiting grounds to cre- 
ate blind followers of a particular brand of religion. Similarly, the state education 
system acts to create individuals who are passive and compliant to state policies. 
Elite private schools on the other hand create subjects who share capitalist values 
but have no roots in their own culture. 

All these subjects have very different conceptions of what an ideal society 
should look like. A Madrassah student is trained to think that an Islamic state is the 
rightful destiny of Pakistan. His first affiliation is to his religion. He is trained to 
think that there is no concept of a nation state in Islam. A student of an Elite school 
on the other hand seldom bothers with this question. 20 He is in awe of the Western 
culture and its values. For him modernity means, everything which is Western. 
There is no common ground when it comes to social ideals between a student of a 
Madrassah and a student of Elite school. They are residents of different planets. 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

The students of State education system are the most "confused". On the one 
hand, the curriculum teaches them that Pakistan was made in the name of Islam. 
On the other, the discipline and routine method in the schools trains them to be 
compliant to state policies. Various studies have shown that a majority of these stu- 
dents idealize an Islamic system in Pakistan. 21 However, they are trained not to do 
anything about it unless the state decides to do so. This difference between "ideal" 
and "reality" creates social cognitive dissonance. 

One of the major reasons Taliban have been so successful in the North-West 
is because they have come forward with the claim to install the Islamic system 
which the state has not been able to create in 60 years. In this way they have been 
able to address this cognitive dissonance created by the state education system. It is 
especially true for the Pathans of the tribal areas. 22 

The effects of this compliance can be seen in the political and social land- 
scape of Pakistan. It is no wonder that Pakistan has been ruled by military dictators 
during most of its history. These dictators largely faced very little popular resis- 
tance against their rule. Similarly, a culture of public protest for social rights has 
failed to develop. In my opinion, a lot of it has to do with the passivity and compli- 
ance created by the state education system. 

Rahman has shown that the attitude towards religious tolerance and plural- 
ism is very different among the students of the different educational systems of 
Pakistan. His results showed that whereas 65.5% of surveyed students in elite pri- 
vate schools were in favor of giving equal rights to Ahmadis, 23 this percentage was 
46% in State school and only 12.6% among Madrassah students 24 (Rahman 2004). 
These results clearly show that Madrassah students are extremely intolerant regard- 
ing equal rights for all religious minorities. 

The most surprising aspect of this study was that it revealed that the school 
teachers were significantly more intolerant than their students on questions of re- 
ligious equality. The study showed that only 43% teachers were in favor of giving 
equal rights to Ahmadis (compared to 65% of students). Similarly, in State schools 
only 27% were tolerant of equal rights (compared to 46% students). The most strik- 
ing results were from the Madrassahs where only 3.7% of teachers said that Ahma- 
dis deserved equal rights (Rahman 2004). 

The results of this study lead us to two important sociological findings; 
First of all, a lot of religious intolerance in Pakistan is because of the training which 
students receive at schools. Secondly, and more significantly, the study shows the 
importance of school curriculum on social attitudes. Almost all the teachers in the 
schools belong to the age group which grew up in 1970s and 1980s when the state 
education policy was revised to "Islamize" the population. The effects of this policy 
are proving detrimental to the society now. 



Recently it has been argued that these Madrassahs and their curriculum are 
not very important in the emergence of radical brand of Islam in Pakistan; there- 
fore, there is no need to reform them. The major rationale provided to justify this 
explanation is that only 1.5 Million students 25 are currently enrolled in these Ma- 
drassahs. It has been argued that this subgroup forms a very small number as far 
as the total number of total student population of Pakistan so this subgroup cannot 
be responsible for the deterioration in law and order situation (Khwaja et al 2003, 
2004, 2005). 

However, in my opinion, this argument is incorrect because even if only one 
third of the student population of the Madrassahs became radicalized and raise arms 
against the state, they will form a force of greater strength than the Taliban. 26 It is 
especially true of the North-West where the rugged mountain terrain makes gue- 
rilla style warfare ideal for small groups like Taliban. In addition, statistics prove 
that the enrollment in these Madrassahs is comparatively more in the Pashtun belt 
of Pakistan where the Taliban have been created (Khawaja et al 2004). All of this, 
points to the importance of Madrassah reform in Pakistan. 

These educational systems, however, co-existed peacefully till the 1980s 
when the state decided to glorify the concept of Jihad. The motives for this policy 
were purely political because Pakistan had decided to cooperate with U.S.A. to 
coordinate aid and military equipment to the Afghans in fighting against the Rus- 
sians. Owing to various state policies and changes in academic curriculum, Jihad 
and armed resistance to fight for an Islamic state became a part of popular discourse 
during these years (Talbani 1996, Zia 2003, Ahmad 1999). 

This new discourse was especially encouraged and facilitated by the state 
in the Madrassahs of the North-West Frontier Province. The reason for this was 
simple. These Madrassahs were used to recruit and train new "Jihadis" for the fight 
against the Russians in Afghanistan. State also provided them with weapons to 
fight in Afghanistan. Although after the fight was over, state stopped using the Ma- 
drassahs as training grounds, in many areas of Pak-Afghan border this practice 
continued (Abbas 2002, Rana 2004). The major reason was the continued fighting 
in Afghanistan between various factions of militants. From these Madrassahs, the 
Taliban was formed which today controls parts of the North-West Frontier Prov- 

I argue that these different education systems imply that there are different 
"governments" for different social groups in Pakistan. I use the word "government" 
here in the sense which, according to Foucault, is the way in which the conduct of 
individuals or of groups is directed by dominant social groups. It includes "modes 
of action more or less considered or calculated which are destined to act upon the 
possibilities of action of other people" (Foucault 1982). 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

For a modern nation state to become more cohesive and stronger, power has 
to become progressively "governmentalized." 27 However, the control of different 
social groups over creation of the "subject" means that this trend is reversing in 
Pakistan and power relations are increasingly getting away from the state and into 
the hands of other "potential states." 28 If this trend is not stopped, it will prove fatal 
for the state of Pakistan in the long-run. 


Pedagogical philosophy of educational systems is instrumental in the creation of 
modern subject. Modern nation states, therefore, tend to have an educational sys- 
tem (or at least a curriculum) which preaches an ideology that is cohesive and fa- 
cilitates the creation of the "subject" which the state desires. The three educational 
systems of Pakistan, on the other hand, create very different types of subjects who 
have completely different worldviews. 

At present, the state is ruled by the subjects taught at the Elitist private 
schools. However, socio-political developments in the last decade have created cir- 
cumstances which have facilitated the "Muqqalid" 29 subjects created by the Ma- 
drassahs to take up arms against the other two groups. They have been able to gain 
more power by tapping into the cognitive dissonance of the "compliant" subjects 
created by the State education system, especially in the North-West. 

All the developments indicate that if the state does not reverse its policy 
of letting the three different educational systems from continuing, the unity of the 
state will be in greater jeopardy in the days to come. 


1 Mitchell Timothy, Colonizing Egypt, Berkeley: University of California Press, 
1988, p 169-170 

2 Foucault Michel, Orders of Discourse, Social Science Information, Apr 1971; vol. 10: pp. 

3 Ibid 

4 Ibid 

5 1 have included all Public Schools and the low fee private schools in this category 
because all these have the same curriculum designed by the state. These schools 
also have similar teaching methodology, and discipline techniques. Therefore, the 



students graduating from these schools come to have the same world view. 

6 The knowledge of sayings of Prophet Muhammad 

7 The knowledge of exegesis of Quran 

8 Knowledge of reasoning and arguing which was very important for development 
of Muslim law during initial centuries of Islamic era 

9 Fazlur Rahman also discusses how the relationship between religious scholars and 
the Kings was responsible for the development of the doctrine of "Irja" which has 
been responsible for passivity among the Sunni sect of islam 

10 This category includes all Public Schools and most of the private schools other 
than the ones which fall under the category of Elite Schools. 

11 This speech by Thomas Babington Macaulay to the Committee of Public Instruc- 
tion which was entrusted with the task of designing an educational system for Brit- 
ish India was given in 1835. It is considered to represent the philosophy behind the 
educational system of British India and has been widely used to represent Colonial 
Education systems by many authors like Timothy Mitchell. For more details see 
Bureau of Education. Selections from Educational Records, Part I (1781-1839). 
Edited by H. Sharp. Calcutta: Superintendent, Government Printing, 1920. Re- 
print. Delhi: National Archives of India, 1965, 107-117. 

12 Here I am using the Gramscian concept of hegemony as it is exercised through 
the institutions of civil society, the ensemble of educational, religious and asso- 
ciational institutions. According to Gwyn Williams' introductory definition, hege- 
mony means 'an order in which a certain way of life and thought is dominant, in 
which one concept of reality is diffused throughout society, in all its institutional 
and private manifestations, informing with its spirit all tastes, morality, customs, 
religions and political principles, and all social relations, particularly in their intel- 
lectual and moral connotations" (Femia 1975) 

13 This category of private schools are labeled "elite" because the exorbitant fee 
structure and the distribution of these schools in large metropolitan areas ensures 
that only students belonging to a particular socio-economic class get entry in them. 

14 For further details see Foucault, Michel, Discipline and Punish, New York : Pan- 
theon Books, 1977 

15 For details on this see Mitchell Timothy (1988). Colonising Egypt-. Berkeley: 
University of California Press 

16 It is also because of the doctrine of Irja (passive following of the rulers) which is 
taught in Islamic studies curriculum 

17 Taqlid refers to the popular Islamic doctrine which implies that the four schools 
of Islamic Law should be followed literally without changes according to time 

18 Knowledge of traditional Islamic Law 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

19 It is taught in the subject known as "Radd" which deals with the rationale and 
logic to negate and refute the points of view which are considered heretical accord- 
ing to the scholars of that particular sect 

20 There is some evidence to indicate that since 9/11, even in this group of students 
the question of the relationship between religion and state is getting more attention 

21 I also conducted a small random survey (87 students) for this purpose. The re- 
sults showed that 62% of students wanted Islam to have a role in Public sphere 
of Pakistan. The survey is a part of an ongoing research project and is currently 

22 According to Olivier Roy, an expert on Taliban, the constitution of Pakistan 
promises an Islamic state which has not been created in 63 years. This has given 
organizations like Taliban an opportunity to legitimize their struggle. They claim 
that the state is hypocrite because it has not established an Islamic state while they 
are working towards the realization of this dream. 

23 Ahmadis are a sect which according to majority of Muslims is considered non- 
Muslim because of its belief system. State of Pakistan in the constitution of 1973 
declared the Ahmadi sect as un-Islamic. 

24 The percentage of students who were in favor of giving equal rights to Hindus 
was 78%, 47% and 17% in Elite schools, state schools and Madrassahs respective- 
ly. Similarly, for Christians 83%, 65% and 18% of students were in favor of equal 
rights in Elite Schools, State schools and Madrassahs respectively. 

25 There is some difference of opinion on the exact number. However, most of the 
studies put it between 1.3 -1.7 Million students. See for example, Andrabi et al 
(2006). Religious school enrollment in Pakistan: A look at the data. Comparative 
Education Review, 50(3), 446. 

26 Taliban have been successful as small groups. For example, only 100 fighters of 
Taliban were able to conquer Buner which is a small city south of Swat in North 
West Pakistan. 

27 Foucault, Michel, (1982), the subject and power. Critical Inquiry, , 777 

28 According to Theda Skocpol, there are two main conditions of a sudden social 
change in a country; absence of law and order, and presence of "potential states" 
(Skocpol 1979). The different educational systems, in my opinion, have fulfilled 
the second requirement by creating Taliban 

29 A person who follows the doctrine of Taqlid i.e. blindly follows the religious 
doctrine he is born into. Reference here to the subject created by the Madrassahs. 




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cation. Comparative Education Review, , 66. 

Zaman M Qasim, (1999) Religious Education and the Rhetoric of Reform: The 
Madrasa in British India and Pakistan - Comparative Studies in Society and 
History, Cambridge Univ Press 

Zia Rukhsana (2003), Religion and education in Pakistan: an overview, Prospects, 
vol. XXXIII, no. 2, June 2003 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

English Education in India: Hindu Anamnesis versus 
Muslim Torpor 

By R. K. Kochhar 

English education was introduced by the British with the twin pur- 
pose of impressing upon the natives the value of western thought 
and of preparing them for taking up jobs to assist in the admin- 
istration of the country. The first proteges were Hindus and there 
developed a Hindu middle class which began to demand conces- 
sions from the government without offering subservience in return. 
Hie British then began to encourage the Muslims to adopt English 
education in order to develop a counterpoise to Hindu middle class 
assertiveness. But among both communities English education was 
strictly an upper class affair in which the lower castes had no role. 

A five star hotel built at Bangalore after four decades of independence, named 
Windsor Manor, has a tourist shop that has been given the name East India Com- 
pany. For the class of people that goes to luxury hotels, East India Company does 
not connote economic drain and social strain. Instead it is a rather cute name that 
smells of mulligatawny, bungalow and 'koi hai' ! 

The British rule over India was quite unlike any other that India had seen. 
Earlier invaders who came or short visits could lay their hands only on the ac- 
cumulated wealth of a part of the country. The British had access to the whole 
country and were in no hurry. Earlier rulers even when they came from outside 
made India their home and spent all their revenue collection within the country. 
The British rulers in contrast had no stake in the well being and prosperity of their 
subjects. When the colonization of India began, England was already on the verge 
of industrial revolution. India now provided the capital as well as the market for the 
new inventions. In the process, the agricultural classes were impoverished and the 
traditional manufacturing base destroyed, resulting in permanent annihilation of the 
artisan classes 

Economic drain was accompanies by social strain. In the past the struggle 
for the throne was settled by the contenders among themselves by using short and 
effective methods like assassination and warfare. The common man was irrelevant 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

in the power game and was left alone. But now that the rulers were foreigners who 
wanted to remain that way, the rules of the game changed. 

Apart from taking care of the outgoing rulers, the British had to take the 
people also into account. It was thus essential to acquire legitimacy and to build 
a constituency among people even if they were perceived as racially inferior. The 
British, having already dealt with Indians for 150 years, knew the importance of 
legitimacy. Accordingly Robert Clive, the hero of Plassey who was made a baron 
by his own king and an honorary doctor of literature by the Oxford University, 
extracted from the Mughal emperor the rather ironic title of Sabat Jung, proven in 
war! In the same spirit, the company got an official status in 1765 by its appoint- 
ment as diwan of Bengal. In 1818 the nawab of Oudh was persuaded to disown 
Delhi and declare himself the king. And finally in 1857 the Mughal dynasty whose 
empire had already vanished was physically brought to an end. The old emperor 
was exiled and all male descendants of the family were killed to bring the once 
famed Mughal bloodline to an end. The exercise in succeeding to the Mughal em- 
pire was completed by shifting the imperial capital from Calcutta to New Delhi, 
even if more years were spent building it than ruling from it. (Ironically, the British 
desire to capture Khyber Pass, the land gate of India, could never be fulfilled.) 

The British attempts at political legitimacy in India were no substitute to 
building a support base among the people. Towards this end, the British very care- 
fully studied the complexity of Indian social structure, formalized its various inher- 
ent contradictions by theorizing, and gave them a permanence by putting them in 
writing, all the time conscientiously accentuating them with a view to entrenching 
themselves in a setting they did not belong to. Indians had never bothered about 
their sociology before. But now their leading classes, seeking new equations with 
the new rulers, dutifully read what was written about them and decided to live up 
to it by thinking and acting the way the British analysts said they did! The pre- 
British India can be compared to a chemical solution in which positive and negative 
solution in which positive and negative ions intermingled and coexisted unselfcon- 
sciously. The British rule was like passing a strong current which brought about 
decomposition and permanent polarization. 

The population profile of India, derived from the 1881 census is given in 
Table 1 . Muslims numbered 34 million, or about 24 per cent of the total population. 
As expected they are non-uniformly distributed. It is noteworthy that a majority of 
Indian Muslims are non-Urdu speaking. 





( Millions ) 


Muslim in 

Fiov.vMuslim in 

India x LOO 











NWP + Oiulh 





Be n ■! il 


























Hindu Anamnesis 

The British conquest of, and rule over, India would not have been possible with- 
out the harnessing of the natives. We may straight away distinguish between two 
phases in the use of the natives, which we may call the 'moonshee' phase and the 
'baboo' phase, advisedly using the old spellings to underline the intended meaning 
[4]. In the moonshee phase, the natives were employed as informers and non-Eng- 
lish knowing petty officials to acquaint the new rulers with the lay of the land and 
with its customs and laws. The term moonshee was used by the British for Muslim 
harkaras; Hindu harkaras irrespective of their caste were called pandits. It is appro- 
priate to name this phase after moonshee, because the Muslims generally kept away 
from the next, better known, baboo phase in which the natives were given English 
education and hired as administrative assistants. 

The British rule meant different things to Hindus and Muslims. The Brit- 
ish had their memories of the historical crusades against Muslims and were self- 
conscious about dethroning them in India. In the same spirit, to the Muslims the 
British symbolized Muslim defeat and humiliation. Accordingly they went into a 
sulk (that lasted 100 years). The Hindus felt relieved for the same reason. To them, 
the new rulers meant their own dekafirisation. The Hindus therefore made a beeline 
for the new jobs and the new opportunities. 

Within 10 years the Muslim leaders were complaining of their being left 
out. Accordingly a 'Muhammadan madrasa' was opened at Calcutta in 1781 and 
endowed with lands that brought it an annual income of Rs. 29,000 [2, p 18]. Its aim 
was "to quality the sons of Muhammadan gentlemen for responsible and lucrative 
offices in the state, even at that largely monopolized by the Hindus" [3, p 7]. 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

The madrasa was the first British-sponsored educational institution in India. 
This is ironical in view of the fact that it remained a dead end. Muslims kept away 
from later developments on the educational front, while the Hindus moved from 
strength to strength. 

By the Regulating Act of 1773, the East India Company's administration 
was placed under the British parliamentary control, and the following year a Su- 
preme Court of justice was established at Calcutta. This was a revolutionary con- 
cept for the Indians. It was the first time that an objective, formal legal framework 
became available, which did not depend on the personality of the ruler or on divine 
mumbo-jumbo. Legal training gave Indians the courage to look the empire in the 
eye. Indeed inherent in the British rule was the slow preparation of the Indians to 
eventually overthrow that rule. Legal profession provided valuable leadership, and 
the Indian fascination for law and legal rigmarole has outlasted British rule. 

The off-shoot of the introduction of the judiciary was even more momen- 
tous. It led to the revival of Sanskrit. It was essential for company law officers to 
acquaint themselves with the customary laws of Hindus and Muslims. Accordingly 
nine pandits were hired to compile a digest of Hindu law [5], but nobody could be 
found to translate it directly from Sanskrit into English. A Sanskrit-knowing Mus- 
lim first translated it into Persian, from where an English translation was prepared 
and published in 1776. This brought home the point that Sanskrit, though a dead 
language, was of importance. This also brought William Jones to Calcutta. Jones 
was a well-respected oriental scholar who was already a Fellow of the Royal Soci- 
ety of London and an unsuccessful candidate for Arabic professorship at Oxford. In 
1784, Jones founded the Asiatic Society, which institutionalized studies into India's 

A step in the same direction was the establishment in 1791 of a Sanskrit 
College at Benaras. Its aim was spelt out by the resident at Benaras in a letter to 
the governor general on January 1, 1792 "the preservation and cultivation of the 
laws, literature and religion of that nation, at this centre of their faith, and the com- 
mon resort of all their tribes". Note the use of 'nation' and 'tribes' in relation to the 
Hindus. Interestingly, a memoir originally compiled in 1 827 from the records at the 
East India House by Thomas Fischer, searcher of the records, simplifies the above 
quotation to "the preservation and cultivation of the laws, literature and religion of 
the Hindus" and still places it in quotes as if it were the original [3, p. 1 86]. Like the 
madrasa, this college was to train and supply native law officials, but this advantage 
was secondary. The first advantage as listed was "to the British name and nation in 
its tendency towards endearing our government to the native Hindoos..." [3, p. 10] 

So far, matters pertaining to learning had been dealt with locally. In 1813 
the company acquired an education policy, which was immediately geared towards 



the 'Asiatic Society' end. Since this aspect of the policy does not seem to have 
received much attention, it may be worthwhile to discuss it in some detail. 

India was a nice country for the British to own, but it inhabitants could not 
be wished away. Every 20 years when the company charter came up for renewal, 
there was a discussion on the question of native education. In 1792, the question 
was summarily shot down with one of the company directors stating bluntly, "we 
had just lost America from our folly, in having allowed the establishment of schools 
and colleges, and that it would not do for us to repeat the same act of folly in regard 
to India". And adding that "if the Natives required anything in the way of educa- 
tion, they must come to England for it" [2,p 2]. 

The argument was still valid 20 years later, but the British parliament, as 
befit its station, took an exalted view. It however, had no intention of treading on 
the company's toes. Very cleverly, it pronounced its policy in such broad terms as 
to make it completely meaningless. The company was ordered to spend one lakh 
rupees (or more) on education every year. The sum was by no means large; it ac- 
counted for one part in 17,000 of the company's credit, it spent double the amount 
during 1813-30). Where the money was to be spent was also spelt out by the parlia- 

i) on "the revival and improvement of literature, and the encourage- 
ment of the learned natives of India", and 

ii) on "the introduction and promotion of a knowledge of the sci- 
ences among the inhabitants of the British territories in India". 

This is what the parliament said [2,p 22]. What the company thought of it 
is contained in the follow-up dispatch sent by the court of directors to governor- 
general on June 3, 1814. The dispatch makes no mention of science nor of any en- 
couragement to natives, learned or not. This is not surprising. The trading company 
had no interest in science. Its hold over India was still not complete, nor was it sure 
that the natives were reconciled to its rule. 

The company therefore decided to reach out to 'the learned Hindus'. The 
dispatch noted: 

"In a political point of view, considerable advantage might... be made to 
flow from the measure proposed, if it should be conducted with due attention to the 
usage and habits of the Natives. They are known to attach a notion of sanctity to 
the soil, the buildings, and other objects of devout resort, and particularly to that at 
Benaras, which is regarded as the central point of their religious worship, and as the 
great repository of their learning. The possession of this venerated city, to which 
every class and rank of the Hindoos is occasionally attracted, has placed in the 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

hands of the British government a powerful instrument of connexion and reconcili- 
ation, especially with the Mahrattas, who are more strongly attached than any other 
to the supposed sanctity of Benaras." The court of directors therefore wanted to 
know "what ancient establishments are still existing for the diffusion of knowledge 
in that city" and "in what way their present establishments might be improved to 
most advantage". 

Significantly, the company was asked to identify "those natives.... through 
whose instrumentality the liberal intentions of the legislature might most advanta- 
geously be advanced". 

Some material benefit was no doubt expected from this exploration of In- 
dia's past. Ancient tracts on plants and drugs and on their medicinal use might 
prove desirable to the European practitioners. But main benefit was strategic. A 
study of the pre-Islamic past will please the Hindus. As the dispatch noted, "there 
are treatises on Astronomy and Mathematics, including Geometry and Algebra, 
which though they may not add new lights to European science, might be made to 
form links of communication between the natives and the gentlemen in our service, 
who are attached to the Observatory 1 and to the department of engineers. . ." 

The court of directors therefore directed [3, p. 23; 4p 23] that "due encour- 
agement should be given to such of our servants ... as may be disposed to apply 
themselves to the Sanskrit language, and we desire that the teachers may be se- 
lected from amongst the Natives . . . and that their recompense should be liberal". 
Finally the directors noted [3, p. 23, 4 p23] that "we shall consider the money... 
beneficially employed, if it should prove the means, by an improved intercourse of 
the Europeans with the Natives, to produce those reciprocal feelings of regard and 
respect which are essential to the permanent interests of the British empire in India" 


Per Cent at" Muslims 
in PafHiklian 

P« Cent d£ 
Muslims bI School 










Elti^I - Assam 






Bombay . 





(31 Mi 


Notes: Including Bihar and Orissa, and including Sindh. Source: See 3, p 148. 



Note that native here means Hindu. The company's policy of cultivating 
the Hindus paid rich dividends. Even though the Asiatic Society did not admit 
Indians till 1829 and the first Indian president (Rajendra Lai Mitra) did not take of- 
fice till 1885, researches into Indian antiquity had profound impact. Emphasising 
joint Indo-European origins, the British rulers successfully projected themselves as 
patrons of India's ancient culture, as if the Muslim rule was an aberration, and the 
British rule a continuation of the Hindu golden age. (A century later when Harap- 
pan civilization was excavated amidst rising Indian nationalism and Hitler's Ary- 
anism in Europe, a theory was propounded that the native Indian civilization was 
destroyed by Aryan invasion, even though there was not evidence to suggest it.) 

The Hindus felt galvanized. Vedic studies were liberated from the con- 
straints of priestly families and even Sanskrit itself. Puranic religion as practiced 
was discounted and the Vedic religion now put down in black and white accepted 
as the ideal. Hindus in Mughal India had used Tulsidas' Ramayan as a tranquilis- 
er. Hindus in British India could use Vedas, Upanishads and Gita as a stimulant. 
India's ancient scientific and literary achievements were brought home, and pre- 
Islamic history reconstructed. An old pillar near Allahabad, ignorantly described 
by the villagers as the danda used by Bhima to grind his bhang, was shown to be 
Ashoka's pillar. (Ashoka became a role model for Jawaharlal Nehru.) 

Thus in the process of empire-building, the British discovered India's past 
not only for themselves but for the Indians also. This past glory, certified by the 
European masters themselves, transformed the Hindu psyche. It should be noted 
that this anamnesis, the recalling of things past, was strictly an upper-caste Hindu 
affair; the agricultural and artisan classes had no rule in it. It boosted the Hindu 
morale and gave them a sense of purpose. It also made Hindus revivalist, which in 
turn increased the gulf between Hindus and Muslims, who were still reeling under 
the loss of imperial and nawabi glory. (Incidentally anamnesis is also used in the 
technical sense of a patient's remembrance of the early stages of his illness.) 

Earlier the Hindus had never felt any need to give themselves a collective 
name. They did now. It will be more appropriate to use a new word 'Hinduist' (or 
'Hinduvadi') to refer to this self-conscious identity, while retaining the old word 
Hindu for use in its traditional sense of referring to the Hindu tradition or way of 
life. The British thus transformed Hindus into Hinduists. 

The discovery of the past glory spurred Hidus to compete with Europeans in 
the scientific field. Mahendra Lai Sircar while setting up (1876) a scientific labora- 
tory, oddly named 2 Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, believed that 
"the only method by which the Hindu mind could be developed to its full propor- 
tion, was by the cultivation of the Physical Sciences". "The object of Dr. Sircar 
was not to make his countrymen a nation of artisans and mechanics, but to diffuse 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

among them the ascertained principles of Western Science in the hope that the Hin- 
dus might, in course of time, add their own discoveries to their fellow brethren of 
the West" [6, p 42]. 

Again, Sir P C Ray (who preferred to be called acharya) concluded his 
monumental two-volume History of Hindu Chemistry (1907) thus: 

The Hindu Nation with its glorious past and vast latent potentiali- 
ties may yet look forward to a still more glorious future, and if the 
perusal of these will have the effect of stimulating my countrymen 
to strive for regaining their old position in the intellectual hierarchy 
of nations, I shall not have laboured in vain [6, p 145]. 

There was obviously no contradiction in seeking inspiration from the past glory and 
talking of a composite culture, as Ray did while addressing the 1923 convocation 
of Aligarh Muslim University: 

Some of the greatest generals, greatest financiers, greatest ministers 
of the Muslim Kings and Emperors were Hindus. After a century 
and a half of British rule in India we were in ecstasies, why forsooth 
because a solitary Lord Sinha, Jasovanta Sinha, Jai Sinha, to men- 
tion only a few, were trusted with positions far more exalted and far 
more onerous? This Hindu-Muslim unity, this fusion in the ideas, 
the sentiments, the traditions of the two great races of India has not 
merely been confined to politics, it has filtered down to the inmost 
recesses of the social structure [ 6, p. 170] 

A 1929 biography of Ray tells us, Welcoming the delegates to the 
Hindu Mahasabha at Calcutta in April 1925 Dr Ray exhorted the 
Sabha to confine its activities to the reform of internal abuses and to 
the consolidation of the different sections and castes of the Hindu 
society. He similarly advised the Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and 
others to have their own organisations and pursue their work of re- 
form from within and to work with other communities in a broad 
liberal spirit, without hindering the growth of a united India". [ 6, 
p. 171]. 

The idea here is of a commonwealth of sub-nations, which generate their own in- 
dividual momenta. 


English Education 

Once the Mahrattas were finally crushed in 1817 and the British grip on India be- 
came unassailable, the British could afford to relax. The governor-general (Lord 
Hastings) loftily announced that the government of India did not consider it neces- 
sary to keep the natives in a state of ignorance in order to retain its own power [ 2, 
p. 3]. As a matter of fact, the services of Indians were now required in running the 
administration[4]. India was already a thickly populated country where permanent 
white settlements were not possible. Bringing in staff from Britain would not only 
have been killingly expensive, but also detrimental to manufacturing capabilities 
back home. And finally after the disastrous Portuguese experiment, producing a 
sub-nation of half-casters was not even an option. Additionally, there was an under- 
lying element of cultural conquest. To the British, their control of an ancient fabled 
country was a proof of the superiority of the Western way of thinking. Indeed, a 
constant theme in the European scheme of things was 'improving the natives'. 

As befits a cautious and clever ruler, the transition from the moonshee phase 
to the baboo phase was to be effected in an unobstrusive manner, and with the 
full and active support of the native leadership. Charles Grant's (1746-1823) well 
meaning treatise "Observations on the state of Society among the Asiatic Subjects 
of Great Britain, particularly with respect to Morals; and on the means of improv- 
ing it" advocating the cause of missions and education and written during 1792- 
97 was ahead of its time and 'anticipatory'. It was only in 1830 that the court of 
directors wrote "we learn with extreme pleasure that 'the time has arrived when 
English tuition will be widely acceptable to the Natives in the Upper Provinces" [2, 
p 32]. It is tempting to reduce history to glorification or condemnation of individu- 
als and events. Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay's (1800-59) flamboyant minute 
of February 2, 1835 belongs to this category. Crediting Macaulay with introducing 
English education in India will be like crediting victory in a cricket match to the 
batsman who scores the winning run. 

The native initiative for English education came from Ram Mohun Roy 
(1772/74-1833). 'a kulina brahmin' whose great-grandfather (Krishna Chandra) 
served under the nawab of Bengal and was honoured with the title 'Raya-Rayan', 
later abbreviated to Roy and adopted as a family surname in preference to the caste 
name Bandhopadhyaya or Banerjee [6]. Ram Mohun's patrimony included a rich 
post-Plassey zamindari which brought him a substantial net annual income of about 
Rs. 22,000 (on his two brothers' death their share also came to him). Ram Mohun 
added to his fortunes by lending money at high interest to the spendthrift company 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

Ram Mohun was a crusader against Hindu orthodoxy and proponent of 
"higher or purer dogmas of Vedantism", for his views he was turned out of his 
home first by his father and later by his widowed mother. He studied Arabic, Per- 
sian, and Sanskrit, and learnt English during 1805-14, when he served the company 
first as a clerk and then as a dewan, "the principle native officer in the collectorate 
of revenue". "His good English, good sense, and forcible arguments" were pa- 
tronizingly complimented by Bishop Heber as "a real curiosity as coming from an 
Asiatic" [2, p 28]. In 1830, Ram Mohun was given the title of raja by the luckless 
Mughal emperor Akbar II so that the raja would plead the emperior's case before 
the overseas masters [7]. (Incidentally, the surname Roy is also a derivative of 

Following a May 1816 meeting of 'English gentlemen and influential na- 
tives' a substantial sum of Rs. 113,179 was collected and an Anglo-Indian College 
or vidyalaya opened on January 20, 1817 with less than 20 students [2, p 25; 8, p 
476]. The college (more accurately still a school) had a precarious existence for six 
or seven years and would have closed down but for the efforts of David Hare, an il- 
literate watch maker turned social activist, who was later appointed a judge of Cal- 
cutta Court of Requests [ 7, p 476]. The college became established when it started 
receiving government grant. Finally in 1854 its senior department was taken over 
by the government and made into Presidency College. Earlier, Hindu and Muslim 
boys were hired by the British to learn traditional things from their elders and pass 
them on to the company. Now, Hindu boys from upper classes paid money from 
their own pocket to receive English education. 

























J 20.2 






















Girls pri- 



















m perc: 






Note: V=Vernacular, E=English Source: See 3, based on Ch 27. 



Two points need to be noted here. First, the native initiative was made pos- 
sible by the availability of English patronage. In the case of vidyalaya, the chief 
justice Sir Hyde East and David Hare acted as patrons. Six decades later Mahendra 
Lai Sircar's Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science enlisted the support 
of the Lt.-Governor Sir Richard Temple, because, as a 1929 account noted un- 
selfconsciously, "the merchant princes and landed aristocrats, hungry for title and 
fame, would slavishly follow the footprints of the official head of the province" [6, 

The second point is even more important. It is significant that the first gov- 
ernment funded native institution for English education was named Hindu. The 
British sponsored Indian middle class was an all-Hindu affair, and an upper-caste 
affair at that. There is in fact no reason to expect that all castes should be repre- 
sented in education in proportion to their numbers in the general population. If all 
castes were to feel equally motivated towards any goal, they will not have been 
different to begin with. 

It is customary to describe the role of education in exalted terms. But the 
fact remains that the main expectation from education is that it will equip a person 
for earning his livelihood [9]. Thus class-room education had been of no interest to 
caste groups engaged in agriculture, manufacture, and menial service. It attracted 
only those castes that had traditionally been associated with learning, commerce, 
or penmanship. Accordingly, Brahmins learnt Sanskrit, baniyas their secret script, 
and kayasthas and khatris Persian. The British found the Hindu love for Persian 
rather disconcerting. It was noted in 1827 about a school at Bareilly that "Hindus 
and Musalmans have no scruples about reading together" [2, p 186]. In the Punjab 
of 1856 "The Persian schools are of course invariably kept by Muslim teachers" 
and "generally held in or just outside the mosque..; yet they are attended largely by 
Hindus more attracted largely by Hindus more attracted by the Persian language 
than repelled by the Muhammadan religion" [8, p 290]. 

One can sense a certain feeling of regret at the absence of antagonism be- 
tween Hindus and Muslims. The British took immediate steps to remedy the situa- 
tion by removing their 'ignorance' about each other. The 1858 report of the Punjab 
Director of Public Instruction describes the situation prevailing before the British 
annexation, and how it was remedied. "We found a people ignorant of the geog- 
raphy of their own province, ignorant that there was such a science as geography" 
This blissful ignorance was removed within two years. "The progress made is this 
in every Tehselee school there are boys able to give an intelligent account of the 
early Muhammadan invasions of India. . ."[8, p 302]. 

Indoctrination apart, the main aim of English education was to prepare In- 
dians for government jobs. The British were no social reformers; upliftment of the 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

downtrodden was not on their agenda. They would rather exploit the status quo for 
their own benefit than change it. The response to English education therefore was 
on predictable caste lines. For the upper castes that had traditionally depended on 
government jobs and patronage, English was the new bread-and-butter language in 
place of Persian; they therefore filled the new class-rooms with alacrity. At Cawn- 
pore of 1820 "the native children flocked to the school in pursuit of the English 
language" [2, p 188]. Thirty years later, "In Lahore as well as Umritsur, the anxiety 
to acquire English is remarkable" "Many natives of Bengal who possess a smatter- 
ing of English find employment as teachers of that language" [8, p 280]. 

The lower castes on the other hand cannot have benefited from English 
education as far as their traditional bread earning was concerned. The number 
of new jobs was very small, and in any case the social structure so rigid that shift 
from traditional occupation was well nigh impossible. These castes therefore kept 
out. They could neither have expected nor got any leadership from the upper cases. 
(Probably the first and the only leader to take note of their plight was Mahatma 
Gandhi whose symbolic use of Charkha was no more than a dirge; and even this 
soon degenerated into an empty ritual.) 

During the first 100 years of their lordship over India, the British introduced 
upper class Hindus to the English, language and literature, to western thought, to 
India's glorious past, and to modern science and education. There thus emerged a 
new Hindu middle class entry into which was independent of the old caste structure 
and which could demand concessions from the government without offering sub- 
servience in return. The Hindus could now look the empire in the eye and ask for 
a system that was "more acceptable to the governed". They now wanted a share in 
running the administration of their own country. It has been one thing for the Brit- 
ish to deal with the demands of landed class. The assertiveness of the intelligentsia 
was an altogether different, more serious, matter and had to be tackled. 

Earlier the British had assiduously cultivated the Hindus as a counterpoise 
to real or perceived Muslim hostility. Now, the Muslims were to be developed as a 
counter-poise to Hindu middle-class assertiveness. 




Class of Institution 

Total number of 




Colleges, 1669 



High Schools 




Middle Schools 













High Schools 




Middle Schools 













High Schools 




Middle Schools 








NW Provinces 





High Schools 

Middle Schools 













High Schools 

Middle Schools 













High Schools 




Middle Schools 








All the above 





High Sl Middle Schools 




Grand, total 







Muslim Torpor 

While the Hindu upper classes were adopting English, Muslims did not want to 
have anything to do with the British. "In 1825 government sanctioned the establish- 
ment of an institution at Murshidabad for the education of the Nizamat family...". 
In 1826 it was reported that the members of the family of the Nizam "not consent- 
ing to embrace the opportunity of entering the institutions, the Resident filed up the 
number of 50 students, on which six were to attend the college, 44 the school" [3,p 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

When in 1835, the government decided to spend its funds exclusively on 
English education, "there was a petition from the Muhammadans of Calcutta, 
signed by about 8.000 people, including all the most respectable Maulavis and na- 
tive gentlemen of that city. After objecting to it upon general principles, they said 
that the evident object of the government was the conversion of the Natives" [2, p 

This fear of conversion in the minds of Muslims stands in sharp contrast to 
the self-confidence of the Hindus who had not only taken initiative in asking for 
English education, but were also striving to discover a meeting ground between 
their own religion and that of their masters, who themselves had attested to the 
greatness of the former. One wonders whether behind the Muslim fear of conver- 
sion to the religion of the new rulers were the memories of their own earlier conver- 
sion to Islam for the same reasons. It is also noteworthy that the British foothold 
in Bengal became possible because of its large distance form the Mughal seat of 
power. This also meant a corresponding lack of self-confidence among Muslims in 

The initiative to end the torpor came from Delhi. The end of the Mughal 
dynasty made it easy for the Muslims to reconcile to the British rule. Lai Qila was 
no more a seat of power. It was now merely a historical monument. The new lead- 
ership persuaded the Muslims that mattered to shift the gaze from Lai Qila and set 
sights on the capital of the new empire. Leaving the field to the Hindus was counter- 
productive. An important development was the emergence of the Ram Mohun Roy 
of the Muslims, that is Maulavi Sayyid (later Sir Syed) Ahmad Khan (1817-98) 
whose ancestor had come to India from Herat [10]. Having observed the powerless 
pomp of the Mughal nobility from close quarters, he declined the hollow offer of 
his own grandfather's title and a position at the last Mughal emperor's court, and 
instead took up a job as a 'serishtadar', or a reader in a court, in the East India Com- 
pany's service. He steadily rose in the hierarchy and during the 1857 revolt saved 
the lives of a number of English men, women and children, for which "he earned 
a pension for life from the government" and acknowledgement as a leader of the 
Muslims. Syed Ahmad received a copy of Macaulay's work from the viceroy in 
1866, and in 1869 visited England, where he met a number of Englishmen "known 
to be keenly interested in the welfare of Muslims". Incidentally, Sir Syed did not 
know English [11, p 105]. 




NWP + OimIi 

BcngalCP Madras 


Percentage of Muslims 
in total population 
































Note: *50 percent of Bombay Muslims were from Sind. Source: [See 3, based on 








Percentage of Muslims 
in total population 







Percentage of Muslims 
in Urban population 







Secondary School 







Arts college 






Prof, college 

1 9.6 







Source: [See 3, p 181] 










2!: ; !5 



BA,B5c, BOL 




















Note:*Percentage of Muslims in total population is = 21.8 Source: [See 3, p 179] 

In 1871 the government of India took note of the educational backwardness 
of the Muslims and passed a resolution with a view to remedying the situation, not- 
ing that "it is much to be regretted that so large and important a class should stand 
aloof from active co-operation with own educational system and should lose the 
advantages both material and social, which others enjoy" [2, p 148]. Note that 60 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

years previously 'natives' had been used as a synonym for Hindus as if there were 
no Muslims; now Hindus were the 'others'. 

AMuhammadan Anglo-Oriential College Fund was started in 1872, "Princ- 
es and Nobles, Musalman and Hindu alike offered munificent endowments to the 
contemplated college. Nor was liberality altogether wanting on the part of English- 
men". School classes started in June 1875 with 66 students, all Muslim boarders. 
The next year 30 day scholars joined, including six Hindus [11]. The next year, on 
January 8, 1877, the viceroy laid the foundation stone for the college. 

A wealth of data on education among Muslims is available from the 1882 
report of the Education Commission and the 1895 book [2] A History of Eng- 
lish Education in India by Syed Mahmud (son of Sir Syed Ahmad), which gives 
lengthy quotations from government documents and statistical data. The picture 
that emerges is simply told. Muslims generally did not like English education, es- 
pecially college education (Tables 2-9). For example, in 1881 Muslims were 22.8 
per cent of the population of the provinces. Yet only 9.2 per cent of high and middle 
school students were Muslims. At the college level, the percentage fell to a lowly 
3.6 per cent. As expected, there was a slight improvement with time. In 1892, Mus- 
lim percentage at school had gone up to 14, and at college to 5.9 (Table 8). Still, the 
figures remained disappointing. 

These bland all-India figures however are not very educative. It is neces- 
sary to break them up region-wise for a better comprehension of the phenomenon. 
Muslim response to education was not uniform throughout the country. It is only in 
north-west provinces and Oudh, corresponding to UP of today, that the percentage 
of Muslims in schools and colleges was higher than it was in the total population. 
Elsewhere Muslims were under represented in education. In 1891-92, in NWP and 
Oudh, Muslim percentage in total population was 13.4, in secondary schools 21.9, 
in arts colleges 19, and in professional colleges 17.7. In Bengal, Muslim percent- 
age in total population was 32.3 in secondary schools 9.3, arts colleges 5.6, and 
in professional colleges 3.5 (Note that Bengal includes Orissa and Bihar. It will 
be more meaningful to look at Bihar data separately and in relation to NWP and 
Oudh.) In Madras, percentage at school 5.3 was consistent with the percentage in 
total population 6. 3. but the percentage of Muslims at college was a dismal 1.7 per 
cent (Table 6). There is in fact no basis for supposing that Muslims should have 
responded as a body to English education [2]. It is easy to understand this dif- 
ferential response when it comes to Hindus, because their society is well known 
to be intricately structured. That the same general principle applies in the case of 
Muslims also is a little difficult to comprehend because of the well-entrenched, but 
mistaken, notion that Muslims are Muslims and nothing else. There are upper class 
Muslims, and there are lower class Muslims [13]. 



The British deliberately emphasized the caste hierarchy among Hindus, 
and at the same time underlined the foreign origin of Islam. Keen observers as 
they were, the British administrator-scholars did not fail to notice the capacity of 
the Hindu caste system to influence other religions and in particular the presence 
of caste structure among Muslims. Advertising this fact however will have made 
nonsense of the two population theory whereby the Hindus and Muslims were con- 
stantly referred to as two distinct races or tribes. Accordingly, Muslims in India 
were represented as a structure-less society of foreign origin, which by implication 
had no right to be on good terms with and acceptable to the Hindus. 

The Muslim social structure is characterised by 'ethnicity' and caste. There 
was a small influx of Muslims from central Asia, who occupied high positions in 
Mughal India and considered themselves to be superior. At the 1891 census, about 
55 per cent of the Muslims claimed to be holders of foreign titles, Syed, Sheikh, 
Mughal, Pathan, Arab, Blooch and Turk [2, p. 210]. There can be no doubt that 
actual percentage of Muslims of foreign origin must be much smaller, and that most 
of the claimants were pretenders. (The Hindi word sheikhi is used in the sense 
of boasting as in 'sheikhi maarana' or 'sheikhi baghaarana'. It is likely that the 
reference here is to the self consciousness of a newly acquired sheikh-hood.) This 
however does show the importance which foreign descent held among the upper 
class Muslims[13}. Obviously, the common man did not approve of this constant 
reference to the extra-territorial affiliation as can be seen from the old Punjabi say- 
ing "Jo sukh chhaju de chabaare, o Balkh na Bukhare" (The pleasure that you get 
at Chiajju's balcony, you cannot get at Balkh or Bukhara.) 

Pride in foreign descent, or the pretension of it, arrogance of imperial glory, 
power and pelf were confined to the upper echelons of the Muslim society, which 
flourished in Mughal Delhi's zone of influence. Most Indian Muslim are however 
descendants of converts from Hinduism, who generally came from the lower castes. 
They were too poor and too unambitious to pretend to have a foreign bloodline. It 
is not clear what self-image they formed on conversion or what their Hindu breth- 
ren thought of their action. In any case, for these converts change of religion did 
not mean change of profession. Their social status and Weltanschauung continued 
to be determined by their hereditary occupation and pre-conversion norms. This is 
best seen in south Indian rather than in the north. South Indian peninsula, protected 
by the oceans on two sides and shielded by north India from outside influences, is 
an excellent laboratory for studying social phenomena in their uncomplicated form. 
Central Asian connection is so far-fetched as to be non-existent in south India, and 
Delhi so far away that the Mughal grandeur did not give south Indian Muslims any 
sense of personal or collective fulfillment. Most south Indian Muslims have re- 
tained their caste customs and rituals, and till recently even caste names, especially 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

when they denoted high rank. Although conversions from individual castes were 
not large enough to make the groups endogamous, Muslims have retained their 
separate linguistic identity. Tamil-speaking Muslims, for example, consider them- 
selves different from Urdu-speaking Muslims and generally do not intermarry. It is 
as if the south Indian Muslims were afraid of being disowned by their own castes 
and tended to subordinate, at least till recently, their religious identity to their caste 




Muslims ir 

Percentage of Muslim Students in 
Population 1891 


Arts College 





|S^ T 






13 J 



































21. S 







Source: [See 3, pp 201,203] 



L. aw 











C al c Lrtta ( B cn+ A 5 sam + B ur ma i 




Madras (Mds+Caorg) 













Average per year 






Note: Roorkee Engineering College was under PWD 

Another way of learning about the Muslim attitudes is to see how Hindus 
reacted to them. It is thus noteworthy that south India's lord Rama is different from 
north India's . In the south, he is Maryada Purushortam, a role model for all hu- 
man beings. On the other hand his role in the north is more matter of fact; he is the 



hero of the street play Ramlila. 3 It is in fact generally true that Hindu festivals in 
north and south India though falling on the same tithes are celebrated differently. 
Hindu festivals in south India are pooja room-oriented, while in the north they 
are street-oriented. The reason is not difficult to discern. Conscious of their low- 
caste, non-imperial origins south Indian Muslims have been self-effacing. In return 
Hindus have not reacted to them; the Hindu festivals therefore have retained their 
traditional piety. The situation in north India stands in sharp contrast. Here Hindus 
responded to the Muslim power and assertiveness by bringing their festivities out 
on the streets. (Later, in the 20th century Bal Gangadhar Tilak did the same to Ga- 
nesh Chaturthi in Maharashtra.) 

There is a fundamental difference between the attitudes of Muslims who 
converted from lower castes of Hindus and of those who claimed foreign descent 
by virtue of foreign bloodline, Hindu upper caste background, or simple wealth. 
The lower caste Muslims, for the same reasons as were applicable in the case of 
their Hindu counterparts, kept themselves out of the catchment area of English edu- 
cation [ 12,14,15]. This phenomenon was noted as early as 1871 when the various 
local governments and administrations were asked to comment on the backward 
condition of education among Muslims. "Thus, while the Musalmans of Bengal 
were 32.3 per cent of the total population, their total proportion to the total num- 
ber in schools known to the department was only 14.4 per cent. The situation 
was worse at college level, where out of 1,287 students only 52 or 4.04 per cent,, 
"belonged to that race". "During the last five years, out of 3,499 candidates who 
passed the Entrance Examination from these provinces, 132, or 3.8 per cent only 
were Musalmans. They ought to have been tenfold more numerous". Out of 900 
passed for the First Arts, only 11, or 1.2 per cent were Muslims. Out of 429 passes 
for B A, only 5 or 1 . 1 per cent were Muslims. "This painful inferiority that steadily 
increases in the Higher examinations was attributed "above all" to "the depressed 
condition of the bulk of Bengali-Musalmans, Musalmans in the first instance by 
conversion only and not by descent" [2, p 159]. 

The same refrain is found in the report from Bombay. Though the Musalmans 
in the Bombay presidency were reckoned in the census of 1872 at 2.5 million or 
15.4 per cent of the total, half of them were from Sind alone. Excluding this divi- 
sion the percentage falls to 7.1 "Sind no doubt was in a very backward state, and 
the feelings of the Musalman Community there were strongly against the study of 
English". Of the total number at school, only 31.8 per cent were Muslims, although 
they were 80 per cent of the population [3, p 157]. The DPI wrote: "The Muham- 
madans avail themselves of our lower schools, but do not rise to the higher schools 
and colleges. In the list of University graduates there are one Musalman MA and 
two BAs. I think the reason is to be found not in the poverty of the Muhammadan 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

community (for beggar Brahmins abound in the high school), but in their poverty 
and depressed social status combined. In this matter the Brahmin and Musalman 
are at opposite poles. Thus we have in Gujarat 10 Brahmins in the colleges and 20 
in the high schools for every Musalman, but only 3 Brahmans for every Musalman 
in the lower class schools" [2, p 157] 

Not surprisingly the Education Commission of 1882 in its summary con- 
sidered it hazardous to attempt generalizations about "the wide differences in the 
circumstances of the Musalmans in the three presidencies". Very wisely it chose to 
gloss over "the social and historical conditions of the Muhammadan Community in 
India" and instead concentrate on "causes of strictly educational nature" [2 p 169]. 
It is easy to see why numbers fell off rapidly at higher educational levels. For most 
students, belonging to lower social strata aiming too high would be chhota moonh 
barhi baat' . With each occupation, with each caste, was associated a certain social 
status. In principle, English education provided an opportunity for improvement in 
status. In practice a member of a lower caste group could not go up on his own. He 
needed positive exhortation from the state, or the upper castes, a booster rocket so 
to say, to impart him the escape velocity that would free him from the downward 
pull of tradition and deposit him in a higher orbit. In the absence of such a boost, 
the new opportunities were suitably truncated, so as to conform to the social status 
already assigned. In short, you could climb up the new ladder, but according to 
the old rules. As soon as you reached a level consistent with your caste and social 
status, you dropped out, leaving the higher echelons for those who were entitled to 
it on non-academic grounds. 

In Delhi's zone of influence, 'social and historical factors' worked in favour 
of Muslim education. Punjab in fact provides an interesting case study of how 
interest in education dwindled as one moved away from Delhi. The 1871 data set 
reveals the following: " In many of the districts of the Delhi, Hissar, Ambala and 
Amritsar Divisions the percentage in schools of all classes was considerably above 
the ratio which the Musalmans bore to the total population. In the districts east of 
the river Jhelum the number of Musalman students was almost in exact proportion 
to the total Musalman population. On the other hand, in the Derajat and Peshawar 
Divisions, where the Muslims formed more than 90 per cent of the whole popula- 
tion, their proportion to the total number at schools was only 55 per cent" [2, p 
164] The same point is more forcefully made by data from North West Provinces 
and Oudh, the heartland of Muslim upper classes. Even in 1871, before Aligarh ap- 
peared on the education map the proportion of Musalmans in recognized school in 
NWP was 17.8 per cent as against their percentage of 13.5 in the total population 
(Table 2). In the entrance examination of 1870, 21 out of 175, or 12 per cent were 
Muslims. In 1881, out of 223 students at English college, 29, or 13 per cent were 


Muslims. (Interestingly, oriental colleges had 444 students on their rolls, out of 
which only 17, or 3.8 per cent were Muslims) [2, p 161]. 

A point about girls' education may be made here. In 1881-82 in NWP Eng- 
lish schools for girls had 664 students at the primary level and 62 in the secondary 
schools. None of these were Muslims. Apparently, Muslims did not believe in 
English education for girls. Vernacular primary schools for girls had 5990 girls, 
out of which 1616 or 26.9 per cent were Muslims, but the corresponding secondary 
schools had only six girls, all non-Muslims. It is thus clear that education for girls 
ended with puberty [2, p 162]. 

The 1882 report of the Education Commission said about the Aligarh Col- 
lege. "The importance of the college, however, is not confined to the special nature 
of the education it affords. Politically its influence is great and will be greater; for 
it is the first expression of independent Musalman effort which the country has wit- 
nessed since it came under British rule" [2, p 164] 

M J Akbar [16] has suggested that Muslim minorityism began with Sir Syed 
Ahmad Khan. This is not quite correct. Muslim minorityism began in 1757 itself 
when the nawab of Murshidabad was defeated at Plassey. It was then accentuated 
at every step: when the Rohilla chieftain Ghulam Qadir Khan marched into the im- 
perial palace and blinded the Mughal emperor (1788); when Tipu Sultan of Mysore 
was destroyed (1799): when the company troops marched into Delhi (1802); when 
the nawab of Oudh disowned the Mughal emperor (1818; and finally when the Mu- 
ghal dynasty itself ceased to exist (1857). Sir Syed Ahmad's contribution lies in the 
fact that he converted this minorityism into an asset. 

Syed Ahmad's efforts no doubt accelerated the pace of development; they, 
however, did not reverse any trends. In any case his consistency remained confined 
to the upper class Urdu-speaking Muslims. In the 10 year period 1882-92, the per- 
centage of Muslims at school in Punjab went up from 20 to 33, and at college from 
12.6 to 18. In the same period, North West Provinces and Oudh saw an increase 
in Muslim percentages at school level from 16 to 22 and at college from 13 to 19. 
Other provinces also witnessed an improvement but only marginally. In 1892, 
Muslims made up 18 per cent of the population of Bengal, Madras and Bombay 
taken up together, but their percentage at school was only 8 and at college a lowlier 
3 .25 (See Table 8). Muslims who had not been enriched by the Mughal empire were 
not enriched by English education either. At the time of partition, most educated 
Muslims opted for Pakistan, leaving Indian Muslims more or less where they were 
before the arrival of Sir Syed Ahmad on the scene. 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

We have discussed the development of English education in India upto the closing 
years of the 19th century. English education was introduced by the British with 
the twin purpose of impressing upon the natives the value of western thought and 
of preparing them for taking up jobs to assist in the administration of the country. 
The first proteges were the Hindus, who were fortified by the European discovery 
of their glorious pre-Islamic past. They had a headstart of two generations over 
Muslims in matters of education; during this period the Hindus had exclusive right 
to the British patronage. 

Muslims entered the field much later. As against the Calcutta Hindu Col- 
lege which was set up in 1817, Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental School at Aligarh 
came up in 1875. What helped Muslims to come out of the post-Plassey sulk was 
the realization that Hindu intelligentsia was becoming powerful by default, the sup- 
port available from the British who were now feeling uneasy with Hindu assertive- 
ness, and the fact of the physical demise of the Mughal dynasty. 

Certain features of the 19th century English education deserve to be no- 
ticed. First, actual number of educated persons was very small. In the 35 year pe- 
riod 1858-93, the five Indian universities produced a total of only 15,081 graduates 
of all types [2, p 186]. Secondly, the Hindus dominated. Except for North Western 
Provinces and Oudh and to a lesser extent Punjab, Muslims generally kept away. 
Each year on an average 419 Hindus graduated as against only 15 Muslims [2, p 
186]. Thirdly and most importantly in the case of Hindus and Muslims alike, Eng- 
lish education was strictly an upper class affair, in which lower castes had no role. 
This is significant, because the biggest losers under the British rule were the artisan 
classes, whose means of livelihood were destroyed by the colonial rulers as part of 
their contribution towards industrialization back home. At the 1891 census a total 
of 80 million people were classified as 'artisans and village menials". The largest 
single group in this category was the rather vague "village watchmen and menials" 
who numbered 12 million, or 15 per cent. In contrast the number of "iron smelters 
and gold wasters" was a minuscule 25,000 [2, p 209]. One can therefore guess that 
many persons listed euphemistically as watchmen and menials had lost their liveli- 
hood after the destruction of the traditional village economy. 

While the upper classes made no effort to provide leadership to the lower 
classes, they indulged in a clever numerological sleight of hand. Suppose x per 
cent of the total population is Muslim. Then it is assumed that the ends of justice 
will be met if x per cent of the students are Muslims, even if all of them come from 
the upper classes. The same is of course true of Hindu percentages. The under- 



standing seems to be this: lower classes will contribute to the general population, 
while the upper classes will make up the percentage at educational institutions. 

A word about the present may not be out of place here. The wrongs done 
by the colonial rule should have been set right by India's own government. The 
dispossessed artisan classes should have been rehabilitated in new manufacturing 
activities. But the Indians instead of doing what the British were doing in their own 
country continued what the British had been doing in this country. The educated 
middle class was therefore swelled. It was assumed that what had earlier made this 
class obnoxious was its knowledge of English. English therefore was banished. 
As the next step, educational standards were continuously lowered so as to make 
education as irrelevant as the middle class had become. 

In the Indian society, the more vital a person's role in the well-being of 
the society, the lower he ranks in the caste hierarchy. Thus, the castes engaged in 
production or maintenance are called backward castes. Using this definition in the 
modern context, we can say that a prosperous nation is one which consists almost 
entirely of backward castes. The solution to India's problems does not lie in trans- 
ferring a handful of people from the traditional lower strata to the new middle class. 
Instead, the problems can only be solved by converting people from forward castes 
to backward castes. 


This article was first published in Economic and Political Weekly, Vol.27, 28 No- 
vember 1992; 2609-2616 and is published here, with slight modifications, with the 
permission of the author. 

[I thank Krishna Kumar for his criticism of an earlier, much smaller, draft, Imtiaz 
Ahmad for illuminating discussion, Malika B Mistry for helpful correspondence, 
S Mohan for useful conversations, P Venkatakrishnan for going through the manu- 
script, and A M Batcha and Meena for preparing the final typescript. Bits and 
pieces of this work were presented at a workshop on 'Muslims of India: History, 
Society and Culture', Aligarh Muslim University, April 25-27, 1992] 

1 Pondi cherry based, former director of Madras Observatory (John Warren) started 
work in 1811 on sough Indian methods of time keeping. The work started on "call 
of personal friendship" was later purchased by the government, as it would be "of 
service to gentlemen employed in the revenue and judical departments". The work, 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

completed in 1825 "was denominated by some learned friends 'Kala Sankalita', 
Sanskrit word signifying doctrine of times". Warren was so popular that when his 
daughter got married, the Hindus wanted to pay the expenses of the 
festivities. See R K Kochhar [1991], 'French Astronomers in India during 17- 19th 
Centuries', J British Astronomical Association, 101, 95. 

2 The rather odd name for what was meant to be a research laboratory is explained 
by the fact that an Indian Association was set up the same year, 1876, by Surendra 
Nath Banerjee to protect the employment interests of educated Indians. 

3 Ramayana is in a way the Picture of Dorian Gray of the Hindus. If, as the Puranas 
say, Rama is a historical figure, then as per archaeological evidence, he cannot have 
lived east of Yamuna. (R K Kochhar [1991], 'Looking at the History of Indo Ary- 
ans', Mainstream, November 30). The geographical setting later assigned to the 
story corresponds to the spread of the Indo Aryans. Addition of details to the story 
(like Rama's killing an achhoot for studying Vedas) reflects the growth of Brah- 
minism, and its public performance symbolizes its use as a shield against Islam. 


1. Dutt, Rmesh [1901, 1903], Economic History of India, 2 vols. 

2. Mahmud, Syed [1895], A History of English Education in India 1 78 1 -1 893, 

3. Sharp, H [1920], Selections from Educational Records, Pt I, 1 78 1 -1 839, Calcutta 

4. Kochhar, R. K. (1991), 'Science as a Tool in British India', Economic and Politi- 
cal Weekly, 36 p. 1927. 

5 . Chatterj ee, Sir Atul and Sir Richard Burn [ 1 843 ] . British Contributions to Indian 
Studies, London 

6. Anon [1929], Indian Scientists, G A Natesan, Madras. 

7. Sen, PK. 'Raja Rammohan Roy' in L F R Williams (ed), Great Men of India, 

8. Richey, J A [1922], Selections from Education Records, Pt II, pp 1840-1859. 

9. Kumar, Krishna [1991], Political Agenda of Education, Sage, New Delhi 

10. Qadir, Sir Abdul, 'Sir Syed Ahmad Khan' in L F R Williams (ed), Great Men 
of India, London. 

11. Lelyveld, Davis (1978), Aligarh 's First Generation, Oxford University Press. 

12. Ahmad, Imtiaz [1981], 'Muslim Educational Bankwardness', Economic and 
Political Weekly, 16 September 5, p 1457. 



13. Ahmad, Imtiaz (ed)[1978], Caste and Social Stratification among Muslims in 
India, Manohar, Delhi. 

14. Kochhar, RK [1991], 'Backward-caste Muslims', Indian Express (Science Ex- 
press) May 14. 

15. Jayaram, J [1990], 'Ethnicity and Education: A Socio-Historical Perspective of 
the Educational Backwardness of Indian Muslims', Sociological Bulletin, 39, 115. 

16. Akbar M J [1991], 'Is Islam in Danger? Sunday Times of India, November 3. 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

Nicholas Schmidle's To Live or to Perish Forever 

Reviewed by David Waterman 

To Live or to Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in Pakistan. Nicholas Schmi- 
dle. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2009. 255 pages. ISBN: 978-0-8050- 

Nicholas Schmidle's book is the result of a project funded by the Institute of Cur- 
rent World Affairs, the author having been chosen as a Phillips Talbot Fellow in 
2006; while Schmidle's original destination was Iran, the hard-line anti-American 
rhetoric following the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad caused him to change 
course for Pakistan instead. The book takes its title from Rahmat Ali's 1933 pam- 
phlet "Now or Never; Are We to Live or Perish For Ever?," advocating a separate 
state of Pakistan, published three years after Iqbal made public his idea of a semi- 
autonomous political entity within an Indian federation (7). A combination of 
contemporary history / geopolitics and travel memoir, the book gives behind-the- 
scenes accounts of the implosive / explosive formula of twenty -first century Paki- 
stan, its credibility founded on the personal risk to Schmidle himself. The informal 
tone generally succeeds in making facts, figures and person / place names more 
engaging for a wider audience - by which I mean outside the Beltway - although 
regrettably the tone does occasionally slip into a semi-gonzo journalism that Hunter 
Thompson would have recognized: "Musharraf lost his mojo," for example (10). 

Contemporary Pakistan did not come about overnight, and Schmidle does 
a very good job of tracing the historical context for readers who are perhaps a bit 
rusty on such details, whether the 1400-year-old conflict between Sunni and Shia 
Muslims (16), or the more recent geopolitical stutterings which led to the Taliban's 
1996 victory in Afghanistan (19). Schmidle's principal strong point, however, is 
his ability to give a human face to those he meets along the way, and in doing so 
invites the reader into the story; here he succeeds where many others do not. His 
philosophy from the start of this unlikely project is to be frank with those he en- 
counters, revealing his identity as an American, non-Muslim and writer, combined 
with a genuine interest in learning the language and meeting people from all social 
strata. His approach pays off, as many of those he meets are men of power and in- 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

fluence, able to open doors for him and, when necessary, get him out of a tight spot. 
Indeed, without such protection and valuable advice, it seems almost inconceivable 
that Schmidle would have survived; as it is, his ability to remain in Pakistan for two 
years before being deported is outstanding. 

His first immersion in Pakistani politics comes about when he is invited to 
attend a large Shia gathering, where Allama Abbas Kumaili's sermon, recalling the 
story of Hussein, sends the crowd into a frenzy (26). Shortly thereafter he makes 
the acquaintance of Farooq Sattar, a member of the National Assembly and leader 
of the Muttahida Quami Movement, who introduces him, on the way to a funeral in 
Hyderabad, to the intricacies of mohajir politics, those Muslims who moved from 
India to Pakistan in 1947; both the rally and the funeral highlight for Schmidle the 
fact that Pakistanis tend to vote according to their ethnic or sectarian allegiance, 
regardless of a specific party's platform (29; 38). A visit to a ten-day workshop 
entitled "Madrassas and the Modern World" allows the author to see reformers at 
work, in this case Dr. Shazia of Karachi University, as she tries to bring up to date 
an audience of mullahs by pointing out that a free market, credit cards and Wal- 
Mart are all compatible with Islam: "shocking the madrassa teachers seemed to be 
[her] unstated goal" (57). While in the West madrassas are understood as Koranic 
schools for training extremists, we are reminded that within Pakistan such schools 
are more often seen as a way for poor families to educate their children, a role that 
the State often fails to ensure. "Our problem in Pakistan," says Dr. Ata-ur-Rahman, 
"is not the madrassas. Our problem is clean drinking water. Our problem is sanita- 
tion. Our problem is health care," thus effectively placing poverty at the foundation 
of other social ills (62). A case in point: the unrest in Baluchistan, linked to poverty 
in one of the most underdeveloped regions of the country, and the government's 
insincerity with promises of turning the fishing village of Gwadar into a modern, 
economically vibrant port city (70-71); Schmidle's own conversations with Baluchi 
opposition leader Akhtar Mengal will immediately attract the attention of Paki- 
stan's intelligence agencies. 

In an effort to understand all of Pakistan, especially its apparent identity 
crisis, Schmidle makes the journey to the "other" Pakistan, Bangladesh, to cover 
upcoming elections, although they are cancelled just as he arrives by the President, 
Iajuddin Ahmed, who then declared martial law (106). Schmidle notes that even 
in Bangladesh, founded as a secular country, Islam is appropriated in the interest of 
attracting political allies (108). Returning to Karachi, the author finds himself in 
a city under siege, the result of a planned visit by suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar 
Mohammad Chaudhry, perhaps Musharraf's most powerful enemy; Schmidle cites 
this event on May 12, 2007, as the point of no return for Pakistan's President, "will- 
ing to subvert law and order to keep power" (127). The next nail in Musharraf's 



coffin, described in detail by Schmidle, is "Operation Silence," the storming of 
the Red Mosque in Islamabad to dislodge opposition forces led by Abdul Rashid 
Ghazi; Bin Laden himself condemned the President's actions (154). 

Never one to shy away from a dangerous situation, the author then heads for 
the Taliban-controlled Swat Valley, only a four-hour drive from the capital, what 
he calls "a different kind of Pakistan" (158), a visit made possible only through 
the protection and laisser-passer of Iqbal Khan, the District Amir, a journey which 
permits Schmidle to meet a large number of Taliban commanders (167). Back in 
Islamabad, Benazir Bhutto had just recently returned from exile, and her presence 
in the country, added to the pressure on Musharraf stemming from the lingering 
Chaudhry affair, lead the President to impose a state of emergency, seen by many in 
Pakistan as meddling by the CIA on Musharraf's behalf. At the end of December 
2007, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, plunging the country into yet another po- 
litical crisis, and paving the way for Asif Ali Zardari to inherit the Pakistan People's 
Party and thus confront Musharraf; eight months later he resigned the Presidency. 
Schmidle closes the book with a surreal description of his second departure from 
Pakistan, tracked by "the agencies" as he leaves with a US Embassy escort in a 
bullet-proof car, amid news reports of his own kidnapping (229). 

Nicholas Schmidle worries about the future of Pakistan - not simply the 
Pakistan of violence, not simply the Pakistan which is a keystone of geopolitics, but 
the Pakistan with a human face, where people construct their lives among poverty 
and insecurity, where people worry about educating their children and obtaining 
medical care. Practical, everyday worries so often overlooked in Western accounts 
of Pakistan, and that Schmidle's book does an excellent job of bringing to the fore. 
To Live or to Perish Forever is recommended for those readers who want to attach 
human faces and individual stories to the "problem" of Pakistan. 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

Daniyal Mueenuddin's In Other Rooms, Other Wonders 

Reviewed by Sohomjit Ray 

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders. Daniyal Mueenuddin. New York: W. W. Norton, 
2009. 247 pages. ISBN: 978-0-393-06800-9. 

Should Daniyal Mueenuddin's debut collection of short stories, In Other Rooms, 
Other Wonders (2009) be considered a part of Pakistani literature, or should it be 
considered a part of the American literary landscape, already so enriched by the 
writers of South Asian diaspora? Salman Rushdie's inclusion of the first story in 
the collection ("Nawabdin Electrician") in the anthology entitled "Best American 
Short Stories 2008" by no means settles the question, but provides a useful frame 
in which to discuss it. The consideration of the question of nationality with regards 
to literature (it is fully debatable whether such a thing can be said to exist, although 
that debate is well beyond the scope of this review), of course, generates another 
very pertinent one: is the question important at all? In response to the latter ques- 
tion, one needs only to look at the reviews of the book published in a few of the 
renowned American newspapers to realize that the question is important, and also 

Dalia Sofer notes in her review of the book in The New York Times that 
"women in these stories often use sex to prey on the men, and they do so with aban- 
don at best and rage at worst — in this patriarchal, hierarchical society, it is their 
sharpest weapon" and that "the women are not alone in their scheming. Manipula- 
tion unifies these stories, running through them as consistently as the Indus River 
flows south of Punjab," before concluding: "[f]or a country whose name means 
"land of purity," Pakistan is startlingly blemished." Michael Dirda remarks in his 
review in The Washington Post how "[t]hese connected stories show us what life is 
like for both the rich and the desperately poor in Mueenuddin's country, and the re- 
sult is a kind of miniaturized Pakistani "human comedy."" The consensus is clear — 
eight short stories in a collection by a debutant can be said to authentically portray a 
whole nation. If the women in Mueenuddin's stories use sex to their advantage, and 
men show themselves to be as adept in manipulation as the women, the Pakistani 
society can be safely concluded to be 'blemished.' It is expected of these stories 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

to show "us," the audience from the global North — the consumer of the delicious 
tales about unscrupulous thieves and seductive sweepresses in the third world — 
exactly how the petty and grand machinations of God's plenty contrive to construct 
a comedie hiimaine a la Balzac in miniature in the global South. 

It should be noted that Mueenuddin neither claims nor disclaims the sta- 
tus of being an insider who is in a position to supply knowledge accessible only 
to the members of a particular in-group, in this case, the redoubtable and puta- 
tive monolith of Pakistani society. Speaking about his sense of identity to Jeffrey 
A. Trachtenberg of The Wall Street Journal he comments: "There is no balancing 
my sense of identity. I'm always rolling back and forth along the spectrum, from 
Pakistani to American, depending on what I'm doing and where ... I believe that this 
fluid identity is useful to me as a writer, because I'm always looking at myself and 
my surroundings from the outside." This can be dismissed as sitting on the fence, or 
falling in line with the classical figure of the unobtrusive but observant poet found 
in Browning's "How It Strikes a Contemporary": 

He took such cognizance of men and things, 

If any beat a horse, you felt he saw; 

If any cursed a woman, he took note; 

Yet stared at nobody —you stared at him, 

And found, less to your pleasure than surprise, 

He seemed to know you and expect as much. (11. 30-35) 

The choices Mueenuddin makes as a writer might be a reason why his sto- 
ries are read to be so stringently representative. Historically, the short story cycle 
has been used by authors who have emphasized a strong sense of place or com- 
munity in their works: James Joyce's Dubliners (1914), Sherwood Anderson's 
Winesbiirg, Ohio (1919), and more recently, Rohinton Mistry's Tales from Firo- 
zshaa Baag (1992). It can be argued that what these authors attempt is a negoti- 
ated verisimilitude in their works — negotiated by their subjectivity and aesthetic 
predispositions — and not absolute representational veracity (if there exists such a 
thing) or authenticity. Nothing excuses a conflation between the two, especially on 
a national scale. 

Any impulse to offer grand cultural/national generalizations lightly after 
reading these stories seems all the more unintelligible, because Mueenuddin dem- 
onstrates clear signs of transcending the local, the specific, and the individual to 
gradually bring the universal into focus. In these stories populated by characters 
from all cross-sections of a society that is in transit from an old, feudalistic lifestyle 
to a burgeoning capitalist globalized economy, the need of human beings to connect 



with each other becomes paramount. In "A Spoiled Man," Rezak becomes angry 
when his effort to share a "time-expired bird" is politely rejected by the waiter at 
Kalapani Bazar (223). The tragedy in the lives depicted in these stories stem basi- 
cally from losing a precious human connection achieved after much compromise 
and deliberation. 

The nature of the compromise offered as a price of this human connection 
is heavily gendered. The women in the stories use sex, but not so much to 'prey' 
as to find the joy of connecting to another human being. In "Saleema," we find a 
woman who uses her sexual charms without any scruples. As the narrative voice 
comments, "[h]er love affairs had been so plainly mercantile transactions that she 
hadn't learned to be coquettish" (40). Desperately seeking male protection in a 
strictly patriarchal society that would not tolerate sexual agency in a woman, Sal- 
eema still retains the human need for companionship and intimacy. When her affair 
with the cook in the Harouni household fails, she "angle[s] for one of the drivers," 
but rebuffs their crude come-ons with a terse "Go to hell" (32). She is not looking 
for just protection and sex, but a deeper intimacy. Her one question to Rank before 
they part forever is to verify that she had, in fact, been loved. 

In "Provide, Provide," Mueenuddin illustrates the primordial impulses 
evoked by the possibility of dying without this connection. As Frost writes in the 
poem from which the title of the story is taken: 

Too many fall from great and good 

For you to doubt the likelihood. . . 

Better to go down dignified 

With boughten friendship at your side 

Than none at all. Provide, provide! (11. 5-6, 19-21) 

For Jaglani, this affair is an effort by him to have one meaningful relationship in 
his life, while for Zainab, it is the only means to have a child. It is a cruel fact of 
Mueenuddin's bibliocosm that this "boughten friendship" amounts to nothing for 
both of them — Jaglani realizes that his affair has been a mistake, and Zainab is left 
without her adopted child. 

Mueenuddin's reach and expanse within his limited frame is extraordinary. 
His sweeping gaze conjures up a remarkably unsentimental vision of the poorest 
underclass ("Nawabdin Electrician," "A Spoiled Man," "Saleema"), the rich upper 
class still adapting to a new world that has no place for a feudalistic lifestyle ("In 
Other Rooms, Other Wonders," "Lily," "Our Lady of Paris"), and those in between 
("Provide, Provide," "About a Burning Girl"). He is equally at ease describing the 
newly emerging narcissicistic self-importance of a man who has just survived a 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

deadly assault or the inevitable destruction of a poor maid who has been too free 
with her favors as he is while giving the reader in a few deft strokes, the portrait of 
a typical upper-class woman from the feudal aristocracy: "She had been a famous 
beauty, from a prominent, cultured Lucknow family. Now at forty-five she knew 
everyone of a certain class in Karachi, went to dinners and to the polo and to all the 
fashionable weddings, flew often to Lahore and Islamabad, and summered in Lon- 
don" (144). It is precisely because of this range that the focus on the universality of 
human experience and the need to connect is given a new dimension. 

In "Lily" and in "Our Lady of Paris", the characters recite James Merrill 
from memory, repeat famous adages attributed to Louis XV in original French in 
regular conversation, elegantly talk about popular films made on Graham Greene's 
novels and show off their collection of antique art and impeccable fashion instinct 
to impress and put one over another, but the glitter and the sheen does not disguise 
the fact that these lives are as broken and laced with human desires, fears and sor- 
rows as that of their less-fortunate counterparts. In a much-anticipated juxtaposi- 
tion of the center and the periphery, we see the rich bride-to-be suddenly come 
across her absolutely disenfranchised neighbors: "Hanging there at the far end, 
disembodied faces rippled behind the plastic, three, four, five of them, fixed on her, 
distorted, larger and then smaller as the breeze shook the tent. . . These must be from 
the slum, the people who lived illegally on the banks of an open sewage channel 
that drained this millionaires' district" (198). In stark contrast to the bride's bejew- 
elled attire, these faces appear "disembodied," denied their full humanity in this 
spectral synecdochic presence. 

Explaining in a blog interview why he chose to write interconnected sto- 
ries or a short story cycle, Mueenuddin observes that "most good collections tell a 
larger story, the story of the whole" ("The Elegant Variation"). To read this pursuit 
of a larger story that defines the creative impetus behind this collection as an es- 
sentialist quest to tease out the general characteristics of a whole nation would be 
too myopic. Mueenuddin's 'larger story' is conceived in terms of the human, not the 
national, and should be read accordingly. 


Browning, Robert. "How It Strikes a Contemporary", 
n.d. Web. 25 October 2009. 



Dirda, Michael. "Stories from Pakistan about living upstairs, downstairs and 

everywhere in between." 15 February 2009. 
Web. 25 October 2009. 

"The Elegant Variation: A Literary Weblog", 24 April 
2009. Web. 25 October 2009. 

Frost, Robert. "Provide, Provide." n.d. Web. 25 Octo- 
ber 2009. 

Mueenuddin, Daniyal. In Other Rooms, Other Wonders. New York: W. W. Norton, 

Sofer , Dalia. "Sex and other Social Devices", 6 February 
2009. Web. 25 October 2009. 

Trachtenberg, Jeffrey A. "Tales From a Punjab Mango Farm." 31 
January 2009. Web. 25 October 2009. 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

Mushaira: Pakistan's festival of Poetry 

By Louis Werner 

The announcer breaks into the evening's proceedings to ask the driver of the car 
with license plate 6734 to please move it from the emergency exit immediately 1 . 

The 15,000 people in the crowd rustle and fidget with impatience. "Enough 
with numbers. Now listen to my words," says Ali Zeryoom, the man who has been 
interrupted. "If patience is defeat, then my country has lost to yours." 

No, this is not a political speech, nor a diplomatic address, nor even an 
awards ceremony after an international cricket match. Ali Zeryoom is an Urdu poet, 
and he is reciting the first verse of a couplet from a ghazal he has chosen for the oc- 
casion of the Aalami Mushaira, the 18th annual dusk-to-dawn international poetry 
symposium in Karachi, Pakistan. His listeners are now quiet. When he completes 
the second verse, whose unvarying refrain word is so familiar to the crowd that they 
shout it out in unison, they roar in the traditional accolade of Urdu poetry aficiona- 
dos: "Vah, vah! Vah, vah!" Fifteen thousand right hands are thrust toward Ali. 

The master of ceremonies, or maizban, is Rizwan Siddiqui, a well-known 
television personality. He is seated to Ali's left, and like all the two dozen poets 
onstage waiting their turn to recite, he sits cross-legged on an ample pillow. He 
interjects good-naturedly, "These are not your words!" Ali answers, "If not mine, 
then whose are they?" And immediately he launches into another kind of poem, a 
nazm, on the subject of motherhood, which now has the crowd clapping rhythmi- 

A mushaira is usually a refined and intimate affair, often a private gather- 
ing of poets and knowing connoisseurs of that most demanding of poetic forms, 
the ghazal, whose compression of deep meaning into few words can, at its best, 
produce a sublime literary experience. In Mughal times, a mushaira invitation 
would have commonly specified the tarah, or fixed rhyme scheme and meter, to 
be used throughout the evening. As latter-day poetic standards have slipped from 
the heights occupied by such masters of the ghazal as Mirza Ghalib (1796-1869) 
and Mir Taqi Mir (1723-1810), mushairas today often mix many forms of poetry, 
including ribald jokes, political humor and sentimental love lyrics that can be semi- 
intoned in a style called tarannum. 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

Karachi's Aalami Mushaira (aalami means "worldwide" and mushaira is a 
public recitation of poetry) was established in 1989 by a group of businessmen and 
town fathers who belonged to a benevolent society called Sakinan-e Shehr-e Qa'id 
(Citizens of the City of the Founder), referring to Karachi, birthplace of Pakistan's 
founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Retired banker Azhar Abbas Hashmi remembers 
that, in the 1980's when Karachi was undergoing great political and social tensions, 
he and other members of the society wanted to bring the city together around some 
common element. They chose Urdu, Pakistan's national language and a tongue 
with particularly poignant meaning in Karachi: In 1947, after the partition of Paki- 
stan and India, the city took in so many refugees from all over the subcontinent that 
Urdu, as lingua franca, supplanted the region's indigenous language, Sindhi. 

Hashmi also looks back to a landmark Karachi mushaira held in 1952, the 
first time Urdu poets crossed the border from India, at which were present such lu- 
minaries as Jigar Muradabadi, Josh Malihabadi, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Zehra Nigah, 
known as the city's songbird. "That helped to heal some old wounds," he says, "and 
we were aiming for something similar again — a mission, not simply a mushaira." 

Yet Hashmi worries that Urdu's high literary culture is being lost. "Today 
we have a fast life, too fast for poetry," he says. "I remember fondly my school 
days, when my father and schoolmaster were my only teachers. Now our teachers 
are the mass media and the supermarket." As the comic poet Amir ul-Islam recited 
later that night, "Our language is supposed to be Urdu / 1 wish we would speak real 

Indeed, patronage — or at least a comfortable income — is essential for poets 
to flourish. William Dalrymple's recent biography of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last 
Mughal emperor and himself an accomplished poet, quotes a letter that Mirza Ghal- 
ib wrote to Queen Victoria, reminding her of the tradition of royal support for the 
arts, of how rulers "rewarded their poets and well-wishers by filling their mouths 
with pearls, weighing them in gold, and granting them villages and recompense." 

The romantic poet Wasi Shah from Lahore takes his pearls and gold in the 
form of royalties from his books, which sell in the millions. Dashingly handsome, 
dressed for the night's mushaira in a red tie and business suit, he recites, "I wish to 
be your bracelet / When you go to bed, you will be with me / When you push me up 
your arm, you will play with me / When you go to sleep at night / 1 will be a pillow 
for your eyes." 

In the audience, 23-year-old banker Sara Khan hangs on his every word. "I 
like Wasi Shah because I am alone, still waiting for someone to enter my life, and 
his verse reflects my sad heart." Sajjad Hussein, a student of statistics at Urdu Uni- 
versity, has come to his first mushaira more out of curiosity than sentiment. "My 
home is in the far north, near the Siachen Glacier in the Karakoram Range," he 



says. "My mother tongue is Balti, very different from Urdu, and more difficult. But 
I always want to learn new things about poetry. Ghalib is already my favorite." For 
her part, Farrouk Jehan has brought her nine-year-old nephew along with a picnic, 
and she plans to stay until the early hours. "Tomorrow is a holiday, so we can sleep 
late. I want him to love poetry as much as I do." 

Backstage after his recitation, Shah speaks passionately about his craft to a 
bevy of fans, including 12-year-old Anum Masood, who wields a pink autograph 
book dedicated to her favorite poets. "I write a poetry of love, and I want the world 
to know that we Pakistanis are about more than terror," Shah says. "Our poetry does 
not produce violence. 

"Just as I am living as a poet, I want to die as a poet, in peace." And then he 
paused to recite the first couplet he ever wrote, at the age of eight, when his father 
died: "Like bubbles in the water, bubbles always go to clear / On the day your father 
dies, bubbles also disappear." Anum, however, seems more starstruck by Shah's 
celebrity than touched by his words as a grieving child. 

Translating Urdu poetry, especially the ghazal, is an impossible task. Better 
call it "rendering a rough meaning," or "catching the gist of the words." There is 
so much ellipsis, ambiguity and economy that a typical seven- or ten-word verse 
in Urdu must sprawl in all directions when put into English. The late poet Agha 
Shahid Ali's English-language translations of ghazals by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, set on 
facing pages from the originals, run double their length. Yet sometimes, with the 
help of the poet herself, a sense of possibility can be achieved. 

Take this couplet, a study in paradox and the emotional confusion that grief 
often brings, from Hijab Abbasi, a housewife, former social worker and previous 
Aalami Mushaira poet, who tonight is sitting backstage in the VIP section, enjoying 
the recitations from a comfortable club chair. On the occasion of the death of her 
father's best friend, she wrote, "Your death brought happiness / But once buried, 
I am always sad." Clearly such a poem is best suited for being whispered among 
intimate friends, not over a microphone before a crowd. 

Yet even to a non-Urdu speaker, a ghazal poet's physical expression during 
recitation can guide further meanings. The hands of Ahmed Navid, a Karachi poet, 
for example, are in constant motion, as if hiding, pulling or scattering his syllables. 
He holds his hands together, tents them, points and waves them. At times, he is 
shrugging off a rhyme, smoothing the air, or shaking his fingers. At others, he is 
saluting, beseeching or forgiving his listeners. Only a single couplet from a good 20 
minutes of recitation can begin to be captured in words alone: "What are you trying 
to hide, that even your clothes cannot hide? / Silence, for which even an audience 
is not sufficient." 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

Other arts and cultural groups take advantage of the presence of poets from 
India and other parts of Pakistan — Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Faisalbad and 
Quetta — attending the Aalami Mushaira to sponsor more specialized events in pri- 
vate venues on the evenings that follow. A mushaira at the elite Karachi Club takes 
place on the lawn, the audience in glittery salwar kameez and neat kurtas, reclin- 
ing on bolsters, enjoying tea served by bow-tied waiters. Many of the same poets 
recite here, too, and, like the Aalami Mushaira, this evening too runs toward dawn. 
Although the crowd is more reserved in its praise, more discriminating in its tastes, 
they too offer hearty acclamations of "Vah, vah!" when earned. 

Sehar Ansari, the erudite former head of the Urdu Department at Karachi 
University, is the last to recite, an honor always given to the most esteemed poet of 
the group. He recites a couplet with multiple meanings in this time of both domestic 
and cross-border strife in Pakistan: "Why use fire to extinguish fire? / Kill us with 
love just as well." 

Another follow-on mushaira is held at the markaz sadat-e amrohvi, the 
community center for migrants to Karachi from the town of Amroha, near Delhi — 
famous as the birthplace of some of the greatest Urdu poets, starting with Ismail 
Amrohvi in the 17th century and stretching forward into the late 20th century with 
Rais Amrohvi, his brother Jaun Alia and the master of all Amrohvi poets, Mussafi. 
The club is compiling a biographical dictionary of native-son poets that currently 
includes 566 names. 

Naqoosh Naqvi, the maizban for this mushaira, was born in Amroha in 1 942 
and came to Pakistan a decade later. He is well versed in the maizban's job, having 
hosted more than 50 such occasions, so he knows just when to cut a long-winded 
poet short, and when to cajole a great poet into an encore by exhorting him, "Mu- 
karrar, mukarrar!" ("Again, again!") 

Dr. Kunwar Bechain, a retired professor from Meerut University near New 
Delhi, is reciting at the Aalami Mushaira, and visiting Pakistan, for the first time. 
"I am very happy to be here," he says. "The feelings are the same across the border 
because poets are never divided by a line." His own surname means "restless," so 
by way of introduction, the maizban jokes, "We too are restless for you to start." 
Bechain begins with a sung couplet: "There are thousands of fragrances in this 
world / But nothing better than the smell of bread to a hungry man." The maizban 
tries to animate the crowd: "Applaud him, you are not sitting in front of a jury!" 
Bechain ends with a couplet about how words can be misused: "I wanted to make 
toys of them / but the world has turned them into weapons." 

The logistics of serving 15,000 poetry fans over an eight-hour performance 
are daunting. The day before the mushaira, the organizing committee was joined 
by Karachi deputy mayor Nasreen Jalil to make certain that the catering company 



that had been hired could spread sufficient carpets for the capacity crowd. A road 
grader had smoothed the dirt on the parking lot behind Urdu University, and the 
stage platform and three central poles strung with electric lights had been erected. 
High-swinging television camera dollies for live broadcast on Metro-One TV were 
in position, too. 

By nine o'clock the following night, the crowd begins to trickle in. Some 
stop outside the gates to sample the kebabs and browse the bookstalls. Water sta- 
tions ring the seating area. It has been 44 degrees Celsius (111° F) that day, and the 
pre-monsoon heat is still withering. At 1 1 :00 p.m, an imam recites a verse from the 
Qur'an, and the maizban calls for attention and introduces the first poet. More than 
25 are scheduled to appear; most remain seated onstage throughout the night. The 
reciting poet, who takes a front seat on a raised, low-railed dais, often turns back to 
his fellows after completing a particularly fine verse, as if to seek inside approval. 

Toward four o'clock in the morning, a crowd favorite, Ather Shah Khan, a 
humorous poet known by his pen name, "Jadi," is introduced, and the crowd shakes 
itself from the reflective, introspective mood that the previous ghazal poet had es- 
tablished. In a buffoon's voice, Jadi brings the cross-legged crowd to its metaphori- 
cal feet. "Uncle, where are you tonight? / Uncle, I don't see you / Maybe he has 
died! / 1 also was young, two years ago." His verse aims for the funny bone more 
than the cerebral cortex, yet this very mix of the high and the low, the comical and 
the conceptual, is what makes the Aalami Mushaira such a yearly success. 

Ahmed Navid, who works in the advertising business, is reciting here for 
the second time, and although his verse is aimed higher, he recognizes the positive 
role that such a mass gathering, whether for poetry or for sports, plays in city life. 
"Poetry is itself a medium," he says. "It doesn't need a show. If you are a good poet, 
you don't need a stage. But as the great poet Mir Taqi Mr said, 'What is a mush- 
aira? Just people getting together.'" 

A mushaira of this size brings out the enthusiasts as well as the eccentrics. 
Backstage, many amateur, self-published poets stuff their books into the hands of 
those better known. Others are eager to recite to whoever will lend an ear. Saeedul 
Kabir intones a few verses from American poet Carl Sandburg's "The People, Yes," 
which he follows with an Urdu poem by Sahir Ludhianvi that he says Sandburg's 
directly inspired. Nearly out of breath, he next declaims from English romantic 
poet Robert Southey's "Battle of Blenheim," and then Josh Malihabadi's poem 
on the very same subject — the emptiness of military victory after blood has been 
spilled on all sides. 

The future of Urdu poetry may be found in the verse of intense, long-haired 
Atif Tauqeer, who works as a late drive-time disc jockey. Besides being a poet, he 
is, according to his Web site (, a man who 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

gets his words out any way he can, working as a scriptwriter, producer, director, 
storyteller, actor and editor. In the cluttered world of multimedia, he knows that 
poets must diversify their performance space, beyond mushairas and books, if they 
want to be heard. Atif was the third poet to recite at the Aalami Mushaira, when the 
crowd was still streaming in and before it had settled down to really listen. 

From Atif's Web site, fans can download his recitations, join a live chat 
room and participate in a poetry-lover's forum — all very 21st-century. "Couplets 
are heartbeats," he says. "Some poems can be written in a moment, because love 
needs only a moment." Somehow, digital audio seems entirely appropriate for his 
of-the-moment modernity. "Media should uplift people, not keep them down. We 
have so much we must think about in our times — climate change, terror, racism. A 
poet is fortunate if people can understand what he wants to say." 

The sky is still dark when the first call to the dawn prayer sounds from 
neighboring minarets. It is time to conclude, although the maizban has done an ad- 
mirable job in keeping on schedule. No poet's feelings have been hurt, and several 
have been singled out for the praise of "Vah, vah!" that follows the calls "Mukarrar, 
mukarrar!" Only one poet is still to recite, and he has ample time to finish before 
the final prayer call in another 15 minutes. 

At the final couplet, the maizban hurries words of thanks to the poets, their 
listeners and the organizing committee. The task of knitting together this polyglot 
city of more than 12 million residents — with more than 1500 migrants arriving 
every day from all parts of the country — has not been easy. The Aalami Mushaira, 
this celebration of Urdu poetry at its best, is one of the few glues that hold. As the 
Karachi poet Tariq Sabzwari recited earlier in the night, Whatever be my city's air, 
I'll love it still Whether in the sun or shade This land of mine, this land of ours. 

1 Republished, without accompanying pictures, from Saadi Aramco World Yol. 59, 
No. 5 (2008) with the permission of the author. To see the earlier version visit: 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

Celebration on the Birth of a Second Child Through 


By Shaikh Muhammad Ali 

One of my colleagues invited me for dinner celebration. He was recently blessed 
with another son in August, 2008. I was told that the celebration will include 
the Pakhtoon dance known as 'Atan' as well and knowing that ethnically he is a 
Pukhtoon / Pashtoon \ I accepted the invitation immediately. 

The history of 'ATAN' 

"Dance has been an important part of most cultures from their earliest times.Dancing 
serves as a social, spiritual, artistic, and emotional expression in different parts of 
the world. It is a part of celebrations, ceremonies, entertainment, and teaching in 
different cultures across the world. Before the introduction of written languages, 
dance was one of the primary methods of passing stories and rituals down from 
generation to generation, of committing knowledge to memory, and of learning 
precision movements, such as swordsmanship" 2 . 

"While many other art forms; music, painting and poetry, can be traced 
through human history by physical artifacts, dance, on the other hand is difficult to 
trace. Dancing relies on the direct communication of the 'vocabulary' of movement 
and stories from person to person, which is similar to oral history and story telling. 
This vocabulary of movement is used by dancers and choreographers to describe 
or imitate the natural world (both living and inanimate objects), or to express 
common themes and emotions. Some movements are universal and recognized by 
people around the world, while others are unique to the region or people to which 
it belongs" 3 . 

Pukhtoons possess a rich culture with all the ruggedness on the one hand 
and all the softness, romance and beauties on the other. The Pukhtoon dances have 
been denned as a symbol of courage and heroism by the British and present the 
desire and readiness of a tribe to go into a battlefield for Jihad. With heavy and 
insistent drumming, the dancers who are usually male move with uniform rhythm 
and steps. They dance usually in circles or columns holding different items of daily 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

life (swords, guns, handkerchiefs, etc (any colorful cloth).) in their hands and mix 
the crude sounds of their possessions with the rhythm of drums and surnay 4 . 

Both sexes dance the Atan, a national and ethnic dance in which dancers 
with arms raised, folded at the waist, step in a slow, rhythmic pattern around a circle. 
Atan is perfomed in same-sex groups during weddings and other celebrations. I 
have come to learn that there are about 32 variations of the Atan. 

Back to the story 

My love for 'Atan' started when I was pretty young and would see the Pathan dance 
in ecstasy whenever he would be happy and was celebrating a happy occasion . 
This love came close to fruition when I accompanied a second battalion of medical 
students (mostly Pathans) to Cuba again this time in July 2008. This year round I 
accompanied them to Jose Maria Aguillar School of medicine in Matanzas city, 

For all the three nights I was there, the Pukhtoon scholars would gather 
during Mirianda time and dance their hearts out on the 'Atan' . There were about 14 
boys who would do this while two were exceptionally good and would outperform 
all the others. Their timing was as good as professionals and they would swim their 
way through the dance and their movements were as smooth as silk and would flow 
like pure water in lush springs. 

The writer with Mohsin and Kausar, the Atan Duo in Matanzas, Cuba 



And now I get back to the real story of the invitation that took me down 
memory lane. I reached there at around 9:00 p.m. It was almost a full moon that 
night and some friends of the host were already sitting there on Qaleens (Rugs). 

It was a typical 'all male' gathering, typical for any Pukhtoon party or 
wedding gathering, where women would tend to remain indoors They hailed from 
different corners of Pakistan, including Zhob, Chaman, Muslim Bagh, Quetta, 
Loralai, Peshawar, Waziristan, Bannu, Hangu, Kohat, Malakand, Darra Adam 
Khel, and Charsadda, to name a few. They belonged to different tribes, namely, the 
Afridi, Kakar, Achakzai, Wazir, Dawar, Bangash and Khattak. Soon the Pukhtoon 
music started and some of boys started to dance Atan. The crowd clapped, as more 
boys joined the dance. 

It seemed as if they all had natural talent for Atan. The movements came 
natural to them and they danced with compassion and serenity. Surprisingly, the 
Pukhtoons being classified as a warrior race but none was found to be aggressive 
and they all were as civilized as they could be. Or was it because most of them were 
M. Phil or PhD students at the university? 

Dinner was served around 12:15 a.m. which, of course, comprised of a goat 
sacrificed earlier and Nan (Fine) and about 40 of us sat down and ate solemnly. As 
soon as the dinner was over, they all rose and were ready to dance again. It was 
already 12:45 a.m. when I had to beg leave with a consideration in my mind that I 
happen to be the only non-Pukhtoon among these fierce yet extremely hospitable 
people who can even die while defending the honor of their guests. 


1 Pukhtoon / Pushtoon are both commonly used terms to define the Pathan 

2 The lonely planet, Pakistan, John King, Bradley Mayhew, David St. Vincent, 5 th 
edition, July 1998. 

3 ibid 

4 A flute which is played sideways 

5 ibid 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

Our Traditional Educational Systems 

By Asad Zaman 

In Orientalism, one of the most significant and influential books of the twentieth 
century, Edward Said describes how the European project of colonizing the rest of 
the world distorted all academic knowledge produced about the East (the Orient). 
The necessity of justifying and providing a moral basis for the loot and plunder of 
Asia, Africa and the Americas led to the invention of a large number of Western the- 
ories which made it impossible to achieve an objective understanding of the East. 
Imperialism and exploitation were cloaked under the noble objective of the White 
Man's burden to spread the benefits of his civilization to the rest of the world. 
The extremely cruel treatment of blacks (leading to an estimated 10 million slaves 
taken out and about a 100 million killed in the process, over the period of European 
colonization of Africa), was justified by the invention of racism: according to a US 
court ruling Negroes were "beings of an inferior order . . . they had no rights which 
the white man was bound to respect.". 

The superiority complex of the West described in Orientalism has a natural 
counterpart in the inferiority complex in the East. The colonial educational system 
was designed by Macaulay, who expressed his extreme contempt for our heritage in 
his famous Minute on Indian education: "(no one) could deny that a single shelf of 
a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia." 
Those who absorb this message embedded in Western education, write fiction and 
essays demeaning and insulting to their own families, culture, country and religion. 
European superiority becomes an article of faith to those trained to be "Indian in 
color, but English in taste" and criticisms such as the present one invoke an irritated 
defense combined with the platitude that if Europeans are bad, we and our ances- 
tors are even worse. To overcome this inferiority complex, we need to learn that the 
common bonds of humanity that we all share are much stronger than petty differ- 
ences created by race, nation, ideology and language. 

This essay was motivated by a recent article in a leading newspaper con- 
tending that "public education began in our subcontinent with the advent of British 
rule. Before that, no such system existed." This perpetuates the European myth that 
we were all ignorant savages and barbarians before the White Man came to educate 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

and civilize us. The facts are so breathtakingly at variance with this picture that they 
will come as a shock to the average reader. The educational system of India was one 
of the wonders of the world and people from many lands came to India in search of 
knowledge and wisdom. A contemporary account from pre-British India states that 
while excellent scholars are present everywhere in India, Delhi can be especially 
proud of the vast assortment of world class experts in every field of knowledge as 
well as trade and craft. Among both Muslims and Hindus it was a religious duty to 
support scholars and to free them from worldly worries so they could concentrate 
on the acquisition of knowledge. Scholars could and did travel the country in search 
of knowledge without financial constraints, since they could count on hospitality 
wherever they went. Private and public libraries galore, books, copyists, authors, 
public debates, intellectual competitions of many types, testify to a widespread 
culture of learning, where even courtesans boasted of literary accomplishments. 

This culture survived into the early periods of colonial rule: William 
Dalrymple writes that "He [the Muslim man] who holds an office worth twenty 
rupees a month commonly gives his sons an education equal to that of a prime 
minister. ... After seven years of study, the young Muhammadan ... [is near- 
ly the equal of] ... a young man raw from Oxford. " Research on madrasas in 
early colonial British India shows that: "The syllabus employed at the Nizamia 
madrasas, which served as a model for madrasas elsewhere, represented a blend 
of naqli 'iilam (revealed sciences), including the Quran, the hadith, fiqh (Is- 
lamic jurisprudence) and tafsir (Quranic commentary), on the one hand, and the 
aqli 'ulum (rational sciences), including Arabic language, grammar, logic, rhet- 
oric, philosophy, astronomy, medicine, physics and mathematics, on the other." 

Our educational systems were destroyed by deliberate British policy, which 
seized numerous endowments (Awqaf) set up for educational purposes, and denied 
jobs to all but those trained in the newly setup British educational systems. The de- 
struction was so thorough that not only the educational institutions but the cultural 
traditions and even the memory of these institutions were lost: 

I lament the loss of the treasures of the traveler. 

I mourn the loss of the sense of loss. Iqbal (free translation) 

The British educational system was explicitly designed to create intermediaries be- 
tween the ruling class and the public; in effect, a method of producing bureaucrats 
and clerks, not scholars. The greatest loss from the introduction of this system has 
been the transformation of the concept of education as a sacred duty which leads 
to spiritual transformation and enlightenment, to education as means of acquiring 



This problem can only be fixed by reverting to our traditions. In her book 
The Making of the Modern University: Intellectual Transformation and the Margin- 
alization of Morality, Harvard Professor Julie Reuben has described how universi- 
ties in the USA abandoned their mission to build character and develop morals, opt- 
ing for a purely technical education. It was not illiterate savages, but graduates of 
the finest educational systems of the West who designed the gas chambers used to 
burn millions of innocent men, women and children in Germany. David Halberstam 
in his book, The Brightest and the Best, has documented how graduates of Yale and 
Harvard ran the Vietnam War on the pattern of an efficient business, with callous 
disregard for human suffering: more than one million civilians died as "collateral 
damage" in the mass bombings and napalming, and atrocities and massacres were 
common. Ph.D. physicists who developed the nuclear bomb denied any responsi- 
bility for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Leading biologists work for salaries to develop 
non-fertile varieties of genetically engineered high yield grains so that multination- 
als can profit from the hunger of humanity. The value of technical expertise is lost 
if the expert will stuff his pockets at the expense of the public at every opportunity. 
There is substantial evidence to show that the greed of highly educated financial 
wizards is responsible for the current global financial crisis. There is a vital need to 
re-learn and revive our heritage in education, which emphasized character, integ- 
rity, honesty and morality in addition to the development of competence in special- 
ized subjects. 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

An Excerpt from Burnt Shadows: A Novel 

By Kamila Shamsie 


Once he is in the cell they unshackle him and instruct him to strip. He takes off the 
grey winter coat with brisk efficiency and then — as they watch, arms folded — his 
movements slow, fear turning his fingers clumsy on belt buckle, shirt buttons. 

They wait until he is completely naked before they gather up his clothes and leave. 
When he is dressed again, he suspects, he will be wearing an orange jumpsuit. 

The cold gleam of the steel bench makes his body shrivel. As long as it's possible, 
he'll stand. 

How did it come to this, he wonders. 


Nagasaki, 9 August 1945 

Later, the one who survives will remember that day as grey, but on the morning 
of 9 August itself both the man from Berlin, Konrad Weiss, and the schoolteacher, 
Hiroko Tanaka, step out of their houses and notice the perfect blueness of the sky, 
into which white smoke blooms from the chimneys of the munitions factories. 

Konrad cannot see the chimneys themselves from his home in Minami- 
yamate, but for months now his thoughts have frequently wandered to the factory 
where Hiroko Tanaka spends her days measuring the thickness of steel with mi- 
crometers, images of classrooms swooping into her thoughts the way memories 
of flight might enter the minds of broken-winged birds. That morning, though, as 
Konrad slides open the doors that form the front and back of his small wooden 
caretaker's house and looks in the direction of the smoke he makes no attempt to 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

imagine the scene unfolding wearily on the factory floor. Hiroko has a day off~a 
holiday, her supervisor called it, though everyone in the factory knows there is no 
steel left to measure. And still so many people in Nagasaki continue to think Japan 
will win the war. Konrad imagines conscripts sent out at night to net the clouds 
and release them in the morning through factory chimneys to create the illusion of 

He steps on to the back porch of the house. Green and brown leaves are 
scattered across the grass of the large property, as though the area is a battlefield in 
which the soldiers of warring armies have lain down, caring for nothing in death 
but proximity. He looks up the slope towards Azalea Manor; in the weeks since the 
Kagawas departed, taking their household staff with them, everything has started 
to look rundown. One of the window shutters is partly ajar; when the wind picks 
up it takes to banging against the sill. He should secure the shutter, he knows, but it 
comforts him to have some sound of activity issuing from the house. 

Azalea Manor. In '38 when he stepped for the first time through its sliding 
doors into a grand room of marble floor and Venetian fireplace it was the photo- 
graphs along the wall that had captured his attention rather than the mad mixture 
of Japanese and European architectural styles: all taken in the grounds of Azalea 
Manor while some party was in progress, Europeans and Japanese mixing uncom- 
plicatedly He had believed the promise of the photographs and felt unaccustomed- 
ly grateful to his English brother- in-law James Burton who had told him weeks 
earlier that he was no longer welcome at the Burton home in Delhi with the words, 
"There's a property in Nagasaki. Belonged to George—an eccentric bachelor uncle 
of mine—who died there a few months ago. Some Jap keeps sending me telegrams 
asking what's to be done with it. Why don't you live there for a while? As long as 
you like." Konrad knew nothing about Nagasaki— except, to its credit, that it was 
not Europe and it was not where James and Use lived — and when he sailed into 
the harbour of the purple- roofed city laid out like an amphitheatre he felt he was 
entering a world of enchantment. Seven years later much of the enchantment re- 
mains — the glassy loveliness of frost flowers in winter, seas of blue azaleas in sum- 
mer, the graceful elegance of the Euro- Japanese buildings along the seafront— but 
war fractures every view. Or closes off the view completely. Those who go walking 
in the hills have been warned against looking down towards the shipyard where the 
battleship Musashi is being built under such strict secrecy that heavy curtains have 
been constructed to block its view from all passersby 

Functional, Hiroko Tanaka thinks, as she stands on the porch of her house 
in Urakami and surveys the terraced slopes, the still morning alive with the whir- 
ring of cicadas. If there were an adjective to best describe how war has changed 



Nagasaki, she decides, that would be it. Everything distilled or distorted into its 
most functional form. She walked past the vegetable patches on the slopes a few 
days ago and saw the earth itself furrowing in mystification: why potatoes where 
once there were azaleas? What prompted this falling-off of love? How to explain 
to the earth that it was more functional as a vegetable patch than a flower garden, 
just as factories were more functional than schools and boys were more functional 
as weapons than as humans. 

An old man walks past with skin so brittle Hiroko thinks of a paper lan- 
tern with the figure of a man drawn on to it. She wonders how she looks to him, 
or to anyone. To Konrad. Just a gaunt figure in the drabbest of clothes like every- 
one else, she guesses, recalling with a smile Konrad's admission that when he first 
saw her—dressed then, as now, in white shirt and grey monpe— he had wanted to 
paint her. Not paint a portrait of her, he added quickly. But the striking contrast 
she formed with the lush green of the Kagawas' well-tended garden across which 
she had walked towards him ten months ago made him wish for buckets of thick, 
vibrant paint to pour on to her, waterfalls of colour cascading from her shoulders 
(rivers of blue down her shirt, pools of orange at her feet, emerald and ruby rivulets 
intersecting along her arms). 

"I wish you had," she said, taking his hand. "I would have seen the craziness 
beneath the veneer much sooner." He slipped his hand out of hers with a glance that 
mixed apology and rebuke. The military police could come upon them at any mo- 

The man with the brittle skin turns to look back at her, touching his own 
face as if trying to locate the young man beneath the wrinkles. He has seen this 
neighbourhood girl—the traitor's daughter— several times in the last few months 
and each time it seems that the hunger they are all inhabiting conspires to make her 
more beautiful: the roundness of her childhood face has melted away completely 
to reveal the exquisiteness of sharply angled cheekbones, a mole resting just atop 
one of them. But somehow she escapes all traces of harshness, particularly when, 
as now, her mouth curves up on one side, and a tiny crease appears just millimetres 
from the edge of the smile, as though marking a boundary which becomes visible 
only if you try to slip past it. The old man shakes his head, aware of the foolishness 
he is exhibiting in staring at the young woman who is entirely unaware of him, but 
grateful, too, for something in the world which can still prompt foolishness in him. 

The metallic cries of the cicadas are upstaged by the sound of the air si- 
ren, as familiar now as the call of insects. The New Bomb! the old man thinks, 
and turns to hurry away to the nearest air-raid shelter, all foolishness forgotten. 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

Hiroko, by contrast, makes a sharp sound of impatience. Already, the day is hot. 
In the crowded air-raid shelters of Urakami it will be unbearable—particularly un- 
der the padded air-raid hoods which she views with scepticism but has to wear if 
she wants to avoid lectures from the Chairman of the Neigh-bourhood Association 
about setting a poor example to the children. It is a false alarm—it is almost always 
a false alarm. The other cities of Japan may have suffered heavily in aerial raids, but 
not Nagasaki. A few weeks ago she repeated to Konrad the received wisdom that 
Nagasaki would be spared all serious damage because it was the most Christian of 
Japan's cities, and Konrad pointed out that there were more Christians in Dresden 
than in Nagasaki. She has started to take the air-raid sirens a little more seriously 
ever since. But really, it will be so hot in the shelter. Why shouldn't she just stay at 
home? It is almost certainly a false alarm. 

Why risk it? Konrad thinks. He retrieves his air-raid hood from inside 
the house and starts to walk swiftly towards the shelter which the Kagawas had 
built in the back garden. Halfway across the garden he stops and looks at the wall 
which divides the property from the vacated lot next door. He hasn't checked on his 
birds, on the other side of the wall, since the last rain shower. Tossing the air-raid 
hood on the grass, he strides to the boundary wall and hoists himself over it, sling- 
ing his body low to reduce the chances of being seen by passers-by or the military 

If anyone were to see him they would think he looked ridiculous— a gan- 
gling European tumbling over a wall, all arms and legs and hooded eyes, with hair 
and close-cropped beard of a colour so unexpected in Nagasaki that Hiroko Tanaka 
had thought, the first time she saw him, that the hair of Europeans rusted rather than 
greyed as they aged. Later she discovered that he was only twenty -nine— eight years 
older than she was. 

The dry grass crackles beneath his feet— he feels as though he is snapping 
the backs of tiny creatures— as he walks across to the giant camphor tree to which 
the birds are fastened, rotating slowly in the faint breeze. It is Hiroko who first re- 
ferred to his purple notebooks as birds— the day they met; the only time she has been 
inside his house. She lifted a notebook off his desk, splayed, and glided it around 
his room. The animation of her touch made him acutely conscious of the lifeless- 
ness of his words: sentences thrown down on paper year after year simply so he 
could pretend there was some purpose to his being here, some excuse for cowering 
in a world from which he felt so separate that nothing in it could ever implicate him. 

But ever since Germany's surrender shifted his status in Nagasaki from 
that of ally into some more ambiguous state which requires the military police to 
watch him closely the lifeless words have become potent enough to send him to 



prison. It says all there is to say about the paranoia of Imperial Japan: notebooks 
of research and observation about the cosmopolitan world that had briefly existed 
within a square mile of where he now lives are evidence of treason. Yoshi Watanabe 
made that clear to him when Germany's surrender started to seem imminent. You 
write about a Nagasaki filled with foreigners. You write about it longingly. That's 
one step away from cheering on an American occupation. And so, the night Ger- 
many surrendered, Konrad constructed a mobile of strong wire and hung each of 
his eight purple-leather notebooks from it. He climbed over the wall to the vacant 
property that adjoined his own, and attached the mobile to a tree. The wind twirled 
the purple-winged birds in the moonlight. 

He remains certain that no one will think to enter the deserted gar-den to 
search for treachery amidst the leaves. The people who would willingly sift through 
every particle of dust in a house for signs of anti-state activity can always be de- 
ceived by a simple act of imagination. 

Ducking beneath a low swooping branch, he reaches out a hand and finds 
the leather books dry and unmarked, though slightly faded. He looks gratefully up 
at the protective canopy of leaves before noticing the white streak on one of the 
leather covers: a real bird's comment on these purple impostors. His face breaks 
into one of those smiles which sometimes fool people into thinking him handsome. 
As he steps away from the tree his attention shifts to the slightly deranged tone 
that has crept into the mournful call of the air-raid siren. Not much point dropping 
a bomb here, Konrad thinks, making his way without haste back to Azalea Man- 
or's air-raid shelter. The former Foreign Settlement where he lives is characterised 
now by absence, and always by waste. In Urakami ten families could live in this 
space! Hiroko said the first time they met, gesturing at Azalea Manor. And she fol- 
lowed it with: The rich! Ridiculous! before turning to ask him what he in-tended to 
pay her for the translation work he was requesting. 

Weeks later, he accused her, laughingly, of driving up her price by playing 
on his guilt. Well, of course, she said, with characteristic frankness; scruples and 
starvation don't go well together. Then she spread her arms wide and scrunched 
her eyes shut as though concentrating hard on conjuring up another world: When 
the war's over, I'll be kind. Opening her eyes, she added quietly, Like my mother. 
He couldn't help thinking her mother would never have approved of starting up 
a romance with a German, or even walking alone with him through the hills of 
Nagasaki. It discomforted him to know his happiness was linked to the death of 
her mother, but then she took his hand and he doubted that anyone, even a revered 
mother, could have told Hiroko Tanaka what to do. Why should rules of conduct be 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

the only things untouched by war, she once asked him? Everything from the past is 

Kicking the air-raid hood on the ground before him he enters the capacious 
shelter built into the slope of Azalea Manor's garden. The air musty and tinged with 
bitterness. Here, the deck of cards with which he and Yoshi Watanabe and Keiko 
Kagawa kept each other distracted, particularly useful during the early days of the 
air-raid sirens when there was more terror than boredom associated with the warn- 
ings; here, the oak chair from which Kagawa-san surveyed the behaviour of his 
neighbours and family and staff during those rare occasions when the air-raid sirens 
found him still at home; here, the hopscotch squares which Konrad had drawn in 
the dust for the younger Kagawa children; here, the hidden bottle of sake which 
the cook thought no one else knew about; here, the other hidden bottle of sake 
which the teenage Kagawas came in search of late at night when the shelter was 
empty. They knew Konrad could see them from his caretaker's house, but while 
their parents might still be uneasy after seven years about quite how to negotiate 
their relationship with the landlord who folded his lanky frame into the tiny house 
at the bottom of the garden the younger Kagawas knew him as an ally and would 
have happily welcomed him into their drinking parties if he had shown any inclina- 
tion to join them. 

Now all the Kagawas cross over to the other side of the road if they see him 
walking towards them. One round of questioning by the military police about the 
suspect loyalties of their landlord was all it had taken to move them out of Azalea 

Konrad sits on Kagawa-san's oak chair, bouncing his air-raid hood on his 
knee. He is so immersed in what was that it takes him a moment to realise that the 
figure which appears in the entrance to the shelter, hood in hand, exists in present 
tense. It is Yoshi Watanabe. 

As if asking for permission to enter a private party, Yoshi says, in English, 
"May I come in? I'll understand if you say no." 

Konrad doesn't respond, but as Yoshi mutters a word of apology and starts 
to walk away, Konrad calls out, "Don't be an idiot, Joshua. How'd you think I'd 
feel if a bomb landed on you?" 

Yoshi steps inside, looping his spectacles over his ears and blinking rapidly. 

"I'm not sure." 

Picking up the deck of cards, he kneels on the ground, shuffling the cards 
and then dealing ten each to himself and the empty space across from him. 

Yoshi Watanabe is the "Jap" whose telegrams James Burton had referred to 
when packing Konrad off to Nagasaki. His grandfather, Peter Fuller of Shropshire, 



had been George Burton's closest friend and neighbour. When Konrad arrived in 
Nagasaki it was Yoshi who was waiting at the harbour to welcome him, Yoshi 
who showed him around Azalea Manor, Yoshi who found him a Japanese tutor, 
Yoshi who produced the Kagawas as though they were a bouquet of flowers hiding 
within his sleeve within hours of hearing Konrad say he'd be far more comfort- 
able living in the cosiness of the caretaker's house, Yoshi who regaled him with 
stories of Nagasaki's turn-of-the-cenrury cosmopolitan world, unique in Japan—its 
English-language newspapers, its International Club, its liaisons and intermarriages 
between Europe an men and Japanese women. And when Konrad said he needed 
someone to translate Japanese letters for the book he was planning to write about 
the cosmopolitan world, it was Yoshi who had introduced him to his nephew's Ger- 
man teacher, Hiroko Tanaka. 

It was one of those friendships which quickly came to seem inevitable, and 
unbreakable. And then in a conversation of less than a minute, it ended. 

They come increasingly to check on me, Konrad. My mother's family name 
was Fuller. You know what that means. I can't give them any other reason to think 
I have divided loyalties. Until the war ends, I'm staying away from all the Western- 
ers in Nagasaki. But only until the war ends. After, after, Konrad, things will be as 

If you had been in Germany, Joshua, you'd say to your Jewish friends: I'm 
sorry I can't hide you in my attic, but come over for dinner when the Nazi govern- 
ment falls. 

"Why are you here?" 

Yoshi looks up from the fan of cards in his hand. 

"I was at home when the sirens started. This is the nearest shelter." At Kon- 
rad's raised eyebrow he adds, "I know. I've been going to the school house's shelter 
these last few weeks. But with this New Bomb ... I didn't want to risk the extra 
minutes out in the open." 

"So there are risks in the world greater than being associated with a Ger- 
man? That's comforting. What New Bomb?" 

Yoshi puts down his cards. 

"You haven't heard? About Hiroshima? Three days ago?" 
"Three days? No one's spoken to me in three days." In the shelter at Uraka- 
mi, Hiroko is packed in so tightly between her neighbours she cannot even raise 
a hand to wipe the sweat damping her hairline. It hasn't been so crowded in here 
since the early days of the air- raid sirens. What could have provoked the Chairman 
of the Neighbourhood Association into such a frenzy about rounding up everyone 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

in his path and ordering them to the shelter? She exhales through her mouth and 
turns her head slightly towards the Chair-man's wife, who responds by turning 
quickly away from Hiroko. It is impossible to know if this is guilt or disdain. 

The Chairman's wife had been a close friend of Hiroko's mother—she re- 
calls the two of them giggling together over the newest edition of Sutairu, in the 
days before war brought an end to the magazine: no place in war time Japan for a 
publication that advised women on the etiquette of wearing underwear with West- 
ern dresses. As she was dying, Hiroko's mother had called the Chairman's wife to 
her bedside with a single request: protect my husband against himself. There was 
even less place in war time Japan for an iconoclastic artist than for magazines about 
modern girls. For a long time, the Chairman's wife had carried out her promise, 
persuading her husband to regard Matsui Tanaka's outbursts against the military 
and the Emperor as a symbol of a husband's mourning that was so profound it had 
unhinged him. But in the spring, Matsui Tanaka had been walking past a neighbour- 
hood house and saw the cherry blossom festooning it to commemorate the sacrifice 
of the fifteen-year-old boy who had died in a kamikaze attack. Without saying a 
word to Hiroko who was walking silently beside him Matsui Tanaka darted for- 
ward, pulling out a book of matches from the pocket of his trousers, and set fire to 
the cherry blossom. 

Seconds later he lay bloodied on the ground, the dead boy's father strug- 
gling against the neighbourhood men who had finally decided to restrain him, and 
Hiroko, bending down over her father, found herself pulled up by the Chairman's 

Copyright © 2009 by Kamila Shamsie. All rights reserved. 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

Escape on Ferozpur Road 

By Saadia Zahra Gardezi 

It is Monday. I try to tell you about my escape. 

My grandmother's house is built on the corner of one of the busiest streets 
of Lahore. Nights that I spend here are often sleepless as she likes to leave lights 
on throughout the house. I try to find simple and effective ways to escape. So I 
stand in my mother's former bedroom and look out her window onto the street. 
It's 3 am. I stare out at the trucks rolling by on Ferozpur Road. I put my hands 
onto the windowpane and feel the vibrations of this grand causeway. For a few 
seconds, my mind hears Lahore's diabetic frequency. 

There's an epidemic in the city. I try to speak of the common Lahori and 
not all countrymen for reasons I don't know. We Lahori 's are addicted to our cel- 
lular phones. The poorer we are, the more phone calls we seem to receive and the 
more we get to hear the happiest Indian songs when we answer the phone. It's not 
about telecom being cheap or frivolous entertainment that peasants and princes 
are glued to cellular chips; it's all about the momentary fragmented escape. So 
call me, my ringtone is Lahore's song. 

It has been four days since anyone has called me. No five actually. It's 3 
am; the new day is here. Since the 27 th of September I have sent a total of eight 
text messages. I also went to a wedding, where I made small talk about clothes, 
the weather and the dreadful sugar crisis gripping the stores of Lahore. Today, I'll 
have tea at noon with some of my mother's friends. I hope they talk about sugar 
as well. My dialogue is well-rehearsed. 

I also need to talk to someone I might never meet; it relaxes me, there is 
no pressure... Hello instant web messenger. How have you been today? What is 
your favorite flavor? Strawberry? Mine too. Such lies. 

It is Monday. I stare at cement carrying trucks at night. It is Tuesday. I lie 
in my driveway at 10 pm and try to see the stars through the November haze that 
grips Lahore and makes it hard to breathe. It is Wednesday. I stare at the progress 
bar of my download manager, watching the download speed change the time left, 
second by second. It is Thursday. I close my economics textbook, wait for 4 am 
to happen when I'm sure everyone's asleep and light up in my bathroom with the 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

exhaust fan on. It is Friday. I come back from a family dinner and try not to think 
about why the boy I like couldn't like me back and think about him for two hours 
while listening to the music we used to listen to: Nusrat Fateh Ali's duet with Ed- 
die Vedder and soundtracks to American shows. It is Saturday. I have my period; 
I have an excuse to mope. I sit in the dark and fantasize about dying, hospitals, 
and anorexia. It is Sunday. My baby sister falls asleep in my bed, and I stare at her 
for an hour, marvelling at how tiny the pores of her skin are. 

Mornings are hard. We eat at night, we dance at night, we sleep at night, 
we meet at night, we stay at home because we are conservative at night, we get 
high at night, we sit with ourselves and get to know ourselves at night. Daytime 
comes, and I take three exams in one day. It was morning when my aunt bled to 
death in the hospital. My cook, bless his ghee-\aden soul, slipped on aparatha 
and broke his hip. It was high noon when my best friend's boyfriend decided to 
drown in his own bath tub. Do you ever remember Lahore being bombed in the 
middle of the night? 

There is a story in here somewhere; I am trying to say what I need to say. 
Lahore, I love you. But let me escape for more than just a few moments at a time. 

Nirala is closing down. Nirala had the best sweets I have ever had. 

He has stopped talking to me; he is never online anymore. He also had 
the best sweets I have ever had. It should be a crime to make a Lahori so used to 
something and then take it away. I replace mithai with chocolate. I'll replace all 
the hes with a husband. It is the wedding season; those who can't choose, wait 
to be chosen. It is most perverse. This is not the story I want to tell. It would be 
self-defeating. Like the cramped supermarkets, the decadence of the drawing 
rooms, the fake accents and millions of rupees spent sending you to Georgetown 
and me to St. Andrews, the Karachite making fun of you, the rude beggars of the 
posh Defense Housing Authority where the military has sold its land to civilians, 
the security barriers off Sherpao bridge, the seven overlapping aazans five times a 
day, the children on the street without shoes, the obnoxious empty towering build- 
ings sprinkled all over you, the men on the street scratching themselves noncha- 
lantly, the bus driver spitting out the window onto your feet, the officers gone for 
Friday prayers while you wait for two hours, the extra tuition fees to make up for 
the inadequacy of schools. Survival in the face of defeat. Yet, Lahore is vibrant, 
historical, rich and blessed by the Sufis. I need to escape to my bathroom to have 
a smoke. I am not a smoker. 

In Lahore for 21 years, I have never touched the Minar-e-Pakistan monu- 
ment. As a child I was awestruck by it, reading about it in Urdu and in Pakistan 
Studies textbooks. Then one day, on the way to Islamabad, I drove past it. It was 
small and out of place—a colonized columnar minaret. It symbolized escape, but 



it was conflicted and trapped. A planned coincidence that it stands there, like a 
concrete dandelion, symbol of our freedom. They soon built a better escape out 
of Lahore, so I don't have to see the monument again. It's a highway that ignores 
everything on the sides. 

So I go blind. I refuse. I stop thinking about mithai at Eid. I turn off the 
Wi-Fi. No one calls anyway. I delete any nostalgia producing music. I stop com- 
paring Minar-e-Pakistan to Data Darbar mosque's magnificence. I stop listening 
to the man with a beard, on nine channels of cable television. I stop listening to 
the 25 anchormen all telling me Lahore is burning. I nod my head at whatever my 
mother says. I am left with myself, and I have no way to get away from me. 

It is Monday again. I try to tell you about my escape. 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

A Half -Rhymed Tale of a Punjabi Girl 

By Rizwan Akhtar 


Since the last harvest 
they dispatched the matchmaker 
to all the neighbouring villages 
to find a groom for their only daughter- 
pampered and poked 
as if a cotton-stuffed doll, 
not knowing that marriage 
is not a mystic's scroll 
they named her after a sufi 
like a tree of popular 
she grew lean 

but her butter-giggling complexion, 
remained clean 
under the blistering sun 
she stood tall 

and plastered cow-dung cakes 
on the courtyard's wall 
fed brown buffalo 
churned it 

with her hennaed hands, 
lips burnt with red colour 
and golden trinkets sang 
at every stroke 
the black braid went mad 
as if preparing her for an epic match 
she rolled Rotis 
but mother rebuked her 
for her poor kitchen skills 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

threatened that she would have a 

pock-marked meddlesome mother-in-law 

would throttle her all 

with the help of a jibing sister-in-law 

but that was a motherly petting 

in rural Punjabi setting 

that smelled of butter and spinach 

and desi ghee 

fried in a clayed pot 

with womanly glee— 

Rabia's father had unsettled nights, 

he opened his till 

flattered the matchmaker for her skill, 

who came wrapped in a white chaddar 

like a ghost from the dead 

brought magnificent details 

of grooms and lands 

halcyons bridal plans 

but nothing went Rabia's way, 

she grew and grew 

ripened like mangoes 

until the juice oozed out 

the stone began to mould, 

grey hair appeared 

she plucked it 

with Punjabi moan, 

her mother cursed their fall 

but consoled all 

and deposited motherly grief 

in her shawl, 

one by one she caressed her dowry 

and sobbed with each golden jewel. 


Twelve winters and summers left, 

old trees doddered 

new bloomed 

the brown buffalo was doomed 



her udders shrunk like berries, 

edgy and alone, 

her bucket boomed, 

she snivelled in the nights, 

when stars made a gallant stride 

the growls of jackals and dogs 

restrained her flights, 

till her school mate 

read her palm again 

said that her groom would be tall 

would twirl his moustache 

give her hundreds buffaloes 

seven sons and many halls 

but nobody called. 


The morning azan echoed, 

she wiped her tears 

and reveries 

with her duppata, 

unrolled the prayer mat 

prayed and prayed, 

until a distant relative came 

revealed the mystical links of her name 

after that, went all the strain 

'A woman not made for marriage' 

she heard the resonance 

and alphabets clogged her brain, 

that began with Alif 

but cryptically 

the Molbi had explained. 

While her playmate 

went through travail for years, 

stripped acacia in the courtyard 

brought her to tears 

but her cow gave two shivering calves 

her father danced 

with grandfatherly laugh, 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

they gave free food, 

boys wearing white caps 

came and recited holy names, 

she fixed their faulty Arabic tastes, 

the father and mother 

became prayer-mates, 

in-between came a change 

the Punjabi wench 

was tamed, 

and outcame another name, 

they called her Bibi 

this brought her new fame, 

beads and chaplets 

from the holy lands 

were brought 

the tales of marriage 

were rolled off 

rural wedding couplets 

were tempered with devotional songs 

the black braid turned into grey mane 

the matchmaker disappeared 

the acacia looked weird 

but to sparrows she threw grains, 

prayed for timely rains 

and greater holy gains. 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

The King Buzzard: Bano Qudsia's Raja Gidh 

Translated from Urdu by Masood A. Raja 

Translator's Note 

Bano Qudsia is, without a doubt, one of the leading figures of post-Partition Urdu 
literature in Pakistan. In her long career, she has published about thirty major works 
of fiction and many of her plays have been produced to critical acclaim for Pakistan 
television. Yet, despite her fame and accomplishments in the Urdu literary circles, 
she remains unknown in the metropolitan cultures both in academia and in the pop- 
ular realm due to lack of English translations of her work,. Published in 1981, Raja 
Gidh, her most important novel, was an instant success and received wide critical 
reception both in India and Pakistan. The purpose of this brief translated excerpt 
is to introduce the English reading audience to the richness and sophistication of 
Bano Qudsia's craft. I do understand that it is almost impossible to transport the 
true beauty of her work and especially her mastery of Urdu idiom in English, but 
this attempt, imperfect as it may be, will be fruitful if it is able to at least introduce 
Qudsia's work to an English reading audience. 

Raja Gidh, like all of Qudsia's work, is a complex novel. The novel's pri- 
mary diegesis concerns the struggles of its main character, Qayum, while its sec- 
ondary diegesis deals with the expulsion of the buzzards from the kingdom of birds. 
Thus, while Qayum goes through various stages of self-seeking in the main plot, 
the secondary plot provides the details of the trial of the King Buzzard. The main 
plot of the novel seeks to unravel the mystery of human madness. Qudsia suggests 
that there are two kinds of human madness: the constructive and the destructive, 
and it is the wisdom to know the difference between the two that makes one fully 
human. The main plot thus, through the interaction of its characters, charts the vari- 
ous reasons for human madness: unrequited love, unending search, fear of death, 
and so on. 

The novel also deals with the question of right and wrong in terms of how 
we earn our living. Qudsia posits the idea that what we feed our children determines 
to some extent what kind of people they turn out to be. So, if the parents earn their 
living through corrupt means, the children end up paying the price. This concept 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

was the main reason that the novel was selected to be one of the texts required for 
the Pakistani civil services exam. Yet another aspect of the novel that garnished a 
lot of criticism is its treatment of human sexuality. For the Urdu readers, Qudsia's 
exploration of human sexuality and its connection with human nature and spirit was 
quite shocking at first, but it is never used gratuitously and ultimately is seen as a 
component to the development of a spiritual self. 

The following excerpts are an attempt by the translator to introduce Qud- 
sia's work. I have tried to stay as close as possible to the original text and have only 
strayed away from it at times to make the reading more accessible to the English 

Part One 

Unrequited Love 

It was an October day — large, fluffy, and white like fresh popcorn. The pre- 
vious few days had been as hot as a kiln, but this particular day was cool, expansive, 
and huge. Some days have the capacity to defy clocks and move at their own pace. 
It was the first day of our Masters class in sociology. The girls sat in the front row. 
She was the best of those Chiilistani gazelles. Professor Suhail looked at her and 
said: "Please introduce yourself." 

We had all been speculating about her name, since the day of registration. 
She rose, rested her hand on her chair like a biker leaning against a motorcycle, and 

"Sir, my name is Seemi Shah; I graduated from Kinniard College with a 
Bachelors in psychology and history." 

These were the first formal introductions. Farzana, Angela, Tayyiba, and 
Kausar had already introduced themselves. The first three came across as the kind 
of girls who had obtained their degrees by cramming pulp notes, and whose gen- 
eral knowledge and academic potential was mostly bookish. But Kausar Habib and 
Seemi Shah were the eyes of our class: glittering, bright, enticing. Kausar Habib, 
however, hesitated after impressing you; she would concede right when she was 
about to conquer. Her body and mind flickered like a light with intermittent power 



But Seemi Shah? 

Well, she was a product of Gulberg's suburbun society. This particular day 
she was clad in tight jeans and a white cotton kurta. A necklace hung from her 
neck, touching her midriff. She had a canvas bag on her shoulder, which probably 
contained some money, lipstick, tissue paper, a diary with certain phone numbers 
and people's birthdays inscribed in it. She probably also had a few expensive pens, 
which were useless for want of ink, so she borrowed others' ball-points to take her 
notes. Her hair was reddish black, and was ablaze on this glorious October day. 
She was sitting immediately in front of me, so close that, had I dared, I could have 
reached out and touched her finely tended hair, but the view of her bodice and her 
bra straps, through her thin kurta, terrified me far more than a loaded gun could 
have ever had. 

Aftab was first in the boy's row to introduce himself after Seemi Shah. He 
stood up slowly, a replica of American film icons, illuminating, rhythmic, warm. He 
spoke in a baritone: "I am Aftab Batt, and, as you already know, I am a graduate of 
this very college." 

Professor Suhail removed his glasses and said: "Well, your classmates 

On this Aftab first looked at the girl's row, then whirled to the boys like a 
discus thrower and said: "I was the president of student union last year; my majors 
were psychology and sociology. If I had not been so in love with myself and the 
movies, I could have probably topped the Bachelors exams. But I am not doleful 
about it. In fact, the girl who got the first position borrowed my notes to study. My 
reputation, however, is thankfully intact through God's grace and my fear of my 

The whole class laughed. Someone yelled: "Self trumpeter! Self trumpet- 

Introductions continued. After five girls and fifteen boys had introduced 
themselves, the classroom air became musty with details of names and personal 
biographies. The class could have ended there, as people had started yawning, but 
professor Suhail rose and picked up a piece of chalk from the table. He drew a large- 
headed, heavily-mustached, thin-torsoed, big-booted figure on the board. Then he 
adorned this figure with square-framed glasses, gave him outstretched beseeching 
arms, and wrote beneath it: Dr. Suhail; I will be teaching you sociology. 

This comic-figure-drawing professor was only about five to six years older 
than us, but had the mastery of a lion trainer with a training whip hidden some- 
where. He never mastered the functional aspects of teaching, but he was a master 
at mental judo. Ideological wrestling was his favorite sport, and he loved opening 
his students' skulls, and was good at closing them immediately if he found them 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

vacant. He was also skillful at making the taciturn ones speak like parrots, while 
silencing the ones who went on incessantly like the radio. He spoke freely and en- 
couraged freedom. Nothing shocked him. He knew a lot more than just sociology; 
in his presence, therefore, the air was free of academic pretensions and the students 
never stereotyped each other. 

After drawing his self-portrait, Professor Suhail, while massaging the back 
of his neck, perched on the edge of the desk and said: "I am not much older or more 
experienced than you, but as I am a Bachelor, books are still my first love. Books, 
so far, have been my main passion. You will certainly ask me some questions the 
answers to which I will not know. Unfortunately, I am too proud to accept anyone 
else's intellectual superiority. I therefore warn you that for as long as you are in my 
class, you should consider me your guru. You may not make much of my knowl- 
edge; it could sometimes be quite superficial. You might know more than me, but 
reminding me of my ignorance will be seriously harmful. It will cause my chest 
to constrict, I will shave off my whiskers, and my belt might become loose. Who 
would want me to suffer from such drastic inferiority complex, raise your hand." 

No one raised a hand except Aftab. 

"Why would you want me to suffer from an inferiority complex, Mr. Aft- 

"Sir, I think you already have an inferiority complex, so our saying so does 
not matter at all," replied Aftab. 

The whole class laughed, including Professor Suhail, who laughed the loud- 

At this point an invisible triangle was drawn across the classroom space: 
Aftab held one point, Seemi the other, and professor Suhail stood at the intercept- 
ing point of their gaze. Energy flowed amongst these three like the current through 
a circuit. 

As the laughter subsided, Professor Suhail continued: "I own an old motor- 
cycle. If any male student needs it, just ask me for the keys. But whosoever does not 
return the bike at the promised time will forfeit the right to use it again. If a female 
student hails me at the bus stop for a lift, I will oblige, but would ask her to get off 
the bike the moment she tries to tell me where to turn. Now you all can report what 
you have to share with others." 

"Pen" said someone form one corner. 

"Bicycle, sometimes." 

"Tissue paper, always." 

"Notes, after the exams." 

"Lipstick," said Seemi Shah. 

"Flying kiss," replied Aftab. 



"Good, very good," said professor Suhail. "Now we know that the GNP of 
our sociology class is quite lofty, we can move on with aplomb. By the way, what 
do you think of the relation between the individual and society? Individual freedom 
is important, but do you think the society can survive if absolved of all its respon- 

The professor's face had suddenly turned as old as his bike: the lecture had 

Professor Suhail was expertly discussing the relationship between the in- 
dividual and society. He often threw the ball in our court, which we returned us- 
ing our best intellectual strokes. Pretty soon faces turned crimson, voices became 
intense, hands started chopping the air, and the girls, who until recently seemed to 
have been busy in a silent prayer, transformed into a group slashing at an ice slab 
with pikes. The conversation left the individual and society and traversed far and 
wide. We compared Sweden, Thailand, Rhodesia, Mexico, and Uganda, sometimes 
contemplating the powerlessness of individuals, or worrying over the plight of vari- 
ous societies. 

Then Seemi Shah asked: "Sir, do you think in an ideal society a person 
would commit suicide?" 

The professor ran his fingers through his thick hair, and then threw the ques- 
tion back at the boys. Having found no useful comment he replied: "In fact, suicide 
is a symptom. If one were to gauge a society with a social barometer, suicide would 
be at its highest degree of pressure. But I am sorry to say, Miss Shah, that there is 
no such research community as yet in which we can perform this experiment. But 
it is believed that societal pressure causes madness, and madness becomes a cause 
of suicide." He, then, went on to expound on Durkheim for quite some time. 

We were all at an age when one develops a romantic and spiritual fondness 
for suicide. We argued about various causes of suicide: economic, social, individ- 
ual, personal, and essential. As suicide was the effect and not the cause, the con- 
versation soon shifted to mental ailments and insanity. We all agreed that insanity 
was the real cause of suicide; it was madness that impelled humans to take that last 
drastic step. 

Angela had been silent throughout the discussion, while Farzana, Tayyiba, 
and Kausar, who had been previously arguing vehemently with Professor Suhail, 
went suddenly mute when the discussion turned to the cause instead of the effect. 

Professor Suhail concluded: "You all have clearly understood the relation- 
ship between the individual and the society and have drawn quite apt conclusions. 
Ms. Farazana is right in suggesting that when the noose of society becomes overly 
tight around the individual's neck, the individual takes the tragic step of ending life 
before the time of natural death. Kausar has explained the reasons for suicide with 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

the freshness of a true discovery. But now I invite you to contemplate beyond the 
act of suicide, which you all agree is the ultimate outcome of madness. Think about 
this aspect, not the suicide itself, but about madness; not the effect, but the cause. 
What is the real cause of madness? Remember, if madness is so baffling, then its 
cause must be even more extraordinary." 

Now, the boys jumped into the fray. 

One suggested: "There can be two reasons for madness: functional, caused 
by a birth defect, and psychological." 

"Look deeply for any reasons besides this," said Professor Suhail. 

Aftab had not said a word until then. This Kashmiri boy had remained seat- 
ed like a decorated birthday gift in its white wrappings. We learned later that when 
it came to academic discussions, he never wasted words: where a smile sufficed, 
he would avoid using a word, and if a word was enough he would not waste a sen- 
tence, and he preferred brevity over prolixity. He usually spoke in points. He would 
count his responses on his fingers, one, two, three. He rarely crossed number three; 
but what he said this day was probably his longest articulation during his entire 
Masters career. 

He rose and stretched his hands outwards like a cross. His arms were cov- 
ered with hair, like thick golden grass. The light from the window struck his brown 
eyes and made them sparkle like glittering honey. He looked like an athlete carry- 
ing the Olympic torch: beautiful, pure, hallowed. It was at this moment that Seemi 
made the mistake of looking at him, and was driven mad. 

"Madness is caused by unfulfilled desires, sir," he said. "These desires," he 
continued "are caused by the social taboos present in every culture. In the cultures 
where one can't marry one's cousins, the unrequited love of one's cousin becomes 
the cause of insanity." 

"Thank you for borrowing from Freud," Seemi slashed at him in her scis- 
sor-like English. 

"Madam, I have not borrowed this from the Repression Theory; I am speak- 
ing of Mir Taqi Mir's madness, Farhad's madness. Professor Suhail exposed us to 
one aspect of madness: suicide and death. I am speaking of the other side of lunacy; 
the kind of madness that is divine, sacred; the kind of madness that drives one to 
conquer Mount Everest, or dig a canal of milk 1 ." 

"Sit down Farhad sahib," yelled a boy from one corner. 

Aftab gave him a fiery look and sat down. 

1 This is a reference to the Persian love poem of "Shireen and Farhad" in which 
Farhad is given the impossible task of digging a canal and then filling it with milk 
in order for him to be able to court Shireen. 



"That's a point," said Professor Suhail, his eyes suddenly luminous. "So, 
we have reached a conclusion" he continued, "that madness has two kinds, positive 
and negative. Good, very good. Now, your assignment for this month is to share 
with me at least one reason for human madness. This reason cannot only be biologi- 
cal, or environmental; it should be completely innovative; it could be some spiritual 
or mystical idea, but new. The one who comes up with the most insane answer will 
get the most points." 

The class was in turmoil. 

"Madness is caused by only one thing: environment, environment . . ." said 
someone from a corner. 

"No, its biological . . ." yelled another. 

"Repression, sir . . ." 

"Agree or disagree, but madness is caused by only one thing: Ishq-e-la- 
haasil! Unrequited love, unrequited love, unrequited love," shouted Aftab, while 
standing on his chair. 

"Order! Order," roared Professor Suhail. "Friends, my pay increment is at 
stake here; if you make such a racket, someone will report me to the chancellor and 
I will be posted to Muzaffargarh." 

The discussion soon became a rudderless ship. One student talked about 
group marriages and use of hashish, then someone mentioned the western moral 
decay and the race problem. Everything became worth a shot: the North-African 
refugee problem in Sweden, Red Indians and their shamans, colonialism and the 
problems of democracy, Japan's industrial excellence, the ever unraveling Russian 
communism etc., etc. But Seemi Shah was speechless — she had been vanquished 
by Aftab 's idea of unrequited love. 

She was a flower of Gulberg; she had studied at Convent schools. In her 
free time she enjoyed Western music, read Newsweek and Time, watched American 
TV shows. Her wardrobe included only a few Shalwar-Kurtas; for her looks, she 
relied on shampoo, hair spray, colognes, and perfumes. She had never had to wash 
herself using a mug and a bucket of water; this back-brush-wielding, shower-using 
daughter of Gulberg was smitten by the inner-city Kashmiri boy, exactly when he 
was busy announcing: "Ishq-e-lahaasil; unrequited love! Unrequited love!" 

They had previously exchanged some surreptitious looks. But during this 
third period, their eyes first became filled with wonder, and then with recognition 
and finally with understanding. After the class, they both rose in a trance, and, as 
if under a spell, exited the classroom side by side. Outside, Seemi quietly mounted 
Aftab's motorcycle. Aftab never raised an eyebrow. Like in a movie scene, they 
both slowly faded out on the road. 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

Three people jolted my being on this day. Aftab, with his Hellenic bearing, 
was one of them. If he had not been in the class, then probably I could have been the 
most popular in the class. This induced a special jealousy and ill-will in my heart 
for him. 

The second shock came from Professor Suhail. Previously, I had been ac- 
customed to professors who taught from textbook notes. They all had been teach- 
ing from these notes from the beginning of their careers, and would probably retire 
with the same knowledge; there was no chance of their intellectual growth. They 
were stuck with the ideas they had started with, and there wasn't much chance for 

In high school, I was in the care of Master Ghulam Rasul. His beard, his 
booming voice, and his table were immutable. He carried a cane that he placed on 
the table the moment he entered the class. His long beard shone with hair coloring. 
He used to curse us the same way the policemen addressed the felons. The volume 
control in his voce was broken, so he always used the highest notes. As we could 
not remove his staff, we took our revenge on the table instead. We had carved hun- 
dred of curses on the four legs of the table with our compasses. But, despite our 
abuse, the table never left the classroom. Master Gulam Rasul was quite immov- 
able, too. If he declared that the War of Independence had happened in 1647 CE, 
then so it was, and no reference to venerable history books could change his mind. 
Because of his influence, his students were mostly cowards, mean, and unkind to 
the elderly. He could not accept any criticism of the Mughal kings. All of them, 
from Babar to Bahadur Shah Zafar, were his heroes. Any criticisms of the Mughals 
incensed him, and as he could not convince us with his arguments, he drowned us 
out with his loud, booming voice. 

In ninth grade I chanced upon Tnzk-e-Jahangiri . I shared the details of the book 
with my class-mates frequently. Knowing master Ghulam Rasul's veneration of 
the Mughals, but being young and arrogant, and wanting to impress my classmates 
further, I decided to ask a question. 
"Master Jee," I said, "have you read Tnzk-e-JahangiriT 

"I read it when you still pissed in your pants. Sit down and don't try to im- 
press us with your knowledge!" he replied. 

"Master Jee," I ventured again. 


"There are events recorded in the book suggesting that Jahangir wasn't all 
that compassionate." 

Master Ghulam Rasul smashed his chalk on the table. 



"He married Noor Jehan. Isn't that compassion? Why would a king marry a 
divorcee? Was there any dearth of virgins? Tell me if this was compassion or not?" 
He yelled. 

Master and I had two different ways of measuring compassion. 

"Master Jee, he had one criminal immured in a goat skin and then had the 
skin sewed shut," I said. 

"Well he was a criminal, not an innocent. Punishment is always for good. 
Now, when I punish you, does it benefit me or you? Punishments are for the good 
of the felon," he roared. 

"But Master Jee, how could the one who got sewn up in a goat-skin benefit 
from the punishment?" 

"Sit down! You argue like your older brother. We will talk about Jahangir 
the Great when you grow a mustache," he concluded. 

He always added, like in Alexander the Great, "the Great" to every Mughal 
king's name, and as I was always quite shy about my non-existent mustache, I sat 
down immediately. But that first attempt at showing off my knowledge started a 
rebellion in my heart. 

That most teachers are usually quite conventional in their ideas is the great- 
est misfortune of the teaching profession. The teachers love discipline, middle class 
values, and hardworking students. They teach about unusual people and their ac- 
complishments, people who were nonconformists. Hence, being common them- 
selves, the teachers teach about people whose level of thought they themselves 
don't possess. They thrive in making children normal, common, while their educa- 
tional materials incite the students to be unusual, uncommon. The dropouts do not 
belong in the school, but they are always lectured about the people who themselves 
were school dropouts. Every Ghulam Rasul tries to teach normatively to students 
using works about the geniuses of history, and this is the great tragedy of educa- 
tion: the works of special people in the hands of the ordinary. It was because of this 
disparity in our educational system that I could never grow tall inside, even though 
outwardly I had grown taller. Inside, I was like a Bonsai tree, centuries old, yet a 

I was careful to the point of being impractical. It was all right on an intel- 
lectual level, but in real life I was like a lost dog. I needed a guru who could stretch 
me to make me as tall as him, but I ran into yet another Master Ghulam Rasul after 
high school. 

I met him during the first year of college. Professor Tanvir always smoked 
imported cigarettes, dressed in spotless three-piece suits, and wore thick power 
glasses. He was quite erudite, and I was impressed by the depth of his learning. As 
my early experience was rural, I preferred the feudal system, but he was an ardent 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

socialist. Theoretically, he attributed all social ills to the uneven distribution of 
wealth. I quite took to him during my first year, but he turned out to be yet another 
Master Ghulam Rasul. He was only an academic socialist. His lifestyle was com- 
pletely feudal, and he could not accept any criticism of his views or his lifestyle. 

If any student pointed out a disparity in his views and his real life, he denied 
them the same freedom of speech that he idealized. It was during the week before 
the final BA exams, when he was proving his open-mindedness by allowing us to 
smoke in class, that I asked him a question. 

"Sir, there is something I wanted to ask." 

"Oh, keep smoking, we are friends, and ask your question" he said. 

"Sir, you tell us every day that capitalism is the root cause of Third World 
poverty, then why don't you sell your car and buy a cheap motorcycle?" I asked. I 
was young then and did not know of the incongruity in people's words and deeds. 

Professor Tanvir's face turned red. Restraining his anger he said: "This is a 
totally personal question, sit down. You rural folks lack manners; idiot, if I sell my 
car then how will I get to college?" 

I felt slighted, and could not let go of the discussion. So just to annoy him 
further, I said: "On a bicycle, sir, just like all the other people." 

"This is the space age, you idiot; time is valuable and you want me to revert 
to a bike?" 

"But sir, China is in the space age, too, but people there . . ." 

"You want an intellectual to ride a bike, while the businessmen and mill 
owners and the nouveau riche travel in their shiny cars? We have carved out a place 
in this society after years of hard work and struggle and you want us to give it up!" 
said Professor Tanvir. 

"But sir, according to your beliefs society should be classless, so there is no 
fear of losing one's place." 

Now the professor was foaming at his mouth and he flailed his arms, shout- 
ing, "Sit down, sit down. A frog's mind cannot contain Marx's ideas. First learn 
how to tie your necktie, then we will talk about these things." 

I hid my necktie behind my palm and sat down. Professor Tanvir did not 
know how to open minds; he was incapable of providing the kind of education that 
could reduce the difference between words and deeds. 

But Professor Suhail wasn't like an immutable sealed parchment. He was 
like a slate: you could write, erase, and write again. I was surprised at his love of 
books; books had been my passion too for a long time. But the books had driven me 
away from the lighter side of life; I had learned that those who loved books forgot 
about the lighter aspects of life, and became serious priests in the habit of hitting 
others with the staff of their learned ideas. 



Professor Suahil was different and interesting. All my life had been scarred 
by Ghulam Rasuls, so I was fascinated by this childlike, simple, and well humored 
professor. The introductory lesson made me disillusioned about my earlier educa- 
tion. I got bored with Buddha's Dhamphada and modern parapsychology. I wished 
to be a simple slate, so that I could erase what had been inscribed on it earlier to 
write Professor Suhail's assignments with a new insight, according to his expec- 
tations. Even though I had not yet started his assignment, I was already afraid of 
disappointing him. 

After succumbing to Aftab's splendor and Professor Suhail's learning, my 
third genuflection was to Seemi Shah. It was probably a victory of urban culture 
over the rural. I had never before seen such a complete urban girl. She transported 
me to the world of advertisements, on plane fights through clouds. Her accent, 
dress, manners, and smell all revealed that she was more refined. Now, my pride 
incited me to break her and drag her to my rural home where she would become 
a complete village girl. So that her days and nights will be spent, like my mother, 
churning milk, plying the spinning wheel, and cooking vegetables in large earthen 
pots. Maybe, every man desires to force a woman from her own chosen path to a 
course of his choosing. 

But Aftab had already left with Seemi on his motorcycle. At that very instant, he 
was probably giving her, in Urdu, her first lecture about the history of inner city 

Some people say that the region of Potohar, made up of arid, second rate hills the 
natives call Pabbian, was once a puissant blue ocean. Then a Yogi, who mediated 
upon its beaches for three hundred years, taught the ocean to hide. Each wave re- 
turned back to the Arabian sea, singing its hymn, malagan,palagan, laying bare the 
submerged barren hills. The geological aspects of these hills still reflect the water 
marks of the ancient ocean. 

Some others say that Potohar was once a thick jungle. The trees in this jungle were 
so tall and thickly intertwined that even the streams running through it got lost, and 
the sun-rays never reached to create multicolored whirlpools in their waters. The 
birds roamed this jungle freely, and even the night-owls could see during the day. 
Then one night a haunting wind descended from the moon and devastated the forest 
and dried up the streams. This forest thrived centuries ago in the first age of human 
civilization, a civilization that had all the knowledge that we now possess. 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

It was in this first age that the humans traveled to Mars and Jupiter, and in- 
vented atomic bombs. When the bowstring of civilization was stretched to its limit, 
the humans destroyed God's world with their bombs and this forest became a waste 

This story is of the specific time from the first age of human civilization 
when humans had not yet used their bombs. There was great fear amongst the 
dwelling places of animals about this new human innovation. Hence, a conference 
of the birds was called in the jungle. So many birds came to attend this conference 
that there wasn't enough room for them to perch. 

From Hind Sind came the gray-winged birds in droves. From the hills of 
Khasi came the red-tailed bulbul and the emerald green pigeon whose orange under- 
wings dazzled the eyes of the beholder. The Bajanga from Katmandu and the eagles 
from Tibet arrived, having camped several times during their long flight. Not only 
the African partridges, moor-hens and nightingales made their way to the meeting, 
but even the birds of prey suspended their activities and flew from America and 
Australia to the meeting place. Even the Shikra, Baz, and eagles, residents of Cen- 
tral Asia and Russian Turkistan, reached the meeting in the company of the birds 
of Pamir. The crow, Mynah, quails, woodpeckers, chakoors, and sparrows were 
natives and their collective votes counted, but their individual opinions were not 
considered worthy, while the hook-billed, high-flying birds pranced around like the 
white races. From the basin of River Gagahr and Chatranji came the latoras, chan- 
dols, and goghais flying magnificently in battle formations like the fighter planes. 
The gold-backs, neilkanths and hud-huds chose the tree stumps as their perches. 
The doves, cuckoos, and chandols were not much interested in the conference, for 
them it did not matter much if the humans destroyed the world, and had come just 
to gossip with the denizens of the forest, but were shocked to learn the seriousness 
of the situation. 

A few days before the conference, the air was filled with the disparate opin- 
ions of the birds. Everyone was waiting for the President, without whom the meet- 
ing could not commence. The reconnaissance party returned from Mount Everest, 
reporting that they had combed all the mountains — Dhulidar, Nangaparbat, K2, 
Kanchnaga — but had found no signs of Huma. It was assumed that the world was 
awaiting the arrival of some powerful king, and Huma was on a VIP tour to help the 
forces of the universe to choose this king. This supposed tour also became a subject 
of gossip amongst the birds. Some carnivore birds thought that the end of the world 
was near, and that it would be brought by human hands. They thought the world 
needed a pure being to save it from the disaster, and Huma, instead of choosing the 
king, was searching for this Messiah. Some other birds thought that Huma had be- 
come mystical minded, and having announced the vice- regency of man to humans, 



had now given up and become a recluse, for every caliph he chose had become a 
tyrant instead. Huma, thus, had lost hope in humanity and had vowed not to fly over 
human heads again. 

The Owl Jati, who never interfered in others business, did not agree with 
this opinion. They thought that Huma, because of his narcissistic delusions, had 
never cared about God's will, and he could only guess desires of a few a few hu- 
mans. Therefore, whosoever Huma chose as the king became a downfall for his 
people. The night owls were more interested in observation than speech, and did 
not express much and waited patiently for Mr. President's arrival. 

Even though the Owl Jati leaders had conversed about this within their in- 
ner circles, the crows, the inquisitive bastards — an art they had learned from hu- 
mans — got wind of it. The round eyed owls' secret, thus, was spread to the whole 
jungle, and the whole jungle resonated with rumors. The crows had always consid- 
ered Huma a circus clown who had been eternally stubborn and often wrong. Thus 
when Huma remained absent for a long time, the birds got tired of waiting. The 
crows were rightly incensed, for they had long lost the habit of residing in the for- 
est; they were, rather, more accustomed to sitting on the house walls eavesdropping 
on housewives, and this absence of human contact was troubling them. 
So every now and then, a few wise, cunning, and cowardly crows would surround 
the smaller birds and incite them thusly : "Huma is an eternal fool who keeps choos- 
ing the kings on the earth. Brothers, every human is a king, whether he sleeps in the 
manger or on a throne. Huma is stupid and does not understand that every human 
considers himself the Best-of-all-Beings; those who wear the crown of pride, what 
need there is to make them kings." 

The Peacocks, with their tails spread, kept rehearsing the welcome dance 
all over the jungle: they were happy for being part of the reception committee. The 
crows used a different language with the peacocks. "Huma is a different matter; 
only he will suit the Presidential chair; nothing can be done without Huma as the 

The empty Presidential chair prompted a search for an alternate to Huma. 
It was discovered that the mountain from where the ocean had receded — where 
one could still find oysters shells, snails, scorpions, fish skeletons, and the remains 
of other sea creatures — was the abode of a Simurgh. No one knew of his exact 
age. Some birds insisted that he had been a refugee on Baba Noah's arch. Others 
speculated that he had always lived in the sacred areas — the ones that the Israeli's 
are now trying to annex — to derive energy from the mosque of Aqsa. The old sea 
turtles insisted that the Simurgh had lived in the Mediterranean desert, which later 
was filled with the waters of the Mediterranean ocean. 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

The Simurgh spent the whole night gazing at the moon to absorb the lunar 
energy, and spent his days sunbathing in the desert. The dove opined that it was 
because of Simurgh's powers that Potohar became a jungle: if the lunar energy had 
not appeared in the Simurg, not even a single wave of water would have receded 
from Potohar. It was the magnetic energy of lunar power that had forced the waters 
to rise and fall back into the Arabian sea. 

The reclusive Simurg hated the noise, and the company of the denizens of 
the forest distressed him. He was accustomed to living in the uninhabited lands 
and eating only what was absolutely necessary to sustain life. But the search party 
finally found him and having beseeched him in the name of his experience, intelli- 
gence, and knowledge convinced him to preside at the conference. Simurgh arrived 
during the later part of a full moon night. A few moments before his arrival, the sky 
was shaken with tree-bending winds. The storm-loving birds rose up to reach the 
skies, while the timid ones hung helplessly with the tree branches. The lightening 
struck and the land trembled; the bolts of lightning transformed the night into day. 
Just as the birds were stuck dumb by the ear-shattering noise of thunder and lighten- 
ing, Simurgh alighted on the fourteen century old banyan tree. The storm subsided 
as soon as he took his place on the tree. The forest went quiet and the banyan tree 
glowed in fluorescent light. As soon as the Simurg flapped his wings to accept his 
new responsibility, the jungle rumbled with a noise like that of the thundering can- 
nons, and the birds feared the coming of an earthquake. 

"Why have you called such a huge conference?" asked the Simurgh. 

An aggressive Kite left her group and moved briskly forward to answer the 
question. "Master, we have a serious and complex problem. As you might have 
noticed, the human of today has become civilized for the first time. He has, with 
his inventive knowledge, travelled to Mars and Jupiter, but there is also something 
in human instinct that is a cause of his destruction — madness. It is because of this 
madness that he has created weapons that can destroy the earth in minutes along 
with all who live on this sphere. O King of the Birds, we have noticed that some of 
the birds are also becoming subjects of this madness. We fear that their madness, 
well, could ultimately become destruction of the world of birds." 

"Who is mad, who is mad?" asked all the birds. 

The Kite continued "We don't care about the details, Master . . . but no bird 
has ever gone mad until now. If the birds start going insane like the jackals and the 
foxes, then what will happen to the life in the jungle ... the main point is that this 
madness, like that of the humans, might destroy the world of the birds." 

"Who amongst us is mad? Tell, tell!" cried all the birds. 

"Friends," the Kite continued, "we don't want to blame anyone, but these 
days the Gidh Jati has been known to do strange things. For years we have no- 



ticed that they eat to the fullest, vomit, and eat again. And in the moonlit nights, 
they leave the green forests and run in the arid, barren lands like sailboats running 
against the winds." 

All the birds suddenly looked at the vultures, who were sitting with their 
beaks tucked under their wings, like so many amnesiacs. 

The kite hissed again: "They must be punished, Your Honor, or else we, 
who resemble them, would be disgraced because of them." 

Simurg, flicked his fluorescent light thrice as an announcement. The whole 
jungle fell silent. Then he said: "This isn't as simple as you state. First, we need to 
know if the vulture Jati's madness is really of any danger to the bird community; 
Secondly, we must know the real reason for this madness. If it is essential to their 
being, then we are helpless, for then it is between them and their maker. 

The kites were not interested in discussion; they just desired the banishment 
of their vulture look-alikes. The eagles and hawks were troubled at this likeness, 
too, but the kites were hasty and aggressive. The same kite said again, "Master, 
when humans went mad, no one cared about it, and now they are suffering the con- 
sequences of it. If we do not pay attention to this today, then the jungle community 
will vanish from the earth. Our personal grievance is unimportant, we can deal with 
it, but it is also an issue of everyone's survival. Don't you all want to live, to sur- 

The birds were not really interested in a just decision, but the word survival 
caused an uproar. "Expel! Expel! Expel!" they shouted. 

This terrified the dust-colored finches who had until then sat quietly, disin- 

The Surkhab, as the legal advisor said the pacifying words: "Brothers," he 
said "this problem is not as simple as you think. We have all the birds of the world 
here, so let us decide with a majority vote." 

The jungle reverberated with yet another uproar: "Banishment is the pun- 
ishment for madness: Expulsion! Expulsion!" 

A wizened old Kite rose from his group and said: "Master, send them to the 
human world. They are building the bombs that will obliterate all life. When those 
crazies erase their own seed, let the vultures be a part of it!" 

The woodpecker, feeling a surge of compassion, said hesitantly, "Sain, all 
of us birds sometimes visit the human cities, but always return. The humans do im- 
pact us but not permanently. But if we banish the vultures completely to the human 
world then we will be responsible for their sins, for they will certainly learn evil 
from humans like envy and jealousy." 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

The crows interrupted, "where is it written that human company causes 
envy and jealousy. Human is God's vice regent, after all. Such talk does not suit us 

The woodpecker, finding the mynah in his favor looked to her and said, 
"Why don't you say something?" 

Mynah flapped her wings to gain everybody's attention, and said: "The first 
human madness happened when Cain killed Able. The crow saw human helpless- 
ness and alighted from the skies to teach Cain how to hide the body of his brother. 
Look at human pettiness, for they, instead of thanking the crow for his kindness, 
denigrated him and have always tried to enslave the birds with their intelligence. 
And when people of Cain feasted, they slaughtered wild animals, eating the meat 
themselves and throwing the bones everywhere. The dogs and cats, seeing this 
plenty, left their clans and settled in human habitations; they ate their fill and buried 
the rest in the sand, became victims of greed. This is a long story, Master, very long 
. . . humans might be the Best-of-all-the-Beings, but we cannot trust them; their 
company has never been beneficial for birds and animals. 

The parrot, being mynah's rival, interrupted and said: "If human company 
causes madness, and engenders envy, jealousy, and greed, then how come the don- 
key isn't so, even though he is mans' oldest companion?" 

Mynah objected, "Tell me, how have the humans treated the donkey for all 
his loyalty, and kind-heartedness? How much is he burdened by the humans, and 
whenever they need to label someone foolish, they call him a donkey. The humans, 
when they cannot profit form the milk-giving animals, sell them to the butcher. 
Let's not talk about humans, friends, or this discussion will be endless." 

The Kite, alarmed at this turn of the argument, interrupted and said, "It is 
pointless to discuss the profit and loss of the case. Sentence and expel! Sentence 
and expel!" 

The Cuckoo implored, "Think, Justices. The Vulture will never return from 
the land of humans. We have an old relationship with the vultures; they have lived 
here in the same trees with us; how would they reform and rehabilitate in the com- 
pany of men? How will it cure them?" 

"You worry about the cure," interrupted the Kite, "we are worried that this 
madness will infect the whole forest. Then what will we do?" The kites did not care 
about the discussion; they just wanted to hear the sentence. 

But all the birds, having heard the Cuckoo's words, sat musing, with their 
neck outstretched. 

Seeing this, the quick eyed Kite spoke again: "This discussion has enlight- 
ened us partially, but has not allayed our fears completely. We demand that the 
Vulture nation be excommunicated and expelled from the forest. Then, if they want 



to relate with the fishes or the humans, it is up to them; they will not be considered 
a part of the world of birds." 

Upon this, the black stork rose, and while standing on one leg, said: "Its not 
my place to speak in the company of such worthies, but will it be odd to ask the 
vulture to speak?" 

The fluorescent light flickered thrice, and the Simurg asked: "Raja Gidh, 
what say you? Do you admit that you are unlike other birds? Do you suffer from 
fits of madness?" 

Raja Gidh alighted from the tree branches and ambled forward to speak: 
"Yes, Master. On the moonlit nights, I fall off tall, canopied trees. I lose self control. 
I do not recognize my own kin. Then I wander on paths that lead nowhere." 

"Why are you compelled to act like this? No other bird suffers from such 

"He has confessed! Confessed!" yelled the kite group. 

"When the foxes howl in the agony of madness," continued Raja Gidh "we 
loose ourselves, Master ... we do not understand this madness. We know we are 
guilty, but what causes this, we do not know. We will be thankful if someone could 
enlighten us about it." 

Upon this the Najdi bulbul spoke, "Friends, I am an inhabitant of deserts, 
my throat is imbued with the songs of the caravans, and my chest is crimson with 
the blood of human love. I have witnessed humans for centuries, and I can tell you 
that the cause of Vulture's madness can be traced to human insanity. Human mad- 
ness resides in an energy, which if stemmed can shatter the self to pieces." 

Owl, the most learned of all the birds, was suddenly attentive: "What kind 
of energy? Mechanical energy, atomic energy, electrical energy, potential or kinetic 
energy, sound or light energy?" 

The Bulbul swelled her red chest and said, "All these energies combined 
make the human power." 

Everyone looked at the Bulbul with wide-eyed wonder. 

"Human," the Bulbul continued "is driven mad because of this very 
energy. Understand my worthies, when the energy is contained, it breaks the very 
vessel in which it is trapped." 

"How do you know? How? How?" yelled the birds. 

"I am a resident of Najd. When my Sheikh traveled for trade, he carried me 
with him in a golden cage. Once, a sanyasi from Benaris revealed to me the true 
cause of human madness." 

"Tell! Reveal the sealed secret!" 

"The human power lies in sexual energy; unlike animals and the birds, hu- 
mans do not use this sexual energy for procreation alone. They rather, keep this 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

dark steed of energy restrained. This powerful restrained steed of energy helps them 
in traversing the long distance of the physical and the metaphysical worlds. Those 
who can control this wild steed attain absolute wisdom, but if they sit loosely in the 
saddle, then they fall and are called insane. The knowledge of the physical world 
results in poetry, painting, music and art. But if the emphasis is metaphysical, and 
the energy strong, then the humans touch the apex of awareness. If this power is 
withdrawn, they commit suicide. If the love is unrequited, then the horse drags the 
rider and humans become insane. People tie them up, stone them for their madness. 
This unrequited love is the true cause of human madness!" 

The phosphorous light flickered thrice, and the Simurhg asked: "But what 
has human madness got to do with the Gidh Jati?" 

The Bulbul replied, "Knowledge always travels from known to the un- 
known. Can't we extrapolate from our knowledge of the human madness to suggest 
that Raja Gidh probably possess the same power and energy?" 

"You mean the energy of unrequited love?" asked the Surkhab. 

"Yes, somehow, he seems to have gained the same power." 

"Under the oath of God-given sustenance, tell us if you posses this energy?" 
asked the Simurgh. 

Raja Gidh fluttered his wings and said: "Master, I need time; I am not aware 
of this secret. If you grant me some time, I can consult with my brethren and then 
apprise you of what we discover." 

Upon this, the Simurg extinguished the phosphate lamp. The clouds thun- 
dered and lightning flashed, the jungle turned fluorescent white. The meeting was 
adjourned till the next gathering. The birds started leaving in small groups, and the 
jungle faded out amidst the whispering hisses of snakes. 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

Zaheer Kashmiri: My Life, My Art 1 
Translated by Muhammad Umar Memon 

Some one hundred twenty-five years ago our family branch moved beyond Srina- 
gar, spread across the district of Taran Taaran, and distinguished itself in religious 
knowledge and excellence. Up until India's partition, great religious festivals were 
held at the tombs of two of our family elders at Plasor and Galwali in which ad- 
herents of all religions and sects participated freely. Religious devoutness was the 
chief hallmark of our family. From very early on children were expected to per- 
form the ritual prayers, observe the fast and memorize Qur'anic verses. Practically 
every discussion that took place around the family hearth submitted to traditional 
authority. Regardless of the complexity of the issue under discussion, the minute a 
Qur'anic verse or a saying of some eminent religious figure was cited, it effectively 
ended the discussion, causing everyone to bow his or her head in obeisance. 

I was born in this traditional atmosphere. Fear of rational and logical meth- 
ods of argument was instilled in me; I was instructed to seek guidance for life from 
age-old traditions and dicta instead. 

When I was ten or eleven years old my mother died. My father remarried. 
My stepmother was not from our family. Although sensible and fair-minded, she 
was not without bias: she would snitch about my smallest misdeeds to my father 
who, being an irascible and overly oppressive man, would then subject me to an 
unrelenting dressing down. I was beaten quite a few times, and as many times kept 
hungry. Once, overwhelmed by his anger, I even attempted to throw myself from 
the roof in order to end my life, and once I was even banished from the house. In 
short, I spent a good part of my childhood in a veritable "Reign of Terror," my mind 
numbed from excessive tyranny and dread. 

My father was initially a constable in the Central Investigation Department 
but later was promoted to Head Constable. His monthly salary was forty rupees. 
Consequently, during my early education I experienced great hardship and poverty. 
Except on festival days and fairs, I was always poorly dressed. I usually bought 
used books that disintegrated in a few weeks, and I never got more than two or 
three paisas a day for spending money. This contrasted oppressively with my well- 

1 "Meri Zindagi, Mera Fann," from Saver a No. 9 (1951 or 1952), 52-65. 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

off classmates: their books, their satchels, their clothes, their faces— all exuded an 
effulgent freshness, and their snacks were always tasty and varied. They got much 
more spending money than I did. Even the teachers experienced something of an 
inferiority attack when they tested them regarding the lessons. 

Ignorance, poverty and oppression totally paralyzed my life clear up to high 
school. I felt a strange suffocation and hemmed in by relentless fear, death and a 
lack of confidence, none of which I had the strength to fight. Finally, when I started 
to write poetry, I felt as though I had found my escape. To avoid the blows admin- 
istered by external conditions, I took refuge in composing lyrical verse, and to keep 
safe from the bitter truths of life I started to weave dream-webs around myself. 

Back then I didn't imagine that life could be profound or complex. I was 
still far removed from experiencing either life or the world rationally. My raw, na- 
ive emotions lacked the reflection that comes with age and study. I composed on 
traditional romantic themes in very light, easy meters and declaimed my poems in 
local musha'iras. 

The composition of those days was inescapably informed by my own past 
and the tragic conditions around me. Naturally the broken-hearted, leisure-seeking 
protagonist in my poems was none other than myself. Every single line I wrote 
reflected more or less the feelings of a passive personality. I was looking for the 
ecstasy of death in the tribulations of earthly love. I had no future. My early work 
reflects the mental state of a young poet born into an ordinary middle-class family 
who was oppressed at home and forced to memorize exhausted mantras about the 
undisputed authority of tradition and the authenticity of time-honored ways so that 
he might avoid being impudent or rebellious. 

The twelfth grade at school was an historic year in my life. I was sitting in 
Marcido Hall smoking when a young Sikh man entered, came over to me and said 
in an exceedingly friendly manner, "Comrade! " I was quite taken aback. Until then 
I had only read the word "Comrade" in books and had also heard that it always 
spelled some great "danger," but I'd never come across a real, authentic comrade 
like this. With some difficulty, I swallowed the word the young man had thrown at 
me and said, "Welcome Sardar Sahib. What brings you here?" 

In a whisper he informed me that he was a student at Khalisa College and 
that he and a group of students from other colleges had come to have a word with 
me. He asked me to go with him to the hall of Pearl Talkies because his other com- 
panions were waiting for me there. I accompanied him and found about ten students 
from different colleges waiting, a couple of them even known to me. During our 
conversation I couldn't escape the feeling that these young men all appeared to be 
quite "rebellious." They were members of the Student Federation (SF). This was 
the same Federation whose members were recently fired upon by order of the Con- 



gress government of U.P. They wanted me to set up a chapter of the Federation in 
my own college. Unable to withstand the onslaught of these shrill and "dangerous 
students," I agreed just to get them off my back. 

Afterwards I met them a number of times. They belonged to all religions, 
but what was surprising to me was that during our discussions the Hindu students 
never dragged in the Vedas to clinch an argument, the Muslims didn't seek author- 
ity or evidence from Qur'anic verses, and the Christians never brought in their 
Bible. Debates were always logical and weighty. In spite of belonging to different 
religions, they appeared very like-minded. They told me their struggle was not just 
directed against the wrong kind of traditionalism, it was also against oppression 
and poverty. Their conversation gave me the pleasant feeling that in their company 
I might be able to finally rid myself of the tradition-worship of my elders, the op- 
pression of my parents, and even to escape the chronic poverty of my family. As I 
socialized with them I gradually came to realize that the struggle of the SF was no 
ordinary struggle, it was poised to bring about a revolution not just in my home, but 
in every home throughout the country. 

Around the same time, chapters of the Progressive Writers' Association 
(PWA) were beginning to be established in every nook and corner of India. The 
SF told me that those who ran this newly created Association were also members 
of their group. So I, who had by now been fully transmogrified into a veritable 
Oedipus, flung all thought of danger to the wind and joined that Association in my 
search for the truth. 

I constantly improved my understanding of societal and imperialistic prob- 
lems by attending the local study circle of the SF. And not just that, I also learned a 
great deal about the history of the Indian Congress and the nature of British impe- 
rialism. I attended lectures about the communist (socialist) struggle worldwide and 
came to know about the revolutionary achievements of trade unions and peasant 
councils. This thought-provoking education gave me both self-confidence and the 
impetus to change adverse conditions. All this enabled me for the first time to ap- 
preciate life as a tangible reality. 

When I examined the creative work of the Progressive Writers closely I 
felt that it was pervaded by a spirit similar to the one that characterized most of the 
discussions of the FS study circles. Regret set in over my previous literary efforts 
and I often thought that everything I had produced up until then was a product of 
ignorance. It was very remote from life and its realities and bore no resemblance 
to the real problems of humankind. As a result, I slowly began to press my fa- 
miliarity with new ideas and concepts into literary molds. This turned out to be a 
particularly formidable undertaking. It was not easy to veer from the conventions 
of classical Persian poetry and the practice of Urdu ghazal poets to find suitable 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

stylistic paradigms for the new content. Making the new concepts conform to old 
literary criteria was a mind-wrenching exercise. If I adhered to my avowed goal, the 
standard slipped; if I endeavored to maintain the standard, the thought became less 
scientific. So while one poem read like a raw, untamed expression of patriotism, 
the other made even new ideas sound old because of an overpowering regard for 
conventional style. 

Although I had a general understanding of "progressivism" at the time, I 
was still nowhere close to an appreciation of the balance of its dialectical complexi- 
ties. Luckily Mulk Raj Anand, who was then traveling the country to promote the 
Association, also visited us. In one of our meetings, I discussed with him at length 
the nature and essence of "progressivism." The discussion helped greatly to clarify 
the meaning of the word for me. I understood that "progressivism" was not some- 
thing that had relevance for a particular place and time. On the contrary, it was 
all-inclusive and general. First of all, it stood for human progress and had, and con- 
tinues to have even now, a relationship with every newly emergent, upright power 
in the world. A literature that reflects upright and beneficial forces— and thereby 
confers upon them permanent eminence— that prophesies a better future and claims 
to bring it closer is in essence "progressive." 

I had of course understood that progressive literature was concerned first 
and foremost with human progress, but I still had no clear, complete, and authentic 
framework of the progressive process. The study circle had no doubt given good 
instruction at an analytical level, what it had not shown, though, was how to synthe- 
size all the things it had taught me. This is perhaps the reason why, when in addition 
to composing poetry I — inspired by the many subjects elaborated for me by the pro- 
gressive writers — started writing short stories and essays, they often lacked basic 
and realistic details. My stories suffered from a tendency to pontificate, and not just 
that, they ignored the unity of effect and plot. And yet as time moved along my lit- 
erary personality began to acquire a distinct shape and blossomed as a consequence 
of my participation in the informative and instructive meetings of the Association. 
I started paying greater attention to thought and style. 

The historic year of 1939 made its appearance during this period of my liter- 
ary apprenticeship. Chamberlain declared war against the Axis powers, and India, 
in its role as a British colony, became a full participant in it. A UTC [?] had been 
set up in our college. The scions of tahsildars, zamindars, and khan bahadurs were 
throwing away their books and leaving for the front to become canon fodder for 
the sake of their white masters. The arrest of the SF members began. Trade union- 
ists and Congressites were being sent to jail and peasant councils were put under 
strict surveillance. The noise of war was getting louder by the day whether in the 



markets, bazaars or in Vice-Regal Lodge. The PWA also didn't escape from the 
tentacles of this bloody, dramatic worldwide turmoil. 

One day before going to the college I was browsing through the pages of the 
Hindustan Times. My eyes caught something and I stopped with a jolt reading: "My 
services are at the disposal of His Excellency." And below it appeared the name 
"Dr. M. D. Taseer." Dr. Taseer was a prominent member of our Association and 
like the rest of us considered the current war imperialistic. People thought of him 
as a revolutionary. The newspaper in front of me had completely exposed the truth 
about his "revolutionary spirit." He had metamorphosed into an opportunist, an 
agent of his white overlords. Once or twice we asked him to authenticate the news 
but he deftly evaded the issue. A few days later everyone heard him broadcast on 
the "Berlin News" program from the Lahore station of All India Radio— the worst 
kind of treason one might say. 

Next came Professor Fareed. He was appointed Principal of Islamia Col- 
lege, Jullundar, and piped down. B. L. Kapur lost his speech too the minute he was 
made Principal of Fazalka College, and Professor Advani turned from a politician 
into an honorable citizen overnight. Faiz Ahmed Faiz, then secretary of the Asso- 
ciation, was irrevocably lost to Hailey College of Commerce. And so, by the time 
1941 rolled around the once invincible vanguard of the Association had been totally 
annihilated and I was taken into custody under the Defense of India Rules, number 

At first I was kept in Amritsar prison. Here, I got together with the other in- 
mates and mounted a hunger strike against the violence to which we were subjected 
by the prison officers, with the result that I was put in solitary confinement. When 
that ended, I was shuffled around from prison to prison until I was transferred to 
Borstal Jail at Lahore, which turned out to be a great place for my political educa- 

At that time this jail had around 400 political prisoners, among them old 
freedom fighters, red-blooded revolutionaries, Congressites, socialists, commu- 
nists, anarchists— in other words, the collective "dangers" of all of northern India 
had gathered here. This afforded me the unique opportunity to study the operational 
politics of each group. 

Here I heard stories about Poona's Sitara terrorists and accounts of the 
Meerut Conspiracy case. I became acquainted with the achievements of Chandra 
Shekhar Azad and his group and hobnobbed with the veteran bomb-makers of 
Rawalpindi. I heard accounts of anonymous stalwarts of different revolutionary 
movements who, indifferent to reward or recognition, quietly sacrificed themselves 
in pursuit of their revolutionary mission and will perhaps never be given so much 
as a fleeting mention in any political history. An old guard at the jail showed me 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

the cell in which Das had starved himself to martyrdom. Even though the old man 
was himself an executioner who had dispatched countless criminals to their death, 
he couldn't keep tears from wetting his scraggly beard as he gave his eyewitness 
account of Das's sacrifice. 

In Borstal prison we established Kirti — an extremist block drawn from 
communist and socialist workers. We hoisted a red flag on our ward's tallest tree, 
and using lime wash, we drew a gigantic hammer and sickle in the open compound 
where every morning we erupted into a spirited chorus of "The Whole World is 
Ours!"— so loud and rowdy it shook the whole joint. 

The "extremist block" was essentially a study circle. Here, with the help 
of my companions I launched a systematic study of Marxism. I pored over and 
discussed dialectical materialism, Marx's philosophy of history and his concept 
of economics; I familiarized myself with the undying struggle of the communist 
parties of different countries and analyzed scientifically the causes of the failure of 
revolutionaries in Paris, Germany and Bulgaria. I attended lectures on the tenacious 
activities of the Chinese masses and acquired an awareness of the inevitable events 
produced by the Second World War. The methodical acquisition of modern learn- 
ing fundamentally altered my personality and my concept of knowledge. I began 
to look upon the theoretical knowledge acquired at college as completely hollow 
and qualitatively inferior. Greek philosophy, notwithstanding its great value, began 
to look poorer in comparison to German materialism. Locke, Bentham, Hume and 
other English thinkers appeared little more than callow rationalists, and French 
materialists somewhat mechanistic. Kant's ethical assumptions and Hegel's phi- 
losophy of history sounded like little more than trumpeting for, respectively, absurd 
generalizations and spirituality. 

German materialism helped me appreciate not only the basic principles at 
work behind the universe but also how material forces acted and reacted. It gave 
me comprehensive and scientific knowledge about social progress and a realization 
that Marxism was not merely art but also great science, not theory but action. The 
obliteration of the capitalist system was as certain as the demise of the dewdrop in 
the warm rays of the sun; the success of a worldwide communist revolution as as- 
sured as the glorious eruption of a colorful assortment of flowers in spring. In the 
early days of my incarceration one thought that often dogged me was the incom- 
prehensible betrayals of the smartest intellectuals of our time who had worked in 
the vanguard of the Progressive Writers. Indeed, why did they turn tail? Why could 
they not face British tyranny for the sake of the country's independence— they who 
were experts in anthropological sciences? 

Now, after systematically studying Marxism, it all became clear as day: 
regardless of the depth of one's understanding of Marxism, it was very nearly im- 



possible to become a true revolutionary until one had actually participated in mass 
movements to do battle with the collective interests of the elite, the privileged 
classes. The Paris commune failed precisely because it was crowded with arm- 
chair revolutionaries— the Blanquists. And the frontline of the Progressive Writers 
crumbled because it too had a crush of upper- and middle-class bohemians loath to 
step out of their romantic- and dream-cocoons when called on for action. 

This quantum of knowledge had a decisive influence on my concept of lit- 
erature and literary subjects— a light that has never ceased to light my way in the 
adoption of literary forms. The materialist analysis of history exposed to my view 
a plethora of social traditions that had been gnawing mankind hollow for centuries. 
And yet, despite mankind's knowledge of the utter harm and ineffectiveness of 
those traditions they, being cowardly and superstitious, still clung to them tena- 
ciously. All my poems that rail against such obscurantist social conventions, were 
the product of the knowledge gained through study during that period, and even 
today this knowledge continues to be my greatest guardian and guide. I opposed 
unsound national concepts and supported true universalism. I defied organized re- 
ligion and the frosty concept of divinity as an instrument of exploitation wielded 
by government institutions; I cast the tangible realities of life in the mold of poetry, 
exposed the two-facedness of despotic and capitalistic law, and condemned the 
deterministic nature of fate. On the other hand, I illuminated the bond between na- 
ture and man from modern and healthy perspectives and highlighted the indelible 
struggle of the lower classes. 

Although Persian and Urdu poetry is filled with philosophical ideas, it was 
not easy for me to present this material using new, unexplored structures. The meth- 
od of our classical poets has always been to present philosophical ideas directly 
or most explosively. This was impossible in the new nazm, which in its essence, 
like the ghazal, does not allow for volatility. If one attempted to present a philo- 
sophical idea directly, it didn't sound like a poem but rather the bare statement of 
a philosophic thesis. So what I did instead was mobilize basic symbols to present 
complex thought poetically, striving at the same time for the symbol and the details 
employed in a poem to yield the maximum aesthetic effect. The majority of my 
poems in this vein are generally both direct and symbolic, and yet sensitive to the 
literal, visual, auditory, and tactile effects. 

I got out of prison in the middle of 1942. My intellectual evolution de- 
manded that the time had come for me to get directly involved in the revolution- 
ary struggle of the proletariat. Accordingly, I immediately joined the local trade 
union. The position the proletariat enjoys is accorded to no other class in Marxist 
philosophy. As I established a dialectical link with this group, I couldn't help but be 
struck by colossal bewilderment: how could the proletariat— a filthy, uncivilized, 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

uneducated people— ever successfully pull off what amounted to a worldwide 
revolution? At first the question assaulted my mind in its full vehemence. When, 
however, I observed the proletariat from up close, peeked into its heart, groped into 
its conscience, I began to consider its revolutionary leadership inevitable for the 
contemporary world. 

I saw workmen toil at machines; I saw them in their mud houses, in markets 
and fairs; at walkouts and strikes; and how they were to/i/'-charged and gunned 
down. In the factories they worked on the machines like lifeless, mechanical cogs; 
in their quarters they writhed from hunger and illness; at fairs and markets they 
displayed a simple, artless civility. But they were a fiery flame when struck; smiling 
when clubs fell on them; and when fired upon, they would die, affixing the stamp of 
longevity on the unity of workers. 

They don't have glitzy clothes to put on, posh bungalows to live in, or 
swank cars to ride, yet they occupy a place at the summit. They are truly great. 
Teach Marxism to a member of the middle or upper class all you want, for years 
if need be, but you will probably never succeed in making him a staunch revolu- 
tionary. By contrast, a worker, after just a little thought, immediately volunteers to 
assume the difficult and bone-crushing responsibility of mass revolution and the 
future of humankind. Revolution is in their blood. They despise every opportun- 
ist and believer in reconciliation; they are fighters who kick the Royalists out of 
Amritsar and Gulzari Lai Nanda from Ahmedabad. If their political awareness ever 
matures, they are quite capable of blocking the ships of the Dutch imperialists from 
snatching Indonesia ever again. 

I worked in the local, provincial and India-wide workers organizations until 
1945. During this time I was twice imprisoned on charges of "creating unrest" and 
"rioting." In fear because of my political activities, my parents had already thrown 
me out of the house in 1942. I spent the entire period of my engagement with the 
workers living in a dingy little room on top of the last roof of the offices of the 
provincial trade union. The upper portion of the front door of this room had a gap- 
ing hole. Even after you had locked it, two rotund men could easily get through the 
opening at the same time. Many times my books were stolen from my room, and 
one time some thief who must have been an artist himself made off with two of my 
oil paintings that hung on the wall. In jest my friends used to call this room "Dr. 
Johnson's Garret." 

The ceaseless struggle of the proletariat endowed my art with vigor and 
steadfastness. Their immense sacrifices made me realize that lackadaisical literary 
involvement was not about to help bring the revolution closer. Just as the revolu- 
tion needed numberless ironclad muscular arms, it also needed as many hot, fiery 
words. The economic and political war of the proletariat also gave my creative 



writing a fighting aura. I had noticed that in their encounters with the capitalist, 
the proletariat dropped all pretence of civility and politeness and attacked frontally 
with relentless ferocity. This made me realize that if a poet or prose writer sought to 
liberate art and culture, he needed to use his writing as a soldier's weapon in order 
to annihilate the enemies of civility and culture. 

During that period the All-India Kisan (Peasant) Conference at Bhakna gal- 
vanized my literary consciousness. As part of the Conference program a musha'ira 
had also been arranged where I recited a blatantly political poem. At the end of the 
Conference before an audience of nearly 500 delegates and local workers, Sohan 
Singh Josh, Secretary of the Punjab Communist Party, subjected my poem to a 
relentless critique in the course of his otherwise self-critical speech. Among other 
things, he said that it would have been much better if the poet had recited this poem 
before the students of some Lahore girls' college. This comment hurt my writer's 
pride a great deal. Unable to comprehend the true import of this broadside, I none- 
theless firmly resolved to familiarize myself with the Marxist critical method. And 
so I did. I made it a constant subject of study. 

I ventured to understand the aesthetic elaborations of Marx and Engels. I 
profited from Lenin's theory of reflection ( 'aks) and Gorky's doctrine of socialist 
realism. Additionally, I also studied a smattering of modern American, English, and 
Russian critics, such as James T. Farrell, Alik West, Ralph Fox, Codwell, Lehman, 

Whatever critical work I read I took notes from it regularly and used them 
to write my own essays. In spite of their occasional inadequacies and sketchiness, 
due mainly to a lack of time, the country's literary circles nonetheless generally 
appreciated these essays. That's how I started writing in a sustained manner on the 
subject of literary criticism. 

During this time I became conscious of the fact that art, notwithstanding its 
universal and timeless beauty, was still conditioned by society and time. Classical 
subjects were not the sole provenance of literature. Equally enduring artistic values 
could also be created around ephemeral and incidental topics. This thought spurred 
me on to employ subjects drawn from national and international events. I composed 
verse on the imperialist period of the Second World War, tried to put the masses 
center stage, commented on the incomparable bravery of the martyrs of Sevastopol, 
and wrote poetry about Europe's Red Revolution. 

By mid- 1945 my personal affairs had become so tangled that I had to leave 
for Lahore, not so much for the acquisition of art as for a livelihood. Here, I worked 
as an adviser for film companies and felt like a warrior who had abandoned the 
Leningrad front and landed in Hollywood to indulge in some third-rate, sleazy ro- 
mance. There were no longer any working class people around me; instead I was 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

surrounded by world-class speculators. No Das Kapital on the desk but snapshots 
of naked women. What drove a discussion here were not topics such as human 
evolution or the philosophy of the collective, but rather production estimates and 
backstage love affairs. 

Before my arrival in this glitzy world I had cherished high hopes of im- 
proving our indigenous cinema. A little effort was all it would take to bring out 
the great potential of films. Storylines that usually focused on characters drawn 
from the upper and middle classes could also portray the life of the working class. 
I was under the impression that putting the plays, festivals, dances, and songs of 
the common people on screen would make them immensely popular, and I used 
to think that film lingo, which rode roughshod over any kind of grammar, could 
be tamed to follow strict grammatical rules. When, however, I examined my new 
environment closely from a practical perspective, all my high hopes evaporated 
into thin air. The producers were in no mood to disseminate useful and educational 
ideas. On the contrary, they wanted to sell whatever was popular. The actors as a 
rule stayed awake late into the night, forever plotting their sleazy machinations to 
mount surprise attacks on privacies, and dressing room employees were willing 
to lose everything for a glass of whisky or a fleeting kiss. Moral uprightness was 
practically nonexistent and every life was bereft of lofty purpose. If anything even 
remotely reformative was ever mentioned, the usual response was a volley of loud 
jeers. Within a few months I accepted defeat and also started selling art in this mar- 
ket of art auctioneers. Whatever I wrote during my association with film institutions 
was not literature but an affront to literature, not art but business. I take no pride in 
it; rather I am ashamed. 

Back in those days Lahore didn't have any literary institution other than the 
Halqa-e Arbab-e Zauq. For a long time I attended its meetings regularly. I closely 
examined the creative literature presented there and the litterateurs who produced 
it, but not for a moment did I allow myself to be influenced by the product or the 
producer. Diverse trends in form and content were in evidence in this literary circle, 
all of which inevitably led to Formalism. Most of its major literary men were pes- 
simists who considered the pleasure of death, democracy, and the sexual excite- 
ment of the fast-fading international bourgeoisie the pinnacle of art. Much of their 
literary output was little more than a grotesque mimicry of Western Freudians, and 
some writers didn't even have a Freud to back them up, let alone have a clear pur- 
pose or perception of life. Mentally confused and fuzzy, they attempted to hide their 
shortcomings in riddles, hoping the reader of their poems would find them amus- 
ing. Some even assumed surrealism was the height of poetic art. I cannot recall a 
single meeting of the Halqa in which I didn't end up ruffling some feathers or step- 
ping on some toe through my outright impertinence. I was always a Marxist in my 



critical approach and I'm inclined to think that the living philosophy that throbbed 
within my art did affect some of the participants. As a result, my essay "The Social 
Backdrop of Urdu Prose," which I had written from a frankly socialist perspective, 
was chosen as one year's best essay during the Halqa's Annual Conference and I 
was awarded a cash prize of thirty-three rupees, five annas and six pies. 

This was the period of my political and literary bankruptcy. My association 
with mass movements declined and I gradually stopped reading political literature. 
The inevitable consequence was the appearance of a cognitive dissonance in my 
art. If a piece somehow escaped thematic contraction, it fell smack dab into "van- 
guardism." This period was distanced from life's healthy stimuli. Consequently, 
my creative pace slowed and I began to incline increasingly toward pleasurable 

Meanwhile the horrific year of 1947 came upon us. British imperialism auc- 
tioned off 400 million Indian human beings to "Muslim Biggies" and "Hindu Big- 
gies" in lieu of the Marshall Plan. Humanity had already been martyred in Bihar, 
Bengal and Nawakhali, now a bloody and fiery cloud spread through the Punjab. 
Heer's colorful spinning wheel became her funeral pyre and her Ranjha was buried 
in his grave at Tarajan along with all of his melodious songs. The Chenab turned 
red in its snaking course. The romance that grew along the stretch of five rivers was 
devastated in no time at all like the marital bliss (suhag) of a widow. 

The news of Partition forced my clan to flee Amritsar but they couldn't 
make it to Lahore intact. One of my uncles and two young cousins were murdered 
on the way. Back in Lahore the film industry had all but collapsed. The balance of 
human and social relationships that had molded me in a particular way for such a 
long time suddenly fell apart. The environment around me changed so drastically 
that all I could see before me was the death of man or the satanic politics of British 
imperialism foisted upon me and every nonpolitical Indian and Pakistani. 

All the anthropological knowledge I had consigned to oblivion for a while 
now slowly began to resurface in my consciousness. Once again I threw myself 
into the study of political literature, making the national and international political 
forces let loose by the Second World War the subject of my inquiry. 

Eastern Europe turned red immediately following the war. 
British power folded in Egypt and Palestine. In Asia, the Chinese 
masses started to administer decisive blows to American interests. 
Indonesia, Burma, Vietnam, and the Philippines became the arena 
of the peoples' battles. In India, armed jahazi (ship-workers) rose up 
under the leadership of the Socialist Party. The Army became rebel- 
lious in 1946, 1947. Bengal and Maharashtra peasants awakened. 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

The Telangana region started to produce not slaves but gorillas. 

Watching its colonies and monopolies slip away and inter- 
nal industrial systems disintegrate, the head honcho of the world's 
exploitative powers, the Anglo-American block, started weaving its 
web of machinations against the Soviet Union— the most formida- 
ble bulwark of eastern and western mass movements and especially 
of progressivism. Under the cover of the Balfour Declaration, the 
state of Israel was established with the ostensible purpose of shat- 
tering Arab unity. The federation of Western Europe was founded to 
put Eastern Europe under blockade. The bankrupted Dutch govern- 
ment was bailed out with massive monetary aid so that it might be 
enabled to reoccupy Indonesia and provide a counterbalance to the 
emerging power of Chinese revolutionaries. Through military and 
civilian intervention, Gasperi's Party succeeded in the Italian elec- 
tions. Military bases were established throughout the Middle East. 
For economic exploitation, astronomical military budgets were set 
up to throw the world into the flames of a third worldwide war. 

Similarly, the Anglo-American block stirred up religious fa- 
naticism to suppress the peoples' movements in India. They carved 
up the South Asian subcontinent among princely states, nabobs 
and landowners, and other moneyed classes, on condition that they 
would work toward strengthening the British block throughout the 
world, even after Britain lost its territorial power over them. They 
would increase their economic ties with Britain and its friends and 
support the Anglo-American block to defeat the progressive forces 
of East and West." 2 

This study removed my confusion. I felt a surge of renewed strength and freshness 
and devoted myself to the work of the Progressive Writers' Association. 

2 It is unclear whether the indented passages are actual quotations, or simply 
thoughts Kashmiri formulated through study, or merely his impressions. — Tr. 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

List of Recent Pakistan-Related Texts 

Compiled by David Waterman 

Ali, Saleem H. Islam and Education: Conflict and Conformity in Pakistan's Ma- 
drassahs. OUP Pakistan, 2009. 350 pages. ISBN: 978-0195476729. 

Ayres, Alyssa. Speaking Like a State: Language and Nationalism in Pakistan. 
Cambridge UP, 2009. 230 pages. ISBN: 978-0521519311. 

Bhattacharyya, Harihar. Federalism in Asia: India, Pakistan and Malaysia. 
Routledge, 2010. 224 pages. ISBN: 978-0415315401. 

Eteraz, Ali. Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan. HarperOne, 2009. 337 
pages. ISBN: 978-0-06-156708-7. 

Ganguly, Sumit. India, Pakistan, and the Bomb: Debating Nuclear Stability in 
South Asia. Columbia UP, 2010. 144 pages. ISBN: 978-0231143745. 

Imran, Muhammad. Institutional Barriers to Sustainable Urban Transport in 
Pakistan. Oxford UP, 2010. 350 pages. ISBN: 978-0195476668. 

Jones, Owen Bennett. Pakistan: Eye of the Storm. Yale UP, 2009. 408 pages. 
ISBN: 978-0300154757. 

Khan, Nichola. Mohajir Militancy in Pakistan: Violence and Practices of Trans- 
formation in the Karachi Conflict. Routledge, 2010. 208 pages. ISBN: 978- 

Koppel, Nikolas J. Combating Islamic Militancy and Terrorism in Pakistan 's Bor- 
der Region. Nova Science, 2010. ISBN: 978-1607413356. 

Malik, Iftikhar Harider. Pakistan After Musharraf: Democracy, Terror and the 
Building of a Nation. New Holland, 2010. 208 pages. ISBN: 978-1847734532. 


Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2010) 

Manzar, A. Taliban in Pakistan: A Chronicle of Resurgence. Nova Science, 
2010. ISBN: 978-1608762064. 

Nawaz, Shuja. Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within. OUP 
Pakistan, 2009. 700 pages. ISBN: 978-0195476972. 

Niaz, Ihan. The Culture of Power and Governance in Pakistan. Oxford UP, 
2010. 350 pages. ISBN: 978-0195477313. 

Nyman, Jopi. Home, Identity, and Mobility in Contemporary Diasporic Fiction. 
Rodopi, 2009. 248 pages. ISBN: 978-90-420-2690-2. Kamila Shamsie is one of 
the authors discussed in this work. 

Raja, Masood Ashraf Constructing Pakistan: Foundational Texts and the Rise of 
Muslim National Identity. Oxford UP, 2010. 300 pages. ISBN: 978-0195478112. 

Rozehnal, Robert. Islamic Sufism Unbound: Politics and Piety in Twenty- 
First Century Pakistan. Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. 286 pages. ISBN: 978- 

Seth, Ali. The Wish Maker. Riverhead Books/Penguin, 2009. 421 pages. ISBN: 

Schmidle, Nicholas. To Live or To Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in 
Pakistan. Henry Holt, 2009. 255 pages. ISBN: 978-0-8050-8938-7. 

Shah, Niaz A. Islamic Law and the Law of Armed Conflict: The Conflict in Paki- 
stan. Routledge, 2010. 288 pages. ISBN: 978-0415563963. 

Synnott, Hilary. Transforming Pakistan: Ways Out of Instability. Routledge, 
2009. 186 pages. ISBN: 978-0415562607. 

Weaver, Mary Anne. Pakistan: Deep Inside the World's Most Frightening State. 
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010. 320 pages. 978-0374532253. 

Whiles, Virginia. Art and Polemic in Pakistan: Politics, Culture and Tradition in 
Contemporary Miniature Painting. I. B. Tauris & Co, 2010. 304 pages. ISBN: 



Syracuse University Press 


wiin love- 

Growing Up with Girlfriends, 

Paper $19.95 978-0-8156-0924-7 
5'/2 x 8, 1 76 pages 

"Fawzia Afza I -Khan's memoir of childhood in Pakistan weaves together memory and desire to create a 
tale that is marvelously compelling and endlessly entertaining, at once poignantly personal and richly 
political. . . . Readers of this book will inevitably be reminded of the work of Anais Nin, and this is a major 

— Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University 

"She is a gifted dissident voice and I hope many people will read her beautiful memoir which challenges 
stereotypes, universal fanatic fundamentalism and religious, political, and sexual taboos." 

— Nawal El Saadawi, author of Woman at Point Zero 

For women growing up in Pakistan's patriarchal, segregated society, it is not surprising that female friendships take on a deep, enduring reso- 
nance. These relationships, formed in adolescence and nurtured into adulthood, give Afzal-Khan the strength to be defiant, a wry sense of humor 
to weather the contradictions in daily Pakistani life, and memories to sustain her as she continues to straddle two continents and two cultures. 

In Lahore with Love, Afzal-Khan shares intimate stories of these young girls, and later women, celebrating the strong bonds that helped shape 
her character. She balances this coming-of-age memoir with a clear-eyed look at a country that evokes both fierce loyalty and utter despair from 
its inhabitants. The author recalls growing up in the sixties and seventies in Lahore, living in a time of war, attending a Roman Catholic school as 
a Muslim middle-class teenager, and enduring the constant political upheaval that threatened her freedoms. Afzal-Khan eventually leaves Lahore 
and moves to the United States to pursue her Ph.D. She recounts the complex mix of longing and alienation that she feels upon returning to visit 
her homeland and friends. 

Lahore with Love offers a rich portrait of daily life in Pakistan. Afzal-Khan gives readers a welcome alternative to the often reductive, flat im- 
ages of modern Muslim women. 

Fawzia Afzal-Khan is University Distinguished Scholar, professor of English and director of Women and Gender Studies at Montclair State Uni- 
versity in New Jersey. She is a published poet and playwright. Her books include Cultural Imperialism and the Indo-English Novel and A Critical 
Stage: The Role of Secular Alternative Theatre in Pakistan. She is the coeditor of Shattering the Stereotypes: Muslim Women Speak Out and The 
Pre-occupation of Postcolonial Studies. 

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